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7 min read

Why Contact Time is Important

While you can usually judge if something is clean or dirty just by looking at it…this does not work with disinfection. Because germs are too small for us to see, we cannot judge how well something has been disinfected by looking at it. That is why following the manufacturer’s instructions for use (IFU) when using disinfecting products is so important!

When you are using a disinfectant in either spray or wipe format, review the IFU or label to ensure that you are aware of the following information:

  • What is the contact time? Sometimes referred to as the “dwell time,” the amount of time a disinfectant must remain on a surface (wet) without being wiped away or disturbed to kill germs effectively.
  • Is the product EPA-approved? 
  • On which surfaces can the disinfectant be used? 
  • What germs has the disinfectant been proven to kill?
  • Should the product be diluted? 
  • What personal protection equipment needs to be used while using the product?

Because there is often pressure to move fast in healthcare, such as to turn the room over for the next patient, steps may be rushed in the cleaning and disinfecting process, therefore increasing the risk of spreading germs.

DON’T rush the process. The entire contact time must finish before something that has been disinfected can be used again, like shared equipment, or before a new patient comes into a room after the last patient has been discharged. That is how we can be sure the disinfectant has had time to do its job and kill the germs. While on-site, the surveyor may ask you or your staff the contact time for the product(s) used in your facility. The surveyor may cite this as a deficiency if this time is not known.

DON’T try to dry a surface that has been disinfected more quickly by wiping it down with another cloth, blowing it with your breath, or blowing air on the surface another way, like with a fan, unless the IFU says it’s okay.

Be patient. We know this can be tough. Patients, providers, or other staff may be waiting for rooms and equipment, and there may be pressure to move quickly. But the risk of spreading germs is too significant to rush the process. Following the IFU keeps germs from spreading and keeps your patients, you, and co-workers safe!

Below are some additional infection prevention resources that you may find helpful:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Infection Prevention for Dental Practices

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Infection Prevention for the Outpatient Setting

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Core Infection Prevention and Control Practices for Safe Healthcare Delivery in All Settings

Since 1980, QUAD A (a non-profit, physician-founded and led global accreditation organization) has worked with thousands of healthcare facilities to standardize and improve the quality of healthcare they provide – believing that patient safety should always come first.