Why the Care Sector Needs to Embrace ‘Justified Disinfection’

Steve Teasdale, Co-Founder & Chief Scientific Advisor at InnuScience Group, explains what is meant by the term ‘justified disinfection’ and why it is important for cleaning teams in the care sector to adopt this practice.

Historically, housekeeping practices are in constant evolution. Multiple variables force us to modify certain procedures and working methods and to develop new cleaning tools. Time constraints, financial and human resources also force us to adapt our ways of doing things. Despite these changes, the overall concept of ‘cleanliness’ remains the focus of our hygiene and sanitation activities.

In spite of this, people from both within and outside the

industry will give different answers if you ask them what their definition of the term ‘cleanliness’ is. Some will talk about the elimination of stains, others of microorganisms, while others will refer to a general and pleasant visual state. These divergent views of what ‘cleanliness’ means inevitably leads people to use different types of products to achieve the same goal; some will use cleaning products, others disinfectants or sanitisers and others disinfectant cleaners.

Cleaning products can make a surface ‘clean’ by removing dirt and microorganisms. For their part, disinfectants are not intended to achieve this state of cleanliness; they are used to kill microorganisms. Cleaning products and disinfectants have completely different functions, but they also have a certain complementarity.

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As their use is aimed at killing microorganisms, disinfectants are classified as biocides or pesticides. It is well-known that their use can produce harmful effects on health, the environment and microbial ecosystems and that is why they must be used with great care.

Justified disinfection is the art of disinfecting only where and when it is useful and relevant to do so. It is the opposite of systematic or abusive disinfection.

The process of disinfection aims to minimise the number of microorganisms on a surface. If correctly applied, disinfection can bring benefits in terms of individual and community protection by reducing the risk of transmission of microbial diseases.


For a surface to present a risk of transmission of microbial disease, it must be able to serve as a vehicle between a microorganism and humans. For example, floors, ceilings and most walls cannot typically be used as a vehicle because we do not touch them. The presence of a pathogenic microorganism on these surfaces therefore does not represent a real biological risk to our health.

In contrast, a door handle, tap or toilet flush handle and light switches present a genuine risk as we touch them frequently and then put our hands to our face and possibly our food. They can be sources of indirect transmission of microorganisms (individual - surface - individual) (CDC, 2016).

What to disinfect: Only surfaces frequently touched by hands (high-touch surfaces) should be disinfected, as only

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