Effective Cleaning and Bleach-based Products


Legend Brands Bulletin 106

 Bleach-based products have been a “grab and go” cleaning solution for homeowners for generations and some cleaning and restoration professionals still use them. When talking with customers, it’s important to communicate the differences between chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite) and various disinfectant products such as Microban products.

Chlorine bleach strengths and weaknesses

Chlorine bleach has high efficacy across a broad spectrum of organisms. For example, it is effective at destroying hardy pathogens such as tuberculosis. Its familiar (but pungent!) odor, inexpensive cost and availability make it appealing. Bleach is also water dilutable and rinsable (on surfaces you can apply it to). A quick strike with a bleach oxidizer can knock out a strong odor or smell. Bleach is also good at getting stains out of some surfaces.

MDSP and Bleach Chlorine Bleach and Microban Products

However, chlorine bleach is very unstable when diluted for use and susceptible to external contamination. Contamination like this can produce toxic gases – a serious danger for workers who may not be aware of its toxicity.

Chlorine bleach is also very corrosive to metals, can damage many textile fibers and requires thorough rinsing to prevent alkaline residue streaking and stickiness. And when bleach is not rinsed thoroughly after initial application, high humidity can reactivate it, corroding metal. Bleach is known to be hazardous as both a vapor and a liquid. It is irritating to the skin and not pleasant to breathe, so remind customers who use bleach to handle it with protective gloves and face masks.

Finally, not all versions of bleach are EPA registered, they offer little cleaning ability and it does not have fungistatic or bacteriostatic capability.

Disinfectant strengths and weaknesses

Disinfectants such as Microban Disinfectant Spray Plus are well-trusted in the restoration industry and known to be effective for a broad spectrum of antimicrobial uses. These products provide excellent odor control and there is no concern about toxic gasses. One of the key benefits to Microban products is their ability to treat a wide variety of surfaces without damage. There’s also no risk of generating chloramine (toxic bleach by-products) or chlorine gasses.  One of the key benefits to Microban products is their ability to treat a wide variety of surfaces without damage. There’s also no risk of generating chloramine (a toxic bleach by-product) or chlorine gasses.

In contrast to bleach, Microban products have a mild pleasant odor, are highly effective deodorizers – they can knock-down the toughest malodors – and some formulations clean, deodorize and disinfect in one step.

And most importantly, Microban products offer a significant residual effect – they are fungistatic and bacteriostatic to help prevent mold and bacterial growth on wet surfaces for some time after the initial cleaning. This helps restorers use them with confidence.

Equally as significant, Microban antimicrobials are stable broad spectrum formulations that will not damage most water-cleanable surfaces. And for most applications, there is no rinsing required. Also, all Microban disinfectants are EPA-registered so customers have the assurance of knowing these products are tested and retested to meet stringent regulations for use.

It is true that Microban disinfectants cost more than chlorine bleach, some formulations vary in microbial efficacy compared to bleach and Microban products offer limited stain removal. However, ask customers who buy bleach if they also have to buy a cleaner and deodorizer for the job. If so, their cost savings is limited – they could buy one Microban product that does it all.

When to use bleach and when NOT to use bleach

There is a widespread perception that treating an area with bleach will kill mold and prevent it from returning. The reality is that most surfaces must be thoroughly cleaned, rinsed, protected and dried as soon as possible. If a surface treated with bleach remains wet for any time after the initial cleaning there is a very high probability that mold and bacteria growth will reappear. Microban products, however, prevent mold and bacteria growth for a period after application. As mentioned, bleach is good for eliminating odors and addressing surface stains. It has some effectiveness with certain pathogens such as TB. And it is inexpensive to use and easy to purchase. But on cleaning jobs where wet surfaces and high humidity persist, bleach is not the answer. Misconceptions about the residual effectiveness of bleach may even create a false sense of confidence. Microban products, however, are thoroughly tested and EPA registered, demonstrating their effectiveness as long-term antimicrobial solutions.