Cleaning wipes may spread more bacteria than they kill

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- We all try to take shortcuts when it comes to cleaning our homes, but one of the products you use may not be that affective.

A new study on anti-bacterial wipes shows they may not really be getting surfaces clean, but spreading germs around instead.

Antibacterial wipes are a staple in just about every home, hospital, gym, and even grocery stores. But if you aren’t careful, each swipe could be spreading, rather than killing bacteria.

It’s certainly an issue if you’re trying to keep a tidy home, but it’s an even bigger problem in places like hospitals, where the danger of infections like staph are a big concern.

Infectious disease consultant Dr. Mark Rasnake says, "If you clean a contaminated area like bathroom and use the same to clean where a patient is in the living portion of the room you could spread to areas not previously contaminated."

UT Medical Center cleans with a much more potent disinfectant, and uses wipes only for touch-ups.

It was hospitals that researchers used to test three different types of wipes: Tradition disinfectants, detergents, and natural antimicrobial substances.

When wipes were used, they found that, while antimicrobials removed most bacteria from surfaces, the disinfectant did the best at destroying bacteria. The problem is that all the wipes still had bacteria remaining on them. That means the wipes were just transporting bacteria from one location to another.

The problem, they found, wasn’t so much in the product itself, but rather in how it was being used.

Dr. Rasnake says, “I don’t think disposable wipes are the problem. I think reusing wipes that have been in a contaminated area is the problem .”

So the solution – whether at a hospital or in your own home – is to use it, then lose it.

Dr. Rasnake says, "Disposable wipes you should only use in one area and dispose of it and use a new one in another place."

The study noted that at home, we really don’t need to be as concerned that bacteria isn't fully being eliminated, since our homes are much less contaminated, and our bodies are designed to handle a certain amount of bacteria.

The study also notes that as far as hospitals go, surfaces aren’t the primary way patients are infected. Other patients and health care workers are the ones that transmit the most germs.

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