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Disinfecting Tools Correctly

​To help stop the spread of COVID-19, workers who use shared tools should clean those tools each shift before they use the tools. Those who sanitize these tools should wash their hands or use proper hand sanitizer prior to starting the cleaning.  They should also receive training on the proper use of the personal protective equipment, or PPE, required to use the necessary cleaning agents. 

Proper sanitizing agents, approved by the tool’s manufacturer, may be available. If not, mild soap and water can be used to surface clean the tool then the tool must be placed in a sterile location for 72 hours, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. 

Sodium hypochlorite, or bleach and water, can also be used to disinfect and sanitize tools. Never mix cleaning agents such as ammonia and bleach, which makes chloramine. To avoid discoloration do not use bleach or test a small area with the cleaning agent to see if there is any effect. After cleaning with a mild soap and water, use the bleach and water on a rag to wipe down the tool and let the tool air dry, because sodium hypochlorite has a 30-second contact time to kill the COVID-19 virus. Wiping away the cleaning agent decreases the contact time. Leaving the cleaning agent applied on the tool for longer periods gives it more time to work. Some cleaning agents should not be used because they have conductive or corrosive materials, especially those with ammonia — they might disintegrate the plastic and or rubber on the tools.

Do not use any flammable materials on any tool that is not intrinsically safe or has an ignition source for the flammable vapors. Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, or UVGI, sanitizing devices are available to use but they are often a costly resource for sanitation and do not allow larger tools to be disinfected properly. Also, both sides of the tools or equipment need to be treated under the UVGI lighting. The use of UVGI takes between 30 minutes and two hours to complete the process per side. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends having multiple tools to allow the tool to be placed in the sterile location for 72 hours. 

Proper cleaning and disinfecting techniques can eliminate the COVID-19 virus on shared tools and can make the workplace safer for everyone. When in doubt, clean the tool before using to ensure that it has been properly disinfected.