Greener & Safer Chemistry

Are Antibiotics and Disinfectants Losing Their Effectiveness? Well, Yes and No.

Before discussing the bigger question, here are five things that are critical to disinfectants of all types doing their job. Post this on every custodial closet wall in your building (see the link below for a free poster):


Whether a few seconds or a few minutes, all disinfectants must remain on the surface for at least the times they were tested and proven to work.


The importance of automatic dilution systems is even more critical with disinfectants where not only in-use economy is affected, but safety and effectiveness as well.


A dirty surface is a nearly impossible to disinfect surface. If the surface is only modestly soiled, a cleaner/disinfectant can be effective.


Once the disinfectant becomes laden with soils, it loses effectiveness. Replace working solution as it darkens with soils. Best practice calls for keeping working solution separate from rinse water. 


Many disinfectants are effective for a certain time frame after dilution, called "active" life. Many disinfectants also have an expiration date, called "shelf" life, after which potency is not assured. Don't "top off" already mixed solutions. 

Download: 8.5" x 11" poster, Use Disinfectants More Effectively

Sometimes news about antibiotics, those medications taken internally to help cure a patient of a bacterially caused infection, is confused with that of disinfectants. Disinfectants are chemistries designed to kill microorganisms on surfaces and sometimes in the air. While both antibiotics and disinfectants are designed to promote health through reducing infection, where and how they work is quite different.

More info: 3 Ways Disinfectants Kill Germs

Near the end of the Civil War in 1865, principles of antisepsis were just beginning to take root in the United States. As late as the death of Civil War general and President, James Garfield, in 1881, sanitary handling of wounds was still widely ignored. Garfield, shot by an assassin, would likely have survived the bullet itself, but the fingers of 10 different physicians looking for the bullet caused septicemia, a poisoning of the blood, which killed him after months of agony.

Alexander Fleming, born the same year Garfield died, became interested in treating wounds during World War I. By then, carbolic acid was successfully used to sanitize surgery sites and tools before operations, but as a treatment for already open wounds, was not very effective. In addition to killing germs, the mild acid treatment also killed red blood cells and other agents produced by the body to fight infection in the wound. In fact this process, Fleming proved, actually worked in favor of the invading germs.

In this example, carbolic acid was a disinfectant, and not tailored to the needs of fighting infection already inside the body. Fleming went on, after years of experimentation, to develop the use of penicillin to fight infection in the body using entirely different principles than disinfection. 

So disinfectants and antibiotics have similar goals - to promote health. However, they are entirely different in function.

As front-line warriors in the battle against infection, cleaners can defeat the microbes that make humans sick much more easily and cost-effectively than doctors, who are tasked with fighting infection after it is already in a human host.

The reduction in effectiveness of antibiotics in fighting certain infections has been widely reported on. Selected microorganisms are adapting to antibiotic treatments generally through mutation - where the antibiotic mechanism is defeated by some protective measure the infecting agent adopts in the body. This process is sometimes confused with becoming resistant to disinfectants outside of the body which is not generally happening. According to Jamie King, of Hillyard Technical Service (PUR-O-ZONE is the Hillyard product line distributor for Kansas):

" scientific link has been established showing bacteria or viruses genetically mutate to form a resistance to [Quaternary Ammonium] -based disinfectants."

So in answer to the original question yes, some antibiotics are losing effectiveness. Generally speaking however, disinfectants - which operate differently from antibiotics and outside the body - are not losing effectiveness. And, some new technologies that are even safer to use and less straining to the environment have been created in the disinfectant world in recent years. So disinfectants are arguably at a peak of effectiveness in human history.

Envirox Takes on Animal Planet Pit Bull Center

"Pit Bulls and Parolees," an Animal Planet original show, follows Tia Maria Torres, a 49-year-old mother, renowned pit bull trainer and founder and owner of Villalobos Rescue Center. Villalobos is the largest pit bull rescue and rehabilitation facility in the U.S. Torres works together with her staff of ex-convicts - "the guys no one else will hire."

EnvirOx became involved with the Villalobos Rescue Center after an employee and fan of the show saw that they were requesting donations for all types of products that could be used in the facility. Villalobos is now using EnvirOx cleaning products for all of their facility cleaning needs. They have noted a decrease in irritation of the dogs by previously used cleaners and love how clean EnvirOx products leave the dog kennels.

Animal Shelter Recommended Envirox Cleaning Procedures

Envirox 117 Specifications

RELATED: 3M HB Disinfectant

RELATED: Vet and Kennel Disinfectant

Here is a recent post on the center's Facebook page:

Two New Resources for Protecting Employees from Chemistry Hazards

WASHINGTON (OSHA) – Each year in the United States, tens of thousands of workers are made sick or die from occupational exposures to the thousands of hazardous chemicals that are used in workplaces every day. OSHA has launched two new web resources to assist companies with keeping their workers safe.

The first is a toolkit to identify safer chemicals that can be used in place of more hazardous ones:

"We know that the most efficient and effective way to protect workers from hazardous chemicals is by eliminating or replacing those chemicals with safer alternatives whenever possible," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.

Help Employees Gear Up with GHS Pictograms Poster $3.50

UPDATE: We have sold these posters (in English and Spanish) across the United States since 2013, and are now able to offer them for $1.95 each (plus shipping).

This 11" x 14" OSHA GHS Pictograms poster is mailable when folded in half. Only $3.50 each plus mailing. (Or include with your regular PUR-O-ZONE order.) Cover stock. Order #PICTOPOSTER. For Spanish version, order #PICTOESPANO.

OSHA Pictograms Identify Danger in New GHS Format

OSHA's new Globally Harmonized System is an effort to make more uniform warning labels and safety sheets throughout the world. With economies everywhere intricately linked, shipments of chemicals need to be labeled in ways that protect the health of workers everywhere.

Pictograms are an important part of that warning system. Janitorial, custodial and facility maintenance departments, as well as anyone handling shipments of chemistry, need to be trained in the revised system by December 1st, 2013. To facilitate that, PUR-O-ZONE and Pro-Link have created a set of training materials you can use, including a detailed PowerPoint presentation complete with speaker talking points.


Do You Know the New GHS Label Format?

The OSHA GHS (Globally Harmonized System) ruling of 2012 requires manufacturers to label chemistry following certain formats. These formats have changed somewhat in comparison with original Hazcom (Hazard Communication Standard) requirements. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) have become Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and have a 16-section design.

Here is a sample illustration of the basic format and a description of the seven basic elements that make up the GHS label.

OSHA Deadline for GHS Training Fast Approaching

If you received a copy of this article by email, please click the link near the bottom to go to the blog including pictures.

Update: The first deadline has passed. If you have not trained your staff yet, don't panic, but do take time to assemble a program. This article and the tools it contains can assist you.

First compliance date - December 1, 2013

According to OSHA announcements:
"By that time (Dec. 1st) employers must have trained their workers on the new label elements and the SDS format. This training is needed early in the transition process since workers are already beginning to see the new labels and SDSs on the chemicals in their workplace.To ensure employees have the information they need to better protect themselves from chemical hazards in the workplace during the transition period, it is critical that employees understand the new label and SDS formats." 


PUR-O-ZONE materials can help you understand the new GHS standard, and to train your employees, with a downloadable slideshow including notes in PowerPoint. Just click on the icon below. The program is designed to help you and your staff Understand the changes to the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (Haz Com):

  • What is GHS?
  • Why was the GHS Developed?
  • What are the Benefits of GHS?
  • What are the Changes to Haz Comm Requirements with GHS?
  • Who does this Impact?
  • When Do You Need To Be In Compliance?
  • Review the New 2012 Hazard Communication
  • New Labeling Requirements
  • Overview of the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) format 16 categories

Click on illustration to download presentation.

Make sure to pass around a log of attendance signed by each employee (download below). Record the date and timeframe covered. Make sure printed names are clearly readable. You may order certificates of attendance from PUR-O-ZONE, and if the tests are passed, we offer Cleaning Education Credits for each successful attendee (90% or more) on the same certificate. See the link below to email scanned tests.

Download a copy of the quiz

OSHA GHS Fact Sheet

OSHA Quick Cards:

Safety Data Sheets   Safety Data Sheets (Spanish)   Pictograms

Download an attendance sign-off sheet here   

Submit a list of attendees, titles and dates for certificates here

Scan and submit quiz answer sheets for grading here

Nine Tips to Start a Janitorial Chemistry Safety Program

Chemistry in the cleaning industry has improved greatly in recent years. Green chemistry is often safer to use. However, as a facility manager, it is important to remember that even green chemistry must be treated carefully and specifically. Hazard communications and documentation of your Cleaning Safety System is important to reducing liability and accidents: