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How Well Do Popular Disinfectant Wipes Work At Killing Pathogens?

With all the world looking for disinfectant wipes these days, we wanted to know if they actually work like we all think.  At Michco we sell ATP testing equipment which is used by the healthcare and food industries to check for the presence of ATP.  We started testing random things, door knobs, phones, cellphones (they are terrible), keyboards, car shift levers, toilet seats, and things like a food countertop.  When we tested the countertop, and we got an incredibly high number (the highest we had ever seen).  WOW!  We should clean this, and we grabbed a tube of name brand national wipes sitting nearby and cleaned the surface, waited the required time for the disinfectant to work, and retested the surface.  It failed, and failed miserably. We sell other brands of disinfectant wipes and tried the test again on another surface, and the competitive brand passed with flying colors.  Watch the video to see the testing and the results.


You need to understand a little about ATP testing first.  We won't get into the science of ATP, but in summary, what we want in order to claim a surface is clean and disinfected is a low reading from an ATP meter.  The meter creates a number called RLU (Relative Light Unit) which corresponds to how much ATP is contained in the testing sample.  ATP is contained in all living matter, all good and bad things living or now dead and left behind. Bacteria, skin cells, blood, etc.  We cannot determine what the ATP is from, we only detect the presence of it.  It does not detect if a surface has a specific bacteria.  We are looking for a clean, ATP free surface, so we want as low of an ATP number possible. The healthcare industry sets 200 ATP RLU's or less as a guideline for healthcare patient rooms in order to have a pass rating.  A number higher than that DOES NOT MEAN the surface is infected with a harmful pathogen.  How sensitive is an ATP meter?  Breathe on a surface, and the reading will jump.  Typically cell phones range from 5000 to 15,000.  A computer keyboard might be 4,000-20,000. And are you ready for this.... a toilet seat might be in the 2,000 range.  It is safer to eat your food after it has touched the toilet seat than your cell phone or keyboard. Checkout some of these sample readings for random everyday items.

ATP Meter readings for surfaces


In this video we take a conference table and mark off two equal squares.  Test them for initial readings, and then clean them with the national brand disinfectant wipes, and a competitive brand called COMPANION. COMPANION is a true hospital grade disinfectant wipe.  We wait the required time period, and retest.  The competitive wipe DID kill and lower the ATP reading (and also started out with a lower reading as well), but FAILED to clean the surface to hospital grade cleaning levels.  The COMPANION product did meet the standard.  This test was the same result as the impromptu testing on the kitchen counter.

We no longer think the national branded wipes are what our customers should be using to disinfect surfaces.  Bottom line is the surface will be less contaminated using the national branded wipes, but will not be lowered to healthcare standards, or frankly anywhere close to it.

Checkout these products used in this test: