How To Disinfect With Spraying - Airless, Electrostatic, and Other Methods Explained

With the COVID-19 pandemic dominating the globe, the demand for disinfecting and sanitizing equipment is at an all time high. During this unprecedented time, many non-essential businesses around the world have been asked to close their doors in the effort to help reduce virus transmissions.

As businesses, schools and other public spaces begin to reopen, organizations will be challenged with the need to address new, more strict cleaning standards. As part of this shift, the demand for effective disinfecting equipment that provide maximum productivity and efficiency will only continue to increase.

As businesses and organizations look to meet this need, a more detailed understanding of disinfectant equipment solutions is necessary to make the right choice that will meet the productivity and safety needs associated with cleaning, disinfecting, sanitizing.

Spray Bottle And Cloth

Tried, true, and unfortunately a very easily misunderstood. Using a spray bottle and cloth may seem like the most cost-effective way to sanitize and disinfect, but this method often overlooks the critical aspect of dwell time.

When using a spray bottle and cloth, a surface may appear to be sanitized, but it most likely has not been disinfected properly. This is because different disinfectants require set amounts of time to sit, or dwell, on the surface so that the chemical agent has time to react fully.

Spray bottles certainly wet the surface, but they do so in an uneven fashion that will not disinfect the surface properly, even if allowed to dwell. With this setup it is common for people to immediately wipe the disinfectant from the surface, but with some dwell times exceeding 10 minutes the result is a waste of time, energy, chemicals, and ultimately money.

The spray bottle disinfectant method falls even shorter when applicators immediately wipe the surface. The cloth used to wipe the surface must be fully sanitized between uses. Without this crucial step, your disinfection protocols will quickly become your infection protocols.

Pros  Cons
Intuitive and simple process Cross-contamination can happen easily
Can be very cost-effective if all procedures are followed Slow process to effectively follow guidelines
Inexpensive equipment, almost no cost in training Inconsistent disinfecting coverage

Airless Disinfectant Sprayers

Airless spray atomizes, or breaks up, liquid disinfectant materials into small droplets without the use of compressed air. In an airless system, with a fluid path that has been properly designed and built with materials compatible for use with chemicals found in most disinfectant materials, the liquid disinfectant is pumped under high pressure through a spray tip. The tip size and pressure are what determines the material flow rate. The tip also creates the fan pattern.

In airless spray, the fast-moving high-pressure liquid stream provides the energy necessary to overcome the fluid’s viscosity and surface tension to form a fine spray.

In the depiction of spray from a gun, high pressure forces fluid through a small nozzle (spray tip). The fluid emerges as a solid stream at high speed. When the solid stream hits the air, it becomes disrupted. This disruption initially breaks the fluid into fragments, then ultimately very small droplets that form the spray pattern.

Pros  Cons
High-speed flow means higher productivity Applicator must move around the object to ensure coverage
Reduced applicator fatigue as the sprayer does the work Can be expensive upfront
Atomization of chemical means consistent coverage Smaller sprayers are not cost-effective for large jobs

Electrostatic Disinfectant Sprayers

Electrostatic spraying of paints has been around since the 1940s and is the preferred method for the effective coating of metal surfaces including railings, gates, banisters, metal doors, industrial equipment, fencing, and pipes.

When tasked with higher levels of productivity and larger disinfecting jobs, it is not uncommon for maintenance staff to look to electrostatic disinfectant equipment. These solutions provide a positive charge to the disinfecting solution as it exits the spray nozzle. The charged particles are attracted to a grounded surface (or a surface with a neutral electrical condition), providing a “wrap” effect around all sides of the surface. 

Until recently, most electrostatic disinfectant equipment in-use today propels the disinfectant chemicals with a low-pressure airless spray. Some new electrostatic sprayers combine a high-pressure spray along with a higher electrostatic charge for superior material delivery and coverage.

Pros  Cons
Wrap-around coverage due to particle charge Charge gradually drains from sprayer - less consistent coverage over time
Can be grounded to prevent spray wrapping on the applicator Most lower pressure electrostatic sprayers require slower application than airless sprayers
Higher-pressure systems can handle large jobs Some electrostatic sprayers cannot be used with alcohol

Foggers & Fumigators

Usually found dealing with pest infestations or deodorizing large areas, gas-powered foggers are starting to be used more for disinfecting large areas. The device produces a dense fog that is usually tented in a space to let the chemicals go to work.

In the context of dwell times and effective coverage, foggers and fumigators are one of the best solutions. The dense fog that the machine creates ensures a nearly 100% coverage rate with proper dwell time not just on the surface, but throughout the atmosphere of the space.

This type of large-scale disinfection process is typically carried out with caution and only in high risk areas because of the risk of inhaling the disinfectant solution. While this method is usually not a first choice, it is highly effective at combating pathogens, particularly those that are airborne or carried in respiratory droplets, such as the flu virus or COVID-19 coronavirus.

Pros  Cons
Total saturated coverage of surfaces and atmosphere Since the applicator can't be in the space, 100% coverage and dwell time is never guaranteed
Large areas can be disinfected relatively quickly Time consuming process - all air access must be sealed
Highly-portable Gas engine means alcohol-based solutions are not recommended



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