Elevating Hygiene in High-Traffic Facilities: The Role of Electrostatic Disinfection

Elevating Hygiene in High-Traffic Facilities: The Role of Electrostatic Disinfection

6-8 min read

Snap Shot:  This article examines the innovative role of induction-charged electrostatic disinfection in elevating hygiene standards in high-traffic facilities. It explains how electrostatic sprayers work and why induction charging is the more advanced method that leads to better surface coverage. It highlights the efficiency and efficacy of this technology in reducing pathogens through comprehensive disinfecting using less solution. 

Introduction to Electrostatic Disinfection

Electrostatic disinfection has emerged as a significant innovation in maintaining hygiene in high-traffic facilities such as airports, hospitals, schools, and commercial buildings. This technology, while not new, has gained substantial attention due to its effectiveness, especially in the context of the heightened awareness of hygiene stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Electrostatic sprayers work by imparting an electrical charge to the liquid disinfectant as it passes through the sprayer. This charged mist of disinfectant is attracted to surfaces within a room, wrapping around objects and covering surfaces uniformly, including hard-to-reach areas that conventional cleaning methods like spray and hand wiping might miss. This thorough coverage is crucial in high-traffic areas where the risk of cross-contamination is high.

The Science of Electrostatic Sprayers

Electrostatic sprayers work by imparting an electrical charge to the liquid disinfectant droplets emitted from the sprayer. This charged mist of disinfectant is attracted to surfaces, wrapping around objects that the spray is directed to, improving coverage of hard-to-reach areas that conventional disinfecting methods like trigger spray and hand wiping often miss. For disinfecting action, thorough coverage is crucial, especially in high-traffic areas where the risk of transmission is high.

Electrostatic disinfection technology, a critical innovation in hygiene management, particularly in high-traffic settings, operates on the principle of charging disinfectant droplets to improve surface coverage. Two primary methods of charging these droplets are popular: contact charging and induction charging. Of these two methods only induction charging has been shown to be reliable in charging disinfectants sufficiently.

Contact charging, the more basic of the two, involves placing a high voltage directly in contact with the liquid disinfectant. This method requires a very high voltage (generally over 12,000 volts) to impart sufficient charge to the droplets. A voltage of this level is difficult to maintain over time with conductive disinfectants and charge leakage reduces the droplet charge unless the sprayer is kept very clean and dry at all times. This reduction of droplet charge affects their ability to adhere to and wrap around surfaces effectively. While this method can be satisfactory when the sprayer is brand new and clean, it may not consistently deliver consistent results required for high-traffic areas.

On the other hand, induction type electrostatic sprayers represent an advancement in spray charging technology. Here, the charging process occurs at the very tip of the sprayer's nozzle. Using a non-contact, lower-voltage electrode, much higher levels of charge are imparted to the disinfectant droplets as they exit the sprayer. The more highly-charged particles have a greater propensity to move against gravity and cover  surfaces uniformly, including vertical and overhead areas that might otherwise be neglected. This induction charging method ensures a more consistent and long-lasting coating of the disinfectant to surfaces, providing a superior level of coverage. In addition, air-atomizing types of electrostatic sprayers are the most effective to atomize disinfectants to a uniform droplet size and propel the charged droplets into hard-to-reach areas. This technology is known as AAIC – air atomizing, induction charging.

The difference in spray coverage between contact and induction types of electrostatic  sprayers is significant in high-traffic facilities. Induction charging systems with air delivery ensures that the disinfectant coats more thoroughly and the disinfectant remains adhered to surfaces for a longer period, which is crucial for the disinfectant to be effective. Given that the dwell time – the time the disinfectant should remain wet on the surface to be effective – is a critical factor for many disinfectants, the ability of induction charged droplets to adhere longer can lead to a more reliable disinfection outcome.

Induction charged electrostatic sprayers, therefore, are the 'better' option in this good vs. better scenario. Their enhanced performance in charge retention translates into a more effective and reliable disinfection process. They are particularly suited for use in environments where the risk of infection is high, and the standard of cleanliness must be impeccable.

While contact charged electrostatic sprayers may be adequate for some situations, induction charged sprayers offer a more advanced level of disinfection. This distinction is particularly important in settings where the highest standards of hygiene are not just desired but essential. By ensuring that disinfectants remain in place to do their job effectively, induction charged electrostatic sprayers play a critical role in maintaining public health and safety.

Efficiency and Effectiveness of Electrostatic Disinfection

One of the game-changing aspects of electrostatic disinfection is its efficiency. Traditional cleaning and disinfecting methods can be time-consuming and often less effective, particularly in areas with complex surfaces or a lot of equipment. Electrostatic sprayers, on the other hand, can cover a large area in a short amount of time, ensuring that disinfectant reaches all surfaces for comprehensive sanitation. This method also helps in conserving the disinfectant used and in reducing the waste produced, as it is more targeted and controlled.

In one time and labor study conducted at a healthcare facility and throughout 18 different area types from patient rooms to bathrooms to kitchens to meeting rooms, the labor time to disinfect was reduced by 73% using the electrostatic sprayers as compared to the traditional spray and hand wipe method that the facility’s janitorial team was currently using.

Moreover, the application of disinfectants using electrostatic technology can contribute significantly to the reduction of pathogens in the environment. The efficacy of electrostatic disinfection has been documented in various studies, showing its ability to eliminate viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms effectively. This is particularly important in healthcare settings, where infection control is paramount, but is also beneficial in any public space to prevent the spread of illnesses.

Complementary Nature of Electrostatic Disinfection

Electrostatic disinfection does not replace the need for traditional cleaning methods. Electrostatic disinfection optimizes hygiene protocols by providing an additional layer of pathogen reduction that complements traditional cleaning methods. By integrating both approaches — the removal of contaminants followed by advanced disinfection techniques — facilities can achieve a more robust level of cleanliness, essential for protecting public health.

Traditional cleaning methods serve as the essential first step in any hygiene protocol. They are crucial for the physical removal of dirt, debris, and organic matter. This initial cleaning is necessary because such materials can shield pathogens from the disinfectant, hindering its ability to come into contact with and kill these microorganisms.

The pre-cleaning process typically involves the use of detergents and manual scrubbing, which dislodge and remove soils from surfaces. Without this foundational step, disinfectants applied via electrostatic sprayers might be less effective. The presence of organic matter can inactivate some disinfectants, reducing their killing power or, in some cases, rendering them completely ineffective.

Once the surfaces are clean, electrostatic disinfection can be deployed to its full potential. The technology is designed to provide a uniform and comprehensive application of disinfectants over the cleaned surfaces, regardless of their complex geometry, reaching areas that are challenging to clean manually. This final germicidal step is what gives electrostatic disinfection its strength — ensuring that after the bulk of contaminants have been physically removed, the remaining pathogens are addressed with the disinfectant.

Safe Implementation of Electrostatic Disinfection

In implementing electrostatic disinfection, it's also vital for facilities to use approved disinfectants that are effective against the pathogens of concern and are safe for use with electrostatic sprayers. Training for staff is necessary to ensure they understand proper techniques, safety protocols, and maintenance of the equipment.

While electrostatic technology can markedly diminish pathogen loads in various environments, it is imperative to recognize that not all disinfectants are suitable for application via electrostatic sprayers. The compatibility of disinfectants with electrostatic systems is a nuanced aspect of the disinfection protocol, with certain disinfectants, potentially becoming more harmful when charged. In fact, there are some products that should not be aerosolized at all. The altered properties may lead to reduced effectiveness or even increased toxicity, which underscores the need for careful selection of disinfectants.

Conversely, disinfectants that contain hypochlorous acid (HOCl), for example, can be more congruent with electrostatic application. HOCl, when used in electrostatic sprayers, does not contribute to an increase in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air and, in fact, reduce VOC levels when sprayed through electrostatic sprayers. This is a pivotal consideration since many disinfectants can elevate VOC levels, degrading indoor air quality to potentially unsafe levels. The rise in VOC concentration can have various health implications, from minor irritations to more severe respiratory issues and even cancers, especially with prolonged exposure in high-traffic facilities.

Therefore, it is essential for facility managers and cleaning professionals to verify that the chosen disinfectants are explicitly approved for use in electrostatic sprayers. This verification process involves reviewing product labels, safety data sheets, and manufacturer guidelines to ensure compatibility and safety. Utilizing disinfectants not designed for electrostatic application can not only diminish the effectiveness of disinfection efforts but also pose health risks to occupants and cleaning personnel.

The selection of disinfectants for use with electrostatic technology is not merely a question of preference but one of safety and efficacy. Ensuring that disinfectants are approved for electrostatic application and understanding their impact on indoor air quality are critical steps in optimizing the benefits of electrostatic disinfection while mitigating potential risks. This due diligence is especially important in healthcare settings and other public spaces where maintaining the highest standards of hygiene is paramount.

Conclusion: The Value of Electrostatic Disinfection in Modern Hygiene

Overall, electrostatic disinfection represents a powerful tool in the arsenal of hygiene protocols for high-traffic facilities. It offers a high degree of coverage and efficiency that can significantly reduce the spread of pathogens, contributing to a healthier and safer environment for all. As facilities managers continue to seek out the most effective cleaning and disinfection strategies, electrostatic disinfection stands out as a modern solution to an age-old problem.

About the author: Jason Lee is the Vice President of Strategic Alliances for ByoPlanet. He has been an Indoor Environmental Quality servant to the built community since achieving his LEED Accredited Professional credential in 2008. Throughout his career, he has prescribed disruptive innovations while participating on continuous improvement project teams, consisting of the majority of Fortune 500 companies and largest educational institutions across the nation.


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