Balancing the critical areas associated with surface disinfectant selection

Dr Jessica Farrell1,2

1University of Sydney, Camperdown, Australia,
2Whiteley Corporation, North Sydney, Australia


A case study of three disinfectants satisfying the South Australian (SA) cleaning standard was conducted within a SA hospital in an attempt to address a high occurrence of Clostridium difficile infection. These included a buffered peracetic acid (PAA), a chlorine based disinfectant and a hydrogen peroxide based disinfectant. Parameters used for evaluation of each disinfectant were visual cleanliness, staff reactions and cost.


The use of the chlorine and hydrogen peroxide disinfectant resulted in adverse reactions from staff and an increase in safe work related incident reporting. The use of the PAA based disinfectant alleviated the issue of staff reaction, reduced safe work reporting and improved visual cleanliness at an acceptable cost.


Effective implementation of infection control strategies should not only aim to reduce the occurrence of healthcare associated infection. A balance of surface disinfection, cost effectiveness and reduced operational risk are equally important factors for consideration to provide a safe environment for all patients, visitors and staff of any facility.


Dr Jessica Farrell is a project coordinator and microbiologist investigating novel treatments for biofilm associated infections and biofilm related contamination as part of an Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre grant in association with Whiteley Corporation and the University of Sydney. Prior to this role, she worked as a scientific officer for Sonic Food and Water Testing, assessing the contamination of food products and water sources for pathogens such as Listeria, Salmonella and Legionella.

Dr Farrell’s qualifications include a Diploma of Science, Bachelor of Science (Honours class I) majoring in Microbiology and a PhD from Western Sydney University.

Her research interests focus around biofilms and their ability to contaminate surfaces and objects. She was awarded her doctoral thesis in 2018 for her research focused on the assessment of pathogenic biofilm contamination of high touch hospital surfaces within an intensive care unit and how these biofilm reservoirs may influence hospital acquired infection.

Background: The selection of an appropriate surface disinfectant is an important decision for health care facilities as this plays an important role in infection prevention strategies. When selecting an appropriate disinfectant, the prevention of pathogen transmission is not the only outcome to consider. It is also important to consider staff satisfaction/risk, materials compatibility and cost. During the decision making process, a balance of these four critical areas should be achieved.

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