Since the pandemic hit in 2020, people have been disinfecting everything thoroughly. Nothing can touch our bare hands without undergoing the process, from groceries to office supplies.
If you’re a product manufacturer, you probably find this habit redundant. After all, products are normally sterilized or disinfected before going to the retailers. But you can’t really blame consumers for taking extra precautions. Products are passed to different hands before going to a consumer. As such, even the cleanest product can contain germs and bacteria once it’s on the shelf.
So how safe is it for consumers to use a product without disinfecting them first? Let’s see how manufacturers disinfect their products and make a conclusion from there.
Using an Autoclave
Medical instruments, like surgical gloves and apparatuses, are sterilized inside a top-grade industrial autoclave. An autoclave is a device that uses water, pressure, and heat to create superheated steam, which kills microorganisms and spores. This process is called steam sterilization.
The temperature that effectively sterilizes materials is at least 250° F (121° C). A pressure of at least 20 psi is applied at the same time. The process lasts depending on the temperature and pressure used. If you’d sterilize using the minimum temperature and pressure required, the sterilization should take at least 30 minutes.
Autoclaves are sensitive. You must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) before using it. Your PPE should include heat-resistant gloves, a lab coat, eyewear, and closed-toe shoes.
Here are some do’s and don’ts when using an autoclave:
- Use orange autoclave-safe biohazard bags to collect autoclave waste
- Add 250 ml of water to the bag before closing it
- Put the bag in the regulated medical waste bag after it has cooled down
- Remove any excess waste from the autoclave before using it for another material
- Clean yourself up after using the autoclave
- Don’t use a red biohazard bag for collecting autoclave waste
- Don’t leave the bag in the autoclave when the device is done running
- Don’t leave full bags on the floor
- Don’t let the untrained staff handle autoclave waste
- Don’t let autoclave bags accumulate in your lab or sterilizing facility
- Don’t use autoclave bags for anything other than biohazard waste
Certain materials cannot go inside an autoclave as well. Those include:
- Non-stainless steel
- Chlorides, sulfates
- Low-density and high-density polyethylene
- Acids, bases, and organic solvent
Flammable materials as well as toxic, radioactive, and corrosive materials must also never go inside an autoclave.
Using Ultraviolet (UV) Light
Retailers may use UV light to disinfect their products before putting them on the shelves. They may also use it before shipping online orders to customers. UV lights are available as a household product as well, so that consumers may use them to disinfect their newly-bought products.
We can also get UV rays from the sun. But the UV used for disinfecting isn’t necessarily the same. There are three types of UV light, namely:
- UVA light — comes from the sun and has the lowest amount of energy
- UVB light — partially comes from the sun and is the main type of UV that causes most skin cancers
- UVC light — absorbed from the earth’s ozone and has the most energy; can be man-made
UVC light is the type that can kill germs and bacteria. It can disinfect surfaces, liquids, and the air. It works by damaging molecules like nucleic acids and proteins. In turn, the germ weakens and dies.
UVC light can kill the COVID-19 virus, earning it fame when the pandemic hit. A study has found that it can inactivate the virus in liquid cultures in just nine minutes. In another study, a specific type of UVC light inactivated the COVID-19 virus on lab surfaces by 99.7% in just 30 seconds.
Face masks, possibly the most in-demand product today, undergo five tests before being sold. Those are:
Bacteria Filtration Efficiency In Vitro (BFE)
This test shoots an aerosol with bacteria to the mask. It ensures that the mask can catch the percentage of bacteria it’s supposed to.
Particle Filtration Efficiency
This test sprays polystyrene microspheres aerosol to the mask. It confirms if the mask can filter out the size of the particle it should.
This test ensures that the wearer can get proper ventilation without sacrificing the mask’s fit.
This test ensures that liquid from external sources cannot penetrate the mask and infect the wearer.
Surgical masks are flammable, but labs still test how long does a fire burns the entire material.
These procedures ensure that every consumer gets a safe and clean product. However, the supply chain can still contaminate them. Therefore, advise your customers to disinfect their purchased items before using them. Manufacturers and retailers can only keep the products sterilized in their facilities and not outside of it.