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How sanitising surfaces stops the spread of harmful germs

Nick Higgins |   May 21, 2020 at 8:00 AM

How sanitising surfaces stops the spread of harmful germsIn the midst of a global pandemic, effective infection control is at the forefront of people’s minds in ways rarely seen before. However, while much attention is often given to personal hygiene, contaminated surfaces also play a role in the spread of germs and bacteria, especially given many microbes are capable of living on inanimate objects for months.

For those working and occupying high traffic environments, regularly sanitising building surfaces, including furniture and equipment, is a critical tool in the containment of harmful germs and bacteria. When used alongside other infection controls, such as maintaining high personal hygiene standards, it can have a significant impact on stopping the spread of illnesses.

This article will help you understand why using a long-lasting sanitising product on the surfaces in your building is an effective way to protect your people from harmful germs and bacteria.

How long do germs and bacteria last on surfaces?

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including the type of microbe, the surface it’s on and other environmental factors, such as temperature and humidity. However, a study on the lifespan of numerous common infectious germs & bacteria on surfaces in a hospital setting, was able to determine the following with regards to common bacteria on uncleaned and treated surfaces:

  • Most gram-positive bacteria, such as golden staph, can survive for months on dry surfaces.
  • Many gram-negative bacteria, including E coli, can also survive for months, however a few, such as cholera, only last for days.
  • Mycobacteria, including tuberculosis, and spore-forming bacteria can survive for months as well.
  • The most common fungal pathogen, candida albicans, can survive up to four months on surfaces. Other yeasts have a similar lifespan of five months or less.
  • Most respiratory tract viruses, including influenza, SARS and rhinovirus, can persist on surfaces for a few days.
  • Gastrointestinal viruses last for approximately two months.
  • Blood-borne viruses, such as Hepatitis B and HIV, can last for more than one week.
  • Herpes viruses can last for between a few hours and seven days.

Because many common microbes and harmful germs and bacteria can last on surfaces for anywhere from days to months, regular, preventative sanitisation of surfaces in high traffic areas is critical.

How do sanitisers work?

Sanitisers generally use one of three methods to kill or inactivate germs and bacteria:

  1. Cross-Linking, coagulating, clumping
    The sanitiser disrupts the microbe’s cell membrane, causing it to collapse or proteins to fall out of suspension.
  2. Structure and function disruption
    The sanitiser changes the nature of the cell’s proteins, causing disruption to cell function.
  3. Oxidising
    The sanitiser oxidises proteins, lipids or carbohydrates, which attack essential cell components and functions.

Sanitising vs cleaning

While often used interchangeably, sanitising and cleaning are actually different processes.


Cleaning is the removal of dirt, grease, stains, dust particles and other visible contaminants on a surface. It may remove some germs and bacteria, but definitely won’t kill or completely get rid of all of them. However, it’s an imperative first step before moving onto sanitising a surface.


Sanitisers reduce the number of microbes on a surface to safe levels as dictated by public health standards, killing as much as 99.99 percent of germs and bacteria. This is usually sufficient as a preventative measure against the spread of these microbes, unless there have been known cases of disease or contamination.

Sanitising for longevity

With standard cleaning and sanitising products, surfaces are only protected until someone comes in contact with it again, transferring new germs and bacteria to it, which can then be transferred to the next person who touches the surface. The only way to contain the spread of these microbes is to continually clean and sanitise surfaces after every contact - which isn’t feasible in most shared spaces.

However, the use of a long-lasting product such as BioProtect™, the solution Higgins Antimicrobial Sanitising Service utilises, protects surfaces by creating an invisible barrier that continues working long after it’s applied, killing new contaminants as they come in contact with it. With Higgins’ service, this protection lasts for up to 28 days, helping prevent the spread of harmful microbes through surface contact during that period.

Best practices for sanitising surfaces

Sanitised surfaces should form part of a holistic infection control strategy that also includes other preventative methods, such as personal hygiene practices and social distancing measures. Hygiene and sanitation standards should be established based on the particular risk factors of different environments.

The following guidelines for preventative sanitising surfaces should also be followed:

  1. Always clean surfaces of dirt and grime before sanitising as these can affect the antimicrobial solution’s ability to kill germs and bacteria.
  2. Frequently touched surfaces and high traffic environments may need to be cleaned and sanitised more often than other areas.
  3. Where possible, engage a professional contractor to conduct your sanitising service using specialised equipment. This equipment will ensure that the sanitiser is applied to every surface in the room, including those places that are hard to reach with a wipe.
  4. In the case of a known outbreak of an infectious disease, a disinfectant service should be engaged instead of a preventative sanitising service.

At Higgins, we recently launched an Antimicrobial Sanitising Service which is a critical preventative measure you can implement to help protect your people. It kills 99.99 percent of harmful germs and bacteria on surfaces and is applied by our professionals to protect your people for up to 28 days. The use of specialised equipment means we can cover large areas and hard to reach/clean places,  and people can re-access the area just 30 minutes after application. If you’re in the market to protect your people and stop the spread of germs, click here to find out more.

Click to learn more about our Sanitising Service

Higgins Coatings now offers an Antimicrobial Sanitising Service, helping you to protect your people. The service uses a hospital-grade sanitisation product that binds to surfaces to kill 99.99 per cent of harmful germs & bacteria for up to 28 days. Contact us today to learn how you can stop the spread of germs & bacteria.