People who use disinfectants face many dilemmas when cleaning their environments effectively. For example, they need to safely disinfect surfaces and equipment while minimizing the harmful effects of traditional disinfectants. Some of these effects include corrosion of metals and plastics, pungent odor and fume, the residue left behind that is difficult to remove, and even potential adverse health effects for the operator due to overuse or overexposure.
So, is there a way to ensure equipment integrity and operator safety while simultaneously using a powerful disinfectant that delivers the desired effect?
“HOCl offers a way in which you can effectively disinfect your environment while drastically lowing the risk of damaging your expensive equipment and sensitive surfaces while maintaining safety for the operators,” says Wenyu Zhang, R&D Manager at Berkshire Corporation.
What is HOCl?
HOCl is a powerful yet naturally existing disinfectant that consists of three atoms: hydrogen, oxygen, and chlorine. Known for 150 years, it is like bleach’s much gentler cousin. The slight difference in their composition dictates significant contrasts in their characteristics. Bleach (hypochlorite, NaClO) is ubiquitous because it has a strong history of getting the job done–consistently killing unwanted microorganisms like viruses and bacteria. However, it is also harsh and corrosive. Strong disinfectants like bleach can corrode stainless steel and damage the surface. Those pitted or damaged areas are likely to become shelters for further contamination, let alone affecting the functionality of the equipment that they are part of. Traditional disinfectants, like bleach, may also require additional ingredients to ensure or enhance their marketed benefits. These ingredients often form unwanted residue, worsening the disinfectants’ effects.
By comparison, HOCl is naturally stronger and cleaner.
When appropriately used, studies show HOCl has up to 100x the disinfecting power of bleach. It is not harsh or corrosive to surfaces. It is a safer and more powerful disinfectant that poses significantly less risk to people than cleaning with bleach—using it in its purest state, with no additives, preservatives, or dyes, is best. Unlike its relative, it has a light swimming pool scent, and the development of breathing irritation or respiratory issues is low. HOCl is also the same ingredient commonly used in wound, eye, and veterinary care products because it is gentle and effective.
“Our bodies naturally generate small amounts of hypochlorous acid to protect us against invading organisms,” says Zhang. “So, the body likely won’t view it as a foreign substance, and the likelihood of an allergic reaction is very low.”
Berkshire offers VersaHOCl, an EPA-registered, ready-to-use one-step cleaner, disinfectant, and deodorizer. It has an active ingredient of 0.065% hypochlorous acid–the highest active level available on the market. The relatively higher concentration makes it more effective, which reduces the contact time required to kill germs. In addition, it is still low, essential to its low residue and odor benefits compared to other disinfectants.
Depending on the targeted microorganisms, users spray or mop it onto the surface and then leave it wet for five to ten minutes. This non-toxic disinfectant has a low odor and residue and does not require rinsing.
How HOCl works
“Hypochlorous acid is a strong oxidative substance,” Zhang explains.
It interacts with any organic material that it encounters. Microorganisms are like complicated machines with various components that all have important roles. Other disinfectants, such as alcohols or amines, only attack one or two specific parts of a microorganism. Therefore, their effectiveness can be selective and slow. As a result, the organisms can develop resistance to traditional disinfectants.
But HOCl attacks on all fronts, targeting all of the different components of a microorganism, quickly rendering the “machine” not functioning or inactivated.
Our HOCl spray kills 99.99% of bacteria, fungi, and viruses, including organisms that represent a wide variety of common microbiological contaminants: Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, Trichophyton interdigitale, Human Adenovirus Type 5, Human Adenovirus Type 5, and Rhinovirus Type 37. It is also on the EPA-approved List N for SARS-CoV-2 & variants and List Q – Monkeypox Virus.
Despite the numerous benefits of HOCl, it has not been historically available because of the challenge of making it shelf-stable. In the past, operators would have to make it on-site and use it very quickly as its composition degraded in a short period. It is now optimized in a unique manufacturing process with proprietary electrolysis technology to stabilize HOCl for one-year shelf life. The electrolysis equipment is metered and controlled to avoid introducing impurities, and the acidity and active concentration are precisely regulated in a narrow range to ensure quality control.
Where to use HOCl
It is non-corrosive and effective on hard, non-porous surfaces, making HOCl ideal for many environments. For example, in the cleanroom, it can help reduce safety concerns and rinsing needs because it is a low-residue product. With its broad-spectrum efficacy, it is a crucial part of cleaning protocols. Additionally, because HOCl offers good surface compatibility and is not damaging, you can use it on sensitive surfaces and equipment in those controlled environments.
Outside of the cleanroom, in places such as hospitals and long-term care facilities, where disinfection is essential to keep facilities free of disease-causing pathogens, HOCl is a powerful, safe, and effective alternative to efficiently clean and disinfect near-patient surfaces and equipment. And with no harsh chemicals, toxins, or added fragrances, there is flexibility for use in environments such as hospitality and schools where user acceptability and the safety of others is also of utmost importance.
The powerful yet gentle properties of HOCl offer many benefits versus disinfectants made from harsh and potentially harmful chemicals. Berkshire is establishing the safest standards in disinfectant technology with our VersaHOCl one-step ready-to-use cleaner, disinfectant, and deodorizer. Contact us today to learn more about this new product and to discuss how it can inform and improve your cleaning protocol needs.