Posted on Tuesday 07th April, 2020

Disinfecting an ESD Workbench

As we try to protect our work and home environments during this challenging time, it is easy to become overwhelmed with how best to safeguard against this virus. Common bactericides, like isopropyl alcohol (IPA), known to be effective in some applications, may be hard to come by in the coming weeks. Many of us are resorting to alternative disinfectants. But are they right for electronics manufacturing and Electrostatic Protected Areas (EPAs)?

Let’s review. Disinfecting is a multi-step process. The best solution for cleaning ESD mats and other EPA surfaces is with a soapy detergent that was designed for that surface, like the 6001 Mat & Table Top Cleaner. Cleaning with a detergent will remove dirt, debris, microorganisms, and viruses. Lowering the numbers of germs on a surface is the first step towards a safer work setting. Spray the mat, wait 4-5 minutes, then wipe it off. If a second step is needed to ensure there is no residual, spray with water and wipe the mat with low-lint wipes.

When adding a third sanitizing step and the preferred 70% IPA solution is not available, 3% hydrogen peroxide solution could be a good alternative as it is more effective than IPA for controlling fungal and bacteria spores even though it doesn’t have cleaning properties. Some ESD managers may take caution since hydrogen peroxide is an oxidizer. Whichever disinfectant is used, it should rest on the mat surface for a few minutes before wiping the solution away.

Other alternative cleaners and disinfectants should be evaluated with scrutiny as they may not be suitable near sensitive device manufacturing. Witch hazel, for example, is an astringent; it is not a disinfectant. Vinegar is corrosive and will damage metal. Even though bleach is an effective disinfectant, improper use, including using the wrong dilution, may reduce its effectiveness and cause injury to workers.

Cold sterilants are powerful disinfectants used in pharmaceutical cleanrooms. As oxidizers, they may be too corrosive to use in sensitive device manufacturing where parts and materials can be damaged. Bactericides, like IPA, emulsify lipids in the cell wall of the virus, so that the proteins lose their structure and collapse. An oxidizer does the same, but also attacks other essential components of the virus cell. While it might seem the better choice, it is more than what is needed to control viruses in non-medical facilities.

Be aware that some disinfectants and cold sterilants contain a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide than what is needed. When using oxidizers against some viruses, the CDC says 3% hydrogen peroxide is a “stable and effective disinfectant when used on inanimate surfaces.”1

As noted in an earlier blog, in these critical times where safety is a priority, companies are choosing safety over the optimal care of ESD mats as any sanitizer will shorten the life of rubber. ACL encourages a multi-step cleaning regimen, but we also stress the importance of that first step — cleaning by removing contaminants. If first-step cleaning is skipped, sanitizing oxidizers will not be effective in sanitizing the surface as dirt can counteract the disinfecting abilities.

Stay safe and please reach out if you have any questions about our products. Call us at 800-782-8420 or email info@aclstaticide.com.

1. “Chemical Disinfectants.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, September 18, 2016. https://www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/disinfection/disinfection-methods/chemical.html.

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