The COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic has changed how businesses think about disinfection. Regular surface disinfection has become crucial to help stop the spread of the virus.

Viruses need a living host in order to survive; they enter a host through infected droplets. Coughs and sneezes from an infected person are the most common way they spread, however infection can also occur from touching a contaminated surface and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

Germs can remain on hard surfaces from minutes to hours; the longer a surface remains contaminated the greater the risk of viruses spreading, leading to higher infection rates. Regular disinfection of surfaces in industrial facilities is vital to stop this.

Your industrial facility will have a large number of high contact touch points; hand rails, door handles, light switches and counter tops are common touch points but let’s not forget about production equipment, tools and machine controls panels.  These are often controlled by several operators, making cross contamination a risk.

Many industrial facilities are ensuring contact surfaces are disinfected at least twice daily, with high touch points being wiped down throughout the day; a great initiative to keep operators safe, as long as the surfaces are properly cleaned and degreased prior to disinfection.

In an industrial setting, production equipment and machinery are continually in use. Parts and machinery will need to be lubricated and maintained at regular intervals, often resulting in greasy soils.

Degreasing: the important first step

Degreasing a surface prior to disinfecting is an important first step; it ensures germs are not ‘hidden’ when the disinfectant is applied to the surface. If germs become hidden underneath greasy soils, these greasy soils protect the germs from the disinfectant, meaning they are not killed and removed from the surface, putting employees, operators and site visitors at risk of infection. Degreasing ahead of the disinfection process removes this protection, allowing the disinfectant product to remove all germs.

Industrial degreasers will penetrate even the most stubborn grease and grime; leaving behind a clean, bright and uncontaminated surface, ready for disinfection. Degreasers can be used to clean a number of substrates from a surface, including grease, oil, grime and fats. If you clean a surface with only water, you would need to spend a lot of time, energy and manpower to achieve any result; even if the surface you were cleaning looked spotless, it would still be left with a surface residue of the soil.

Types of degreaser

Industrial degreasers have come a long way; from harmful chlorinated solvents in the 1950s; although effective at removing oils, grease and other organic containments, they were extremely harmful to both the environment and the user and could lead to major health problems and even cancer. Bio-renewable solvents were introduced in the 1980s; being developed from natural sources such as orange peel extracts, they were believed to be the answer to replace non-chlorinated solvents in industry, however they were highly flammable, contained high VOCs and caused skin irritation.

Solvent degreasers remain in use today; derived from petroleum (containing over 50% petroleum or terpene solvents) or natural oils such as orange peel or pine needle extracts. Solvents have an affinity with fats and greases by solubilising and thinning them for easy removal. However, most are flammable as even natural oils have a flash point, so what is the alternative?

Safer, more environmentally friendly water based degreasers have gained traction in the marketplace, with industrial businesses focused on increasing sustainability and green credentials. Water based degreasers use surfactants to emulsify greasy soils and penetrating agents to increase the speed of degreasing. Using water as the solvent along with biodegradable surfactants, low VOCs, corrosion inhibitors and pH adjusters to improve cleaning efficiency; aqueous degreasers are considered the safer and more environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum based solvents.

With the advances in water based technology and a focus on sustainability, it’s clear to see why there has been a shift towards water based degreasers over solvent based. Whether you are using water based or solvent based degreasers, the desired end result remains the same; a surface free of oily, greasy soils, ready for the surface to be disinfected.

Common types of disinfectant products

There are a number of different types of disinfectant products, common types include:

Quat: disinfectant chemicals commonly found in disinfectant wipes, sprays and other cleaners designed to kill germs.

Diamines / Triamines: sometimes referred to as quat free formulations; offer an alternative to quat based disinfectants.

Chlorine: chlorine based products can be used as disinfectants. However care needs to be taken as these products can be corrosive to metal.

Alcohol: alcohol is commonly used in ready-to-use surface disinfectants; however these products cannot be diluted. 

Cleaning and degreasing a surface will remove some germs but it will not kill all germs alone, that’s where the disinfectant comes into play. Disinfecting a surface without degreasing however will hide germs from the disinfectant, leaving the surface contaminated. The two processes should always be followed to ensure germs are effectively killed and removed from a surface, lowering the risk of infection.

For that all important first step; NCH offers a range of industrial degreasers, including a line of powerful water based degreasers, to remove greasy soils; leaving surfaces clean, ready for disinfection with our range of industrial surface disinfectants. For more information, contact our industrial maintenance experts who are here to handle all of your maintenance needs; call us on +44 (0) 1902 510200 or email