Hydrogen Peroxide For Fogging?
Change is Here
The pandemic brought about a lot of change in the world, particularly in the cleaning industry. We’ve seen the use of PPE explode, which meant resources we’ve been using in the industry for decades became scarce and expensive. Disinfectants that were once commonplace are now replaced with EPA List “N” chemicals. Companies have turned to “enhanced” cleaning practices, which means now they are actually cleaning. Another change has been the rapid adoption of electrostatic sprayers and ultra-low-volume foggers.
From classrooms to churches to casinos to mom-and-pop storefronts, fogging has been deployed as a reliable, common sense solution to effectively combat viruses and other germs. Professionally, we’ve been using foggers for over a decade before the pandemic started and have been pushing for their use in the industry for a long time. To finally see foggers get their time in the sun is fantastic, but as with any rapid adoption, it comes with risks.
One of those risks is improper application. Specifically, what is being used in the fogger as the disinfectant? Not all disinfectants are created equal and not all disinfectants are meant for fogging. For instance, you wouldn’t want to use bleach to fog with due to its myriad of detrimental health consequences. However, a very popular solution people have turned to is hydrogen peroxide. While hydrogen peroxide is known to be a good nontoxic solution for disinfecting, it has many risk factors to consider as a fogging agent. We’ll highlight a handful below.
In order for any disinfectant to be effective, the proper dilution rate must be achieved. One cannot simply eyeball an amount of disinfectant and slosh it around with water and expect to effectively disinfect. Hydrogen peroxide is no different. What percent of it do you need to kill germs? Can you use tap water to dilute it? Is the mixing container contaminated with other chemicals rendering the H2O2 useless?
Those questions are reason enough to go with a ready-to-use (RTU) solution. The dilution is already optimal. However, in my research, an RTU hydrogen peroxide for fogging does not exist.
Making proper dilution even more important, hydrogen peroxide, like bleach, has oxidative properties. Apply H2O2 to a fabric that is not colorfast and watchout! Yellowing or whitening may occur (just like bleach). When fogging spaces that contain high-value inventory or precious, priceless items do you want to take that risk or allow a company who’s internal controls you can’t verify destroy thousands of dollars of goods?
Reaction with other chemicals
It’s true that, by itself, hydrogen peroxide is nontoxic; but it breaks down into hydrogen and oxygen. That latter element is known to be highly reactive with other elements. When H2O2 reacts with chemicals or their residue from prior cleaning, toxic gasses can form leading to detrimental health consequences. Imagine a janitorial crew cleaning with bleach (as most traditional services do). Now imagine that a few minutes later the fogging service comes in with hydrogen peroxide to fog with. If ventilation is not adequate, what happens?
Hydrogen peroxide is not typically flammable. However, H2O2 is known to enhance the flammable effects of other combustible compounds because it does break down into oxygen. As we know, oxygen feeds fire.
Return to Space
No, not that space! Return to space or RTS is how long it takes you to re-enter your space, dwelling or what have you. While I do recommend an opportunity for the space to air out--45 minutes to an hour or so-- fogging with hydrogen peroxide can lead to an RTS time over 24 hours. If you are trying to continue operations or want to forgo the expense of a hotel room, H2O2 may not be the best fogging solution.
Every disinfectant sold on the market must be registered with the EPA. The EPA registration includes a review of the disinfectant's efficacy such as log reduction, dwell time, hazards, application and such. Hydrogen peroxide sold in the market follows this same process.
Read the label of most H2O2 bottles and notice there is no mention of use in a fogger. This means that using H2O2 in a fogger is a severe violation of EPA regulations.
There are disinfectants approved for use in foggers. Hydrogen Peroxide is not likely one of them.
The Bottom Line
Hydrogen peroxide is a great nontoxic disinfectant in general; just not as a fogging agent.