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A Good Surface Sanitizer/Cleaner: Hypochlorous Acid

Hey, so I recently discovered a great cleaning product, hypochlorous acid (HOCl). You don’t know about it because A) it’s a generic, so there’s no brand name marketing behind it, and B) it dissociates pretty quickly into water and a tiny bit of salt, so classically it’s an industrial cleaner made on site.

(Or maybe you know about it already, and I am only now catching up. :-))

Anyway, this is not a marketing pitch, nor is it professional public health and safety advice, just a pointer.

It’s mainly for hard, non-porous surfaces, and it’s for sanitizing/disinfecting, and for cutting light grease or things like soap film/soap scum or the pink biofilm in the shower. It is not particularly useful for heavily soiled / bulk debris; you should rinse/wipe/wash off soil/debris, first, then use the HOCl.

It smells like chlorine when you spray it, but not offensively so. (My wife and I both like it; it smells “clean.”) It’s related to bleach (hypochlorite), but it’s different (and better for disinfecting/sanitizing).

It’s mostly water, and reasonably safe around people and pets. You wouldn’t drink it or indiscriminately soak your skin in it, but it’s actually used in wound care. It can be used on food and food-contact surfaces as a no-rinse sanitizer.

It is included on the US EPA List N, of sanitizers effective against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19):

To kill SARS-CoV-2 on a surface, you spray it on the surface (even food prep or fruit/vegetable surfaces) and leave it wet for 10 minutes.

(I believe that public health consensus is that surface sanitization is not particularly necessary with COVID-19, because it’s mostly airborne, and you should just wash your hands more often. We still spray all our groceries when they’re delivered. Partly, I think, it’s just a way of feeling like we have a little control in our uncertain times. YMMV.)

You can buy it pre-made, or because it dissociates over time, you can buy a “generator” that makes it via electrolysis out of water and a tiny bit of salt and distilled vinegar. (The acetic acid is for pH control; if the solution is acidic, you get hypochlorous acid; if the solution is basic, you get hypochlorite, which is more dangerous and not as effective.)

I started with a two-pack of spray bottles (happened to be CleanSmart brand), and then bought a small generator (Force of Nature).

I found three kinds of home generators (as opposed to industrial):

  1. The ~$300 kind, which I did not explore.

  2. The ~$90-$120 fairly generic kind from Chinese manufacturers; I think these are probably pretty much the same as #1, with different packaging, manuals, and customer support.

  3. Force of Nature, ~$50 + ~$1 per 12oz of HOCl. They’re a US consumer-oriented company, and obtained an EPA registration for the hypochlorous acid their generator produces. Partly because of the EPA registration and the need for precise formulation, or perhaps partly as a razor/razor blade model, they sell small ampoules of salt+vinegar that you use, 1 ampoule per 12 oz of solution.

I was pretty close to buying a #2 machine, but to do it right, you need to buy chlorine and pH test strips, which turns out to be sort of an ongoing expense like FoN’s ampoules. Plus, you have to measure your salt and control the pH, and the base machine costs more than FoN… long story short, I appreciate FoN’s US consumer-oriented approach, and don’t find their supply cost onerous compared to the convenience.

Don’t buy FoN at Amazon, it’s expensive there. Rather, if you buy one, buy direct from their website, and make sure you get a 15% or 20% coupon code.

Again, not a marketing pitch, and not professional health and safety advice. Do your own research, and/or contact your public health and safety officials.

This post is licensed under CC0/is public domain; please feel free to distribute as you wish.

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