MRSA infection control: How to prevent, clean and kill MRSA
If you have MRSA or want to protect yourself against it, it’s vital that you know proper MRSA precautions and infection control techniques to protect you and your family from becoming infected. These techniques can also help you recover faster from an existing infection, reduce your chances of spreading the infection to others or reduce your chances of getting infected in the first place.
Central to any prevention program is being prepared with treatments that actually work. Click here for treatment information. Learning how to prevent MRSA by using safe, effective and non-toxic MRSA cleaning procedures and practicing good personal hygiene are key to staying safe while supporting your overall health.
Below you will learn more about disinfecting and personal hygiene methods, and a new threat: airborne MRSA.
Personal MRSA prevention and cleaning tips
With so many MRSA cleaners on the market, it’s very important to learn which ones are the best Staph prevention products and how to use them safely and effectively. It is also prudent to take appropriate MRSA precautions when engaging in higher risk activities, such as close-contact sports and crowded community areas, to minimize the risks and help prevent MRSA Staph infections.
–> Click here for more details on how you can catch MRSA.
Cleaning and disinfecting
Disinfecting is a term used for products that will kill or destroy bacteria. Bleach is a well-known disinfectant. In contrast, a sanitizing agent means the product will reduce the number of bacteria, but not kill them all. Alcohol gels are a common sanitizer. Any surfaces you intend to clean must first be washed well to remove scum and dirt, as dirt will reduce the effectiveness of both sanitizers and disinfectants.
Disinfectant labels should include a listing of what bacteria they are effective against. A few do list MRSA, but most just list Staph aureus. If it’s effective against “Staphylococcus aureus”, it should also work for MRSA bacteria.
Because MRSA and Staph love people’s skin, they hang out on “high-touch” areas and spread by people’s hands. When cleaning at home, focus on high contact areas:
- Kitchen sinks, counter tops, refrigerator handles, and faucets
- Bathroom sinks, faucets, bathtubs, showers and toilet handles
- Door knobs, handles and light switches
- Workout equipment and handles
- Toys and play tables
- Devices like remote controls, keyboards, game consoles and phones (be sure to follow manufacturer cleaning directions, especially for liquids as they can damage electronic products).
Next, let’s discuss some popular chemical disinfectants for the control of bacteria, including how to use them plus important risks and precautions.
Bleach (or sodium hypochlorite) is often recommended as a good universal chemical disinfectant for all kinds of bacteria, including MRSA. While bleach can effectively kill MRSA, it has to be used properly and at the correct dilution to work well. It’s important to know that bleach has some serious health, safety and environmental issues you need to be aware of too.
Does bleach kill MRSA? Yes it does, but it must be made fresh and with the correct dilution following the manufacturer’s directions.
- To be effective, bleach MUST be mixed with water first. Straight undiluted bleach is actually less harmful to bacteria than bleach diluted in water.
- A 10% bleach solution is generally best to kill MRSA, however different brands and types of bleach have different kill times for MRSA (refer to the label or company website for the specific kill times for MRSA or Staph aureus bacteria).
- 10% bleach is also less corrosive and less hazardous than undiluted bleach.
- Bleach is not compatible with metal surfaces and produces toxic compounds if mixed with most other cleaning agents.
- Bleach is also caustic, corrosive and pollutes the environment with dangerous dioxins. Be sure to follow the listed use and safety precautions, wear gloves, and have good airflow when using it.
Because of bleach’s toxicity, corrosiveness and safety issues, it’s best to use it as little as possible and substitute safer options instead (see further below).
Disinfectants like Lysol and Pine-Sol
There are several other household chemical disinfectants, including Lysol, Pine-Sol and others that have also been used for killing MRSA.
- Chemical disinfectants like Pine-Sol or Lysol will kill MRSA or “Staph aureus” bacteria. Be sure to look for stated kill times for the bacteria on the specific product label and follow the instructions. Refer to each product or website for directions for use for controlling bacteria.
- Protect yourself against touching the disinfectant and have good ventilation to reduce breathing or touching it.
Because of toxicity and safety issues with disinfectants, minimize their use or substitute safer options (see further below).
The EPA advises using only nontoxic, unscented cleaning products.
Nobody wants MRSA wandering around their home or office. But many people don’t think twice about using toxic and poisonous compounds to clean their homes.
You won’t hear many toxicity warnings from the CDC on disinfecting for MRSA, but most commercially available chemical disinfectants contain poisonous chemicals which are harmful to your health when absorbed into your body (through your skin or by inhaling it). They can pose a health threat to your lungs, skin, may be carcinogenic, and pose a threat to the environment too.
Many of these products contain phenol and cresol, which if ingested, can cause diarrhea, fainting, dizziness and kidney or liver damage. They may also contain formaldehyde, a suspected human carcinogen that can irritate your eyes, throat, skin and lungs.
When these toxins are touched or inhaled they can accumulate inside your body. This creates a toxic burden which weakens your immune system, making it harder to fight off infections. To see how your favorite disinfectant rates, the Environmental Working Group has a great resource on safety of cleaners and disinfectants here.
Luckily, there are safer alternatives you can either buy or make yourself for sanitizing or disinfecting. Many are made with natural antibacterial agents like essential oils of thyme or oregano, colloidal silver or hydrogen peroxide. These options are much safer for ourselves, our children and our pets. Using safer cleaners will help keep your body healthier by reducing your exposure to toxins.
Safe and effective natural cleaning agents, sanitizers and disinfectants are covered in the Program MRSA Secrets Revealed. Also included are recipes for safe sanitizers and hand sprays using essential oils. I’ve included in depth coverage of prevention techniques, including the easiest ways to reduce airborne MRSA and Staph.
Personal hygiene tips: how to reduce getting MRSA or spreading it to others
Part of a good overall approach to controlling MRSA is keeping your home clean, especially if someone has a Staph infection or MRSA. Personal hygiene is also important to prevent spreading the infection to others, or protecting yourself from others who are infected.
If you are infected:
- Wash hands regularly with simple soap and water to keep them clean (hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent spreading MRSA).
- Don’t share your towels, razors or other personal items as they will have MRSA on them
- Keep breaks in your skin clean and covered and watch for signs of infection such as redness, warmth and swelling
- See your doctor if you notice signs of infection
- Don’t try to drain a boil yourself at home – it can move the infection deeper into your body
- Keep the infected area covered with a clean dry bandage until it is healed. Wash your hands thoroughly after changing the bandage and put used bandages in the trash
- Disinfect areas where you change your bandages
To prevent getting infected:
- Wash hands with regular soap and water to keep them clean. Do not touch your face or nose with dirty hands
- Don’t use other people’s personal items (towels, razors etc)
- Avoid contact with other people’s wounds or bandages. If you must, be sure to wear gloves
Airborne MRSA – a little known threat
Chances are good that you haven’t heard about another way MRSA can spread from person to person: airborne MRSA. Neither the CDC nor the media is discussing this problem, as well as hospitals and health care facilities. One reason being that they are still working on a solution to stop the spread of airborne MRSA.
Staph and MRSA bacteria commonly inhabit people’s skin, often without causing infection (people who are called “carriers”). The average person sheds millions of skin particles throughout the day. MRSA and Staph hitch a ride on these particles into the air. If the particles are small enough, they can also enter the lungs (possibly causing pneumonia). Otherwise, particles that land on you can potentially colonize your skin with MRSA.
- Studies have now confirmed that the airborne route of transmission is responsible for a large number of MRSA infections.
- A 2001 study showed that MRSA could be acquired by medical staff and patients through airborne transmission in hospitals.
- The study was conducted in a hospital ward and found MRSA re-circulating in the air, among the patients and on inanimate objections in the area, especially when there was movement in the patient’s rooms (Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2001; 127(6): 725-726).
It’s important to note that standard cleaning and hygiene methods are not effective against airborne MRSA. Hospitals are working on ways to reduce airborne bacteria, but most solutions are not practical for your home or hospital room. One of the most effective ways to control airborne bacteria is by diffusing the vapors of highly antibacterial essential oils within a room. Studies have shown that some plant essential oils work much better than others at reducing airborne MRSA, like Tea Tree or Eucalyptus. Only the highest medicinal grade oils (those not found in grocery stores) are effective.