As the global struggle with the threat of COVID-19 goes on, businesses continue to search for solutions that will help them return to normal. One of the important aspects here is figuring out how to make your public space safe for customers and staff members.

If you have already tried researching the topic, you’ve probably noticed one name, in particular hypochlorous acid. In fact, our disinfection tunnel is designed to use it. To determine why it suddenly became so popular and whether it is indeed the most effective disinfectant for businesses, check out our complete guide on the subject.

What Is Hypochlorous Acid?

Hypochlorous acid (HOCl) is a naturally occurring substance with powerful disinfection properties. It was discovered in the 19th century but saw limited use until much later, when cost-effective methods of production were developed. Its most interesting property is the ability to kill pathogens far better than most commercially available disinfectants while being completely non-toxic for humans and mammals. This effectiveness, combined with the lack of adverse effects, makes it perfect for disinfecting public spaces and similar business-specific uses.

How Is Hypochlorous Acid Made?

From a chemical standpoint, HOCl is a relatively simple substance. It can be created by dissolving chlorine in water (which is actually how it was originally made by its discoverer). However, this method is not very practical, as the resulting disinfectant solution is unstable. As it is a natural disinfectant, it can also be made by mixing salt, white vinegar, and water. Nonetheless, the concentration will not be enough to make an effective disinfectant.

Nowadays, HOCl is usually made from salt and water via electrolysis. This method is quick, easy, inexpensive, and can produce a disinfection solution of the desired concentration. The simplicity, in combination with the sanitizer tunnel working principle, makes it a great option for large-scale sanitation procedures.

How Does It Work?

HOCl is a powerful oxidizer. Upon contact with a pathogen, it essentially ruptures their cell walls. Now, this mechanism will only work for living organisms, so how does hypochlorous acid kill viruses, which are not even a lifeform? It appears that the chlorination process can also dissolve DNA of the viruses, rendering them harmless. In other words, it is the ultimate cleaning product with a broad range of applications.

How Safe is Hypochlorous Acid?

With such an intimidating list of effects, you are probably wondering if hypochlorous acid is safe to use. Fortunately, the processes described above work only on viruses and bacteria and do not apply to the higher forms of life. In fact, HOCl is produced naturally in mammals and forms a part of the human immune system. The ability of our body to generate a non-toxic disinfectant is yet another reminder of how incredible nature really is.

To be fair, our body can generate all sorts of substances, and this does not necessarily make them harmless. So how safe is HOCI? Can it cause irritation to the skin or have other undesirable effects?

Let’s have a look at specific examples. A good place to start would be SkinSafe – a platform developed in partnership with Mayo Clinic. The hypochlorous acid page lists this ingredient as:

  1. Teen safe
  2. Baby safe
  3. Lip safe
  4. Eyelid safe

Besides, HOCl is also biodegradable and does not accumulate in the organism, making it safe for long-term use. This is particularly relevant for organizations that have to comply with environmental regulations in the development of their disinfection strategy.

What Is Hypochlorous Acid Used For?

The high efficiency and safety of HOCl make it a great option for a variety of business applications. Not only can it eradicate the threat of infection relatively quickly, the treated surfaces don’t need to be rinsed. Essentially, this means you can clean large areas quickly without interrupting normal operations.

Due to such properties, the hypochlorous acid solution has become a disinfectant of choice in many domains:

  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Transportation
  • Retail
  • Hospitality
  • Entertainment

In some cases, disinfection with hypochlorous acid is actually the only feasible solution. A good example is the airline industry, where even a slight delay can bring the entire facility to a halt. So, safety, convenience and efficiency of HOCl make the deployment of a disinfection tunnel in airports the best option.

What is more,  the chemical composition of this disinfectant makes it a perfect fit for the food industry. When you need to kill germs and still have a product that can be eaten, the choice between hypochlorous acid and bleach should be obvious. It is also approved for the treatment of wounds and infections as well as the preservation of some medical solutions.

HOCl: The Rise in Popularity

With such an impressive list of applications and approved use cases, no wonder this disinfectant product causes such a resonance. The reason for this is the unique challenge posed by the recent public health crisis that is the COVID-19 outbreak.

On the one hand, the management of SARS-CoV-2 is a new issue. To be clear, the virus itself has been known for quite a while. However, up until recently, there was neither the need to protect humans from it nor the ready-made disinfectant solution to use.

On the other hand, since COVID spreads mostly from person to person, the solution had to be suitable for public settings. There are plenty of ways to eradicate almost any pathogen from hard surfaces, ranging from ultraviolet light to aggressive substances like bleach. Yet, their application is limited in places where people are supposed to stay for some time like schools or stores.

Now, imagine a COVID disinfectant that reliably kills SARS-CoV-2 (along with most known germs) but does no harm to visitors (or any other life form). Add to that the ease of use, accessibility, and approval by health organizations – and you can already see why there’s so much buzz about it.

How Can Hypochlorous Acid Be Used for Disinfection?

HOCl works on contact, so the only right way to use it is to apply the substance to the surface of an object. The most straightforward way of doing this is by applying the disinfectant onto a cloth, then wiping the surface with it, or using a disinfectant spray.

Businesses that need to disinfect large areas frequently might find it impractical. To address this issue, several technological solutions have been devised to streamline the sanitation procedure. One example is the fogging approach, where the liquid is atomized into a fine fog.

This way, the surface is covered much more thoroughly, less disinfectant is used, and the procedure is quicker. The technology has yielded numerous iterations on the market, from a portable hypochlorous acid fogger to a multi-purpose disinfection tunnel. In combination, the disinfectant and the application technology form an impenetrable barrier to the virus.

Hypochlorous Acid Advantages

As you can see, HOCl is a potent substance with a range of medical applications. Nevertheless, it also offers several benefits for disinfecting the business. Below are the most relevant ones.

  • Effective: According to the EPA, hypochlorous acid cleaning reliably eradicates pathogens that are harder to kill than SARS-CoV-2. When you take responsibility for the safety of your clients and staff, this is how high the bar should be set.
  • Trustworthy: The substance has been approved for use in public places (including schools) by authorities in major healthcare systems.
  • Safe: HOCl does no harm to humans or any other mammals.
  • Harmless: No damage to the skin, no allergic reactions or other unpleasant side effects.
  • Non-hazardous: HOCI is electrically neutral, has no corrosive properties, and causes no other damage to surfaces. This makes it suitable for the treatment of goods or customers’ personal belongings.
  • Environmentally-friendly: The substance has no undesired impacts on any complex life forms, is biodegradable and non-accumulable. Simply put, there are no lasting effects of any kind.
  • Efficient: HOCI can be stored in the form of disinfection concentrate, which simplifies inventory management.
  • Practical: The surfaces don’t need to be rinsed to remove HOCl after cleaning as the disinfectant degrades into harmless components within minutes.

To sum up, hypochlorous acid is not just effective – it is also a convenient option for organizations that need a comprehensive disinfection strategy. It works well with innovative solutions like a disinfection tunnel to maximize efficiency and ensure the safety of customers.

Hypochlorous Acid vs Other Disinfectants

HOCl is certainly not the only disinfectant that can be used against SARS-CoV-2. In fact, there are other substances that are deadlier to the virus or cheaper to use. Still, the advantages often come with trade-offs like hazardous qualities.

Besides, some substances may not be compatible with large-scale operations. For example, alcohol disinfectant is great for sanitizing small objects but is hardly a good option for cleaning the entire room.

Certainly, there are scenarios where a business will need a separate disinfectant product for each specific case. To help you choose the one that will meet your needs, here is a comparison table.

Hypochlorous AcidBleach (Sodium Hypochlorite)Alcohol-Based DisinfectantsHydrogen PeroxideOzoneUV
EfficiencyVery highVery highHighVery highVery highVery high
Health hazardVery lowHighMediumHighVery highVery high
Environmental hazardLowHighLowLowLowLow
Ease of UseEasyEasyEasyEasyComplexComplex

As can be seen, most existing solutions on the market can effectively deal with SARS-CoV-2. However, most of them work best in a dedicated environment. If you need a solution that can be used in public places without creating new risks to people, goods, or the environment, HOCl is the most versatile choice.

Wrapping Up

Hypochlorous acid is a disinfectant with a long history of use. At a glance, it sounds almost improbably good – deadly to pathogens yet gentle to human skin and harmless to the planet. In reality, these properties have never been a secret, which is why HOCl has been applied in so many industries.

Still, it is only now that we begin to truly appreciate its value as the most effective disinfectant. This is why we, at SaniPass, have chosen it for use with our disinfection tunnel. In combination with fogging, this alternative disinfectant will help businesses resume their operations and aid the society in returning to normal.