Over 7.9 billion people – yes, billion! – use hypochlorous acid (HOCl) to fight bacteria and viruses. That’s because the human body makes hypochlorous acid that is used by white blood cells to fend off infection. In other words, it’s an important line of defense for every person on the planet.
Outside the human body, HOCl is used across many different industries, including healthcare, agriculture, food processing, water treatment, building maintenance and housekeeping. It is also used for wound-healing, pet care, skin care and hygiene. And those fruits and vegetables enjoying a misting at your local grocery store? Some stores use HOCI in place of water.
However, when people see the word ‘acid’, they tend to think of dangers from burns, corrosion and toxic gasses. Add the word ‘hypochlorous’ and it sounds even more ominous to those without a degree in chemistry.
So, here’s the surprising part. Hypochlorous acid is actually a great way to avoid all of the aforementioned dangers when cleaning and disinfecting in your business or home. Unlike bleach, HOCl has no harmful and irritating odors, and it won’t burn your skin or corrode surfaces. It can be used without personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves and masks and is safe to dispose of without concerns that it will negatively impact the environment. And the best part is that it works better than bleach. In fact, HOCI can be up to 80 times as effective, because its neutral charge allows it to easily infiltrate and attack pathogens.
Why Rely on HOCI?
Here’s why HOCI is a standout star for cleaning and disinfecting:
- Organisms of concern cannot defend against an HOCl attack.HOCI is unique in that it is a healer for our body’s wounds and infections but is lethal to nearly all known bacteria and viruses.
- Over time, some bacteria and viruses can become resistant to other treatments. However, HOCI is powerful enough that target organisms can’t build a defense against HOCl, meaning that it will always be effective against pathogens.
- Unlike bleach, which is negatively charged, HOCI has a neutral charge. Why is this important? Bacteria is also negatively charged, meaning it can repel itself from bleach the way two similarly charged magnets do. To overcome the cell’s defenses, you need to apply more bleach. Meanwhile, HOCI can easily penetrate negatively charged organisms in low concentrations due to its neutral charge.
Just look at how HOCI stacks up against other solutions commonly used for cleaning and disinfecting.
How HOCI is Made
Hypochlorous acid was first identified in 1811 to fight infections. In 1914, during World War I, medics used it to treat soldiers’ battlefield wounds. HOCl helped irrigate the wounds, allowing them to heal in half the time compared to other treatments.
So, why haven’t more people heard of it?
Hypochlorous acid has a relatively short shelf life compared to disinfectants made with different (yet typically caustic) ingredients. This is because it is activated and will eventually convert back into water. After 30 days, its effectiveness cannot be guaranteed, meaning it can’t be manufactured far away and stored in a warehouse or supply closet for months. Pure hypochlorous – without vinegar or other additives likes fragrances and dyes – is like freshly baked bread. What makes it special is its freshness and absence of preservatives.
Thus, a reliable and nearby source of HOCI is crucial. In educational, commercial and industrial settings that use high volumes of disinfectant and cleaning solutions, hypochlorous is made in the facility using on-site generators (OSG). This process requires only water, salt and electricity.
The water is electrically charged by the system, pulling apart the salt molecules so they can be converted into two electrochemically activated solutions (ECAS): sodium hydroxide (NaOH) – a very effective solution for cleaning; and hypochlorous acid (HOCl), which is used for disinfecting. Because they are activated, they are highly effective at low concentrations, making them easy to use. Additionally, in environments with an OSG, shelf life and supply are not concerns, as the system automatically generates the cleaner and disinfectant to meet their needs.
At a time when people are cleaning and disinfecting more surfaces, more frequently and using additional methods like electrostatic spraying and misting, many are switching to hypochlorous acid to avoid overexposure to harmful chemicals. Given our body’s reliance on HOCI and its pathogen-fighting capabilities, it is a solution that is well-suited for today’s concerns and challenges.
With hypochlorous acid, less is more.
For more information on hypochlorous, ECAS and on-site generation, contact Laura Louis at Laura.Louis@spray.com.
Laura Louis serves as a director at PathoSans, a leading provider of on-site generation (OSG) devices that produce ready-to-use, highly effective cleaners and disinfectants known as electrochemically activated (ECA) solutions. Learn more at www.pathosans.com.