Thursday, July 2, 2020

When Disinfecting Fueling Equipment: Use Alcohol-based Sanitizers or Hydrogen Peroxide

The findings from Husky Corporation's tests of cleaning solutions used on fuel hanging hardware answer questions about cleaning and disinfecting practices, which gained new attention during the COVID-19 outbreak. Fuel dispensing facilities ramped up efforts to sanitize equipment, using an abundance of caution to slow the spread of the virus even though much is still unknown about the viability of surface to person transmission.

The image below shows the results of tests on fuel nozzles which used items on EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use against SARS-CoV-1 (the virus that causes COVID-19). The tests focused on active ingredients that required a contact time of fewer than 30 seconds as well as common 'off the shelf’ products that required longer surface contact. Once an hour every day, the nozzles were sanitized with the various cleaning materials and then activated for use, to replicate the same activity experienced at a typical retail fueling outlet.

The findings led to Husky's recommendation that only alcohol-based sanitizers or those made of hydrogen peroxide be used to disinfect fuel hanging hardware.  The company issued a service bulletin on June 4, 2020 recommending that disinfectants with an alcohol base of at least 70% and/or hydrogen peroxide based disinfectants be used to clean aluminum hanging hardware.

The type of alcohol used does not matter as long as it is diluted with some amount of water, because pure alcohols that are in continuous contact with aluminum will degrade the aluminum over long periods of time. Alcohol-based cleaners applied to aluminum hanging hardware will evaporate within minutes. Once the alcohol evaporates the aluminum is exposed to air and the natural passive protective layer remains intact.

Significantly, it turns out the other two disinfectants on EPA List N can have a negative corrosive / pitting reaction with aluminum components. The materials that should not be used are disinfectants that contain active ingredients with chlorides – Quaternary Ammonium and Sodium Hypochlorite. Importantly, bleach should not be used to clean fuel hanging hardware.