Key Considerations When Choosing Cleanroom Decontamination Techniques and Products

By Sandra Hulme

Cleanroom technology is an evolving industry. Most facilities have pre-existing guidelines and protocols on decontamination products, techniques and regulatory measures; but these are based on lessons learned through retrospective research or actual cases of accidental contamination.

Scientific knowledge about bio-contaminants and human or environmental reactions to various chemicals continually advances. Therefore, decontamination technology, and the processes and techniques used to maximise its efficacy, must advance as well.

Weighing up options in the face of developing technology

Each advancement in decontamination and cleanroom technology brings with it another set of complex protocols and heavily regulated procedures.

It is the responsibility of cleanroom operators and manufacturing staff to actualise the updated policies and ensure new protocols and procedures are followed.

Ultimately, there are many boxes to tick before committing to a range of decontamination devices, techniques and products and a variety of different critical factors to consider. These include cost, efficacy, mode of action, compatibility and consideration of current health, safety and environmental factors.

There are many new decontamination technology options open to cleanroom operators today. However, just because something is flavour of the month does not mean it is right for every organisation. While these new technologies are often sophisticated and impressive, they must meet a number of business-specific criteria if they are to be considered viable.

Preparing for every scenario by choosing the right strategy

As a cleanroom operator, you must prepare for every scenario. You need a decontamination strategy for both routine and more complex cleaning actions that ensures you maintain the highest standards in your controlled environments.

While you use sterile disinfectants in a trigger spray form for cleaning smaller spillages and for routine cleaning of smooth surfaces, you will require a concentrated solution to manage large spills and more complex surface areas.  To decontaminate the entire cleanroom environment, you will need to develop a combined strategy that makes use of a surface cleaning and an airborne decontamination system. 

We have divided the ideal approach to cleanroom decontamination into three broad areas to help you quickly understand if your strategy, and preference for any particular product, is sound.

3 critical considerations when defining a decontamination strategy

Time period

  • How long does it take to execute the decontamination technique?
  • Can you afford the downtime at repeated intervals?

Large-scale decontamination by fumigation techniques, fogging, spraying or vapour, will mean your cleanroom is shut down. This will result in a loss of production time, and you will not be operational again until the process is complete.

The longer the decontamination procedure takes, the longer your cleanroom is inoperative. Inevitably, you will experience a delay in delivery, with your production schedule under pressure. When minor cleaning activities are needed, the disinfectant you use must be fast acting.

The most important consideration at this stage is to choose a decontamination strategy that supports your business activities and causes minimum disruption.


Compatibility between the chemicals you use is paramount. For the effective cleaning of surfaces, you must be sure that both the pre-cleaning detergents and the decontamination solutions used can work together. If not, the inappropriate pairing will reduce the efficacy of the decontamination. Compatibility also has a health and safety aspect. You need to ensure the sterilant you are using is safe to use with other chemical present in the room.

Compatibility between the chemicals in the decontamination product and the surface material requiring attention is also critical. If the pairing is incompatible corrosion could occur, or there may be a reduction in bactericidal properties due to absorption. Because surface corrosion buildup is often unavoidable, the residue removal from the aggressive disinfectants must be done through wiping the surface down with water or a less aggressive product.

Health and safety

The health and safety of your staff in your cleanroom must be a priority when choosing decontamination products, techniques and devices. The welfare of your cleanroom operators and the impact on the environment must be front of mind when evaluating decontamination strategies. It is crucial to keep environmental conditions at the predetermined temperature and/or the pH range required, for the chemicals to function optimally. Straying outside the framework of current health, safety and environmental regulations is not only potentially dangerous, it can also leave the organisation vulnerable to costly legal action.

Finally, it is important to choose a supplier who complements your corporate values for a good symbiotic relationship. Look for one who can work with you to build a decontamination strategy that will ensure your cleanroom is always operating at optimum levels with minimal downtime.

You need easy-to-use, relevant products from a supplier who offers you support, can advise you on the latest industrial research and technological advances and knows which new products to recommend based on your business needs.

Learn more about cleanroom decontamination best practice in our comprehensive Pharmaceutical Lab’s Pocket Guide to Cleanroom Decontaminants.  

Download Cherwell's Guide to Cleanroom Decontamination


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