September 23, 2021
Last Updated On:
March 7, 2023

How Electrostatic Sprayers Work?

Learn about electrostatic sprayers, how they work, do they eliminate COVID-19, and what you should know about safely operating them.

Last Updated On:
March 7, 2023

Whether you are managing school or business facilities, cleaning and disinfecting these shared spaces are essential for the health and safety of your building occupants. With post-COVID-19 protocols bringing heightened attention to new ways of sterilizing interior spaces, such as electrostatic spraying, it's essential to understand more about this emerging cleaning solution. Continue reading to learn how electrostatic sprayers work, how effective they are, how to operate them safely, and why they may only be the first step to creating healthier indoor environments.

What Is An Electrostatic Sprayer?

Electrostatic sprayers, also known as electrostatic disinfection sprayers, are disinfection chemical atomizers that electrostatically charge the aerosolized mist to improve the chemical's adhesion to surfaces and objects. Dependent on the manufacturer or model, electrostatic sprayers typically consist of a specialized sprayer gun, a rechargeable battery pack, and a refillable container for the disinfectant. The majority of commercial-grade electrostatic sprayers are in a cordless backpack form factor with larger chemical storage, a larger battery pack, and a hose-attached sprayer gun.

Commercial Electrostatic Sprayer In School Library

How Do Electrostatic Sprayers Work?

Electrostatic sprayers work by combining ambient air with the disinfectant to aerosolize the chemical and then apply a charge with a positively charged diode tip or electrode within the sprayer nozzle. As the chemical is emitted through the nozzle, droplets with positive charges bond with negatively charged surfaces. Such chemical aerosolization aims to have the disinfectant completely cover surfaces and objects.

Diagram: How Electrostatic Sprayers Work - Source Ohmni Labs
Diagram: How Electrostatic Sprayers Work (Source: Ohmni Labs)

What Are The Benefits of Electrostatic Disinfection?

With the wider availability of electrostatic sprayer solutions following the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations have seen the following benefits of employing this innovative method for cleaning:

Benefit 1 - Reduced Labor Time:

For maintenance staff in schools and businesses, traditional methods of chemical disinfection are both a time-consuming and high-labor task. With electrostatic sprayers; maintenance staff can apply disinfection solutions across multiple surfaces within less time than with traditional spray bottles. According to data provided by electrostatic sprayer manufacturers, this can equate to up to 80% less time spent by staff when cleaning offices and classrooms.

Benefit 2 - Decreased Usage of Disinfectant Chemicals:

For school districts, in particular, increasing surface disinfection has rapidly driven up maintenance costs. For some institutions switching to electrostatic sprayers has proven beneficial in covering larger surface areas with less disinfectant. According to a 2021 study conducted by the EPA, "an electrostatic sprayer may use less disinfectant to cover a surface area." Some manufacturers have also made claims that electrostatic sprayers reduce disinfectant chemical usage by "up to 65%" for "eco-friendly" results. However, as of winter 2023, studies and testing are ongoing by regulatory and industry officials for verification of results.

Hand-Held Disinfectant Fogger.
Hand-Held Disinfectant Fogger

The Myth Surrounding Electrostatic Sprayers Non-Directional "Wrap" Around Coverage:

A common misconception about electrostatic sprayers is their ability to have disinfection chemicals "wrap" around or apply chemicals in 360 degrees of coverage. In a study conducted by the EPA, researchers determined the electrostatic sprayers showed "limited ability" of "wrap-around effects," no matter the charge applied to the aerosolized disinfectant. Additionally, researchers determined that the reduction of disinfectant usage of electrostatic sprayers correlates to less disinfectant applied, potentially reducing effectiveness and surface "contact time."

Electrostatic Sprayer Wrap Around Disinfection

How Long Does An Electrostatic Treatment Last?

The duration of an electrostatic spraying treatment depends on various factors, such as the type of surface being treated, the environmental conditions, the disinfectant solution used, and the level of contamination present. In general, electrostatic spraying treatments can provide long-lasting protection against germs, viruses, and other harmful pathogens.

Some electrostatic spraying treatments may provide immediate protection lasting several hours, while others may provide longer-lasting protection lasting multiple days. The duration of the treatment will depend on the specific product used, the application process, and the conditions in which the treatment is used.

It's important to note that electrostatic spraying treatments should be used as part of a comprehensive cleaning and disinfecting program and should not be relied upon as the sole means of preventing the spread of infection. Regular cleaning and disinfecting, along with other preventive measures like hand hygiene and social distancing, are crucial in maintaining a safe and healthy environment.

High School Teacher Wiping Down Desks After Electrostatic Sprayer

Safety Precautions For Electrostatic Sprayers 

The CDC neither recommends nor discourages the use of electrostatic sprayers for disinfecting community spaces for pathogens and COVID-19. However, if electrostatic sprayers are used, the CDC indicates that such disinfectant sprayers should be used cautiously. One of the stated health risks comes from the nature of electrostatic sprayers in aerosolizing chemicals. These chemicals, as a result, are suspended in the air for extended periods. Without proper ventilation, aerosolized disinfectants may cause skin, eye, and respiratory irritation and other health issues for people who breathe them in. 

The EPA further validated this potential health risk of aerosolized chemicals in their testing. EPA's study states that aerosolized disinfectant chemicals, including chlorine and hydrogen peroxide, can become hazardous and volatile. For sprayer operators and building occupants, smaller chemical droplets may be "inhaled and deposited deeper in the respiratory tract."

Additionally, the CDC indicates that surface residue of electrostatic sprayer chemicals may also cause skin irritation, especially for individuals with sensitive skin, such as children. The CDC recommends removing the chemical residue "after the appropriate contact time has been achieved" by the disinfectant. Due to the safety and effectiveness of electrostatic sprayers being dependent on multiple factors, the CDC has provided the following recommendations:

  • Trained professionals should only use them.
  • They should be used with disinfectants approved for this method of application.
  • They should be used according to the manufacturer's instructions for safety, use, and contact time.
  • Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and other safety measures should be used to ensure safety for the operator, others nearby, and for people who might use the room afterward.
  • They should only be used when rooms are not occupied.
  • They should be used with extreme caution if used around food preparation or areas where children play.
Industrial Electrostatic Sprayer Used In Commercial Facilities.
Industrial Electrostatic Sprayer Used In Commercial Facilities

Can Electrostatic Sprayers Eliminate COVID-19?

According to the EPA, electrostatic sprayers as of winter 2023 have not been directly tested by the agency for efficacy in eliminating SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) on surfaces. However, with the surge of chemicals marketed to protect against COVID-19, the EPA has provided a list of recommended antimicrobial disinfectants, known as "List N," that have demonstrated efficacy in reducing the risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2. Studies have also stated that electrostatic sprayers are "only as effective as the disinfectant chemical being sprayed." Therefore, when considering electrostatic sprayers to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and other pathogens, choosing a disinfection chemical in the EPA's "List N" should be the first priority.

Do Electrostatic Sprayer Eliminate COVID-19

Why Is Clean Air Just As Important As Clean Surfaces?

If you're researching electrostatic sprayers and virus disinfection methods or have read about the concepts of "Healthy Buildings," then you have probably heard that clean "shared air" is equally important to clean surfaces when creating healthier indoor environments. With typical cold viruses known to survive on surfaces for several days, many schools and businesses are focusing purely on disinfecting high-traffic surfaces. 

However, COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of how viruses transmitted through airborne droplets can travel throughout entire spaces, causing faster infection rates. Organizations using electrostatic sprayers are taking the first step to creating a healthier indoor environment by disinfecting surfaces. But to truly make healthier buildings, cleaner "shared air," with better air filtration, ventilation, and deployment of indoor air quality technologies is needed.

No matter the path you take to improving the health of your school, office, or business, Sanalife's team of experts is here to help you make the best and most informed decision for your facility. Contact our solutions experts today to learn how Sanalife can leverage the best chemical-free technologies to continuously reduce pathogens on surfaces and in the air.

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