The mysterious “magic” powder for infectious waste disinfection!

During a recent infectious disease workshop, one of my participants brought up the topic of a mysterious “magic” powder that helps to clean up vomitus. I thought it would be a good opportunity to share a bit more on how to create your own “magic” powder to conduct disinfection in your school!

Note: The exact formula could not be found online. I have calculated the following proportion based on the 1:10 chlorine disinfection guideline.

Materials:

  • Clay (bentonite is preferred) (95%)
  • Calcium hypochlorite (bleach) powder (5%)

E.g. to obtain 1kg of the mixture, you will need 950g of clay and 50g of bleach powder.

Preparation:

Evenly mix the bleach powder and clay in a bag/container. Take note that the bag/container must be tightly closed during mixing. You should not breathe in the mixture as it might cause damage to your lungs. You may want to put on a surgical mask during the mixing process. After it has been evenly mixed, we call it BCM (bleach-clay-mixture).

Procedure:

  • Wear gloves and mask (if needed).
  • Pour the BCM on the vomitus from outside in, in a circular manner.
  • Cover the infectious waste completely. You will notice the waste clumping together.
  • Use a small broom to mix the infectious waste and BCM gently. (The small broom can be reused.)
  • Wait for 2 mins for the chlorine to completely disinfect the infectious waste.
  • Sweep the clumps into a dustpan, transfer into a plastic bag, tie it up tightly and throw.
  • Disinfect the surface with 70% ethanol, or 1:50 water to bleach ratio.

Advantages of using BCM:

When a child vomits in class, time is of essence and you need to evacuate the children and clean up the waste fast! BCM is a faster means of cleanup during an emergency as no time is wasted in diluting bleach. For disinfection with liquid bleach, the diluted bleach must be prepared ‘fresh’ each time, otherwise chlorine present in the pre-prepared diluted bleach will “escape” into the environment after some time, affecting the concentration of the bleach mixture.

However, do take note of the following.

Precautions:

  • The mixing process must be done in a tight container to prevent BCM powder from getting into your eyes or mouth.
  • Fans must be switched off throughout the disinfection process to prevent BCM powder from being blown away.
  • Chlorine powder is of a much higher concentration than diluted liquid bleach. You need to be very careful when handling chlorine powder. Should BCM come into contact with your eyes, rinse with a copious amount of water.

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