Cleaning and/or disinfecting tools that contact hostas

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Cleaning and/or disinfecting tools that contact hostas

Postby Chris_W » Jul 08, 2006 12:39 pm

The great debate is on about the best way to clean and/or disinfect your tools when working with hostas, and here are some suggestions and recommendations for you, along with some thoughts on how HVX is spread on tools.

Shovels: When digging up hostas, especially older/larger ones, you invariably cut into the roots. If your hostas are growing in close proximity to each other there is also the real possibility that when you dig up one plant you are cutting right through the roots of a neighboring plant. If one plant is infected and in the process of digging it you cut through a healthy plant's roots you could very quickly and easily spread the virus to the healthy plant. So to prevent this sap transfer when digging out infected plants we suggest:

1) Dig from the side that is farthest away from any other plants, 2) Dig closer to the crown of the infected plant, and/or 3) Consider digging with a spading fork instead. These have a reduced surface area and instead of cutting out plants they pry out plants, therefore reducing the amount of cut, root to root contact as compared to shovels.

When you are done digging a known infected plant you will definitely need to thoroughly clean off your digging tools. You must remove as much of the plant sap as possible, which means scrubbing and wiping off the surface of the shovel or spading forks, preferably with disposable rags or towels. You may also want to disinfect the tools to further reduce the chance of virus remaining, especially if you were digging and cutting into a highly infected plant.

Cleaning can be done with just about any household cleaner, with the focus on removing the dirt and plant sap. If the plant sap is removed, so should the virus. Disinfecting can be done by soaking in bleach or lysol (or other known virucidal cleaners), although it is still important that you remove the dirt and sap before soaking. Most of the known, tough to kill viruses are neutralized after a 10 minute soaking in a bleach (1 to 2%)** or lysol solution, and although we aren't certain how long it takes to kill HVX this is probably a safe estimate, especially if you've taken steps to remove all the sap.

Again, if working with a known infected plant I recommend you thoroughly clean off the dirt and plant sap and also soak in a disinfecting solution. For everday use it is generally accepted that if you surface clean your tools this will neutralize and eliminate most of the plant sap, and without the sap this will greatly reduce the chances of spreading the virus.

NOTE: Simply dipping your shovel or pruners in a cleaning solution for a brief moment will not provide any protection from the virus. HVX is a highly stable virus so you must work to remove and neutralize the plant sap first, then soak to disinfect.

** When mixing bleach you want a 1 to 2% solution to kill viruses. Most bleach is sold in a 3% solution, so you would mix one cup of bleach with one cup of water. "Ultra" bleach is usually a 6% solution, so you would mix one cup of ultra bleach with three cups of water.

Pruners and scissors: When cutting into hosta leaves and scapes there is a large amount of plant sap transferred to these tools. More sap is transferred than even when digging, although digging into neighboring roots transfers the virus quite easily too. So cleaning your pruners or scissors between cuts must be even more thorough than cleaning shovels.

For this job one of the easiest ways to clean is using disinfecting wipes. Clorox wipes can be used to both remove the plant sap and provide some surface disinfection.

Another method is to use a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol or lysol and lots of paper towels. We purchase 90% rubbing alcohol and put that in a spray bottle for everyday scissor and pruner cleaning, but we also mix up a spray bottle using Lysol concentrate mixed at a very high rate and use that when working with known or possibly infected plants when we sample leaves for testing. Spray the tools down thoroughly and then wipe them off with paper towels. Soak another paper towel and cut through it with the tool to remove sap from the blades and hard to reach areas. Then soak one pair of scissors or pruners in one of these solutions while you use a second one to make the next cut.

If there is a possibility of having infected plants in your garden you may also want to avoid cutting any leaves and scapes for a while so you can keep a close eye out for possible symptoms.

Knives: Knives are often used to divide plants. Use a sharp knife to prevent getting sap into serrated edges, making them a lot easier to clean. Again, use rubbing alcohol, disinfecting wipes, or lysol, and lots of paper towels to make sure you are cleaning thoroughly between plants.

Hands: When working with hostas don't forget to wash your hands. Washing with soap and water will help, especially when working between batches of plants such as in a nursery, then wipe with disinfecting wipes. Disposable latex gloves are also handy, just make sure you change them or wash them between batches and between divisions when dividing multiple plants.

Final notes: HVX is only spread when plants are damaged and plant sap is released. You have to cut or break an infected plant, get sap on your tools or hands, then break or cut a healthy plant and transfer the sap to through the cut. So just touching plants will not infect them but because we do so much pinching, pruning, and dividing of hostas it is very important to clean methodically between plants.

When cleaning with bleach this can rust metal, so some people like to oil their tools afterwards to prevent rust. Bleach also evaporates quickly from a bucket, so mix a new solution very often or put a lid over the bucket when not in use to prevent it from evaporating too quickly..

I hope this helps to clarify things a little more :) Feel free to add your experiences to this or ask any questions!

Chris
Last edited by Chris_W on Jun 25, 2008 11:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Cleaning and/or disinfecting tools that contact hostas

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Postby wishiwere » Jul 19, 2006 9:42 pm

Thanks Chris! It's always good to have a reminder. I'm printing this out and putting a laminate copy on my toolshed wall to read when I need to. It seems when you go weeks or months between trimming or digging or fall cleanup, you forget the little things. Like hand sanitation in the garden!

Well written! :D
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Postby sugar » Jul 22, 2006 4:21 am

The advice on removing a sick plant is very usefull .. I would never have thought about the possibility of infecting healthy plants around an infected plant by the roots...

Wouldn't it be a good idea to destroy the infected plant with a herbicide first, eg applying roundup on the plant with a pencil or a brush. The plant will dy and quickly dry out (because the roots are no longer active) .
After two months you can take out the plant without any risk because there is no sap in the plant any more, and the virus is dead :cool: ...
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Postby Chris_W » Jun 25, 2008 11:51 pm

A quick update about cleaning solutions:

We are now buying cleaning solutions from a hospital supply company. I can get Lysol disinfecting solution in a gallon concentrate for around $20 and Lysol I.C. (infection control) in a foaming spray for about $3.00 a can. The gallon solution makes 256 gallons of concentrate, and it is specifically designed to kill viruses in the presence of organic matter. The foaming spray will kill viruses on a cleaned surface. Then you can also buy the towelettes that are a strong cleaner which will kill viruses but shouldn't be used on skin. I see them in tubs at the grocery store to wipe down the shopping cart handle, and you can buy then pretty inexpensively from hospital suppliers.

Another note about bleach:

I have learned that bleach is not particularly effective at killing HVX, especially if you only dip or spray it on. To kill viruses you need about a 1 to 2% bleach solution - but bleach is normally sold in a 3% solution. So when using bleach to disinfect you need to mix only one cup of water with one cup of bleach, and you need to remove the dirt and sap first. Ultra bleach is often 6%, so that would be mixed at a rate of one cup of bleach to three cups of water.

Hope that helps to clarify the issues about bleach.

Chris
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Postby steg » Jun 26, 2008 12:59 pm

Hey Chris.

Quick question about where you heard the bleach wouldn't take care of HVX. Your probably right that it may not work well in you only dip your tools in it. However, if you do soak them they should be fine.

Someone asked Mark Z. that question at his talk last weekend. He indicated that soaking in bleach would be enough to take care of the problem. I can't remember if he said 30 sec or 30 min (sorry). I usually go with a half hour or so. However, even according to the directions for kitchen or bathroom cleaning it says to soak 10 min.

I can see a problem if you don't get the dirt or residual stuff off first. The bleach (or Lysol) won't penetrate if not given enough time.

Can I ask what is the active ingredient in the Lysol? I'm just curious and would like to make sure I keep things clean around here. I may do both now, just to be sure :D

Thanks,
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Postby Chris_W » Jun 26, 2008 1:29 pm

Hi,

The bleach information was from Agdia and others but I've been discouraging people for years about just dipping tools in cleaning solutions since the most important part is to remove the plant sap.

Lots of people have been saying that a 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) would work, but that's not effective enough against viruses, especially a virus that is as tough as HVX. Some bleach is already quite diluted right out of the bottle, so diluting it a lot more can be too weak. Also, bleach has little effect as a disinfectant in the presence of organic matter.

The lysol I'm using is a quaternary ammonium solution used for hospital disinfecting. It is a viricide, fungicide, and bacteriacide, and it is effective even in the presence of organic matter.

Here is an interesting fact sheet about laboratory disinfectants.

http://ehs.uky.edu/biosafety/disinfectants.html

Dr. Lockhart is also doing research on cleaning tools, and hopefully we will have some results that we are able to discuss in the near future. For now he is still compiling things.
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Postby steg » Jun 26, 2008 1:51 pm

Thanks Chris.

I'll try to read some more tonight. I look forward to seeing what Dr. Lockhart finds. You can classify me as a science nerd/geek.
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Postby wishiwere » Jun 26, 2008 1:53 pm

All very interesting...thanks for sharing the info! :)
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Re: Cleaning and/or disinfecting tools that contact hostas

Postby LiquidFeet » Jul 11, 2011 2:49 pm

I have a large hosta garden (over 200 hostas in close proximity to each other) in my back yard. I put this garden in over the last few years, and I dwell on it daily through the growing season. It provides so much pleasure. But if any one of my hostas is infected, and I'm not sure about that, then the chipmunks and squirrels who run through the garden breaking off random lower leaves as they go will definitely transfer the virus around. They'll have the sap on their bodies.

There's no way to get rid of the animals - my lot is surrounded by woods. So if any of my hostas have the virus, then they all are in danger of getting it and I suspect they will. The more plants that have it, the more likely the critters will spread it around to other plants. I might get to have a hosta hospice instead of a hosta garden. I am aware that the virus stays alive in the soil for two years after a plant has been removed. That's especially discouraging.

I walk the garden every day looking for signs of the virus, shifting from panic to resignation to hope to despair to reassurance to fear. If my garden has the virus, that's it for me and hostas. I'm a hosta fanatic, but being a fanatic about something that's doomed just doesn't seem like a way to live my life.
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Re: Cleaning and/or disinfecting tools that contact hostas

Postby Chris_W » Jan 23, 2012 10:57 pm

I'm taking some time to go back through some of these older HVX posts and the information in the original topic that was updated in 2008 is still accurate today and was reinforced after Dr. Lockhart's last HVX research project in which he tested ways to clean tools.

Basically, his research found that it didn't really matter what kind of cleaning product you use, but you MUST wipe off the tools to remove the plant sap. Any surface cleaner will work, but you CANNOT simply dip in a cleaning solution. Doesn't matter what it is, but dipping doesn't work.

With that said, I still think that disinfecting wipes are the quickest and easiest thing to use. We keep tubs of wipes all around the nursery for easy access all the time for scisssors and pruners. If you cut into any plant, wipe off after you are done. We also get in the habit of wiping before cutting, just in case someone forgot the time before.

In the fall don't cut plants down until after they've started to go dormant. Then you don't have to worry so much about cleaning each time, but definitely clean really good when you are done because HVX still moves form dead/dormant foliage to the tools so HVX will still be on those, it just won't move on to infect the clean plants because sap isn't moving.

Hope the update is helpful.

Chris
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Re: Cleaning and/or disinfecting tools that contact hostas

Postby pauhaus » Jan 25, 2012 12:43 pm

Great update and advice Chris. I use the wipes too and love the convenience of them. Thanks.
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Re: Cleaning and/or disinfecting tools that contact hostas

Postby bobhebba » Feb 21, 2012 3:12 am

What can happen if you don't properly clean your tools? Is there a chance you can contaminate other plants in your garden if you don't?
Are emergency seed bank collections also susceptible to most diseases because they only contain heirloom seeds like kratom?
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Re: Cleaning and/or disinfecting tools that contact hostas

Postby Chris_W » Feb 21, 2012 4:44 pm

Hello and welcome to the forums.

Yes, that is the whole reason why you want to disinfect your tools after use, so that you don't infect other plants. With Hosta Virus X you really only need to worry about infecting other hostas (as far as we know) but there are so many other viruses out there that infect a wide variety of plants that this is important when cutting into everything. And plants don't always readily show symptoms but it is quick and easy to do with the disinfecting wipes, so it just a good habit to get into :D

Hope that helps!

Chris
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Re: Cleaning and/or disinfecting tools that contact hostas

Postby kHT » Feb 21, 2012 7:11 pm

Chris, I've gone to steam cleaning my tools due to the virus in the Brugmansias. Has anyone tried that? I have the professional shark that they say is the hottest of those steamers.
Everything gets a steaming before moving onto the next plant. I have even learned to steam the plant for the broad mites without burning the leaves.
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Re: Cleaning and/or disinfecting tools that contact hostas

Postby irenebl » Mar 02, 2012 8:04 am

Great advice! This really helped me out :)
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Re: Cleaning and/or disinfecting tools that contact hostas

Postby Rennni » Jun 06, 2013 3:29 pm

Not known composition Lysol, here is sold Savo in which 5% NaCIO and 2% NaOH. It's OK for cleaning?
Or simply wash in water and pour boiling water? Is it enough to kill the HVX :-? ?

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Re: Cleaning and/or disinfecting tools that contact hostas

Postby Tigger » Jun 06, 2013 3:51 pm

Rennni,

Savo could be used to wipe your tools with each use (clean the tool before cutting the next hosta). They make a wipe (paper cloth) product that should work. Wipe the tool to remove the sap.

Google translation:
Savo by mohly být použity k očištění své nástroje při každém použití (čištění nářadí před řezáním další Hosta). Dělají utírat (papír plátno), produkt, který by měl fungovat. Otřete nástroj pro odstranění mízu.

(I know only a little Czech, from singing music of Dvorak with poetry by Vitězslav Hálek.)
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Re: Cleaning and/or disinfecting tools that contact hostas

Postby ViolaAnn » Jun 06, 2013 4:30 pm

That's more than I know, Tigger. Am hoping to get by in Prague in September with German.
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