With an increased mainstream focus on cleaning and disinfecting in response to COVID-19, it’s important that our industry, the media, and our public health officials put out consistent and scientifically-backed advice.
A recent Washington Post article told consumers that simply cleaning with soap and water is “good enough” to fight COVID-19 in the home.
But the truth is that hospitals, schools, restaurants, gyms, and all sorts of high-traffic public places absolutely must remain on guard. That’s because proper disinfectant use is a crucial part of any commercial cleaning routine.
We should not dismiss the importance of disinfecting as part of a cleaning program, even in the home.
“After all, I don’t know of anyone who wishes to be admitted to a health care facility that doesn’t use disinfectants in their cleaning processes. I also don’t think we should recommend things like getting on a subway that doesn’t regularly disinfect touch points or sending our children to schools that refuse to establish any type of disinfection protocol," said Steve Lewis, president of ISSA.1
When we touch a contaminated surface we transfer viruses to our hands and can continue the spread. If not properly treated, viruses can survive on surfaces in public places leading to outbreaks. Factors that affect how long a virus will live on a surface include:
- Type of virus (and how persistent it is)
- Type of surface (porous vs. non-porous) and
- Environmental factors (specifically around temperature and humidity).
Here are a few things to keep in mind when thinking about proper disinfectant use in a commercial/industrial cleaning environment, according to Dr. Gavin Macgregor-Skinner, head of the Global Biorisk Advisory Council.
- Understand your high traffic areas.
- Understand your disinfectant's dwell time.
- Use accepted cleaning protocols.
- Have the right equipment (and enough of it).
- Understand the science behind your cleaning practices and convey the evidence. Explain why you've enacted these procedures.2
Arm environmental service professionals with the tools they need.
A Few Final Disinfecting Thoughts
Seniors and people with compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable to viruses and other pathogens. Facilities that work with these populations must be extra-vigilant.
Make sure you're using the right products. Don't just cover everything with bleach! Check the EPA website for a proper disinfectant that kills SARS-COV2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Remember to focus on those high-touch points (door handles, elevator buttons, water fountains, and various parts of the restroom).
Don't be afraid to up your cleaning frequency. Don't just disinfect once per day. Pathogens spread throughout the day and therefore it's wise to clean regularly (i.e., 2-3 times per day).
Make sure your cleaning staff is using products correctly and safely. Follow your disinfectant's instructions especially related to dwell-time. Also, make sure you have ample cleaning rags to prevent germ spread.
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1. Overdue Attention Given to Cleaning: Are we cleaning for health or for appearance? Steve Lewis. ISSA Today. May/June 2021 p.6
2. Show Me the Science: The Contamination of Surfaces and Hands | Have you ever had the stomach flu? There is more to it than you think. Dr. Gavin Macgregor-Skinner ISSA Today Magazine May/June 2021 p. 10-13.