The latest pandemic has put a microscope on how we go about cleaning in today’s world.Gone are the days of putting a fan down to dry a freshly mopped floor with the surge of the COVID-19 virus, along with many other cleaning procedures that were previously used. The fear of aerosolizing micro-pathogens that may have landed on horizontal surfaces has made us rethink our cleaning methods. The focus has changed from spot cleaning for appearance to a more hygienic method of cleaning with a pure goal of reducing microbial pathogens. Microfiber cleaning cloths, mops, personal protective equipment (PPE), and fogging machines have replaced the regular mop bucket, spray bottle, and feather duster. More attention is paid to applying the proper disinfectant and allowing the appropriate dwell time (contact time), even as we experience a shortage of chemicals and supplies. Even vacuuming without a certified sealed HEPA vacuum cleaner may put your staff and clients at risk for exposure. Air scrubbers, hydroxyl machines, and other ways to clean the air and reduce potential pathogens within the air environment should be a necessary part of your cleaning regimen. How you can maintain hygiene and cleanliness at your workplace and home?
Tips for Keeping a Cleaner and Healthier Facility
● Formulate a protocol for staff hygiene, such as lathering your hands for 20 seconds and rinsing for 20 seconds. Use a sanitizer with 60% alcohol or higher. Remember that hand sanitizer is only effective on unsoiled hands. Immediately remove clothing used at work and wash separately at the hottest temperature, or use color-safe bleach. Supply tissues to control cough and sneeze droplets. Use a hands-free trash can to dispose of trash.
● Develop a plan to identify potentially sick people and formulate an isolation plan to reduce the potential spread of an illness until they can be removed from the building.
● The COVID-19 virus has been found to be active on paper products for up to 24 hours and on non-porous surfaces, such as stainless steel and plastic, for up to 9 days. Therefore, you may want to store items in paper products rather than plastic, as well as clean those areas more often.
● Those who will be within six feet of individuals not known to be infected or who are asymptomatic are considered at medium to high risk per the CDC risk pyramid. People in this scenario should wear a mask and practice frequent hand hygiene. Reduce the sharing of office items if possible, such as pens, phones, and other office supplies and equipment. It is also important to sanitize high-touch equipment, such as phones, fax machines, keyboards, etc.
● Disinfect highly-touched areas throughout the workday with a disinfectant that is EPA approved for disinfecting emerging pathogens. Surfaces should remain wet for a minimum of 5 minutes. Most disinfectants state that the surface must be pre-cleaned before applying the disinfectant (read the label), as they have limited efficacy when used on soiled surfaces.
● Damp-mop floors with a disinfectant after all the other cleaning tasks are finished. Allow them to air dry instead of using fans. This ensures if any pathogens were moved around from other surfaces and landed on the floor, they will be cleaned up.
● Open a few windows or doors and move the HVAC fan to the on position for a few hours. This will help move stale air out of the structure while bringing fresh air inside to reduce airborne particles through dilution. If this isn’t possible, use a HEPA filtered air scrubber.
● Replace your building’s HVAC filters with a filter of a MERV rating of 12 or higher.
● If possible, instruct staff and clients to close the toilet lid when flushing the toilet. This will reduce pathogens from becoming aerosolized during flushing and ensure that pathogens are contained inside the toilet bowl.
● Use microfiber cleaning towels. These are more effective at removing soil and other contaminates. Source removal of pathogens is the first step to lowering the risk of infection before sanitizing and aids in properly sanitizing surfaces.
● Use only a sealed HEPA exhaust vacuum machine on carpets and hard flooring surfaces. Regular vacuums don’t have the necessary filtration to contain microscopic particles like bacteria and mold that can be reintroduced back into the air from the machine’s exhaust.
● If you cannot obtain the proper disinfectant, you can add ½ cup of bleach into a gallon of water. This will have to be mixed daily and shouldn’t be stored. Allow a 10 minute dwell time for this to sanitize.