Q&A: How to adjust your office cleaning program in the age of COVID-19

With cleaning, disinfecting and safety the top concerns of many employees as they return to the office, you’re probably asking the same question quite a bit these days: How do I adjust my office cleaning program to deliver a consistently clean and comfortable facility for my team, clients and customers?

We sat down with Mike Staver, KleenMark’s director of operations, to discuss what you should consider when developing a new or revised office cleaning program. Staver has extensive experience building holistic cleaning and disinfecting programs for every type of facility, from hospitals and clean rooms to manufacturers and schools.

What should I do to prepare my office for reopening?

Regardless of if a limited crew has been in the facility, or if it’s been completely vacant, we recommend a total cleaning and disinfection. When employees return, each person will have a varying level of anxiety or concern tied to being around others in a work environment.

A clean office is foundational. It’s important they know that you’re taking the proper steps to keep them as safe as possible.

If no one has been in the building, it’s likely no COVID-19 exists, but a deep disinfecting will kill other germs and bacteria, too, creating a healthier environment. Along with your essential vacuuming and cleaning, consider having carpets cleaned with an antimicrobial solution and have your cleaning team use electrostatic sprayers to do a full-building/large-area disinfection.

When should I add deep disinfecting to my office cleaning program?

Once people return to the office, frequent cleaning and disinfecting is critical. How often you do a deep disinfection is dependent on a number of things. What is your industry? Have you had a confirmed COVID-19 case? Do you have sick employees? Are people working in close quarters?

Intervals may range from daily and weekly to quarterly. The purpose of a deep disinfection is to provide more thorough and broader surface coverage. From keyboards to desks, you’ll want to hit every surface during this process.

How do I reduce the presence of germs and COVID-19 in between the more thorough cleanings?

We recommend increasing or adding high-touchpoint sanitizing and disinfecting during the day or hours of operation. In this case, things like door handles, light switches and other frequently touched surfaces are disinfected multiple times each day.

We also recommend switching general cleaning products to disinfecting products. Consider adding what surfaces are regularly disinfected. For instance, you may want to have spaces such as conference rooms and break rooms disinfected more often. Any space people congregate is important to disinfect, especially as we learn that close proximity to another person is a primary cause of COVID-19 infections.

Do I need an additional day porters?

This is dependent on your facilities specific needs. Often, an additional day porter can help ensure touchpoints and other key areas such as restrooms and common areas, are disinfected regularly. Again, it depends on the current responsibilities of your existing day porter.

One thing to consider is that having day porters also provides peace of mind to your employees and customers. Knowing and seeing that their facility is constantly being cleaned and disinfected is reassuring.

Also, with the increase in awareness and focus on hygiene, people are washing their hands more often (40-60% more than prior to the pandemic, studies show). This means soap dispensers will run out faster, and more towels will be used. Each has to be replaced and trash will have to be emptied more often. All are worthwhile reasons to consider a day porter or additional day porter(s).

What should I cut or deprioritize from my existing office cleaning program if I need to control cost and resources?

We work with each individual client and facility to make sure they have the plan in place that fits their needs – and their budget.

A lot of times, we will recommend staggering services, especially those that are more aesthetic. For instance, we may switch from vacuuming five days a week to three. Or, we may extend periods between window cleaning.

Centralized trashing versus workstation trashing is another good option to consider, if it works for your facility. This will offset some additional disinfecting needs, but will also save money on small can liners and help lower your carbon footprint. Even as we work to address disinfecting needs due to COVID-19, we can still be mindful of maintaining sustainability efforts where it makes sense.

The options for designing a quality cleaning and disinfecting program are limitless. The important thing is to make sure you talk to your office cleaning company about your needs early, so they can address any questions and specific needs.

 

Coronavirus cleaning service: Ins + outs of disinfecting

With the emergence of COVID-19 and companies claiming they offer coronavirus cleaning service, dozens of questions – and confusion – have popped up around one central topic: Disinfection.

From “how does it work?” and “how often do I need to disinfect?” to “how’s it different than what our cleaning team does now?” and “why do I need it?” everyone from facility managers to employees have a new-found interest in all things disinfection.

Don’t worry. We’re here to set things straight with some basic disinfection information you can use to assess your needs and also help your employees and customers better understand what disinfecting means and how it differs from cleaning.

Let’s quickly get on the same page, so we all agree: A disinfectant can be any EPA-approved chemical that has a 99.9% kill rate, meaning any bacteria or viruses it comes in contact with doesn’t stand a chance.

Clean first. Disinfect second.

Cleaning and disinfecting are used a lot to describe the same thing. But, they’re VERY different and during the pandemic it’s become increasingly important to understand the difference and how they work together.

Cleaning – It can be done without any product or maybe involves some water or a vinegar. This includes everything from vacuuming and dusting to wiping down a desk with a wet rag. The goal is to remove dirt but it does not kill germs. Ever.

Sanitizing – This is the middle ground and important to understand as you select or build a coronavirus cleaning service. This is when a cleaning agent or disinfectant may be used, but dwell times (we’ll talk about that later) aren’t adhered to. Some germs are killed but it’s essentially more aggressive cleaning.

Disinfecting – This is the power player in your fight against germs. Disinfectants are strong chemicals that kill what they come into contact with. Each includes a list of viruses and bacteria they kill and how long it takes. Applying disinfectants requires personal protective equipment and various levels of training due to their strength.

It’s important to know that these steps work together. You need to always clean before disinfecting. That’s because a disinfectant needs to reach the surface (say, a desk) to be effective. If you haven’t cleaned, it may settle on invisible dust and dirt particles and not kill the germs you’re after.

“Think of dirt as interference between the surface you’re trying to disinfect and the chemical you’re using,” said Mike Staver, KleenMark’s director of operations. “You need to clean the surface so your disinfectant can infiltrate and reach it rather than sitting on a cushion of grime.”

Different levels of disinfection.

In the age of COVID-19 nearly every facility, from offices to manufacturers, are beginning to apply disinfection programs similar to what is common in a hospital. But, different situations call for different degrees of disinfection.

Let’s break those down:

  • High-touchpoint disinfection. Door handles, light switches, fitness centers, locker rooms, showers, restrooms, elevator key pads, stair/safety rails and sinks. All are great examples of surfaces people touch in an office hundreds, sometimes thousands, of times a day. Using a microfiber rag and spray, or disinfecting wipes, these surfaces should be cleaned multiple times a day. Since the pandemic, Staver said many facilities have increased how often each surface is cleaned and they’ve also added additional “touchpoints,” such as desks, conference tables and other areas – beyond the traditional common spaces and restrooms. “A year ago, many people would’ve only sanitized these frequently touched surfaces,” Staver said. “Today, it’s important that your cleaning crew is disinfecting these spots multiple times a day. A professional day porter or staff member generally can handle this job as part of their daily responsibilities.”
  • Deep disinfection. Performed when the building is empty – most often at night – this process involves disinfecting all surfaces in an office. In the age of COVID-19, many facilities have begun to include this as part of their regular cleaning program. It’s also the gold standard for disinfecting a space following a confirmed case of COVID-19, Staver said. For deep disinfection, a specially trained coronavirus cleaning service (at KleenMark, COVID-19 teams are trained by third parties) uses electrostatic sprayers to apply disinfectants. What’s that mean? It means the sprayer ensures the chemicals reach all surfaces. Because it’s electrostatic, it “sticks” to surfaces and penetrates cracks and areas hard to reach with a wipe or cloth. “Once it dries, it’s safe to enter the space,” Staver said. “Crews wear special suits and protection because it’s harmful to breathe the chemical, but again, once it dries and employees return the space is clean, disinfected and safe.”

Dwell time matters (plus other important tips).

The most important thing to understand when using disinfectants is dwell time.

Various disinfectants have different dwell times, but it always means the same thing: How long a chemical needs to sit on a surface to effectively kill viruses and germs.

For instance, health-grade disinfectants have a high kill rate with shorter dwell times, meaning you can wipe them off sooner. Also, high-touchpoint disinfectants usually have a shorter dwell time, around 1-4 minutes. Generally, dwell times range from 1-10 minutes, and will always be included on the product’s label.

“I can’t stress how important it is to follow dwell times,” Staver said. “It’s easy to get impatient, but if you wipe away a disinfectant too soon, it hasn’t done its job and germs are likely still on the surface.?

Other important tips:

  • If it’s wet, it’s working. The easiest way to know if your disinfectant is applied properly is to check the surface. If it’s wet, the disinfectant is actively killing germs. If it dries too soon, you may not have done it correctly.
  • Apply it correctly. When using a microfiber cloth, apply the disinfectant to the cloth and then wipe the surface. This assures you get the disinfectant into crevices and other hard to reach spots, like the back of a door handle. Don’t spray and pray. This isn’t the time to be a cowboy.
  • Proper protection. Disinfectants are strong chemicals meant to kill germs. Always wear glasses and gloves when handling them. If using an electrostatic sprayer, you need to wear a full chemical suit, respirator and gloves.

Want to go deeper into the details or have questions about coronavirus cleaning service? Give us a call or email any time.

 

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