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.