I am the owner of Show Me Dust Bunnies, Veroushka Jones.
I pride myself on being well integrated in the cleaning industry to stay current on trends, technology, and new suggested protocols through certification courses provided by IICRC, ISSA, and courses taught through conventions and industry leaders. I take pride in carefully selecting what chemicals we use to not only be effective with our job but also using the lowest toxicity necessary to get the job done properly. As an industry, this is important to me because so many retire from cleaning, whether it be owner/operator or employees and develop respiratory issues. As a result, this benefits our client’s environments as well. For a long time now, we have used peroxide, citric acid, and salt-based cleaners that are scientifically proven to get a tough job done when applied correctly and are EPA certified. This also helps streamline training, so our employees benefit from the same knowledge in how chemistry works with different surfaces.
We get a lot of attention and questions about what to do during an outbreak. Our goal is to promote the interest of health and human safety. We know that indoor environments are safer and healthier with regular cleaning using low VOC, low residue cleaners, that have a low impact on the environment. That is why it is our responsibility to provide you with accurate, thoroughly researched cleaning information and experienced guidance that supports this goal.
It’s important to remember if a surface is not properly cleaned, it can not be effectively disinfected. The goal of cleaning for health is to get the best cleaning results with the lowest toxicity necessary. Outbreaks are a unique situation that requires a more robust approach to cleaning and disinfecting. With that said, most of the best practices are already a part of a well-designed system. Your cleaning staff may only need to make minor adjustments.
How COVID-19 is spread:
- Airborne respiratory droplets
- Skin to skin contact
- Exposure to contaminated surfaces
- Through saliva
(As this virus is studied, some information can change. For current information, visit the CDC’s website.)
Now let’s start with cleaning basics. You know how on an airplane you are always instructed to put on your oxygen mask first. This isn’t selfish. This ensures you can help others. The same holds true for cleaning staff. You and your team are the first lines of defense during an outbreak. If you get sick, then one of the best weapons against the virus is weakened or out of commission. We’ll cover prevention techniques, but we want to note that safeguarding cleaning staff is critical to the success of this process. Now we’ll cover recommended cleaning methods during an outbreak. Cleaning helps contain the spread of disease and infections. How you clean for an outbreak should be more robust.
First, let’s talk about the difference between a cleaner, sanitizer, virucide, and disinfectant. The marketing between products can be confusing and make it seem like these are interchangeable. One question often asked is the difference between the categories.
A cleaner cleans. It softens and removes dirt and debris. Not all are created equal. Many contain too much surfactant and often lead to too much residue. We recommend avoiding residue as in can often lead to more dirt accumulation over time, among other issues. After cleaning the next step is to use an EPA recommended sanitizer or disinfectant. Sanitizers and disinfectants actually kill germs rather than just removing dirt. Sanitizers reduce most of the germs, more than 99.9%. While disinfectants kill all of the organisms specified at least to 99.99999%, to be effective, sanitizers must remain wet for the amount of time specified on the label. However, during an outbreak, you need a more specific kill claim and robust process. In an outbreak after cleaning, you complete the process with a disinfectant in order to ensure that none of the organisms remain alive.
For COVID-19, you now have some options per the EPA. Disinfectants that have emerging pathogens claim or disinfectants that have a human coronavirus claim on their master label. These disinfectants are on the EPA list N. This includes products that meet EPA criteria for use against SARS-COV-2.
If dirt and debris are not removed first, disinfectants can’t reach the surface to do its job, and any remaining soil provides a habitat for microorganisms to thrive. Some products carry a one-step disinfectant claim. That means the product is expected to have some level of disinfection for light soil loads. The soil still needs to be removed to ensure adequate disinfection. Most disinfectant products will specify “precleaned surfaces,” including specific claims on one step disinfection products. Be sure to read labels carefully and follow EPA regulated instructions. I can not stress this enough. A surface with debris, body oils, dust, dirt, or even residue from other cleaning products reduces the effectiveness of a disinfectant. That means you may not kill the virus.
Our recommendation for the best product and process in an outbreak is as follows: clean first, preferably with low toxicity, low residue powerful multipurpose product. With our products, we use a light-duty hydrogen peroxide-based product for general cleaning and then heavy-duty for high touchpoints. For the next step, spray or wipe the surface and leave wet for the necessary kill time, as stated on the product directions. In an outbreak, we recommend following the EPA and CDC guidelines. If you are unable to source a disinfectant with either the emerging pathogen claim or a human coronavirus kill claim on the master label as provided on the EPA’s list, follow the guidance on the CDC website for best practices. Remember for the disinfectant to work the surface must be precleaned and you must keep the disinfectant wet for the kill time stated on the label with the emerging pathogen claim. It’s important to make sure the surface is both clean and dry prior to using the disinfectant. Different cleaners, sanitizers, and disinfectants must never be allowed to mix.
If you’re introducing a new disinfectant to your cleaning staff, be sure the SDS training, as well as the personal protective equipment (PPE), has been updated accordingly. More tips for reducing the spread of pathogens:
- If someone is sick, suggest the work or recover from home.
- Source additional packages for face tissue for the workplace.
- Make sure the cleaning staff wear disposable gloves during cleaning.
- Don’t touch your face.
- Make sure hand soap dispensers are functioning and full.
- Make sure paper towels are available in the restroom.
- Make sure trash cans have liners, and the liners with the soiled facial tissue and towels are removed frequently.
- Make hand sanitizers available to employees at the workplace.
- Properly clean and disinfect touchpoints more frequently with a two-step process.
- When mopping, change mop bucket water more frequently.
- Soak mop heads in disinfectant after use, rinse and hang to dry between uses.
As you can see, with emerging pathogens, the answers are not always clear, and we will continue to update you on our website with more helpful cleaning tips and recommend that you go to the CDC link on the URL on our cleaning guide.