Handling cleaning during infectious disease outbreaks is best managed by taking the time to set up processes and procedures, update training, and re-evaluate chemical selection and equipment.
Best practice for dealing with infectious outbreaks of any kind is to clean first, then sanitize and disinfect. Microbiologists agree that if we clean and remove up to 90% of soils and pathogens on any surface, cleaning can then kill the remaining 10%. This is significant because it can be achieved with an effective less-toxic sanitizer or disinfectant, reducing harm to the environment.
For cleaning, the minimum requirement for facilities is third-party certified products with no sanitizers and disinfectant in them to clean glass, windows, stainless, hard surfaces, and floors.
For sanitizing and disinfecting, the less-toxic disinfectant on the commercial cleaning market is hypochlorous acid, also know as HOCl.
You can also use other disinfectants such as hydrogen peroxides and the old standbys — but much more toxic — options of quaternary ammonium compounds and/or chlorine bleach.
The only one that should be used with electrostatics is hypochlorous acid due to its low toxicity and neutral pH. Any other disinfectant should be applied by hand which is time-consuming and allows for higher risk of exposure to the workers and can pollute indoor air quality.
Take these simple steps to get ahead of infectious outbreaks like COVID-19, flu, colds, and Norovirus:
- Take inventory of what you are using for chemicals and for what purpose.
- See if you can cut down on the number of chemicals you are using.
- Do not use any cleaners that are not third-party certified, as these certifications give you a level of trust knowing they have been reviewed for major toxicity issues like carcinogenicity and have had some performance testing done.
- Do not use two-in-one cleaners and disinfectants. They don’t work well for either job.
- Look at the way you are cleaning and see if you can do things more efficiently and ergonomically, and with tools that will clean better and easier.
- If you don’t have standard operating procedures written up, write them.
- Do more training and bring in an expert if you must. Don’t let pride get in the way.
- Look into what you are using for sanitizing and disinfecting, check on the chemicals that are doing the killing and see what issues there are with them.
- Think bigger. Think sustainability, toxicity, skin, eye and respiratory irritation, asthma and ergonomics. Invest in your system. The time is now.
- Make a case and ask for money now while the crisis with COVID-19 will help get it for you.
- Look at technology to save you time, like spray-and-vac machines and/or electrostatic sprayers.
- Put a system together with documentation and training. You may not have to worry about any infection again if you put in the work now.