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 Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility

by David Smith

| Updated December 15, 2023 |
Cleaning is the process of removing unwanted substances, such as dirt, infectious agents, and other impurities, from an object, surface or environment.Cleaning is one of the initial stages that physically gets rid of dust, organic compounds, and other physical materials from a surface. It does not totally kill all harmful germs left on surfaces, though.

Disinfecting, on the other hand, signifies wiping out most disease-causing germs remaining on surfaces. All surfaces must be thoroughly cleaned before disinfection.

Hygienic practices have never been as essential as they are today. We have always been told about keeping hygiene by washing our hands and being clean with our bodies and environment. In light of the current world situation, we should be even more careful about microbes. In the end, it is more than a matter of what you eat and drink. It is also about the environment around you. Keep your home or office clean and disinfected to stay healthy.

Reasons to Disinfect Your Facility

Because most of us live and work in enclosed settings, we frequently use common areas such as corridors, restrooms, recreation centers, gyms, and locker rooms. Consider how many people are touching the doorknobs, handles, light switches, and elevator buttons you also touch. Cleaning and sanitizing all of these surfaces is consequently crucial for everyone's health.

The following are the most essential reasons why facilities should employ strong disinfection measures;

Preventing germs and diseases from spreading.

Specific strains of bacteria, viruses, and fungi can live on different surfaces for several hours or even days. This means that they can spread to anyone who touches a contaminated area.
Although complying with good personal hygiene practices, such as frequent hand-washing, could help people avoid getting sick and spreading sickness, properly cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces can stop the spread of viruses such as COVID-19 and bacteria to people.

Improving indoor air quality.

The cleanliness of the air inside is a big deal that impacts everyone's health. You can improve the air quality in your building by getting a good filtration system and adding plants.
Plants clean the air by turning carbon dioxide into fresh oxygen and removing some pollutants. Another great way to do this is to disinfect surfaces with products that kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Regularly wiping down surfaces with cleaning products will also help keep dust, dirt, and other pollutants away, which will make the air quality inside even better.

Attracting and retaining customers and workers.

A clean and tidy facility often attracts more customers, guests, tenants, and workers mainly because it looks more appealing and welcoming than a building that isn't cleaned regularly.

Whether you're running a restaurant, store, hotel, or apartment complex, a potential customer, guest, renter, or employee will judge your services, products, and even your trustworthiness based on how your business looks and feels.

In addition to indicating a high level of professionalism and superior products, a clean facility shows that its manager or owner really cares about the health and wellbeing of their customers, guests, tenants, and workers.

Developing Your Cleaning Plan: Assessing Cleaning and Disinfecting Needs

Examine your home, office, school, or other establishment to ascertain the surfaces and materials used there. The majority of surfaces and items only require regular, everyday cleaning. To further lower the dangers of germs on surfaces and items, frequently touched surfaces and objects like light switches and doorknobs should be cleaned and then disinfected. 

Here are some factors that can help you know cleaning and disinfecting needs:

●How frequently a surface or object may be touched by a person
●How objects or surfaces may come into contact with human respiratory fluids and droplets
●Objects shared by two or more people
●Surface or object material
●The risk of exposure to potential or known cases of COVID-19

Use an EPA-approved disinfectant after cleaning the surface or object with soap and water. In the event that an EPA-approved disinfectant is not available, you can disinfect using 70% alcohol solutions or 1/3 cup of bleach added to 1 gallon of water. Bleach and other cleaning and disinfection agents should not be combined.

To make washing and disinfecting soft, porous materials easier, place them in storage or remove area rugs and seats. It is imperative that your plan specify how to continue with a cleaning and disinfection protocol. Create a flexible plan with your employees or family that you may modify as your circumstances change.

Implementing Your Cleaning Strategy

Determine what needs to be cleaned

For certain surfaces, soap and water will suffice as cleaning agents. Things and surfaces that are not often handled, for instance, should be cleaned and don't need to be further disinfected. Moreover, products used by kids shouldn't normally have disinfectants applied on them, especially if they could put them in their mouths. When consumed, many disinfectants are harmful. In a home environment, washing toys and other kid-used things with soap and water is generally adequate. Visit the CDC's Guidance for Childcare Programs that remain open for further details on how to clean and disinfect toys and other surfaces in a childcare program.

Determine what needs to be disinfected.

In a facility, it's smart to zero in on the areas that everyone touches. This is where germs are most likely to spread:

●Door Handles and Light Switches: Lots of people touch these every day. They should be top on your list for disinfecting.

●Common Areas: Think about places like the break room or meeting spaces. Tables, chairs, and shared equipment like coffee machines need regular disinfecting.

●Workstations and Office Equipment: Desks, computers, and phones in shared workspaces can harbor germs. Don’t forget to disinfect these often.

●Bathrooms: Focus on disinfecting the toilet handles, faucets, and door handles. These spots are used by everyone and can be a hotspot for germs.

●High Traffic Floors: If an area sees a lot of foot traffic, especially entryways, disinfecting the floor is a good practice.

Remember, it's not about disinfecting every single corner every day. Concentrate on these high-touch areas in your facility. A regular and targeted disinfecting routine can significantly reduce the risk of germ spread and help keep everyone in the facility healthier.

Consider the resources and equipment needed.

Remember to have the proper PPE and disinfection supplies on hand. Wear gloves that are suitable for the chemicals being used when doing regular cleaning and disinfection. Applying some disinfectants, including fumigants or fogs, may occasionally need staff with particular training and tools.

You can use a product from the EPA's list of authorized disinfectants that are effective against COVID-19 to disinfect commonly touched surfaces and objects after performing your regular cleaning procedure.

Check the list of products that the EPA has approved for use against COVID-19. You may choose the best disinfectant for the surface or object by using this list. Pay close attention to the manufacturer's advice regarding any extra dangers and any personal protective equipment (PPE) that may be required in order to administer the disinfectant properly.

Cleaning Different Objects and Surfaces Based on their Material

Different surfaces and materials need additional different cleaning and disinfection techniques.

1.Hard and Non-porous Materials

Glass, metal, and plastic are examples of hard, non-porous materials. To clean these surfaces, either use paper towels or disposable mop heads and rolls. Soak clothes in disinfectant and refrain from using spray treatments that might cause splashes.

2.Electronics

When it comes to cleaning and disinfecting electronics, including computers, laptops, keyboards, cameras, audio equipment, tablets, touch screens, and remote controls, adhere to the manufacturer's cleaning and disinfection instructions or, in the absence of such instructions, use alcohol-based wipes or sprays that contain at least 70% alcohol and completely dry the surfaces.

3.Porous Surfaces

Take the following measures for porous surfaces such as carpets, rugs, and drapes:

●Remove tiny rugs or carpets from the area entirely so that there is less to vacuum.

●If available, use a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.

●Vacuum only when the room or area is empty.

●If feasible, switch off room fans and HVAC systems while vacuuming so that particles that escape from the vacuum do not circulate throughout the facility.

4.Fabrics

●Use the warmest acceptable temperature setting for washing textiles such as garments, towels, linens, and other washable clothes.

●Allow fabrics to totally dry.

●Do not shake soiled laundry; this reduces the chance of viral dispersal through the air.

5.Crockery and cutlery

Shared dishes and cutlery should be washed in a dishwasher using appropriate
dishwasher soap. If a machine is not available, crockery and cutlery is to be washed
using hot water and dishwashing soap. All things are to be completely dry prior to reusing and or storing them.

6.Outdoor Spaces

Outdoor settings often require just basic cleaning.

●Spraying disinfectants in outdoor spaces such as sidewalks, roadways, and groundcover is an inefficient use of resources and has not been demonstrated to lower COVID-19 risk.

● High-touch plastic or metal surfaces, such as grab bars, play structures, and railings, should be cleaned on a regular basis. On outdoor hard surfaces and things often touched by several persons, disinfectants should be used effectively, efficiently, and safely; ensure disinfectant has totally dried before allowing children to play.

Cleaning and disinfecting wooden surfaces (wooden play structures, benches, tables) or groundcovers (mulch, sand) is not recommended due to the difficulty of cleaning the material.

How to Disinfect Safely

Follow these important safety guidelines when using chemical disinfectants:

●Ensure that there is enough flow of air. To achieve this, you can open windows or use fans

●Allow the disinfectant to remain on the surface for a sufficient amount of time to destroy any bacteria after applying it. We refer to this as the contact/wet time. The Safety Data Sheet and the guidelines both specify the contact time. To ensure that germs are eliminated, the surface should remain moist throughout the whole contact period.

●When water is indicated in product instructions as a diluting agent, ensure that water is at room temperature unless it's stated otherwise. Note: Disinfectants either in the solution form, activated, or diluted by water have the shortest shelf life.

●Do not mix the products or chemicals you are using, as this may result in a toxic reaction and could alter the chemistry.

●Avoid swallowing or inhaling any cleaning or disinfection products. Also, never apply them to your skin. The products can be hazardous and fatal.

●Clearly label all cleaning or disinfection solutions.

●Keep the chemicals away from children and pets.

●After cleaning, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water for about twenty seconds.

Strategies for Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Space in Cases of Illness or COVID-19 Exposure

Cleaning and disinfection are essential should someone fall sick or when there is an indication of a person having contracted COVID-19 within your environment.

Following are a couple of simple ways to clean and disinfect your facility;

I.Isolate the Area:
If someone's sick, close off the areas they used. This helps stop germs from spreading.

II.Let Fresh Air In:
Open windows and doors to air out the place. Fresh air helps reduce germs in the air.

III.Wait Before Cleaning:
If you can, wait a day before cleaning and disinfecting the area. This gives time for airborne germs to settle.

IV.Start with Soap and Water:
Clean surfaces with soap and water first. This gets rid of dirt and some germs.

V.Use Disinfectant Next:
After cleaning, use a disinfectant to kill remaining germs. Choose ones that are recommended for killing viruses like COVID-19.

VI.Focus on Frequently Touched Spots:
Clean and disinfect things like doorknobs, light switches, and phones often. These are touched a lot and can have more germs.

VII.Wear Gloves for Protection:
Put on disposable gloves when you clean and disinfect. Throw them away after use, or if they're reusable, keep them just for cleaning.

VIII.Be Safe with Chemicals:
When using cleaning products, read the instructions. Don't mix different cleaners, as it can be dangerous.

IX.Vacuum Safely:
If you need to vacuum, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Don't vacuum around people to avoid spreading germs through the air.

X.Disinfect Soft Surfaces:
For carpets and curtains, clean them with appropriate cleaners and then use a disinfectant suitable for soft surfaces.

XI.Handle Laundry Carefully:
Wash the clothes and bedding of the sick person using the warmest water setting. Wear gloves when handling their laundry.

XII.Regular Hand Washing:
Always wash your hands after cleaning, especially if you've been in contact with someone who's sick.

Emerging Technologies in Cleaning and Disinfection

Disinfectant Fogging

The use of disinfectant fogging for COVID-19 is not advised. Disinfectant fogging (sometimes called misting) is when very small droplets of disinfectant are sprayed around a room. You still need to clean all surfaces before spraying, and the sanitizer may not reach all surfaces. Fogging also includes allowing a significant time to enable the droplets to settle out of the air and onto surfaces before the room can be used again.

Ultraviolet cleaning

There is limited written data about the exposure, wavelength, dose, and duration of UV radiation required to kill COVID-19 and other viruses. This type of disinfection also requires additional training and proper use of PPE.

Conclusion

It is clear that these practices are more than just the normal routine tasks; they're important steps for maintaining a healthy environment, especially in today's world. We start by distinguishing between cleaning and disinfecting and move forward to understanding the various cleaning and disinfection needs based on facility types and surfaces.

Remember, cleaning removes dirt and reduces germs, while disinfecting is about killing those germs left behind. Both steps play a big role in preventing the spread of illnesses like COVID-19. In your plan, prioritize high-touch surfaces and shared spaces, and use the right products and equipment. Safety is key, so always wear appropriate PPE and follow guidelines for safe product usage.

Regularly revisiting and updating your cleaning and disinfection plan is also important as it ensures you stay on top of any new health advisories and continue to meet the evolving needs of your facility. Let's all do our part in keeping our spaces clean and disinfected!

References:

Rutala, W. A., & Weber, D. J. (2014). Selection of the ideal disinfectant. Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, 35(7), 855-865.

Jansen, K. (2020). How we know disinfectants should kill the COVID-19 coronavirus. Chem. Eng. News, 13, 2020.

Mary Oeding, R. D. H., & Mennito, A. S. (2006). Infection Control plus OSHA.

Otto, C., Zahn, S., Rost, F., Zahn, P., Jaros, D., & Rohm, H. (2011). Physical methods for cleaning and disinfection of surfaces. Food Engineering Reviews, 3, 171-188.

Wu, K. J. (2020). Why Is Washing Your Hands So Important, Anyway?. Smithsonian. com, March, 6.

First, M. W. (1998). HEPA filters. Journal of the American Biological Safety Association, 3(1), 33-42.
Article by
David Smith
David is a urologist with over 9 years of experience. He is also the Co-fonder of BladGo, where he regularly shares his expertise in the field of urology. David is committed to keeping readers up-to-date on the latest urological research and to sharing other beneficial healthcare tips and information so that they can live healthier lives.

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