Many germs and virus are found on the surfaces in your workplace and home. It is important to keep all your work surfaces clean, especially during a pandemic or emerging disease event. The first step in ensuring your workforce is sanitary and safe for your people is understanding the fundamentals of facility cleaning.
To assist in understanding these fundamentals, we break down commonly asked questions related to facility cleaning and illness prevention in the workplace.
What is the difference between disinfectants, sanitizers, and cleaners?
Cleaners use soap or detergents to physically remove dirt, dust, other soils. While cleaners do not kill germs, they do remove them. Cleaners are not regulated or tested by the EPA.
Sanitizers reduce bacteria on a surface by at least 99.9%, while disinfectants kill bacteria, viruses, mold, mildew, and fungi. Both sanitizers and disinfectants are regulated and tested by the EPA and must be proven efficacious for specific germs.
How often should cleaning and disinfecting be done?
The CDC states, “Surfaces frequently touched by multiple people, such as door handles, bathroom surfaces, and handrails, should be cleaned with soap and water or another detergent at least daily when facilities are in use. More frequent cleaning and disinfection may be required based on level of use. For example, certain surfaces and objects in public spaces, such as shopping carts and point of sale keypads, should be cleaned and disinfected before each use. Cleaning removes dirt and impurities, including germs, from surfaces. Cleaning alone does not kill germs, but it reduces the number of germs on a surface.”
What surfaces should I disinfect?
All reachable hard, non-porous surfaces can be disinfected, but high-touch surfaces should be paid special attention. High-touch surfaces include tables, doorknobs, light switches, toilets, desks, phones, and many more. Click to download a comprehensive list of high-touch surfaces.
The World Health Organization says studies have shown that the COVID-19 virus may last for a few hours or several days on surfaces, depending on the kind of surface, temperature, and humidity. Under the conditions in at least 1 experiment, the virus remained active on plastic and stainless steel for 2–3 days.
Not all disinfectants are appropriate for use on medical devices or food-contact surfaces. Disinfectants that are suitable for use on these surfaces may, furthermore, require additional actions, such as rinsing after disinfection. This information will be located on the product label.
What about soft or porous surfaces, like carpeted floor, rugs, and drapes?
No disinfectant can claim to disinfect soft surfaces. You may, however, sanitize with an EPA-registered soft surface sanitizer.
You may also clean soft surfaces with soap and water or a suitable cleaner, then launder if possible.
According to Juan Dumois, a pediatric infectious-diseases physician, “In general coronaviruses last a lot longer on hard non-porous surfaces compared to porous surfaces.”
How long do I leave the disinfectant on the surface?
All disinfectants have different and specific dwell times depending on the organism you are trying to kill. Refer to the EPA List N for the recommended dwell time for use against COVID-19.
Can I use microfiber wipes to apply the disinfectant?
Yes, microfiber wipes are an excellent way to apply disinfectants. These wipes must be changed when visibly dirty and should be laundered on a frequent basis.
Do you need to wipe down surfaces after disinfecting?
This depends on the disinfectant and the surface. Most surfaces can be allowed to air dry. For sensitive surfaces like electronic equipment, after the required dwell time, it is advised to wipe any residue from the surface. Food-contact surfaces should be rinsed with potable water after disinfecting.
How long do you have to wait after disinfection before allowing people to enter the room?
This answer depends greatly on several conditions, such as the size of the room, the amount of ventilation and air flow in the room, and how the disinfectant is applied. In general, if spraying a coarse spray directly on the surface, people should be able to enter the room shortly after the necessary dwell time (5–10 minutes).
How long are dilutable disinfectants effective for after dilution?
Check the specific label. In general, if a disinfectant solution becomes visible dirty, it must be discarded. A few products at use-dilution have bactericidal stability for extended periods. Other diluted products on List N must be made fresh daily according to the EPA label.
Do I need to disinfect the tools and equipment used after performing corrective disinfection?
Yes, it is advisable to disinfect all materials. Betco has fantastic guide to proper equipment disinfection.
What precautions should I take when cleaning/disinfecting?
If someone in a facility is sick, all areas they have used should be closed off, with any outside doors and windows opened to increase air circulation. Wait 24 hours or as long as possible before cleaning and disinfecting all areas and surfaces used by the sick person.
Whether a sick person has used an area or not, always wear disposable gloves and gowns for the entire cleaning and disinfecting process, including handling trash. After you carefully remove these items, immediately wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. If hands are not visibly dirty and soap and water are unavailable, you may use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Additional personal protective equipment (PPE), such as safety glasses, might be need based on the cleaning/disinfectant products being used and whether there is a risk of splash. Always consult product labels and ensure proper ventilation of the area.
Never mix bleach with any other chemicals.
How do I use disinfectants against coronavirus?
The CDC recommends pre-cleaning surfaces before using a disinfectant.
All disinfectant label instructions should be followed carefully, especially with regard to:
- Dwell time, or amount of time that the surface must stay wet to ensure that germs are killed
- Concentration, as some products may need to be diluted before use
- Application method, including whether to use a sponge, paper towel, microfiber cloth, etc.
- Personal protective equipment and other safety considerations
- Suitability for use on different types of surfaces
How long can the COVID-19 virus survive on various surfaces?
According to an NIH (National Institute of Health) study, COVID-19 remained active on plastic and stainless-steel surfaces for 2–3 days under the conditions in this experiment. It remained infectious for up to 24 hours on cardboard and 4 hours on copper. The virus was detectable in aerosols (in the air) for up to 3 hours. These times will vary under real-world conditions, depending on factors including temperature, humidity, ventilation, and the amount of virus deposited.
I have heard the virus can spread on shoes, is this true?
A recent study published in Emerging Infectious Diseases suggests that COVID-19 can potentially be spread by shoes. In the study, researchers took samples from various surfaces at Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, China, the early epicenter of the outbreak—including samples from the soles of ICU staff members' shoes. Half of the samples taken from the shoes tested positive for the virus.
This demonstrates the importance of disinfecting floors during corrective disinfection.
Get in touch with one of our Facility Supply specialists, and we’ll get started determining how best we can support your proactive prevention of disease at your organization.