Hygiene and infection control has probably never had higher priority in the health care sector. The public and patients too share clinicians’ concerns about the spread of flu, tummy and super-bugs.
Everybody wants and expects to see scrupulous cleanliness and hand hygiene practice. But what about floors?
Floor cleaning not only affects the general perception of cleanliness. Failure to clean floors thoroughly and efficiently can pose a risk to health and also waste resources.
Hospitals, clinics and care homes may use a mix of cleaning methods and machines, such as rotary polishers, scrubber dryers and vacuums, while mopping persists in some cases, even if only in confined areas, such as toilets and washrooms.
Though the stakes may be higher than in other sectors, the managers of healthcare facilities need to deliver consistently cost-effective cleaning. So what are the key factors when prescribing a hygienic and efficient cleaning regime for floors?
Versatility is important, especially where cleaning teams are responsible for a variety of floor types from entrances to birthing suites, waiting areas to wards, canteens to operating theatres.
Hard floors may predominate, given they should be easier to keep clean, but they pose a slip risk when wet that mopping only exacerbates.
It also fails the hygiene test. This method fails to remove soils effectively and re-circulates those that are picked up by the mop-head and mixed with the cleaning solution.
New surfaces, coatings and materials adopted over recent years have brought benefits, such as anti-slip properties. But they can be trickier to clean properly.
That challenge is compounded by strict infection control rules, which favour natural detergents and taurine-based products. To remove soiling completely, the surface must be agitated vigorously without accelerating wear.
Other factors to consider are the trip risk to staff, patients and visitors from trailing cables during daytime cleaning – and noise disturbance while cleaning at any time of day or night.
Cordless equipment can provide reassurance on both fronts, while providing added flexibility and minimising interruptions for the cleaning team.
Their needs must be considered too. Machines and equipment should be easy to operate and handle, and minimise repetitive motions and musculoskeletal strains.
A final factor to mention is the cleanability of the machine itself, its brushes or pads, solution and soil tanks, and attachments.
Healthcare settings and priorities vary, but experience teaches us that scrubber dryers often play a central role in hygienic cleaning strategies.
The ability to wash, mop, scrub and dry in one pass makes for high efficiency and output. Constant application of only-clean solution and removal of soils is crucial. A modern model should also minimise water and chemical consumption, leaving floors dry in minutes.
Versatility for tackling different floor types – from hard to entrance matting and low-pile carpets – is highly valued.
Less widely appreciated perhaps, but a major technical advantage, is cylindrical brush technology. Contra-rotating brushes exert sufficient pressure to remove embedded grime from the grout lines of tiled floors and other crevices. They also overcome the difficulties of cleaning safety flooring without potentially harmful chemical disinfectants.
A cordless machine can deliver these gains without compromising productivity. Modern gel batteries provide sufficient power for around 50 minutes’ non-stop operation, while swopping to a back-up battery should be simple and rapid.
When it comes to disinfecting the machine itself, it is advisable to avoid brushes made from natural fibres. A synthetic material, such as polypropylene, can be sanitised far more reliably. Colour-coding of brushes helps prevent cross-contamination between areas with different levels of risk, as well as matching the brush design to the type of surface.
These are among the main factors for ensuring that floor cleaning plays its part in supporting the highest standards of hygiene in healthcare settings.
This was first published in the August issue of INCLEAN NZ.