Are your staff cleaning or disinfecting?

Cleaning staff must follow key steps to ensure surfaces are cleaned and disinfected.

Hospital grade disinfectants have long been considered a premium product line intended only for healthcare applications.

The events of recent months have seen the industrial cleaning sector at the forefront in tackling COVID-19, especially where known outbreaks have occurred. Schools and educational facilities have been a prime example. This has led to a significant increase in the use of TGA registered disinfectants (both liquids and wipes).

Cleaners are proving to customers and the broader community that they are using approved products, providing reassurance that their premises are being thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Or are they? Are they really disinfecting surfaces or are they simply providing a glorified cleaning service? There are a few points to remember to ensure these products are used correctly.

Liquid disinfectants

Importantly, use an appropriate disinfectant that fits into your cleaning program and finds a balance between efficacy, health and safety, and surface compatibility. Often, one of these will be out of tune with the other two.

For example, some chemicals kill bugs effectively but place staff at a higher safety risk when using them. Therefore, choose a product that is effective, not simply the ‘strongest’. The published list of TGA registered products will offer guidance.

When using disinfectants, remember there are several key constraints that impact their effectiveness:

  1. Contact between the chemical and the microorganism. If there is soil or biofilms present, this can prevent the chemical from doing its job.
  2. Time in contact with the surface. No chemical works instantaneously and will need sufficient contact time to kill bacteria and viruses.
  3. The right temperature. All kill rates are time and temperature dependent.

Therefore, always refer to the manufacturer’s directions for use. This will clearly state the recommended conditions, such as temperature and dilution. And always clean first.

This may result in using the disinfectant twice. Once for an initial clean, then secondly for disinfecting, yet failure to do so will see surfaces cleaned only, not disinfected.

Disinfectant wipes

Wiping over a surface is something we do everyday – how hard can it be? Studies have shown there are nine variables involved when wiping a surface, ranging from how fast we clean, the type of cloth used, how much liquid it contains, and how frequently it is changed.

So, there are many factors that could see viruses easily moved from surface to surface via the cleaning cloth. Disposable wipes provide a convenient, single use product that helps reduce risk, however again there are three basic principles to follow:

  1. Use the wipe once
  2. Use it on one surface only
  3. Wipe in only one direction

The third point grabs my attention. It highlights the wiping motion impacts the outcome, and that surfaces should be cleaned in a single direction only.

Using a forward and backward wiping motion will see bugs move on and off the cloth leaving them on the surface, so once more, the surface may be clean but not be disinfected.

And also remember, badly used microfibre wipes can in fact spread viruses across surfaces and from location to location.

We are seeing the use of registered products become part of the daily cleaning process across various facilities and workplaces. Cleaning staff must follow key steps however to ensure surfaces are both cleaned and disinfected, as intended.

To assist cleaning compliance, choose a product that is easy to apply and that staff like using, and follow a regular cleaning program with a focus on high touch areas including door handles, light switches, railings, workstations and telephones, combined with good hand hygiene practices.

Mark McKenzie is an industrial sales representative with Whiteley Corporation.

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