Published in the PRG spring e-edition 2020
We are all doing our due diligence against the spread of COVID-19 by sanitizing surfaces, but is it being done correctly? As a Certified Cleaning Technician and cleaning provider, I’d like to be sure that as you are going about sanitizing your spaces, you are doing it correctly. I’ve been watching people quickly wipe surfaces with things like Clorox disinfectant wipes or spray surfaces with a disinfectant spray and immediately wipe them off. Unfortunately, not only does this do no good, but it gives you the false impression that things are sanitized when they are not. I want to take this opportunity to share some information that I’ve culled from sources like the World Health Organization (WHO), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and Environmental Protections Agency (EPA), as well as trusted brands like Clorox and Lysol, on how you can properly disinfect your homes and workplaces.
As noted by the CDC, cleaning and disinfecting are two different things. Cleaning is the removal of matter (e.g., dirt, debris, and bacteria) from surfaces. Microfiber does this well with just water because the particles cling to the fabric, but a terry cloth towel and detergent work as well. Disinfecting requires a chemical agent to kill germs or bacteria.
Both the WHO and CDC recommend using chlorine bleach as a disinfecting agent. It is recommended that surfaces be cleaned prior to disinfecting. One of the keys to disinfecting, and one that is so often overlooked, is dwell or contact time. According to Becker Hospital Review, the best way to ensure that your disinfectant is effective is to make sure that the surface remains visibly wet for the full recommended contact time. EPA-approved disinfecting agents will have the recommended contact time listed on their labels.
Clorox recommends a 5-minute contact time for their regular bleach. This means that once the surface has been cleaned, in order to disinfect, the bleach solution (half a cup of bleach for every gallon of water) would need to remain wet for five minutes before being wiped away and allowed to air dry. Lysol’s products have similar recommendations. It is not effective to simply take a wipe and run it across your doorknobs and light switches. Aside from bleach, the CDC also mentions an alcohol solution of at least 70% alcohol.
Household disinfectants are also effective, as long as the label instructions are followed. While vinegar can be used as a disinfectant, it is not as effective as bleach, alcohol, or household disinfectants from trusted brands. For hard, flat surfaces (like floors, countertops, and tables) soak your mop or cloth in the disinfectant solution and wring it out slightly, just so it’s not dripping. Apply the solution and leave it on for five minutes and then rinse with clean water and let it air dry.
For more challenging surfaces (like doorknobs, cabinets, appliances, and drawer handles) spray on the solution or simply wrap your treated towel around the surface to let the chemical do its job. Use a clean cloth for each surface area and do not put a soiled cloth back into your solution – I see restaurants do this all the time!
It is important during this pandemic that we remain calm and take what precautions we can to stay well. Making sure that your home and office environments stay cleaned and sanitized is something effective that we can all participate in. We’re all in this together!
[Please note, no wipe is flushable. Never put any wipe down the toilet, they cause serious problems at the treatment plant and in your sewer system.]