Human coronavirus has created a sudden and urgent need for businesses to demonstrate that they are taking the necessary steps to protect their employees and their customers.
Businesses of all types, from retail, grocery stores, and restaurants to hotels and offices have all stepped up their cleaning regimens to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and prevent people from getting sick – however, cleaning alone may not be enough when it comes to eliminating coronavirus.
The difference between cleaning and disinfecting
So what is the difference between cleaning and other types of sanitation? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives these general definitions on its website.
- “Cleaning refers to the removal of dirt and impurities, including germs, from surfaces. Cleaning alone does not kill germs. But by removing the germs, it decreases their number and therefore any risk of spreading infection.”
- “Disinfecting works by using chemicals, for example, EPA-registered disinfectants, to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs. But killing germs remaining on a surface after cleaning further reduces any risk of spreading infection.”
Cleaning must utilize soap and water to effectively remove germs from a surface – but it does not kill and inactivate them. “Germs,” as it is used by the CDC in this definition, includes a range of pathogens, including many viruses and bacteria like coronavirus.
Both cleaning and disinfection can successfully reduce the risk of spreading infection when done properly and thoroughly; when used in conjunction, they can be even more powerful. But it’s important to note that only proper disinfection can kill the pathogens.
When it comes to disinfection, there is also another important term that figures into the equation: dwell time.
Dwell time is the amount of time that a disinfectant must remain on a surface to kill its target pathogens.
If wiped off or rinsed before achieving the required dwell time, pathogens may remain on a surface, setting up a false sense of security. Dwell times can vary significantly depending on the product being used, however, the length of dwell time is not an indicator of a product’s effectiveness – shorter dwell times do not make a product “more effective” than one with a longer dwell time.
Is your cleaning service enough?
Many companies employ cleaning and janitorial services to conduct daily cleaning, such as emptying trash, vacuuming, wiping off tables, and other general tasks. Your service may even say that it can disinfect surfaces.
However, it may be worth asking questions to understand exactly what your service does. Thoroughness is the key to effective cleaning and disinfection. The statistics behind the effectiveness of some of these services may surprise you.
- Spray and wipe-down methods can miss up to 50% of surfaces, according to ISSA, the worldwide cleaning association.
- In a 2008 infection control study, only about one-third of janitorial workers followed the needed dwell times listed on products.
- A 2009 Journal of Hospital Infection report looked at four different methods of cleaning in hospital environments and found that “visual assessment alone did not always provide a meaningful measure of surface cleanliness or cleaning efficacy.”
A professional disinfecting service will have access to equipment that can disperse disinfectants in more effective ways than spray and wipe down methods. Ambius’ Disinfection Service, for example, uses advanced Liquid Dispersal Technology and a combination of tools to apply disinfectant in a fine droplet. This method of application can reach areas that traditional cleaning and janitorial services cannot.
Responsible use of disinfectants
There is a common myth that the overuse of disinfectants can lead to the development of superbugs, such as MRSA. The good news is that science has yet to show that this is true.
However, that doesn’t mean that commercial-grade disinfectants should be used indiscriminately by anyone. Disinfectants should be applied by trained professionals using caution. Those applying them should ensure that surfaces to be disinfected are cleaned properly before the disinfectant is applied. They should also understand the correct application method, the surfaces the product can be used on safely, the required dwell time for effectiveness, and any required clean-up after the product has achieved the required dwell time.
Preparing to reopen
After nearly two months of extensive business closures, many states, provinces, and municipalities are now working toward phased reopenings. As part of these reopenings, new guidelines for required cleaning and disinfection practices are being pushed out. It’s important to understand your state or province’s requirements, or even local guidance, to avoid potential run-ins with regulators.
Market research firm Datassential has been conducting weekly surveys with consumers throughout the coronavirus crisis to gain their insights on coronavirus and how it is impacting their view on restaurants and eating out. In an April 17, 2020 survey, consumers revealed how they felt about coronavirus reopenings:
- 61% of respondents are very concerned about their personal health as it relates to COVID-19.
- A whopping 61% said they would avoid eating out entirely, while 24% said it makes them nervous, but they will still continue to do so.
- When asked if they are more concerned about the health crisis or the economic crisis, 60% said they are more concerned about the health crisis.
- In regards to restaurants reopening, to consider eating somewhere, 76% say they expect common areas to be deep cleaned regularly.
While this only reflects views toward one industry, it may provide a snapshot of consumer mindset and expectations of the businesses where they choose to shop and dine.
Having a well-planned cleaning and disinfection strategy can help establish your business as trustworthy with customers, giving them visual cues that you are working to protect their health and enhance their customer experience.
Are you preparing to reopen? To discuss our comprehensive hygiene solutions with an Ambius expert, call 800.581.9946 or click here to learn more.
For additional guidance on reopening, visit the CDC’s Reopening Website.