Premises Cleaning & Hygiene During COVID-19

Issue Date
Ref

DIV21/08

  

Premises Cleaning & Hygiene During COVID-19

Building care and cleaning teams have faced unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among these have been to introduce even more stringent cleaning and hygiene processes – and carry them out more often - to protect and reassure customers and staff. Many teams already have robust processes but even the best can make improvements.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 spreads from person to person by direct contact, touching contaminated surfaces, and through breathing in airborne droplets produced when infected people cough, sneeze, or breathe. Stopping any of these pathways will break the chain of infection. This is why good personal hygiene, surface disinfection, social distancing, and wearing masks are so important.

Many building care operations are based around core tasks such as surface cleaning, washroom hygiene, and floorcare. Adding stringent hand hygiene into this mix – if it was not there before – will help ensure the highest levels of protection during the pandemic.

For any cleaning or hygiene task it is important to select suitable products and make sure staff understand how to use them correctly. Reputable suppliers offer a wide selection of products and will suggest the right combination to achieve optimum cost-effective results. This should also include support such as training aids, user guides, wall charts, videos, safety data sheets, and other documentation. 

Good hand hygiene is always important, but especially during the pandemic. Everyone must wash their hands frequently, particularly after touching surfaces and items used by other people. Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is effective at removing the virus that causes COVID-19.

Hand disinfection in addition to hand washing will help control the transmission of viruses and bacteria. Extra precautions are advisable during the pandemic, which might mean providing sufficient hand disinfectants in convenient locations not just in the washroom. This could include entrances and exits as well as at reception desks, toilets, and other high-throughput areas. Additional signage in these areas will encourage good hand hygiene practices.

Wall-mounted dispensers offer many long-term cost-saving and sustainability benefits and are less likely to go missing. In the short term, however, it can be more convenient to use portable bottles with built-in dispensers. Some suppliers offer smaller bottles for personal use by staff. The aim is to make it easy for everyone to disinfect their hands whenever they wish.

Make sure the product is effective: suppliers should have evidence their products meet relevant EN-numbered disinfection standards for the viruses or other pathogens of concern. Products meeting EN14476 against Viccinia Virus, for example, should be effective against the virus that causes COVID-19. Look for products that are pleasant and suitable for frequent application because this will encourage more use.

The other key aspect to infection prevention is surface disinfection. During the pandemic it is a sensible precaution to clean surfaces even more regularly than traditional schedules. This might mean many times a day. Pay particular attention to surfaces or objects that are regularly touched or used by more than one person. This might include, for example, desks, furniture, door handles, light switches, lift buttons, drinks machines, and self-service catering cabinet doors. Wipes are ideal for disinfecting high touch areas.

Teams should consider swapping general purpose surface cleaners for alternatives with proven disinfection and virucidal capability. Look for products that meet EN14476 and other relevant disinfection standards and can be used frequently. Modern disinfectants with advanced formulations are safer to use in public areas, produce no potential irritants, and are suitable for more surfaces than conventional products with traditional ingredients. These are generally easy to use, work quickly, and can be used when people are present. This will help make it simpler and safer to disinfect surfaces frequently during the day. 

It is also important to keep the “contact time” in mind because disinfectants only work while the surface is wet. If a disinfectant has a long contact time it is unlikely to kill the pathogens it claims to before the surface dries.

Floorcare is another critical building care task. Frequent vacuum cleaning will remove dust and other debris from hard floors and carpets to maintain appearance and good hygiene. Carpets also benefit from regular deep cleaning using suitable machines and products. Scrubber driers can be used on many types of hard floor to maintain and enhance appearance. It is important to use the right products and pads. Some pads can be used with water alone for enhanced sustainability. Many manufacturers offer disinfectants in their floorcare ranges and some have introduced sprayers that can be mounted on ride-on machines for convenient treatment of large areas.

Battery powered vacuum cleaners and scrubber driers make it easier to clean on-the-go and support rapid response to deal with spills and emergencies. These machines have no trailing power cables which makes them highly mobile and removes a potential trip hazard from the working area. Backpack vacuums and disinfectant sprayers offer even more portability and autonomy. Many latest-generation models utilise batteries that can be charged quickly and offer more power and extended run times. These machines are often quieter than the models they replace which is good if they are used when people are present.

Choosing the right products, or combination of products, can be complex. There are more products on the market than ever before: the rapid emergence of COVID-19 inevitably added to the number. In the rush to meet the understandable demand, few of these were tested to meet the all-important EN14476 virucidal standard. This created uncertainty because, in many cases, the claims made for products were backed with little or no proper evidence that they were effective against this new virus. Reputable suppliers will always be able to support their claims with proper evidence that their products meet relevant standards.

Ready-to-use products can be ideal for temporary use and occasional or specialist tasks: they are convenient, easy to introduce, and readily available. This in part explains why businesses have used them during the pandemic. But costs can mount up in the long run and especially when they are used frequently.

Businesses with established cleaning procedures often turn to ultra-concentrated products in conjunction with dosing or dilution equipment. Cleaning solutions are prepared safely, accurately, and consistently on-site by adding water to a reusable spray bottle, wash bucket, sink, or cleaning machine. Using these systems generally results in safer, simpler, and more consistent high-performance cleaning while minimising wastage, packaging, and chemical miles. The cost is usually also much less than using ready-to-use products. A spray bottle of surface cleaner prepared this way, for example, might cost tens of pence while the same size ready-to-use equivalent could easily be two or three pounds. As a very general guide, the larger the site or cleaning team, the quicker the return on investment in dosing or dilution control. 

Throughout the pandemic the overriding requirement has been to protect building occupants and visitors while providing additional reassurance by cleaning more frequently and more visibly. Cleaning teams have met this challenge while maintaining their operations and enhancing infection prevention. Working with their suppliers they can continue to optimise their processes with the right combination of products, tools, and equipment.