Depending on where you are in the world, you may have to wear a mask or face-covering in public. You may also need to stay home unless absolutely necessary or other restrictions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
This pandemic is always evolving, and for many people in Australia and beyond, restrictions are always subject to change at any time. They could remain in place for weeks or even months to come. Always check your local Health Department or Government advice for up-to-date requirements or restrictions in your area.
Cleaning and disinfecting is one of the main methods of reducing the spread of COVID-19 and other similar viruses. In their advice for workplace cleaning, the World Health Organization states that “contamination on surfaces touched by employees and customers is one of the main ways COVID-19 spreads.”
Irrespective of whether you’re a professional house cleaner, a maintenance person in a commercial building, an office cleaner or simply someone in charge of cleaning or maintenance in any other facility, the following article has advice on cleaning to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Always follow product instructions
You should wear the personal protective equipment (PPE) you normally do when using the products required to clean and disinfect and always follow the instructions on the safety label of the product you’re using. Specific chemicals and other special circumstances may require you to wear additional PPE.
Before disinfecting an area, you should always start by cleaning all the surfaces to remove any germs, dirt and other impurities. While we all know that cleaning does not kill all germs, it does help lower their numbers and reduce the chances of spreading infection and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Most disinfectants work better on cleaner surfaces, so by reducing dirt and other materials first, you are ensuring that your disinfectant can do its job to kill germs and reduce or prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In order to kill germs, you’ll need to use chemicals that are designed to disinfect a surface. For combination products that can clean and disinfect at the same time, always ensure that you strictly follow the instructions on the product label for best results.
Be sure to read the label on the product you’re using as some disinfectants are proven to be better. The label typically indicates how much contact or dwell time the disinfectant must remain on the surface in order to kill the virus. In some cases, you may need to let the disinfectant do its work for up to 10 minutes or more, so be aware that simply spraying and then immediately wiping a surface will not be effective in killing germs.
It is critical that you follow the instruction and leave the disinfectant on the surface long enough as directed by the instructions to do the job. Germs tend to collect on surfaces that people frequently come into contact with, so it’s a good practice to focus on these high touch surfaces frequently.
Focus on high touch areas
It is highly likely that you will (or have) changed your regular cleaning schedule in order to increase how often you clean high touch surfaces and high-traffic areas. You should liaise with your team and supervisor to schedule frequent cleaning of these surfaces, at least several times daily. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, high touch surfaces are the most important to consider.
These high touch surfaces include elements around your workplace, such as;
- Reception counters
- Door handles
- Push plates
- Visitor sign in systems (tablets, paper forms, etc)
- Toilet buttons
- Bathroom surfaces
- Tap handles
- Light and power switches
- Touch screens
- Telephone handles
- Microwave and kitchen buttons
- Coffee machines
- Water dispensers
- Coffee table magazines
- Elevator buttons
- Stair railings
- Common area chair arms
- Vending machines.
Since you and everyone else in your building should be washing your hands more frequently, remember that someone will need to restock paper towels, cleaning products and soaps more frequently.
Electrostatic surface cleaning
You may have heard about electrostatic cleaning, and how some people are saying that it can also help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and you wonder what it all means. Electrostatic surface cleaning is the process of spraying a mist of disinfectant solution on two surfaces and objects.
Because this disinfectant mist is electrostatically charged, studies have shown that it can quickly and evenly coat a surface which makes it very effective for fast cleaning. You should read more about it, and then discuss with your coworkers if this is an option for your workplace.
If your workplace has a dilution control system with a disinfectant, then it is extremely important that the system is properly diluting the concentrate into an effective cleaning solution. You should be frequently testing the system and if required, recalibrating it or arranging for maintenance.
If for any reason, disinfectant is unavailable to you, you can create a bleach solution which will help with COVID-19. This leaflet from the CDC explains the correct mixing solution of bleach and water. A word of caution you should never mix bleach with any other cleaning and always read product labels before using them.
After local COVID-19 contact
You may be wondering what to do if someone with COVID-19 or even just someone suspected of having coronavirus has already been in your building or facility; what do you do? The cleaning and disinfecting process is the same, however there are a few important steps to take before.
You should close off any areas suspected to have been used by the infected person(s). Thereafter, open all outside doors and windows to increase the air circulation in the area. Next, you should wait as long as practical before you begin cleaning and disinfecting. By waiting, you can minimise the potential for exposure.
Once you’ve waited a period of time, clean and disinfect all areas like offices, bathrooms and common areas used by the infected persons; focusing especially on high touch surfaces. Importantly, remember to read the directions on all cleaning products and allow for a suitable dwell time for disinfectants to do their job.
Additional personal protective equipment
A word on additional personal protective equipment. If someone has or is suspected to have COVID-19, and that person has been in an area where you’re cleaning, then you should be wearing appropriate gloves and a gown for all tasks in the cleaning and disinfection process.
Additional PPE might be required based on the cleaning or disinfectant products being used. And whether or not there’s a risk of splash or contact with your skin or eyes.
Completion of cleaning tasks
Upon completion, you should then remove your gloves and gowns slowly and carefully. This is to avoid contaminating yourself or the surrounding area.
You should ensure that you clean your hands thoroughly after removing the gloves.
Any reusable or washable PPE items should be washed using the warmest wash setting in a regular cycle. You should avoid shaking out the items before placing in the washing machine.
Additionally, you should regularly wash the hamper or containers in which used PPE is stored while it is waiting to be laundered. If the hamper is not washable, use a disposable lining, and replace regularly.
Any non-washable PPE, for example things such as eye protection; should be wiped clean with a detergent solution first, then wiped over with a disinfectant, and left to air dry.
Finally, you should report to your manager if there were any breaches in your PPE, such as any small tears in your gloves or other potential exposure that may have occurred.
By working together, as a team, a family and a community, we can all do our bit to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This involves practicing good hygiene, practicing social distancing and ensuring that we are frequently cleaning and disinfecting workplaces, homes, shops and other locations.
The key points we’ve discussed that will help prevent the spread of COVID-19;
- Stay up to date with COVID-19 management
- Be aware of any local lockdowns or restrictions
- Ensure frequent cleaning of high touch areas
- Wear appropriate personal protective equipment
- Look for updated cleaning methods and routines
- Report any PPE damage or tears
If we all do our best, we can protect ourselves, our coworkers and our communities. Stay safe and healthy!