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Cleaning for Health in the Age of COVID-19

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

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The janitorial industry has been talking about “cleaning for health” for decades, but the COVID-19 pandemic has shone an even brighter spotlight on the concept. It's front of mind for building owners and managers, and will likely weigh more heavily than ever when evaluating BSCs.

Cleaning for health adds incredible value to your offering and, when promoted correctly, can help you beat out the competition during and after the COVID pandemic.

That's why savvy BSCs are using this time to brush up on their knowledge of cleaning for health, train their employees on best practices, and tweak their marketing efforts.

"What is Cleaning for Health?"

What is Cleaning for Health?

The term “cleaning for health” boils down to using the best products and procedures available, in a correct manner, to create the healthiest building environment possible.

People often believe cleaning for health is synonymous with green cleaning. They are, in fact, separate concepts but can overlap.

Cleaning for health is primarily concerned about keeping building occupants safe and healthy. Green cleaning goes further to also consider how cleaning affects the world outside the building's walls. Going “green” is not the intent of cleaning for health, but is often a secondary result of using the most effective and safest products and procedures.

The goal of cleaning for health vs. appearance is to prevent or stop the spread of bacteria and viruses, thereby reducing illness among building occupants. This, in turn, reduces absenteeism and “presenteeism” (employees who come to work sick), which has a direct impact on the bottom line.

Workplace illness reduces productivity at a cost of $227 billion in losses to the U.S. economy each year, according to The Integrated Benefits Institute. Improving the cleaning process can bring down that number.

How to Clean for Health

One study found that a virus on a single doorknob can spread to 60 percent of workers and visitors in a building in less than four hours. That's a scary statistic in ordinary times, and it's truly terrifying in the age of COVID-19.

Cleaning is the only cure for the problem. Done correctly, it can reduce the spread of contagious viruses by 80 to 90 percent.

The best practice is to use a two-step cleaning process—a general-purpose cleaner followed by a disinfectant. Start by wiping down all surfaces with a general cleaner to break down and remove soil. Then use a hospital-grade disinfectant to kill microbes that remain.

Traditionally, the best practice was to focus disinfection on high-touch points, such as sink faucet handles, door handles, elevator buttons, keyboards, and phones. And to bump up cleaning frequencies during cold and flu season.

COVID-19 has challenged those ideas. It's highly contagious and perhaps not seasonal, proving the need to thoroughly clean all surfaces at least daily.

Simply using disinfectant doesn't mean you're cleaning for health. It must be properly used to be effective.

Disinfectants require dwell time. Unfortunately, many cleaners don't follow manufacturer's directions, and that results in the continued spread of contagions. In short, it's a waste of time to use a disinfectant if you immediately wipe it up.

It's important to use clean cloths for cleaning and disinfection. Microfiber is the best option to prevent cross-contamination of a virus from one area to another. Likewise, invest in color-coded tools, especially if your crew includes non-native English speakers.

Also, always teach the correct dilution ratio, as specified by the manufacturer, for any chemical.

Finally, perhaps the most important element of a healthy cleaning program is proper training. Your employees can use microfiber and disinfectants and make a building less healthy if they don't know what they're doing.

Seek help from vendors for janitorial training and Certification Programs. Make sure your cleaning crews know how to clean for health and why it matters. In the case of COVID-19, if they understand that their work could be the difference between life and death, they are far less likely to rush or skip steps.

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