Due to the nature of COVID-19, the focus on proper cleaning protocols and health safety has been amplified. Facilities will continue to be scrutinized for their cleanliness, so it has become essential to understand what it looks like to clean with health safety in mind and properly communicate an organization’s cleaning efforts to everyone using the facility.
Walk through the following 5 points to assess, re-examine, and then execute best cleaning protocols and communication for your facility during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In order to effectively sanitize and disinfect the surfaces in your facility, you need to make sure you are using the correct products. EPA’s List N is a list of disinfectants that meet the EPA’s criteria to be effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. To ensure safe and effective use, facilities should make sure to follow label instructions.
In addition to using the EPA’s List N disinfectants, facilities should enact processes to maximize their effectiveness and avoid cross contamination. A color-coded cleaning system uses different colored tools and products, ranging from microfiber cloths to cleaning carts, in order to distinguish between products used to clean areas of varying levels of risk. This, along with a properly trained staff, ensures that low-risk areas and high-risk areas do not cross-contaminate cleaning equipment.
Another way to help maximize the effectiveness of your cleaning protocols is by using microfiber cloths. Microfiber textiles make great cleaning cloths because they capture contaminates on surfaces, use less water and chemicals, and they last longer than regular textile cloths. Microfiber cloths, as well as other equipment like cleaning carts, mop heads, and flat mop heads are available in a set of 4 colors for color coding through contracts with CNECT.
Once you have ensured you are using the correct products, it’s necessary to understand proper cleaning procedures. First, it’s important to differentiate between sanitizing, cleaning, and disinfecting.
Sanitizing is the broader term for reducing the risk of infection by lowering the number of germs or contaminants on a surface, which includes both cleaning and disinfecting.
Cleaning reduces the amount of contaminants on a surface by removing them. Though this does not kill germs, it lowers the quantity of germs and, thereby, the risk of transmission.
Disinfecting, on the other hand, uses products and chemicals to kill germs. This does not remove germs from a surface, it only kills those that are on the surface.
In order to effectively clean your facility to protect from COVID-19, the CDC has provided a hard and soft surface cleaning guideline. The general guide for cleaning follows a 2-step process:
Step 1: CLEAN your surface. Remove the soil load by wiping the surface down with soap or detergent.
Step 2: DISINFECT by using your EPA-registered disinfectant on the surface after having removed the surface load.
This process ensures that you have removed contaminants from the surface as well as killed germs that may have remained on the surface. For all products, it is important to follow the correct cleaning instructions for hard and soft surfaces, as well as instructions on proper use of disinfectants and sanitizer.
Another important step to effectively clean your facility is identifying high-touch-point areas. A high-touch-point or high-risk area is a surface that has frequent contact with the people coming in and out of your facility. Because these areas are touched frequently, they need to be specifically noted for higher frequency of cleaning than other surfaces may require. Here is a list of possible high touch point areas:
- Light switches
- Elevator buttons
- Faucets and sinks
- Device screens
Every facility will have different areas that are touched more frequently, so you will need to conduct a thorough review of your facility to identify these surfaces and put measures in place to routinely clean them.
Having identified and understood all of the above, the most important part is to have protocols in place. To protect the health of those who enter your facility, you need to train your staff on the best cleaning practices. It is important that you use updated information, including the CDC’s guidelines on how to clean and disinfect your facility, to formulate new cleaning protocols. Your updated training should also include how to properly wear PPE, how to properly clean different kinds of surfaces, what products to use (cloths, disinfectants, etc.), and cleaning frequency for high-touch-points and low-touch-points.
With the severity of the pandemic and the elevated concerns of cleanliness in businesses and facilities, it is important that the cleaning processes and attentiveness to health concerns is communicated to those who are entering your facility. During times like these, the public is looking for reassurance in the safety of spaces they are entering. This can be accomplished by training your staff to be aware of the cleaning protocols in place and making sure that those entering the facility are also able to see staff visibly cleaning high-touch-point areas and other surfaces.
Additionally, these procedures can be communicated through signage that indicate when an area was last cleaned. These visuals show the public that not only is your facility mindful of these areas and surfaces, but that there is a system in place to make sure that the space stays clean, and that your focus is on protecting those in your facility.
Lastly, cleaning procedures are made more effective when the people coming in and out of your facility are aware of how they can take part in your safety protocols as well. Keep signage around the facility about following proper health safety protocols, such as signs on how to properly wear a mask and how to wash hands effectively. This will ensure more awareness on how to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, and will keep your facility safer. The CDC has provided a variety of print materials in multiple languages that cover a large number of topics regarding COVID-19 safety.
The pandemic has greatly impacted the way the public interacts in shared spaces and facilities are held accountable to their safety measures and cleaning procedures. It’s important that your organization is reactive to the current situation and that you remain vigilant in protecting your employees and customers. If you are interested in additional COVID-19 resources, please refer to CNECT’s COVID-19 resource page.