Aseptic cleaning practices to control the spread of infection and eliminate cross-contamination have long been the cleaning standard in hospitals, where concern about the spread of infection is at its highest level.
However, with pathogenic threats showing up in schools, gyms, and non-residential health care environments, it has become clear that there is a significant need for this type of microbially focused cleaning in all commercial facilities.
Health-based or hygienic cleaning in commercial facilities is a concept that has been receiving a lot of attention in recent months.
In response to this growing need, some progressive commercial cleaning and environmental service contractors are conducting research on specific processes and procedures that contribute to soil and microbe removal and the development of health-based or hygienic cleaning protocols.
In turn, this is putting pressure on the commercial cleaning industry as a whole to increase its level of sophistication, transforming our cleaning technicians into environmental health professionals who can represent the first line of defense against the serious health risks affecting our communities.
Judging a facility’s level of cleanliness simply by aesthetic appearance is no longer the standard.
A true health-based cleaning program provides a comprehensive cleaning system that focuses on cleaning at the unseen microbial level and results can be proven through measurable scientific tools.
To accomplish this, companies are honing in on more advanced cleaning technology, such as color-coded microfiber cleaning cloths and flat mops, hospital-grade disinfectants, no-touch restroom cleaning for complete soil removal, multi-filtration vacuums, and scientific measurement tools, such as ATP (adenosine triphosphate) detection equipment.
Proper disinfectant chemistry and matter removal
The first step to any effective health-based cleaning program must be the prudent use of proper disinfectant chemistry to kill harmful pathogenic organisms that lurk in the unseen world.
While the practice of using disinfectants is nothing new, the cleaning industry is now asking the question: What happens to the remains of those microbial bodies once they have been killed?
With traditional cleaning methods, very few of those dead cells are actually removed and standard cleaning implements utilized by most janitor services simply spread them around, which ultimately results in the buildup of a rich food source for new growths of organisms once the disinfectant effect dissipates.
Advanced tools and equipment focused on soil retention and removal have become as important as just killing existing pathogens.
Microfiber cleaning cloths and mop pads, which are 99 percent more effective at soil and matter retention than traditional cleaning implements, have tiny fibers that make the fabric superabsorbent and allows users to trap and contain those dead microbes.
These types of tools, along with advanced equipment such as the aforementioned no-touch cleaning technology, provide a platform for the removal of both visually apparent soils and unseen microbes.
Color-coding for cross-contamination
Taking health-based, hygienic cleaning a step further, some environmental service contractors have assumed a color-coded cleaning and training protocol for their environmental health professionals.
New soil- and matter-capturing cleaning implements, such as microfiber cloths and flat mops, are color-coded by area and task type to avoid the dissemination of germs from one area to another and helping to minimize and eliminate cross-contamination.
Rather than a few cloths or mops for an entire facility, several different cloths and mop pads are used, specifying colors designated for each area of the environment.
This method of cleaning ensures that soil and matter from one area will be contained in that area and will not be spread to other areas in the office or facility.
Health-based hygienic cleaning program
There are many components to a true and effective health-based cleaning program.
Strict guidelines must be followed to ensure the health and safety of occupants and cleaning workers.
The steps below outline some of the most crucial elements to a health-based hygienic cleaning system:
Strict color-coding methodology in all cleaning implements to avoid cross-contamination.
Microfiber technology in all cleaning cloths and mopping programs to increase soil and matter containment and removal.
Flat mopping technology to increase efficiency, improve soil removal, and further reduce cross-contamination.
Hospital-grade disinfectant chemistry in all cleaning compounds.
Multi-filtration, high-efficiency vacuuming technology, providing air filtering down to .3 microns.
Advanced soil and matter removal technology.
Proof of soil and matter removal through the use of measurable scientific tools.
Health-based hygienic cleaning is not a fad and should not be taken lightly.
Growing pathogenic threats and the continued predictions of pandemic outbreaks by the scientific community demand that we prepare our communities with a defensive cleaning posture to help contain and minimize exposure and infection.
Slowly but surely, we are responding with increasingly sophisticated cleaning programs that are changing the way the commercial cleaning industry is viewed and received worldwide.
As environmental service professionals, we have the opportunity and responsibility to make a real impact on the health and welfare of our communities.
Peter Sheldon is vice president of operations for Coverall Cleaning Concepts. Sheldon played an integral role in developing many of the processes that make the company’s dedicated Healthcare Cleaning System unique to Coverall. In 2007, Sheldon was named a Certified Building Services Executive by the Building Services Contractors International (BSCAI).