Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Get Colorful With Infection Control

February 1, 2011

Over the past few years, infection control has become more of a trending topic than it ever has before, especially when H1N1, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and things of the like lead the headlines.

Germs and bacteria are almost always present, and it is important to be proactive in preventing their spread.

While many illnesses and infections are prevented through proper hand washing, infection control also needs to be addressed in your cleaning.

Wiping products are used in all areas of cleaning and are often crucial in helping to stop the spread of germs.

There are several wiping options known to reduce the spread of infectious germs and bacteria, including pre-saturated disinfecting wipes and color-coded microfiber cloths, mops and rags.

Microfiber Cloths And Mops

Microfiber cloths, a popular option for cleaning, consist of an interlocking blend of two fibers: Polyester and polyamide — a nylon material.

Polyester is an effective scrubbing and cleaning fiber while polyamide is an absorbent, quick-drying fiber.

Combining the two is what makes microfiber such a unique and effective material, as they do not harbor bacteria like their cotton counterparts.

In fact, microfiber is a naturally antibacterial material.

Each microscopic strand of microfiber has been split, creating millions of tiny hooks that attract, absorb and remove all kinds of dirt, dust and bacteria.

Unlike traditional cotton and paper wiping products or cotton mops that tend to push or smear dirt and grime, microfiber actually gets underneath the dirt and germs, scraping them from the surface and trapping them until the cloth or mop is laundered.

Microfiber has become a universally used cloth because of its cleaning capabilities and cost effectiveness.

The price of the cloth is relatively low and many commercial cloths can be washed up to 500 times before any degradation.

A new product recently developed by a leading company is limited use microfiber.

These cloths resemble a traditional paper wiper, but are made with microfiber material and are available in a range of colors to work with your color-coding program.

By applying color to your cleaning program, you are breaking down any language barrier that may exist between you and your staff.

This is extremely important because it eliminates uncertainty, resulting in consistent cleaning from your entire staff.

Microfiber mops also do not foster germs or bacteria and are extremely effective in lifting and trapping dirt.

Microfiber mops are available in a variety of sizes, colors and styles.

The most popular microfiber mop is a wet loop pad, which can be used either dry or wet and fits on an economical Velcro microfiber mop head.

Dry mop pads, which look similar to the wet pads, are also available but can only be used for dry mopping.

Many cleaning services have also switched to fringe-style microfiber dust mops, which resemble traditional dust mops with looped fringes on the side, but are made of microfiber.

Unlike cotton string mops, microfiber mops don''t harbor bacteria, eliminating the odors that form from storing wet mops in a closet.

Disinfecting Wipes

Pre-saturated disinfecting wipes have become a popular option to clean common touch points such as handrails, doorknobs and countertops, as well as areas with a higher risk of cross-contamination like patient bedrails, medical equipment, exam tables and nurseries.

These wipes are effective since the amount of disinfectant in each is consistent, eliminating any inconsistencies that may occur from diluting your own disinfectant.

Pre-saturated wipes are intended to be single-use and discarded after each cleaning.

This is an important feature, as using one wipe for cleaning a particular area or object is an added step to help prevent cross-contamination.

For example, the wipe you use on a toilet seat will never be the same wipe you use on a sink faucet.

There are many pre-saturated wipe choices available on the market, each varying in sheet size, material, chemical and roll count.

All wipes that have "disinfecting" or "kill claims" require registration from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as labels that clearly outline the viruses and/or bacteria they can kill, how to properly use them and on what surfaces they are safe to use.

Since multiple quaternary formulas exist, some wipes are designed to kill more pathogens than others.

Some of the more powerful wipes are formulated to kill various forms of the influenza virus, MRSA, Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella and more.

Wipes that contain benzyl-alcohol, bleach or carbolic acid might not be safe for certain surfaces or electronic equipment, but there are wipes available that do not contain any of these elements, making them safe on all surfaces.

Color-coded Cleaning

The emphasis on infection control has influenced a quickly growing trend in the professional cleaning industry: Color-coding.

From chemicals to cloths, using the same color for separate areas or jobs can help prevent cross contamination.

Typically, a few colors are used to clean different departments in a facility or for specific tasks or jobs.

Although there technically is not a "color standard" in the United States, there are general trends that have emerged, which many have come to observe.

Red is generally used for areas with a higher risk of cross-contamination, yellow for lower risk areas, green for food service areas and blue for general purpose cleaning.

When it comes to setting up your color-coded cleaning program, there are several different cloth, rag and mop options available.

Some of the most popular choices for cleaning programs include microfiber cloths and mops, terry towels and huck towels.

All of these options are made of different materials and are available in various colors, which can further help to distinguish what to use for a specific task.

There are several janitorial and wiping companies that will help you customize a color-coded program to fit your specific needs and applications.

Some companies will even provide you with posters customized for your specific color-coded program.

Whether designing a color-coded program yourself or with your supplier, keep in mind that it should be simple and easy to learn, understand and use.

Every cleaning tool you use plays an important role in infection control, from chemicals and equipment to cloths and mops.

Look for wiper suppliers that are willing to work with you to help you figure out the wiper that is right for your application.


Eric Gaudet is the marketing director at ERC Wiping Products Inc., a leading processor and distributor of wiping rags and towels to the professional cleaning industry in the United States. ERC has also successfully launched a customizable color-coded cleaning program called Colordentify. For more information, visit www.colordentify.com or www.ercwipe.com. Eric can be contacted at egaudet@ercwipe.com.