Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Minimizing cross-contamination in restrooms

September 19, 2010
For this month’s article, we polled our readers about cross-contamination.

The most effective products used by a well-trained staff cannot negate the fact that a facility’s restrooms pose a serious risk of cross-contamination.

The restroom environment offers the ideal source for bacteria and contamination to thrive.

Even worse, we now know that even after soil is removed, harm still exists in the air as well as on surfaces, commodes, toilets, floors, walls, dispensers, garbage cans, door handles, etc.

What cleaners cannot see can still cause serious damage to a building’s occupants.

Where to target
Usually, when planning to strategically clean the restroom, effective workers use a top to bottom approach with color-coded, ergonomic tools and follow safety precautions.

In recent years, equipment manufacturers have offered low-touch cleaning options as well as microfiber products for these highly sensitive areas.

Cleaners often target regularly touched surfaces, such as toilets, urinals, countertops, faucets, door knobs, and dispensers.
However, experts say that mirrors, walls, and floors are also critical cross-contamination areas.

Restroom floors, for example, can be a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

Tile and grout, in particular, can present cleaning challenges because of the recessed, porous grout lines.

Restroom floors can be the source of cross-contamination throughout a building since occupants can “pick up” bacteria in the restroom and spread the risk to other areas.

In-house cleaning professionals and building service contractors (BSCs) must develop methods to help keep floors not only clean, but sanitized and hygienic as well.

Reader feedback
As mentioned earlier, restroom hot spots, such as paper dispensers, door handles and urinals, present many dangers to a building’s occupants.

These areas must be continuously maintained, checked and bacteria-free to ensure safety.

However, technology can also help in this quest for safety and well-being.

We asked our readers what innovations they’ve recently incorporated in restroom areas.

Other measures
Twenty-five percent of respondents answered “other” to the above question.

Included in “other” strategies are:
  • Switch to flat mops.

  • We use the wet-task wipes for these areas.

  • Color-coded cleaning.

  • No-touch soap and sanitizer dispensers.

  • Jumbo tissue holders.
Special cleaning steps
Besides using the latest product innovations on the market today, we also asked our audience: What special cleaning steps, if any, does your staff take to minimize cross-contamination?

Here are some of the responses:
  • Separate mop buckets from the rest of the facility, restroom only cleaners.

  • We are using disinfectants differently by spraying them on fixtures before we clean and after we clean.

  • Change cleaning cloths after each restroom cleaning and change flat mop after each restroom cleaning.

  • Hard surface disinfectant wipes on all surfaces, except floors. For floors, we use a quat.

  • Use different color microfiber clothes for different fixtures and keep them separate through the washing and drying process.

  • Wear gloves and observe the cleaning sequence of most clean to more contaminated. Change and wash gloves when changing locations.

  • Training, training, and more training.

  • Thorough cleaning and sanitizing, then follow-up with “critical care” for disinfecting.
To minimize risk, a greater emphasis must be placed on cleaning, worker training, and proper chemical and floor equipment selection.

From the results of this survey, it appears that respondents are on the right track toward minimizing risk to facility occupants.

The restroom is an area where harm is often present, but cleaners can play an important role in controlling and destroying harmful bacteria with innovation tools and strategies.