Everyone is cleaning and disinfecting more often due to Covid-19. But what does that mean? The two terms are not interchangeable. Cleaning removes dirt, grime, and bio-pollutants while disinfecting kills germs, bacteria, and viruses. They are two very different processes requiring two very different protocols.
Spraying or pouring disinfectant on a dirty surface is a waste of time, money, and effort. To get optimal results you must clean before you disinfect.
What is ‘Cleaning’ Defined As?
Cleaning is the removal of visible and invisible soil through mechanical and manual processes. That means sweeping, scrubbing, wiping, and rinsing surfaces. Products like detergents mixed with water create chemical reactions that help break up and lift soils away, but effective cleaning requires both mechanical and/or manual agitation to do the job correctly.
While surfaces may look clean after this process, they may not actually be clean. Take restrooms for example. The cleaning staff may have completed all of the physical acts of cleaning: sweeping, scrubbing, wiping, and rinsing, but the space may still smell bad. That’s because malodorous bacteria embedded in the porous grout was not removed. In fact, the act of mopping deposits dirty mop water into the grout and actually feeds these bacteria, allowing them to multiply even faster – and smell even worse.
Smelly restrooms, kitchens, and locker rooms telegraph that a maintenance protocol is not working, no matter how sparkling clean they may look.
What Does it Mean to Disinfect a Surface?
Disinfectants are completely different from detergents. Think of them as pesticides designed to kill or inactivate microbes. For a disinfectant to be registered with the EPA it must prove that it kills at least 99.99% of a specified bacteria, virus or fungi. Using a disinfectant properly means that a given surface is basically free from these potentially harmful microbes. (A 100% kill rate does not exist, but 99.99% is pretty close.)
However, it’s important to consider that not every disinfect kills every bacteria, virus, or fungus. Also, disinfecting products must remain on a surface, or “dwell,” for a specific amount of time, usually between four to 10 minutes, to work most effectively. Labels will contain detailed instructions – so please read and follow them.
Disinfecting touchpoints, also known as places people commonly come into contact with, was always important. Now it’s even more vital for public health and public confidence as the country slowly re-opens. Focus disinfecting efforts on:
- Light switches
- Remote controls
- Backs of chairs
- Water fountains
- Sink taps
- Toilet flushers
Clean First, Then Disinfect
Stay Safe – Please Wear the Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment and Wash your Hands Often.