Cleaning Versus Disinfecting

Maintaining clean facilities requires daily cleaning and disinfection; however, cleaning personnel often use incorrect techniques and processes when completing these routine tasks. A common misconception exists that cleaning and disinfecting are the same when, in reality, they are two separate and unique processes. Without the right processes, surfaces may appear clean, but infections and germs could linger.

When training cleaning personnel, it can be helpful to note a few key differences between “cleaning” and “disinfecting” surfaces. By definition, cleaning and disinfecting vary. Cleaning removes visible soil, dirt, stains and other debris from surfaces. It is usually performed by simply wiping surfaces using soap and water or a multipurpose cleaner. Disinfecting takes cleaning a step further and destroys viruses, bacteria, germs and other harmful microorganisms. This requires use of a chemical specifically designed to kill bacteria.

1. Identify the surface type — Before beginning to clean or disinfect an area, identify the types of surfaces to clean and disinfect. Touch points include objects that people touch on a regular basis, such as door handles, soap dispensers, locks, display cases, telephones, desk surfaces, etc. These surfaces require daily cleaning attention, if not more, to prevent the spread of germs.

In addition, consider the specific needs of the facility. Different types of surfaces and facilities require different levels of cleaning. For example, in restrooms, sinks, counters, dispensers and handles should be cleaned and disinfected to rid surfaces of bacteria. In convenience and grocery stores, counters, windows and glass displays and surfaces require use of a glass and multi-surface cleaner.

2. Select the right products for the job — When cleaning or disinfecting, the best performing products should be used if productivity is a concern. An ammonia-free glass and multi-surface cleaner with a high cleaning chemical concentration and Green Seal certification works the best for cleaning and has a low odor compared to similar products. For cleaning and disinfecting, a heavy-duty, non-acid washroom product will kill bacteria and reduce odors. If using a two-in-one product, simply spray the chemical twice to work properly – once for cleaning and once for disinfecting.

3. Clean, then disinfect — Keep in mind that the order of tasks impacts the end result. To effectively clean and disinfect, cleaning personnel should first clean the surfaces to remove soil and stains. Once the surface is visibly clean, it can then be disinfected. Allot a sufficient amount of time to allow the disinfectant to dwell. Simply spraying and wiping doesn’t give the chemical the time it needs to effectively rid surfaces of germs. Read the labels and educate cleaning personnel before wiping surfaces, as some products require a dwell time of 10 minutes or longer for effective results.

Properly cleaning and disinfecting results in surfaces that are both visibly clean and free of bacteria. It also helps reduce the spread of dirt and germs throughout the facility, protecting workers and building occupants. Make the extra effort to ensure employees participating in the maintenance program are knowledgeable of the techniques behind cleaning and disinfecting and the result will be will be consistently clean surfaces.

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