Preparing your workplace for cold and flu season: The importance of cleaning before disinfecting
September 26, 2023
By CLR PRO for the Blue Print
By CLR PRO for the Blue Print
As cold and flu season approaches, maintaining a clean and safe workplace environment becomes paramount. The responsibility of achieving this rests largely on the shoulders of facility managers and their cleaning staff. The instinct to reach for aggressive disinfectants to sanitize every surface multiple times a day may be strong, but is it the safest approach? It’s crucial to understand the distinction between cleaning and disinfecting and the importance of using environmentally safer products in this process.
Cleaning vs. disinfecting: What's the difference?
Simply put, cleaning involves the removal of foreign materials from surfaces using water and a detergent-based product. It’s the crucial first step in the process. Disinfecting, on the other hand, involves using chemicals like alcohol, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or quaternary ammonium to kill germs and viruses. The misconception is that simply spraying a disinfectant on a surface and quickly wiping it off is enough to make it safe. However, these chemicals require time to work effectively, usually between three to ten minutes, to eliminate 99.9% of germs and viruses.
Failing to adhere to these contact times leaves surfaces vulnerable to bacteria and viruses. Additionally, disinfectants are registered pesticides and pose health risks if used incorrectly. They can harm reproductive health, cause respiratory diseases, damage the skin, and are linked to cancer. Overusing disinfectants in workplaces and schools can have serious consequences, making it crucial to use them cautiously.
The importance of cleaning first
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizes the significance of cleaning before disinfecting. Cleaning removes dirt, grease, and organic materials from surfaces. These substances can harbor germs and bacteria, which disinfectants may struggle to reach and eliminate. Spraying disinfectants without prior cleaning can effectively smear the grime, leaving behind germs and bacteria that can multiply.
Using cleaning products with effective surfactants during cleaning can lift dirt and impurities off surfaces, keeping them suspended so they can be easily wiped away. This two-step process has been shown to remove up to 98% of bacteria and 93% of viruses from surfaces. Cleaning should be followed by using a disinfectant to completely eradicate harmful microorganisms. In essence, cleaners don’t kill, and disinfectants don’t clean, which underscores the importance of both steps in maintaining a safe workplace.
Choosing environmentally safe products
When preparing for cold and flu season, it’s also crucial to consider the environmental impact of the cleaning products you use. Not all cleaners are created equal in terms of safety for the environment. The market is flooded with products claiming to be eco-friendly, but finding those that genuinely meet sustainability standards can be a challenge.
Choosing the Safer Choice program ensures rigorous screening for both human and environmental safety, offering peace of mind in selecting cleaning solutions that prioritize both cleanliness and environmental responsibility. And since the EPA is the entity that can enforce fines during company safety audits, it doesn’t hurt to select cleaning products under this program.
A cleaning checklist for the workplace
Now that we’ve covered the importance of cleaning before disinfecting and selecting environmentally safe products, we’ve provided a checklist of five areas in the workplace that should be cleaned before disinfecting:
Maintaining a clean and safe workplace during cold and flu season is a top priority. Understanding the distinction between cleaning and disinfecting, along with using environmentally safe products, can contribute significantly to a healthier and more sustainable workspace.
Content originally from CLR PRO. Reused here with permission.
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