Can you sanitize soft surfaces? Especially those soft surfaces in public spaces? Yes, but it won’t always be easy. 

There’s a good chance that customers have asked you if you can disinfect or sanitize soft surfaces. They might not have said it quite like that, but no doubt you’ve been tasked with cleaning sofas and chairs in lobbies, curtains in offices, and other fabric surfaces. 

While that may not be part of your regular janitorial task list, I’d be willing to bet that at least a few customers wanted you to make sure there were no germs on the fabrics. Of course, we know that viruses and bacteria don’t work quite like that. You can’t just ask them nicely to leave.

All jokes aside, in some cases, it’s easy enough to sanitize soft surfaces. Items that can go into the washing machine, such as curtains or pillowcases, can be sanitized. Interestingly, the now-famous EPA List-N Disinfectant List even has a very small handful of products that will disinfect porous surfaces. These are all for use in the laundry, though. What about those other fabric surfaces? 

Keep track of inventory, work orders, and more with Janitorial Manager. Learn more today with a discovery call!

Sanitize Soft Surfaces

Sanitize soft surfaces to make public spaces safe 

Due to the nature of soft surfaces like carpets and fabric furniture, they are a challenge to sanitize and nearly impossible to disinfect. If you recall, cleaning removes dirt and germs from surfaces. Sanitization reduces and can kill and neutralize bacteria, and disinfection kills viruses and any remaining bacteria. 

On hard surfaces, such as stainless steel or glass, the germs don’t have anywhere to hide. Nor does the sanitizer need to get “through” anything in order to reach the germs. But when you try to sanitize soft surfaces, those germs have plenty of hiding spots underneath the fabric fibers. As well, any sanitizer you use has to get through those fibers to make contact with the germs. 

Think of sanitizing hard surfaces like walking down the block in a small Arizona town in the middle of summer. There won’t be very much in the way of you making it to your destination. By contrast, soft surfaces would be like trying to walk through Times Square on New Year’s Eve. There are so many people that you can barely move. That’s what’s happening with bacteria and viruses. There’s just too much in the way and too many places they can move to. 

That’s, obviously, a very simplistic version, but the concept is similar. And since you can’t very well throw couch cushions into the high-temperature laundry, you need another approach. 

Here’s what the CDC has to say about soft surfaces: 

“In most situations, cleaning regularly is enough to prevent the spread of germs.” They suggest using a fabric-appropriate cleaner and vacuum on items that you can’t put in the laundry. Of course, to avoid sucking up those germs and blowing them all over the place, it’s important to use a vacuum equipped with a clean HEPA filter. 

But what do you say to a customer who insists that you sanitize soft surfaces? And what about those times when you really do need to sanitize?

The New York State Department of Health suggests steam cleaning carpet, upholstery, and other fabric surfaces “during and after isolation for Monkeypox.” Monkeypox is highly contagious, and though there’s not a very high probability that you’ll find yourself cleaning up after an infection like that, it’s promising that if steam is good enough to sanitize those germs, it’s probably okay to sanitize in other situations. 

Incidentally, if you are cleaning up after a contagious infection, the NY Department of Health also recommends wearing full PPE. 

However, steam cleaning has some parameters. For example, the Louisiana Department of Health has an information sheet on Cleaning Recommendations for Giardiasis. Among other recommendations, to sanitize soft surfaces like carpets, they suggest using a steam cleaner at 158 degrees Fahrenheit for five minutes or 212 degrees Fahrenheit for one minute.

Again, it’s reasonable to believe that a similar steam cleaning process would be effective on other surfaces and with other germs. 

There’s a caveat to all of this, though. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation points out that “because it is difficult to adequately sanitize carpet, carpet pad and absorbent flooring materials, ADEC recommends that saturated flooring materials be removed and disposed of at a permitted solid waste disposal facility.” In other words, there’s a point of no return with some soft surfaces. 

While there is a lot you can do to clean and maintain fabrics and other soft surfaces, such as couches, carpets, curtains, and such, sanitizing these surfaces is on a case-by-case basis. 

Harness the value of Janitorial Manager to streamline your cleaning operation like never before. Learn more today with a discovery call and find out how to make your cleaning operation more efficient and cost effective!