Properly cleaning high-touch areas is always important, but especially important during flu season.
Some of the work you do with your cleaning operation is obvious. The clean carpets, crystal clear windows, shimmering floors, and spotless restrooms show that you take your job seriously and work hard. It’s perhaps even more evident now that so many people are focused on cleaning high-touch areas like light switches and door handles.
There’s a lot more to cleaning high-touch areas than getting rid of fingerprints and smudges, though. Of course, everyone knows that now, even if they didn’t a couple of years ago. With so many hands and fingers in contact with these places, there’s a very real possibility that contaminants like bacteria and viruses will take up residence and travel from person to person.
Again, this probably isn’t a surprise to you. While all facilities use cleaning professionals, (either in-house or commercial cleaners) to make the place look nice, one of the biggest benefits is almost impossible to see. Every time you clean and disinfect a surface properly, you’re keeping people safe from everything from allergens to cold and flu viruses. Over time, however, as we get into routines, it becomes easy to cut corners and get lax about details. Flu season is the perfect time to revisit – and possibly get some new – tips for cleaning and disinfecting.
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A quick review of the flu
The flu is a respiratory illness that infects an estimated 8% of the U.S. population each year. People infected with the virus may have mild or severe symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, fatigue, and in some cases, vomiting and diarrhea. According to the CDC, the flu virus leads to an average of over 20,000 deaths and 419,000 hospitalizations each year.
The most frequent transmission path for the flu virus is through airborne droplets, similar to coronavirus. The CDC states that “healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop.” Although less likely, there is a possibility of flu virus transmission through contaminated surfaces. That means a seemingly healthy person could infect someone else simply through a high-touch surface. The likelihood of any transmission increases in more crowded and closed spaces.
Unfortunately, flu season generally coincides with cold weather, so opening windows and doors isn’t always an option. Two of the best things you can do to remain healthy are washing your hands regularly and wearing a mask. However, that doesn’t help you very much as a commercial cleaner since you can’t require your clients or their customers to do either of those. So what can you do?
Cleaning high-touch areas and keeping your clients healthy
When you’re cleaning high-touch areas, it’s important to remember that, technically, cleaning and disinfecting are two separate processes. Cleaning is wiping down a surface to remove dust, dirt, and germs. Disinfecting actually kills any remaining germs on the surface. Some products may clean and disinfect simultaneously, but unless specified by the manufacturer, don’t mix cleaners and disinfectants. The result could be hazardous.
That said, cleaning high-touch areas can decrease the chances of surface contamination, but assume that you will also need to disinfect these surfaces, as well. Now, about those tips:
- Plan to clean more often. You may already do this, thanks to the coronavirus, but if for some reason you aren’t, or you’ve decreased the frequency, it’s time to ramp it back up.
- Make your list. You most likely already have a checklist that includes high-touch surfaces, but if not, or you’ve added clients, go through and write them down. Light switches, door handles, faucet handles, elevator buttons, microwaves, and similar surfaces are all good additions.
- Select the proper disinfectant. Be sure that your disinfectant is labeled as EPA-approved for killing flu viruses.
- Watch your dwell time. For a disinfectant to work, it needs to remain on a surface for a certain amount of time. That time may be less than a minute, but some disinfectants require up to 10 minutes of contact time to be effective.
- Do not use foggers. The potential for irritation outweighs the limited benefits of fogging.
Keeping your janitorial team safe
In addition to keeping customers safe, there are steps you can take to keep your team healthy, too. Encourage frequent hand washing and wearing a mask at work. Because the flu is more likely to be an airborne contaminant, a mask can help keep the virus out of your mouth and nose.
Encourage flu vaccines, as well. Flu vaccines prevent millions of illnesses every year, and people who do get infected often have less severe symptoms and recover more quickly than unvaccinated people. Plus, getting vaccinated helps protect other people who are more vulnerable or unable to get vaccinated due to health conditions.
The more you can do to limit the spread of germs, the more you can help everyone stay healthy all year long.
Increase the efficiency of your team, reduce your costs, and improve results. With Janitorial Manager, all this and more isn’t just a dream, it’s your new reality. Contact us for a free demo right now and see how it works!