How to Clean for Health During the Cold and Flu Season
by Tornado Industries, Inc.
The statistics on germs in the workplace are enough to turn your stomach. For example, did you know the average desk and keyboard each have 400 times more germs than are found on a public toilet seat? This problem is only amplified during the winter months, when millions of people get and spread illnesses.
Nearly 111 million workdays are lost each year because of the common cold, costing companies $7 billion. The problem is even more prevalent in the schools. Cleaning professionals can help curb the impact of winter illnesses by following these infection-control tips.
Building occupants who have the cold, flu, strep-throat, or other contagious disease and are symptomatic can release infectious particles into the air or onto their hands, which are then spread onto every surface they touch.
Handwashing can reduce risk of spreading contagious illnesses by 80 percent.
Keeping restrooms clean, providing quality soap, and hanging signs that encourage proper handwashing technique can encourage the handwashing habit. It’s important to make available a variety of other hygienic products, such as facial tissue and trash bags, that encourage building occupants to actively participate in infection control.
Unfortunately, there will always be people who don’t wash their hands correctly or frequently. As an additional stopgap measure, offer alcohol-based hand sanitizer in high-traffic zones and areas where soap and water aren’t available.
Clean and Disinfect
Viruses can live on surfaces for hours, which is more than enough time for them to spread around a building.
Stopping germs in their tracks is easy with frequent cleaning and disinfecting.
Begin by removing visible soil from surfaces, working from high to low and cleanest to dirtiest, using a quality cleaner. Follow routine cleaning with targeted disinfecting. Choose a disinfectant that has EPA-registered kill-claims against both the cold (rhinovirus) and the flu (influenza) and that is effective on both hard and soft surfaces.
Pay special attention to germ-prone areas in the bathroom, like toilet flushers, stall latches, faucet handles and soap pumps. Other high-touch surfaces that need frequent disinfection include:
- Door knobs and locks
- Light switch plates
- Elevator buttons
- Desks and countertops
Disinfect based on how frequently a surface is touched. Daily may suffice for desks and phones, while elevator buttons and faucet handles may require hourly disinfection. During the flu season, all cleaning and disinfection frequencies should be upped.
Prevent salt buildup and damage to hard-surface floors, especially those near the entrances, clean by mopping frequently with a neutral floor cleaner, or even better, use an automatic scrubber that cleans, scrubs, and dries in one pass. Today there are a wide variety of micro-auto scrubbers that can be used in even the tightest of areas. One of the benefits of automatic scrubbers is that they can help avoid cross-contamination. When dealing with heavy foot traffic, mopping or scrubbing the floor at entrances may need to happen every one to two hours during snowy times.
Infection control is only as effective as the cleaning crews tasked with the practice.
Take the time to train cleaning staff in the proper usage of cleaning and disinfecting products. A distributor can help with this process, or review product labels and safety sheets for manufacturer guidance.
Of particular note is the contact time required for disinfectants. Some of these need to remain wet on the surface for a certain amount of time to properly kill pathogens. These times can vary based on the disinfectant and the virus it’s targeting.
Following these infection-control tips can stop the spread of viruses during the cold-and-flu season, and throughout the year.
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