As we look forward to the re-opening of schools and businesses, it’s important for us to re-examine the model of constant cleaning and disinfecting that most people adopted as the new normal in an effort to protect us from COVID-19.
Over the last year, our understanding of coronavirus and COVID-19 has rapidly evolved. Now as experts learn more about how the coronavirus is spread, the most recent research has raised questions about what the appropriate amount of cleaning is, and if the disinfection protocols we have been using are appropriate to support other COVID-19 prevention measures used in schools.
What we have learned about the transmission of COVID-19
What we have come to understand is that COVID-19 is spread most frequently through aerosolized virus particles rather than through contact-based contamination. According to the CDC, each contact with a contaminated surface has a less than a 1 in 10,000 chance of causing an infection.
The most current research shows that COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person and is almost always transmitted through airborne particles. This means that improving indoor air quality is one of the keys to stopping the spread of COVID-19 and can be done by improving ventilation systems in schools. Improved indoor air quality may be more important than daily, in-depth surface cleaning to keeping schools virus free.
Sanitizing, cleaning, and disinfecting all still play a necessary role in combating the spread of COVID-19. If school administrators are creating optimal and effective plans to help protect children and school staff from the spread of COVID-19, then it’s important to understand the facts about the best cleaning and disinfecting procedures, and the associated health risks.
What is the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing?
- Cleaning is always the first step. Disinfectants and sanitizers do not work on dirty surfaces. Cleaning is the process of removing unwanted substances, such as dirt, dust, debris, or an infectious agent from an object or surface using soap or detergent with water.
- Disinfecting is the process of using chemicals to kill germs or inactivate bacteria and viruses like COVID-19 after a surface or object has been cleaned. Disinfection usually requires the product to remain on the surface for a certain period of time (ex: letting it stand for 3 to 5 minutes).
- Sanitizing is used to reduce the number of germs on a surface. Sanitizing doesn’t necessarily kill or remove all germs. It simply lowers their count and works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces and objects to lower the risk of spreading infection.
Are There Additional Risks with Constant Cleaning and Disinfecting?
There is no doubt that clean schools are important. However, to maintain a healthy school environment, careful attention must be paid to the chemicals being used to ensure they do not have serious negative health effects on children.
With in-person learning resuming, schools have seen an increase in the amount of unapproved cleaning products being used and stored in school classrooms, which have raised many safety concerns.
The Impact Cleaning Chemicals Can Have on Air Quality
One of the top concerns with the increased use of chemical products in schools is their impact on the air quality of the classrooms. Chemical products can worsen indoor air quality, and poor air quality can exacerbate other health issues, such as allergies and asthma. School staff should always use caution when using disinfectants around people with asthma as they can trigger an asthma attack.
Other short-term effects from chemical cleaners are eye irritations, rashes, dizziness, headaches, and allergic reactions. While disinfectants are powerful tools for controlling the spread of disease, they can harm student’s health if used or stored incorrectly.
Outside Cleaning Products – What’s the Harm?
Tight school budgets and concern over how to stay healthy while planning for increased in-person learning have led teachers to supply their own personal protective equipment and cleaning products. While teachers and staff have good intentions, bringing unapproved cleaning products into the classroom adds a tremendous liability for schools and creates a safety hazard for the students.
When it comes to cleaning and disinfecting, it is important that administrators and staff work together to understand policies, safety guidelines, and procedures. Administrators can help staff by providing the necessary EPA approved cleaning products and storage cabinets to ensure that each classroom is being sanitized properly and safely.
What are the Best Cleaners and Applications for School Settings?
Creating procedures for routine deep cleaning and increasing the frequency of disinfecting high-touch areas play an important role in the success of keeping students and teachers healthy and safe. It is important that schools consider their individual needs in order to create the most effective cleaning and disinfecting plan.
According to the CDC, cleaning and disinfecting guidelines include:
- Clean surfaces and objects by using soap (or detergent) and water with focus on high touch areas and objects.
- Use EPA-registered household disinfectants and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Train cleaning staff and teachers on proper use and storage of all cleaning products
- Develop a schedule for increased routine cleaning and disinfection.
- Make a plan with staff and keep an open line of communication.
- The CDC recommends the use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% ethyl alcohol (ethanol) or 70% isopropyl alcohol.
- Continue to encourage hand-washing hygiene and adhere to social distancing and masking guidelines.
Communication is Key
Every school should have a plan in place that is reviewed regularly and that prioritizes the health and safety of students, staff, and custodial personnel while the country continues to work through the pandemic. Clearly defined roles for teachers, administrative staff, custodians, nurses, and buses drivers will provide a cohesive alliance in providing a safe place to learn.
Schools have several options when addressing these concerns, including to go green. Utilizing different types of cleaners and disinfectants that are non-toxic and safe for use around children is an ideal option for those who do not want to decrease the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting.
Another option is to utilize a green antimicrobial surface protectant, like our Antimicrobial Armor, which utilizes PRO-Techs antimicrobial nanotechnology to coat hard and soft surfaces and kill germs, bacteria, and viruses on contact. This surface coating can last up to 90 days, which means less spraying is needed. An added bonus is that PRO-Techs is a green technology – non-toxic, odorless, colorless, non-leaching, and safe for use around children and animals.
Commercial Cleaning Corporation can provide your facility with professional cleaning and disinfecting services tailored to your specific needs, along with 24/7 emergency support. Fill out the form on our Contact Us page for a free consultation to learn more about which options would be a good fit for your needs and to request a free walkthrough today.