As a Facility Manager, Cleaning Manager, or Business Owner, you’ve probably asked yourself this question before. Knowing whether to clean a surface or disinfect it is the key to helping to prevent sickness.
Using a cleaning product to wipe away blood or sweat from a surface may not seem like a big deal. But simple choices like that could leave your facility, and your customers, vulnerable to a range of pathogens that cause MRSA, Staph, hepatitis, and other infections.
It’s important to know when disinfecting is required to keep equipment, surfaces, and people safe.
WHAT DOES “DISINFECT” MEAN?
Disinfect means to remove microorganisms from surfaces or equipment using an EPA-registered disinfectant such as a disinfecting wipe or a liquid cleaner.
Disinfectants are proven to kill certain types of germs and viruses that cause illness. To disinfect effectively, you must allow the product to sit on the surface for the recommended dwell time listed on the product label.
WHEN TO DISINFECT
Disinfecting is required in some situations to keep germs from spreading. Here are 6 scenarios when cleaning or sanitizing isn’t good enough.
1. BLOOD CONTAMINATES A SURFACE
- Someone cuts their finger while cutting vegetables and blood gets onto the knife, cutting board, counter, and/or floor.
- A person with a nosebleed drips blood onto their keyboard.
- An employee making copies gets a deep papercut and then drops blood onto the shared printer’s touch screen.
Anytime blood comes into direct contact with a surface, that surface needs to be disinfected immediately. Blood-borne pathogens are infectious germs that live in the human bloodstream and can cause infection.
Diseases that spread via blood include malaria, syphilis, and brucellosis, Hepatitis B (HBV), Hepatitis C (HCV), and the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
2. SWEAT IS LEFT ON A SURFACE OR EQUIPMENT
It happens at gyms across the world every day. A member uses a piece of equipment and leaves their sticky, stinky sweat all over the machine without wiping it when they’re done. Aside from being bad manners, this is a dangerous practice.
Sweat is known for spreading skin and fungal infections including MRSA, pityriasis rosea, and ringworm. Failing to disinfect surfaces in your gym or fitness center puts dozens of people at risk for contracting these unpleasant gym infections.
But it’s also difficult to know what cleaning products to use to disinfect your expensive gym equipment. Read this article to learn what you should and should not use to clean and disinfect machines, benches, weights, and more.
3. VOMIT TOUCHES A SURFACE
Vomit is categorized as a biohazard material and is best known for spreading norovirus. It’s even more dangerous if blood is found in it, which can cause infections such as HIV, Hepatitis B, or Hepatitis C.
Whenever vomit is comes into contact with a surface, you’ll need a cleaning crew over ASAP to thoroughly disinfect the area. Make sure they deodorize the space as well because the stench of vomit tends to linger long after the incident happens.
4. A KNOWN PATHOGEN IS TRANSFERRED TO A SURFACE
- Let’s say a person diagnosed with Clostridium difficile visits a clinic for treatment. During their visit, they touch several surfaces and sneeze a few times.
- Or someone with strep throat goes grocery shopping for essential items. While they’re in the store, they touch uncovered produce without sanitizing their hands.
These are perfect scenarios of how pathogens get transferred from sick people to surrounding surfaces. The scary truth is that most people don’t say home when they are sick.
This means that every time they are outside of their home, they have the potential to infect other people with their germs.
Since there’s no way you can prevent sick people from entering your facility entirely, you’ll need to make sure your cleaning schedule includes regular sanitizing and disinfecting.
5. RAW FOOD TOUCHES A SURFACE
It’s typical for raw food to come into contact with many surfaces before it’s cooked.
- A chef cooking chicken breasts sit the raw chicken on a counter to prepare for cooking. After removing the chicken from the surface, they then cut celery on the same counter without disinfecting it.
This is a common way food poisoning happens. When preparing raw food, especially meat, it’s standard practice to disinfect materials after use.
Even if you don’t prepare food in your facility, there’s still a threat of foodborne illness. Think communal eating areas, counters, and even refrigerators and microwaves.
If people eat or prepare meals anywhere in your business, you’ll need to make sure those spaces are disinfected religiously.
6. URINE OR FECES TOUCHES A SURFACE
Shockingly, fecal matter and urine are among the top ways bacteria and viruses spread. If you think that these elements are only limited to your restrooms, think again. It’s been reported that 4 out of 5 people don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom.
Because of this, it’s no surprise that 20% of office coffee mugs contain fecal matter. Since urine and feces are bodily fluids, they have the potential to spread contagions as well as particles. Norovirus is a common infection that can spread via fecal matter, in addition to E. coli.
Fecal matter or urine can get on your surfaces in a number of ways:
– A parent accidentally smears some poop while changing their baby’s diaper on a table.
– A child has an “oopsies” while visiting your facility and couldn’t make it to the bathroom in time.
– A person uses the restroom and doesn’t wash their hands afterward. They then proceed to touch several surfaces including the door handle and a light switch.
Though you may not be fully aware that fecal matter has contaminated a surface in your business, this is why it’s important to ABD – Always Be Disinfecting.
TO DISINFECT IS TO PROTECT
When in doubt, always choose to disinfect. It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to killing germs. There’s no such thing as a surface being “too safe”.
A general rule of thumb is to always disinfect the following: food surfaces, restroom surfaces, surfaces that come into contact with bodily fluids, and high-touch surfaces.
Knowing when to disinfect is only part of the battle though. Understanding what products to clean with can drastically help improve your disinfecting efforts.
Check out this guide to get started picking out the right disinfecting wipes to keep your facility safe. Also, read this article to learn the difference between a disinfectant cleaner vs. a general cleaner.