Also published on The Clorox Company’s Good Growth Blog, the following post offers cleaning and disinfection best practices and various resources available for healthcare and cleaning professionals to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In the midst of this pandemic, we’re all performing many actions every day to help slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. We wear masks and keep at least six feet from others in public. We wash our hands more frequently and regularly clean and disinfect surfaces in our homes and workplaces.
My work life at Clorox, focused on cleaning and disinfection, has started to collide with my life outside work. I have witnessed what I’ve termed the “Disinfection Enlightenment” as people pay closer attention to the cleanliness of their homes and public spaces. In mainstream media and conversations with friends and family, I hear words like “sanitize,” “disinfect,” “EPA List N,” “dilution” and “contact time” that previously belonged to my work world. This mixing of my work and personal life became abundantly clear when my mom, a school teacher, called and asked, “How many desks can I clean with one disinfecting wipe and still be sure I’m killing the virus that causes COVID-19?”
Sure, most people will say that cleaning and disinfection are easy tasks. However, it takes training and practice to safely and effectively complete both.
When I started at Clorox many years ago, I became enlightened to the importance of using disinfectants properly. I “relearned” many of the basics — from the importance of using the proper dilution and freshly preparing bleach solutions when using Clorox® Germicidal Bleach to disinfect my bathroom to creating a cleaning path starting from the cleanest area of a room to the dirtiest area to prevent “cross-contamination” to the way germs spread from one surface to another.
In fact, my team and I spend a lot of time educating healthcare and cleaning professionals about the three P's of a robust cleaning and disinfection programs in public spaces. The three P's refer to:
- Training people and dedicating resources to the cleaning and disinfection process
- Selecting products to enable effective cleaning and disinfection
- Developing sustainable processes for creating and maintaining safer environments
Our new reality is that many more people are responsible for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces today, which means an increased need for education. The cleaning and disinfection world has its own lexicon and there are many nuances. The difference among cleaning and sanitizing and disinfecting is one example:
- Cleaning removes dust, debris and dirt from a surface by scrubbing, washing and rinsing; it’s an important first step for all surfaces
- Sanitizing reduces the bacteria (but not viruses) identified on the product’s label on surfaces and in laundry
- Disinfecting, when properly performed, destroys or inactivates bacteria and viruses identified on the product’s label (like E. coli or influenza virus) on hard, nonporous surfaces
There are also a lot of questions around how to properly prepare and use surface disinfectants and where we should focus our disinfecting efforts. In fact, a recent CDC report highlighted gaps in knowledge around the safe use of cleaning and disinfection products in household settings. In the survey of 502 U.S. adults, only 42% of respondents strongly agreed that they knew how to clean and disinfect their homes to help prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19.
Because I understand firsthand how much people need additional education on cleaning and disinfection, I’m thrilled to be part of the Clorox team partnering with infection-control experts at the Cleveland Clinic to develop free educational resources to help both consumers and professionals.1
Consumers looking for a comprehensive guide to help them protect themselves, loved ones and communities from further spread of COVID-19 can access Safer at Home: Your Guide to the Coronavirus Pandemic, which includes practical cleaning and disinfection tips for your home.
Employers and professionals looking for resources to help them ensure they’re leveraging best practices for cleaning and disinfecting in their workplaces can check out Six Building Blocks of a Robust Cleaning and Disinfection Program: A Guide for Employers. This guide contains a more in-depth approach for public spaces, including recommendations for organizational support, policies, procedures, product selection, staff training and monitoring.
There are always ways to enlighten ourselves about cleaning and disinfection best practices and do more to help control the spread of pathogens on hard, nonporous surfaces, and these resources are a great place to start.
1. The response to the coronavirus pandemic is continuously evolving as we learn more about the virus and the best techniques to address the associated risks. The Clorox Company has contributed its expertise to these guides in the areas of cleaning and disinfecting. All other guidance was developed through the expertise of Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic’s materials are based on currently available data and guidelines from the CDC and other resources as of July 29, 2020. This guidance may change from time to time and should be used only as a general reference.
As a devoted fan of the TV drama ER, and of course throughout my career as a scientist, I have always been intrigued by hospital Emergency Departments (ED). Each year, there are more than 130 million visits to Emergency Departments across the U.S. and the majority of ED patients spend less than 4 hours in the ED.1 It wasn’t until I visited several emergency departments, both as a patient and an observer, that I started to understand some of the unique infection control challenges that exist in these fast-paced, high risk environments.
- Waiting Areas as Hot Beds for Pathogen Transmission
Two-thirds of ED patients wait up to 1 hour before receiving care.1 Many patients are accompanied by friends and loved ones who may wait even longer in these shared spaces and can also serve as vectors to spread pathogens throughout a facility. Since the ED never closes, regular cleaning and disinfection of ED waiting areas and associated visitor restrooms can be a challenge.
- Unknown Pathogen Risks
Determining the causative agent of an infection is not a quick process so infection control protocols in the ED must be ready for whatever comes through the ED doors — whether it is influenza virus, blood borne pathogens, antimicrobial resistant organisms or even parasites and insects such as scabies and bed bugs. When surveyed, 96% of ED nurses mentioned Clostridium difficile and MRSA as their top pathogens of concern.2 In addition to proper hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfection protocols must also be effective in killing these pathogens on surfaces before they can spread to other parts of the hospital.
- All Hands on Deck Approach to Cleaning and Disinfection in Patient Care Areas
In many EDs, both clinical and environmental services team members are responsible for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and equipment. This means that all team members need to understand their role in the cleaning and disinfection process and receive regular training regarding where, when and which products should be used in ED.
- Quick Room Turnovers Required
If there is a waiting room full of patients, every minute counts to prepare an area for the next patient. In a recent survey, 62% of clinical team members in the ED mentioned that they are only able to wait one minute before an item they disinfected needs to be used again.2 Being able to compliantly disinfectant surfaces under time pressures requires fast-acting one-step cleaner disinfectants with short contact times.
Approximately 50% of all hospital admissions originate in the ED3, so a robust infection control protocol in the ED is a good first line of defense to protect patients and staff throughout the hospital. We recommend reviewing infection control protocols in the ED to ensure you are ready to handle the next emergency and the associated pathogens that come through your facility doors.
1 Rui P, Kang K. National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2015 Emergency Department Summary Tables. [Internet]. [cited 2018 Nov 20]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhamcs/web_tables/2015_ed_web_tables.pdf
2 Clorox Custom Research, Acute Care Departmental Quantitative Analysis of Clinical Staff (n=139), March 2018
3 Gonzalez Morganti, K, et al. The Evolving Role of Emergency Departments in the United States. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2013. [Internet]. [cited 2018 Dec 7]. Available From: https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR280.html