What to Look for in a Green Disinfectant
In my previous blog, I debunked some myths about green cleaning and disinfecting. Now that we know it is possible to make a green disinfectant that is safe, sustainable, and effective, I wanted to provide the key features to look for in a green disinfectant and introduce a few third-party product certifications that confirm that your product has all these key features.
Key Features of Greener Disinfecting Products
When choosing a more approachable disinfectant, look for features impacting both the environmental impact of the product, in addition to features that demonstrate improved safety to the end-users and building occupants:
- Active ingredients that can be produced sustainably. Several ingredients deemed safer to the end user, such as citric acid, lactic acid, hypochlorous acid, and ethanol can be produced more sustainably than many traditional actives.
- Disinfectant formulation that uses ingredients safer for the environment and the end user. Avoid ingredients that produce volatile organic compounds and do not contain ozone-depleting compounds.
- Manufacturing process that minimizes environmental impact. For example, a manufacturer who powers their plants with renewable energy, reuses water from cooling machinery, and reduces and repurposes wooden pallets used in shipping is helping to minimize their environmental impact.
- Container or packaging made of recyclable material or minimizes plastics. For plastics, packaging that uses post-consumer recycled materials is preferred.
- Ingredients and packaging that do not accumulate in the environment. At the end of the product’s life, anything that ends up in the water should be rapidly biodegradable and not have any aquatic toxicity.
Third-party certifications can help identify products with some, or all, of these safety and environmental features
Finding information about manufacturing processes, or recycled content of packaging can be challenging on your own. A reliable third-party certification does the leg work for you and is your guarantee that a product has some, if not all, of these key features.
But, like the key features in a product, finding a credible third-party certification can be challenging, and some “certifications” may be false, or awarded to a manufacturer by the manufacturer and are little more than a marketing ploy. When looking at third-party certified products, look for a certification that appears unbiased and publishes the criteria for achieving certification.
See the table below to learn more about several of the most common, credible, third-party certifications. Safer Choice is an EPA-run program that covers the certifications Safer Choice and Design for the Environment. Safer Choice and GreenSeal only certify cleaning products (not disinfectants) and Design for the Environment (DfE) and EcoLogo only certify disinfectants. All of these, however, include requirements for safety and product efficacy, have ingredient limitations, include requirements to minimize aquatic toxicity, and require packaging recyclability and other environmental benefits.
|Certification||Products It Certifies||Additional Information|
|EPA Safer Choice1||Cleaning Products|
|SaferChoice is an EPA-run program whose goal is to certify products that perform as well as traditional cleaners and that are safer for human health and the environment.|
|EPA Design for the Environment (DfE)2||EPA-registered disinfectants|
• Ready-to-Use (liquids and wipes)
|All DfE products must meet the Safer Choice criteria and can only use approved active ingredients (citric acid, lactic acid, hypochlorous acid, hydrogen peroxide, peroxyacetic acid, ethanol, isopropanol, sodium bisulfate, chitosan).|
|Green Seal3||Cleaning Products|
|Green Seal is a global nonprofit. They certify many products, including cleaning products that meet specific safety and environmental criteria.|
|UL EcoLogo4-5||Cleaning Products and Disinfecting Products|
• Concentrates (or RTU if concentrate form is available)
|EcoLogo is a UL-run certification program. They have criteria to certify cleaners and disinfectant products based on a lifecycle assessment of the product’s environmental impact.|
Our final blog in this series will cover considerations for when and where to use safer and sustainable disinfectants in your facility.
1. Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). Safer Choice Standard and Criteria. EPA. Retrieved May 13, 2022, from https://www.epa.gov/saferchoice/standard
2. Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). Safer Choice - Related Programs. EPA. Retrieved May 13, 2022, from https://www.epa.gov/saferchoice/safer-choice-related-programs
3. GS-37 cleaning products for industrial and institutional use. Green Seal. (2022, January 29). Retrieved May 13, 2022, from https://greenseal.org/standards/gs-37-cleaning-products-for-industrial-and-institutional-use/
4. UL standards sales site. UL Environment Standard | UL Environment 2759. (n.d.). Retrieved May 13, 2022, from https://www.shopulstandards.com/ProductDetail.aspx?UniqueKey=23384
5. UL standards sales site. UL Environment Standard | UL Environment 2794. (n.d.). Retrieved May 13, 2022, from https://www.shopulstandards.com/ProductDetail.aspx?UniqueKey=24136
A new employee just joined our team. Multiple team meetings were scheduled so we could get to know her. She was given a new computer and a smartphone, both preloaded with useful software and tools to help her do her job. She was also provided with a three-page onboarding plan, that included multiple training courses, to help her get up to speed quickly.
Why did we do all this?
We did it because we know that these things are important for engagement, and if she is engaged, she will want to stay with our company for a while.1 With the “great resignation” among us, our effort is more critically important than ever as turnover costs money and reduces efficiency. In this blog I will use our new team members experience to highlight three simple ways that cleaning managers can help increase employee engagement and reduce the cost of turnover in their organizations.
Get to know and use their superpowers
“What is your superpower?” is one of the most common questions asked of our new employees. Superpowers go beyond skills that have been or can be learned, like using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, or knowing the steps to take to safely cleanup blood from a surface. Instead, they are the things that someone is inherently good at doing and that they can do with minimal effort.2 Some examples of superpowers are staying calm in stressful situations, being sensitive to what others are thinking and feeling, and collaborating well with others even when they have different views. The importance of recognizing superpowers is that they help employees feel seen and valued. This can help make them want to stay with an organization, but there is even more power in them than that. Superpowers can also help organizations operate more productively and efficiently. For example, if there is someone on the team who is good at and enjoys organizing events, they may be willing to be put in charge of team building activities. This is a win-win situation for a manager, who can then focus on other tasks. Invest time in learning as much as you can about your employees and watch engagement grow and turnover disappear.
Supply them with the best tools, equipment, and products
Everyone likes to use the best stuff. When it comes to tools, equipment, and products, there is a range in quality. To help front line cleaners do their jobs more efficiently, effectively, and safely, supply them the best you can afford (while setting the expectation that they need to be well cared for, so they last a long time). For example, here are a few options to consider:
- Microfiber cloths provide superior soil collection and removal over regular cotton cloths, and lead to noticeably cleaner environments.3
- Ready-to-use products cut out product preparation time and reduce the chance that a prepared product will be overdiluted (efficacy concerns), under diluted (toxicity concerns), or in a mislabeled secondary container (OSHA compliance concerns).
- Electrostatic sprayers provide a faster and more ergonomic solution to traditional manual trigger sprayers.4
- Specialty products that focus on specific needs can help get jobs done faster and with less effort.
- “Robots”, like automatic floor cleaners, can save considerable time, labor, and even reduce the risk of injury.
An operation that chooses the best products, tools, and equipment over one that does not will win an employee’s heart every time, which will lead to better engagement and less turnover.
Provide high-quality education & training
As in any field, front-line cleaners also need education and training to do their jobs efficiently, effectively, and safely. Education and training should include making sure that employees understand why their job is important, what policies and procedures they need to follow, and how to use tools, equipment, and products. Ongoing education and training also have the benefit of informally communicating that change is normal and should expected. There are many options for education and training for front-line cleaning staff and just like tools and equipment, they range in quality. To help you find or create the most efficient, effective, and valuable education and training programs, check out these blogs I wrote on Instructional Design, The ABC of Credentialing, and The Cs of Credibility. When education and training are provided, employees will better understand the value of the work they do, be better at doing their jobs, and be more open to change. These incredible outcomes are all common in engaged employees and will help them stay with your organization.5
We are in a challenging time right now with staffing shortages and increased customer demands for clean and safe indoor environments. Taking a lead from our organization, recognize your employees as individuals and use their superpowers to help the team, provide them with the best tools, equipment, and products so they can do their jobs efficiently, effectively, safely, and even enjoy using the latest and greatest technology. Finally, invest in their education and training so they understand why their jobs are important, become competent in their roles, and expect change. These are three simple ways to increase engagement and reduce turnover, so you get back to the most important task at hand: creating healthier and safer shared spaces for people to work, learn, live, and thrive.
- Sorenson S. How Employee Engagement Drives Growth. [Internet] Gallup Workplace. [cited 2022 June 13] Available from: https://www.gallup.com/workplace/236927/employee-engagement-drives-growth.aspx
- Henley D. Discover your superpower at work. Forbes [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2022 June 10]; Available from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/dedehenley/2021/03/07/discover-your-superpower-at-work/?sh=51acea2b7213
- Mollenkamp B. The right tool for the job. Cleanlink [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2022 June 10]; Available from: https://www.cleanlink.com/hs/article/Differences-Between-Microfiber-And-Cotton--20239
- Cadnum JL, Jencson AL, Livingston SH, Li D, Redmond SN, Pearlmutter B, et al. Evaluation of an Electrostatic Spray Disinfectant Technology for Rapid Decontamination of Portable Equipment and Large Open Areas in the Era of SARS-CoV-2. Am J Infect Control [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2022 June 10]; Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajic.2020.06.002
- Bersin J. New Research Shows “Heavy Learners” More Confident, Successful, and Happy at Work [Internet]. LinkedIn. 2018 [cited 2022 June 10]. Available from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/want-happy-work-spend-time-learning-josh-bersin/
Demand for Green Cleaners and Disinfectants Is Increasing
Following an exponential increase in the use of disposable materials and cleaning and disinfecting products during the COVID-19 pandemic, many look to the next few years with sustainability in mind. A survey found that during the pandemic, 85% of people were thinking about sustainability either the same or more than before the pandemic.1
While it may appear that this is new, the push from consumers for sustainable and safer options has been increasing steadily over the past few decades.
In this first blog in a three-part series of articles on safer and sustainable disinfectants, I want to start by dispelling some myths about greener disinfecting for everyone from facility managers to product users.
Myth #1: “Green” Disinfecting Products Don’t Work as Well as Traditional Counterparts
Despite the widespread notion that it is impossible to make a green disinfectant, in the 1990s the EPA established a certification for cleaners and disinfectants deemed safer for human health and the environment while still proving efficacy against microorganisms using the same test methods as traditional products. Today, there are more than 2,000 products certified under the Safer Choice and Design for the Environment labels.
One key difference between traditional disinfectants and safer and sustainable options lies in the type of active ingredients that they use. There are specific allowable active ingredients for greener disinfecting products based on their lifecycle impacts on the environment and safety for the end user. Generally, safer and sustainable active ingredients for disinfectants should fall under the lower EPA toxicity classes and have minimal impact on the environment in the waste stream. See the chart below for examples of safer and more sustainable active ingredients and the types of pathogens they may be able to kill. As with any disinfectant, always check the master label for approved kill claims and remember that the entire formulation makes the product.
Myth #2: “Green” Products Are Not Actually Better for the Environment
This myth has a storied past. At one time, product manufacturers and marketers made broad claims about their product’s environmental benefits or sustainability that, unfortunately, were without merit and were misunderstood by customers about the benefits.2 This led to the widely held impression that green products don’t live up to the hype. This has been especially true for products marketed as green cleaners and disinfectants, where claims about biodegradability or safety are accompanied by products that do not work as well as their traditional counterparts.
This marketing practice was labeled “Greenwashing” and became such a big problem that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) developed the Green Guides3 — a guide for marketers about how to make substantiated claims about environmental benefit and safety that would not mislead the consumer. Since the first release of the Green Guides more than 20 years ago, the FTC has also introduced significant enforcement actions against companies making unsubstantiated claims of environmental or safety benefit, and they have brought over 100 of these enforcement actions against companies for making false claims.
Today, products must provide context and information to demonstrate the benefits they claim. For example, a company claiming that a product has low or no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) should have testing to prove this and should provide context for how the consumer can obtain the safety benefit and reduced health risks of lower VOCs. As another example, a product with claims to be biodegradable must show that it is biodegradable under the circumstances that it is normally disposed: a disinfectant wipe that is biodegradable in a soil-burial test but ends up in a landfill or an incinerator based on normal consumer usage, is not actually biodegradable.
Myth #3: “Green” Products Are Not Actually Safer for the End User
All disinfectants registered by the EPA are safe to use as directed. Every product registered with the EPA is required to submit safety information and required personal protective equipment recommendations to ensure the safety of the end user with the product.
A greener cleaner or disinfectant is expected to fall under the lower end of risk to end users under EPA criteria (toxicity ratings of either III or IV), and for products sold as concentrates, there are additional expectations that the product is packaged in a way to minimize accidental contact with the end user. While not always true, safer and sustainable disinfectants may often be food contact safe, may be safe to use without any personal protective equipment, and are considered safer to use around children, pets, and plants.
Next in the Series – Third-Party Certifications of Green Cleaners and Disinfectants
In my next blog, I will talk about the key third party certifications — EPA Safer Choice, EPA Design for the Environment, GreenSeal, and Ecologo — for safer and sustainable cleaners and disinfectants. A third-party certification is a quick way to know exactly which environmental and safety benefits a product has.
1. Cumbers, J. (2021, April 20). Despite coronavirus, 85% of Americans are thinking about sustainability as much as or more than ever. Forbes. Retrieved May 2, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/johncumbers/2020/07/29/despite-coronavirus-new-survey-shows-56-of-americans-are-thinking-about-sustainability-more-than-ever/?sh=6e5103704076
2. Green guides. Federal Trade Commission. (July 2021) Retrieved May 4, 2022, from https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/topics/truth-advertising/green-guides
3. Federal Trade Commission Guide for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims. (n.d.). Retrieved May 2, 2022, from https://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/federal_register_notices/guides-use-environmental-marketing-claims-green-guides/greenguidesfrn.pdf
When managing a daily cleaning operation, time is very valuable. Regardless of size, number of buildings or overall cleanable square footage, every cleaning operation has a finite amount of time to get things done. Historically, it has been an uphill battle to ensure building occupants understand this concept. In the pandemic "before times," it was not uncommon for the daily cleaning function to be somewhat invisible and often, grossly misunderstood. Times have definitely changed — schools, universities and now, office buildings are opening back up and there’s renewed vigor and enthusiasm for keeping public spaces healthier and cleaner. The curiosity and interest in how buildings are cleaned daily, and more importantly how to keep them that way, are refreshing topics of conversations that I used to only have with leadership teams and custodial professionals. These conversations are a positive step forward.
With renewed interest comes renewed responsibility to manage cleaning crews with safety and efficiency in mind and to make sure that occupants are safe. It’s only natural that occupants want to help keep their spaces clean. Many times, in an attempt to be helpful, occupants may bring products from home; concoct their own solutions using what’s available in the building; or even go as far as to borrow things from custodial closets that may or may not be harmful to themselves and others. It’s for this reason that I strongly recommend providing disinfecting wipes for building occupants and teaching them about using products effectively and safely in classrooms and workspaces.
In my mind, there are several great benefits to providing disinfecting wipes for building occupants:
- First and foremost, it’s all about efficiency. Most cleaning departments outside of healthcare settings are budgeted to clean in a way that mitigates risk. The assumption of a sterile environment is a heavy, unrealistic expectation for cleaning departments. That being said, you can expect a healthy level of clean from daily cleaning. However, if there is concern over touch points in shared work areas, classrooms in between classes, or even after use of break rooms and break spaces, disinfecting wipes are an efficient and sensible solution.
- Secondly, safety is key! When occupants bring cleaning products from home, they put the entire building at risk from an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standpoint. Federal law requires that all potentially hazardous materials, including cleaning products, are documented in the building’s hazardous material inventory and SDSs are on hand, and accessible in the event of an emergency or mishap with product. This is why it’s better for the cleaning department to provide products building occupants can use. Disinfecting wipes are a familiar form that does not require dilution or complicated procedures, making it an easy grab-and-go solution for occupants that you can feel comfortable providing to them.
- Third, disinfecting wipes remove and kill pathogenic microorganisms. While COVID-19 is mainly spread through the air, many other harmful pathogens are not and these can survive on surfaces for extended periods of time. In addition to COVID-19, wipes can be an effective solution against bacteria like Streptococcus and Staphylococcus, viruses like norovirus and influenza, and a wide variety of other commonly spread pathogens that can cause illness.
- Finally — wipes are simple to teach building occupants how to use. While it may be impractical to equip cleaning crews with wipes as their go-to disinfecting tool, wipes may be a perfect solution for occupants. They are easy to teach, they are simple to use and if effectively placed in visible locations throughout facilities, they are easy to spot.
If you’re looking for a simple solution for occupants who want to help by disinfecting their areas, disinfecting wipes are a low cost, low risk solution.
In a recent CloroxPro webinar, “Environmental Infection Control – A Peek into the Future?,” our team explored how new and emerging technologies may impact and evolve the future practice of environmental disinfection. As we think about this future, it’s impossible to ignore how technology that enables connectivity is changing the way we do most things — how we shop, how we socialize, and most recently the way we work. The COVID-19 pandemic proved that remote connectivity can ensure improved health and safety during times of public health crisis. This technology of connectivity is referred to as the “Internet of Things” (IoT), and it may possibly change the future way critical pain points are solved in environmental cleaning and disinfection.
What is IoT? IIoT?
The Internet of Things is defined as the networking capability that allows information to be sent and received from objects and devices (such as fixtures and kitchen appliances) using the internet.1 When many connected things can in turn connect to each other without human interaction, that is defined as the Industrial Internet of things, or “IIoT.”2 IIoT unlocks the ability to shift from manual labor to digital process, which can drive new efficiencies and create new roles for humans (operator vs laborer) and machines (autonomous robots, artificial intelligence).
Why does this matter? COVID accelerated IoT adoption. We are now in a connected world, and it’s not going back to analog. COVID’s increase in IoT adoption resulted in exponential growth across most industries, pushing down technology and sensor costs which were previously a barrier to entry. This equated to humans and businesses experiencing the value of connectivity and how it could improve their ways of working and business outcomes.
How can IoT solve for pain points and drive better outcomes in environmental cleaning and disinfection?
- Inconsistent practice. Environmental and asset tracking sensors can measure basic data (occupancy, air quality) to proxy when and where maintenance is needed vs a schedule-based workflow. Given the labor shortages in the current world, this it’s a huge asset to flex your human power to focus on where effort is needed most such as manual cleaning & disinfection.
- Human Behavior. We already see and know the benefit of electronic hand hygiene monitoring platforms that measurably reduce HAIs and drive compliance. But what about sensors on mobile equipment that detects whether a surface has been cleaned or disinfected?
- Staff Shortages. Sensors that automate medical storage temperature checks saved the UK national health service 10k hours of nurse time.3
- Time Shortages. Tracking expensive or critical medical equipment or inventory that gets "lost" can be a huge pain point that costs operational, staff and patient time. By using RFID tagging to quickly locate and optimize workflow, technology can drive new efficiencies that help reallocate staff time to more important tasks.
Key Takeaway: Overall, technology can elevate employee experiences and drive cost efficiencies by reducing the labor needed to monitor and track compliance. The result of which could:
- Reallocate human staff to devote more time to patient care and infection prevention and control activities.
- Increase budgets by savings tied to reducing HAIs
- Build public reputation and patient and employee safety ratings
Environmental infection control can benefit from connected technology, and it will likely define the future process and protocols.
1. Dictionary by Merriam-Webster. Internet of Things [Internet]. Available from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/InternetofThings
2. PTC Inc. What is IIoT? [Internet]. Available from: https://www.ptc.com/en/technologies/IIoT
3. Disruptive Technologies. Infogrid Helped NHS Save 10,000 Hours of Nurse Time in a Year – Open Access IoT For All Healthcare [Internet]. [cited 2021 Aug 30]. Available from: https://www.iotforall.com/infogrid-helped-nhs-save-10000-hours-of-nurse-time-in-a-year
Want to make sure the program you are investing in is credible? I am sure you do, but with the sheer number of online education and training programs available today, how do you do that? Understanding what makes a program credible is essential to ensuring a return on your investment, and in today’s competitive and resource constrained climate, it is even more important than ever!1
Credible, by definition, means “offering reasonable grounds for being believed.”2 For education and training programs, you can look at these three C's: Content, Confirmation and Credentials.
In this blog, I will cover these three aspects of an education and training program that can help with assessing its credibility. If you are interested in learning more about finding the right education and training program, check out my previous two blogs: The ABC's of Credentialing and the Why Instructional Design Matters.
The first question to ask is who developed the content and whether the person has the experience and expertise needed to teach the topic to someone in your position. Experience and expertise can be evaluated in a few different ways, but fortunately we are lucky today to have a great online resources, like LinkedIn, to help.
In addition, while content created by a single qualified individual can be appropriate, understanding if there were multiple experts involved in developing the course helps ensure that learning represents a broad point of view and not just the perspective one expert. A general rule of thumb is that the more qualified experts involved, and the more collaborative an effort, the more credible the program.
The next aspect to assess is whether the final evaluation (also called assessment, exam, test, or quiz) at the end of the program confirms that learning has occurred. While this may seem like somewhat of a “no brainer” (all tests and quizzes assess learning right?), not all evaluations are created equal.
How does one assess the assessment? You can start by finding out what the learning objectives are for the course and how many questions are on the final evaluation. There should be at least one, but in most cases more, questions for each learning objective. This explains why some of the tests you took in school were so long! Schools need to confirm that students learn the curriculum and there is no way to do it with short tests. The same holds true in adult education. The bottom line here is that if you are considering taking a three hour course, you should expect to learn a lot from it. And to confirm that you did, you should, at the very least, expect there to be a robust exam.
Lastly, consider these questions:
- How can you tell if someone’s credential is valid
- What are the measures taken to protect the validity of the credential earned?
This is another aspect of education and training that is built in to high quality programs, like those that are accredited. While it may take a lot of work to obtain a credential, in reality, anyone can say they have earned a credential or even provide “proof” of it by copying and altering another person’s certificate. The more credible programs will offer ways to make sure that the value of a credential is protected. This includes a verifiable link on the certificate in the form of a QR code and/or by providing a digital badge instead of just a static logo. Digital badges provide metadata that can verify that the credential is valid. These verification steps allow for stakeholders to confirm who a credential belongs to and if it is current. This can be helpful in a number of situations, including when an employer is evaluating a new potential employee.
This concludes my three part series on finding the right education and training program. With labor shortages, buildings reopening, and an increasing demand for cleaning for health, training and education of staff is more important than ever.3 Are you ready to take action and a find a program that is right for you? If yes, here is a summary list of the questions to ask. Happy learning!
- Is it a certificate or certification?
- Is it third party accredited?
- Was the course instructionally designed?
- Who developed the content?
- Is the exam robust enough to confirm that learning occurred?
- What is the credential and is it protected?
1. Federal Trade Commission. Choosing a vocational school or certificate program [Internet]. FTC Consumer Advice. [cited 2022 March 15]. Available from: https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/choosing-vocational-school-or-certificate-program
2. Merriam-Webster. Definition of Credible [Internet]. Merriam-Webster. [cited 2022 March 15]. Available from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/credible
3. Amy W. Richardson. 2022 CMM In-House/Facility Management Benchmarking Survey Report [Internet]. CMM Online. [cited 2022 March 20]. Available from: https://www.cmmonline.com/articles/fmsurvey2022?_ga=2.193544229.920623462.1648472434-1882373344.1633539137
With the arrival of spring, I can’t help but think about the freshness, clean and rejuvenation this season seems to bring. This time of year, the cleansing rains always serve as a reminder for me to begin my spring cleaning and start crossing items off my to-do list. Like me, many households and businesses may soon participate in the annual tidying up tradition of spring cleaning. As we begin National Cleaning Week, I thought it fitting to reflect on the past, present, and future of cleaning.
Evolution of Cleaning: From Mummies to Modern Day
It’s hard to imagine living at a time without running water; a time when streets were strewn with garbage, human feces, rodents roamed freely, and people lived in constant fear of catching one of many deadly diseases like smallpox, cholera and yellow fever. That life would be no picnic. Throughout history, the civilizations that thrived have something in common: progress in the realm of cleaning and sanitation. The inhabitants of ancient Egypt made and used crude soap for cleaning. The Romans built bathhouses and had systems to bring in fresh water and remove waste. During the industrial revolution, handwashing was found to lead to better health outcomes as well as the use of antiseptics.1 These and many other advancements have allowed sanitation and cleaning to evolve into what we know today. For us, safe and clean water is available thanks to chlorination and water treatment. We have also gained greater knowledge of infection prevention and the science behind sanitization and disinfection. Through continued innovation cleaning products have even become much safer and effective. While there are still challenges, we are fortunate for those who came before us and paved the way for cleaning so that we can enjoy healthier spaces in our modern day.
Cleaning for Health: The Focus of Today
As germs, including those new and emerging, circulate within our communities, cleaning and disinfection remain a critical line of defense to stop the spread. To protect our health, a high standard of cleanliness must be maintained in the environments where we learn, work and play.
A result of the pandemic is the cleaning industry moving to a “cleaning for health” mentality. Cleaning for health is more than just a catch phrase or simply wiping a surface, instead it describes using both cleaning and disinfecting products and best practices to help reduce the spread of germs and other unwanted matter. The ultimate goal in this is to make shared spaces safer for all people. Smart Disinfection encourages cleaning for health and describes how to do this in a more effective, efficient and safe way.
The Face of Clean: Our Future Heroes
Cleaning is something that is done by many people; however, it takes more than just a spray bottle and cloth to be called a cleaner. Professional cleaners, in my opinion, are often unsung heroes in public health work. These trained professionals labor tirelessly and often over evenings, weekends and holidays to ensure the spaces we occupy meet high cleanliness and safety standards. The pandemic reemphasized the importance of cleaning and it’s no surprise that an already massive commercial cleaning industry will continue to grow into the future. In the United States, there were over 1 million janitorial services businesses in 20212 and nearly 2 million cleaning professionals as of May 2020, excluding residential maids and housekeepers.3
The future of cleaning, I hope, will see a greater investment in the training and career growth of these cleaning professionals. The cleaning industry, like the rest of the nation, has not been immune to the current staffing crisis. As businesses experience high levels of turnover, there is a need for quality training to be provided to staff. HealthyClean is a course designed with commercial cleaning professionals in mind and provides the education and training they deserve to help ensure shared spaces are clean and safe.
As we celebrate National Cleaning Week, let’s honor those who dedicate themselves to keeping our spaces clean and seek opportunities to get to know them and offer a heartfelt thank you for all they do.
1. Wilson C. History of cleanliness in health care facilities [Internet]. BootieButler. 2016 [cited 2022 Mar 15]. Available from: http://bootiebutler.com/history-cleanliness-health-care-facilities/
2. Janitorial Services in the US - number of businesses [Internet]. Ibisworld.com. [cited 2022 Mar 15]. Available from: https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/number-of-businesses/janitorial-services-united-states/
3. Number of employees in cleaning occupations in the U.S. by type 2020 [Internet]. Statista. [cited 2022 Mar 15]. Available from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/324419/employees-in-cleaning-occupations-by-job-type-us/
CIRI 2021: Healthy Buildings America
This year, the CIRI conference was a reminder that we are still in the middle of a pandemic. Postponed twice and then shifted to a fully virtual format, it was hard to ignore the impact COVID-19 has had, and still has, on the cleaning industry. The CIRI conference sessions confirmed this feeling, with many sessions focused entirely on preventing COVID-19 and improving ventilation in buildings.
About the Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI)
CIRI’s vision is to raise awareness of the importance of effective cleaning through scientific research. Through its 60 members, CIRI communicates peer-reviewed technical information and research about the science of cleaning the indoor environment. With an executive committee headed by John Downey, and a scientific advisory council, CIRI has been pushing to bridge the gap between research and practice in the cleaning industry.
This year, CIRI hosted the Healthy Buildings America conference, which was sponsored by the International Society of Indoor Air Quality and Climate (ISIAQ). There were more than 200 science-based workshops, oral and poster presentations. Below, I highlight some of my favorite sessions from the conference.
Indoor Air Quality and COVID-19
The conference placed a heavy focus on the quality of indoor air. The pandemic brought to light the importance of ventilation, and with people spending more and more time indoors, contaminants from dust, carpets, and natural gas have warranted further study.
- Just ventilate the buildings! Is it as simple as this? — Lidia Morawaska: This session highlighted that ventilation is not the simple solution it has been made out to be. For example, if there are more people in the building on a given day, the ventilation rate would need to increase. And on days where there are fewer people, if the ventilation rate remains high it is just wasting energy. For some pathogens, like SARS-CoV-2, ventilation alone may not be sufficient to prevent spread.
- Phthalates, organophosphates, and organobromines in HVAC filter dust — David Jarma: Plastics and fire-retardant chemicals from our environments make it into the air and dust that can build up in homes if they are not cleaned. This highlights the importance of maintaining good air filtration and cleaning to remove chemical contaminants from the environment.
- Disinfection by-products arising from indoor space disinfection for COVID-19 — Peter Holliman: Ozone-generation machines have been proposed as a method for air disinfection, but many have noted a lingering smell after using ozone generators. The researchers in this session measured aldehyde by-products that arose following the use of ozone generators in a classroom. They found that ozone generators created many aldehydes that lingered in the air for more than 2 hours following use. These results indicate that if we are to routinely disinfect air, we should be thoughtful about how we do it to prevent adding potentially harmful contaminants.
Cleaning and Disinfection: Real-World Studies Show Our Germiest Surfaces
- Assessment of enhanced cleaning and disinfection in hotels in Colorado, North Carolina, and Oklahoma — Richard Shaughnessy: Researchers measured the level of contamination of high-touch surfaces based on ATP measurements in 15 hotels across the United States. In the shared hotel areas, elevator buttons, door handles, and luggage carts were the most contaminated. In rooms, even after cleaning, toilet areas and TV remotes remained the dirtiest. In the hotel setting, surface contamination returned to pre-cleaning levels after 12 hours of use, suggesting that hotel common areas should be cleaned at minimum every 12 hours.
- Assessment of health-based cleaning of high contact surfaces in airport cabins and airports — Richard Shaughnessy: During the pandemic, airports and airplanes have been a safety concern. Before cleaning, seatbelt buckles, air vents, window shades, and tray table latches were the most contaminated, suggesting issues with the cleaning process during plane turnover. In the airport areas the loading bridge handrails, kiosks, and pin pads were the germiest. Compared with the hotel setting, airport areas have much higher traffic, and a minimum of one clean per 4 hours was deemed necessary to prevent surface contamination.
- A pilot study on school cleaning intervention — Richard Shaughnessy: In this study, researchers compared the rates of illness in schools that performed more frequent cleaning versus schools that did not. They found that schools with greater surface contamination (and less frequent cleaning) had a higher likelihood of students missing school due to a gastrointestinal illness.
What’s Next for CIRI?
This year, CIRI brought together members of the research community and the cleaning industry. The discussions and collaboration were remarkable and will only get better over time. CIRI now has membership opportunities open to cleaners, restorers, distributors, and manufacturers. This will bring more expertise from the industry to CIRI and increase the value of future conferences.
For nearly 60 years, GLIDE Foundation has been a center for social justice, dedicated to fighting systemic injustices, creating pathways out of poverty and crisis, and transforming lives. Located in San Francisco’s diverse and culturally rich Tenderloin neighborhood, most of GLIDE’s clients are experiencing poverty and struggling to afford housing, food, and meet other basic needs. GLIDE has remained open throughout the pandemic and continues to provide wraparound services that include: three free meals every day, case management, housing navigation, childcare, harm reduction, policy advocacy, and spiritual nourishment via GLIDE Memorial Church, a subsidiary of GLIDE Foundation.
GLIDE knows that providing a caring environment starts with providing a clean and safe environment. Surface disinfection is critically important and it is no small task to ensure that the 135,000 square-foot community service hub, childcare facilities, kitchens, offices, and church Sanctuary are kept clean and healthy year-round. We spoke with Erby Foster, Chief Financial and Operating Officer, and Matt Dudley, assistant manager of GLIDE’s facilities team, about the role disinfection has played in providing life-changing services to the community amidst the ever-evolving pandemic environment.
The Challenge: Safely Serving Those in Need During a Global Pandemic
Not once in the last two years has GLIDE stopped serving the community. When the pandemic first hit San Francisco in early 2020, the biggest challenge for the facilities team was to maintain a high level of cleanliness throughout GLIDE’s facilities, with a limited number of staff available to get the job done.
“Our goal at GLIDE Foundation is to help maintain a safer and healthier environment while providing our services to the community,” says Foster.
While COVID-19 may not spread primarily via surfaces, the pandemic did bring greater attention to pathogens that can spread in high-traffic areas, and the facilities team found themselves in need of a highly effective yet efficient process for enhanced disinfection.
“Whether in the church Sanctuary or in the kitchen where we prepare our free daily meals, there are so many high-touch surfaces at GLIDE that need attention,” Dudley says. “We have to make sure we’re reaching every critical surface. It’s probably three or four times the amount of disinfecting than we had done before the pandemic, which was already a lot.”
CloroxPro Products Filling the Need
Although Dudley’s team was short on manpower and time, they responded to meet the challenge of keeping their spaces safe. To balance the staff’s capacity with growing demand, GLIDE Foundation and Dudley’s team turned to CloroxPro for help, and brought in the Clorox® Total 360® Electrostatic Sprayer and Clorox® TurboPro™ Handheld Electrostatic Sprayer.
“The day our CloroxPro devices were delivered might still be my favorite day,” Dudley recalls. “Incorporating the electrostatic devices and chemistry allow us to clean and disinfect more spaces, more effectively and in less time.”
Saving time while still achieving the right level of cleaning and disinfection is critical for GLIDE Foundation as more volunteers, staff, and clients start to return to the building, including those attending the iconic GLIDE Memorial Church Sunday celebrations. Though the organization continues to observe social distancing protocols, mask requirements, and vaccine checks, the proper disinfection of high-touch surfaces is a key component in helping to keep their spaces safe. As the church reintroduces in-person weekly Sunday Celebrations, the facilities team disinfects the Sanctuary between the two morning services.
“As far as efficiency, it’s a no-brainer,” Dudley says. “On Sundays, we go through the space with the TurboPro™ and it takes one person 25 minutes to do the whole building — every pew, every handrail. Without the Clorox TurboPro™ device, it would take a crew of four or five people to do the same work in the same amount of time.”
The facilities team was also able to reduce their disinfectant chemistry usage. “The Clorox® Total 360® System allows us to more effectively and efficiently cover high-touch and hard-to-reach surfaces for more comprehensive disinfection,” Foster explains. Since the Clorox Total 360® Disinfectant Cleaner stays wet for the recommended contact time and then dries on surfaces, the team can spray and keep on going with no wiping needed.
Staying Safe While Expanding Services
GLIDE has continued to extend its reach throughout the pandemic to meet community needs citywide, and the 2021 holiday season was no exception. Many communities in San Francisco were hit hard, especially those who were already struggling. In fact, 93% of the families that GLIDE serves have lost income as a result of COVID-19. Entering a second COVID-ridden holiday season, GLIDE recognized how important it was to provide kids with the holiday joy that they deserve and was determined to continue its Annual GLIDE Toy Wonderland tradition.
In mid-December, GLIDE delivered nearly 800 bags of new toys across San Francisco that were hand-picked for children based on their interests and ages. This was an increase of 150 more children served from 2020, which helped meet the rising need caused by the pandemic, inflation and the current economy.
Prior to the pandemic, the Toy Wonderland was an in-person event that gathered hundreds of children and families together for a special, joyful day. With the growing threat of the Omicron variant, the event was modified for a second year. Rather than convening families under one roof, GLIDE brought the toys to the children in their home neighborhoods.
Over the course of several weeks leading up to the toy deliveries, the toys were collected, sorted and packed in the GLIDE Memorial Church Sanctuary, the same place where the Sunday Celebrations are held. For the facilities team, special attention was paid to the disinfection of the Sanctuary during the toy packing to ensure that GLIDE was minimizing any threats that could be caused by the spreading of germs.
“Having the Clorox® Total 360® Electrostatic Sprayer and TurboPro™ Handheld Electrostatic Sprayer made disinfection really convenient and easy,” Dudley explains. Because the Total 360® Disinfectant Cleaner can be left on surfaces without wiping it off when used as directed, the staff was able to disinfect all critical surfaces in less than 30 minutes.
A "New Normal" for Sanitation at GLIDE
“Even if the pandemic ended two variants ago, it will always be important to clean and disinfect,” Dudley says. GLIDE staff are interacting with thousands of clients on a daily basis and are focused on making every interaction as safe as possible, which includes surface disinfection to help minimize the spread of illness-causing germs.
“The Clorox® Total 360® System enables us to provide our local community with greater peace of mind when visiting our facility,” says Foster. “We are proud to serve our local community with this premium technology and help provide them with enhanced safety against the spread of germs.”
For GLIDE’s facilities team, CloroxPro is here to stay beyond the pandemic and the products have taken the place of other steps done in the past. Incorporating Clorox® electrostatic solutions into GLIDE’s cleaning procedure helps eliminate illness-causing germs from surfaces while also minimizing time spent on disinfection.
“The Clorox® Total 360® Electrostatic Sprayer, TurboPro™ Handheld Electrostatic Sprayer, Total 360® Disinfectant Cleaner, and Anywhere® Daily Disinfectant & Sanitizer are going to be a really important part of our program going forward, regardless of how long the pandemic lasts,” Dudley concludes. “They’re reducing manual labor, they’re eliminating bacteria and viruses on surfaces and they’re more cost effective. It’s a triple win.”
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that germs existed before COVID-19. I assure you they did, but the truth is the pandemic has become a catalyst in all our lives that sparked an immediate reverence and awareness about the importance of cleaning for health. With that came an acute mindfulness of the critical role that commercial cleaners play in helping to prevent the spread of germs in shared and public spaces.
From the start of the outbreak, commercial cleaning professionals have been thrust into the spotlight and classified as frontline essential workers. With a new emphasis on safeguarding public health, the bar for what was considered “clean” was raised, and many habitual cleaning practices were no longer enough. However, many cleaning professionals remain unsure what this means they should do differently and, importantly, how to do this efficiently and safely.
Cleaning and disinfecting beyond the pandemic
Research shows that heightened consumer interest and demand for maintaining cleaning and disinfecting routines in public spaces, continues to be top of mind. In fact, 60% of Americans bring disinfectants with them regularly to disinfect high-touch surfaces outside of the home.1 Rightfully so, because there are many other germs beyond COVID-19 that commonly spread via surfaces — such as cold and flu viruses, norovirus and MRSA. Outbreaks caused by these germs aren’t new and can disrupt, or even shut down, schools and other facilities that communities rely on every day. As a result, cleaning for health will remain a key part of a holistic strategy to help reduce this risk.
The pandemic highlighted the need for a more balanced approach to disinfection that can be sustained long-term. CloroxPro refers to this approach as Smart Disinfection, which, as its name suggests, emphasizes that there is a time to clean and a time to disinfect.
Smart Disinfection means targeting “higher-risk surfaces” and “higher-risk areas” to help reduce the transmission of germs that can cause illness, including increased occasions where populations are more vulnerable to infections such as daycares, schools, and eldercare and healthcare facilities.
CloroxPro is innovating for the cleaning professional
In a recent survey of facility managers and buildings service contractors, 91% say the staff at their company or facility have had to learn new cleaning and disinfecting protocols, and 96% say that janitorial staff are asked to do more now to help provide greater confidence to occupants and visitors.2 But training programs have not kept up with the needs of the industry.
To make this type of knowledge and education accessible, CloroxPro has developed CloroxPro™ HealthyClean™, a new online learning platform that delivers best-in-class education and training to help ensure cleaning professionals get the knowledge and skills needed to clean for health effectively, efficiently and safely. HealthyClean offers the only industrywide certificate course designed for the commercial cleaning industry to be accredited by the American National Standards Institute National Accreditation Board. The training covers actions that can be taken to do the job safely and effectively, the science behind how germs spread, and provides easy-to-follow procedures and best practices to ensure facilities can be cleaned and disinfected in a way that is efficient and sustainable long-term.
Discover more at CloroxPro.com/HealthyClean.
1. Clorox Custom Research, Clean Confidence Index: Wave 2 (n=2000), February 2021
2. Clorox Professional Online Facility Manager/Builder Service Contractor Study, October 2021