Clean, Sanitize, Or Disinfect

Photos Courtesy Of Kaivac

Photos Courtesy Of Kaivac

As winter approaches, many parks and recreation centers have concerns about possible flu or virus outbreaks. For example, during the winter of 2012-2013, a serious flu outbreak occurred, and the vaccine available at the time was only about 60 percent effective.* 

Typically, when there is an outbreak in a school or public facility, managers increase both cleaning frequency and intensity—at least for a while. In fact, sometimes increases in cleaning even go overboard. For example, when the SARS epidemic hit Hong Kong more than 10 years ago, many inhabitants reported that the entire city smelled of chlorine bleach because so much of the powerful chemical was used. 

Having consistent cleaning standards in place at all times to keep facilities clean and pathogen free—rather than increasing cleaning efforts in response to an immediate risk—generally proves to be a more effective strategy in the long-term, as such an approach is less costly, healthier, and potentially more environmentally friendly. Also, with such standards in place, cleaning professionals can handle any outbreaks that occur in a calmer and more efficient manner.  (See Sidebar: What are cleaning standards?) 

Choosing The Right Chemicals

To develop a cleaning-standards program, a manager must first divide the facility into three distinct categories: 

  • Those areas where only an all-purpose cleaning chemical is needed on a regular basis
  • Those areas that require more cleaning attention
  • Those areas that need the most cleaning attention. 

For example, areas such as offices and staff rooms generally need only basic cleaning. Open areas used by children and their parents (including counters, waiting areas, classrooms, workstations, and indoor play areas) usually need more thorough cleaning. Areas requiring the most thorough cleaning include restrooms, food-service areas, and high-touch items such as doorknobs, light switches, etc. 

As noted above, an all-purpose cleaner can be used for routine office cleaning. Areas that require more thorough cleaning will likely require the use of sanitizers. These chemicals reduce the number of microbes and pathogens on a surface to a safe level. Areas that need even more thorough cleaning are generally treated with disinfectants. These products kill all germs and bacteria found on surfaces. 

Cleaning professionals should also be aware of the following factors in choosing the right cleaning chemicals: 

  • Even in areas where only all-purpose cleaners are needed, sanitizers and/or disinfectant should be used occasionally to more thoroughly clean surfaces. 
  • Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are not the same. Usually a surface must be cleaned first and then sanitized or disinfected—a two-step process—unless the product’s labeling indicates both functions can be performed in one step. 
  • Some sanitizers and disinfectants are costly, are potentially dangerous to use, and can have adverse environmental impacts; consequently, these should be used only when and where they are needed. 
  • Disinfectants must remain wet on the surface for as long as 10 minutes (referred to as “dwell time”) for the chemical to work effectively. 

Cleaning Standards And Equipment

Is there a mop and bucket in your janitorial closet? Is the mop dark and soiled? Does the bucket look soiled? Or, worst of all, is the

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