Cleaning Without Chemicals

The professional cleaning industry is currently embroiled in a debate about which surfaces actually need to be disinfected, as well as how best to disinfect when it is deemed necessary and how often.

Toilet bowls may be the least of your disinfectant worries.

But why are these issues so important?

We now know that many surfaces that have long been thought to be “hot beds” of contamination may actually need less attention simply because no one ever touches them.

On the other hand, other areas that may be overlooked or neglected may actually be much more likely to prove dangerous to human health.

As a result, many cleaning professionals are now calling for some old-fashioned common sense when it comes to hygienic cleaning and disinfection.

For instance, how much attention really needs to be paid to the inside of a toilet bowl? It is true that a number of pathogens–many of which are health-threatening–can be present inside toilet bowls, and that they therefore must be cleaned and disinfected regularly for both safety and appearance.

But since the only individuals who touch such areas are generally custodial workers using bowl-cleaning tools or wearing gloves, the risk of cross-contamination from a toilet bowl–especially to visitors to a park and recreation facility–is actually quite minimal.

For these situations, using a large number of powerful, costly, and potentially environmentally damaging chemicals and disinfectants may not be necessary.

On the other hand, some areas that usually receive only minimal cleaning and disinfecting attention–but which probably need considerably more due to the frequency with which they are touched–are chairs, tables, and high chairs used by children and other facility visitors.

These items may be used by scores of people in the course of a day, and can therefore become true “hot beds” for contamination.

They can often be a source of cross-contamination as well, since people touch these surfaces and then touch their eyes, nose, mouth, or other surfaces, spreading contaminants from one point of contact to another.

Unfortunately, custodial workers are often unaware of how seriously contaminated chairs, tables, and similar surface areas can become. The result is these items are typically cleaned sporadically and without proper cleaning systems, chemicals, or procedures necessary for effective hygiene.

Why It Matters

Why are these issues receiving so much attention now?

The use of conventional cleaning chemicals–specifically disinfectants–is coming under greater scrutiny at this time. Disinfectants, although they have served us well, are powerful chemicals that can be harmful to the health of cleaning workers, building users, and the environment.

Although Green disinfectants are available in some parts of the world, this is not the case in the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tightly regulates disinfectants, classifying them as pesticides, and will not allow disinfectants sold in the U.S. to be marketed as Green, indicating a reduced impact on the environment.

Disinfectants are evaluated by the EPA based solely on their effectiveness at killing specific pathogens and not the potential risk of harm to the user or the environment.

Some professionals believe that if we use common sense when choosing those areas that most need cleaning attention, we can limit disinfectant use and clean in a more environmentally responsible manner that still protects human health.

This issue has come to a head in many medical facilities, where custodial workers have been found to clean all areas with disinfectants on a frequent basis, even when they have been specifically instructed to clean only certain areas.

Disinfecting Without Chemicals

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