Cleaning and Disinfecting During and After a Pandemic
This guidance is intended for facilities outside the health care industry.
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial to review and update policies for cleaning and disinfecting your facility, equipment and vehicles. It is recommended that you increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces, which may include door pushes, handles, touchpads, elevator buttons, taps, sinks and electronic devices, as well as common areas, such as entryways, lobbies, hallways and restrooms. The European CDC offers guidance for properly cleaning and disinfecting in non-healthcare settings.
If persons presenting symptoms have been in your facility, consider the following:
- Where visitors have presented symptoms, wait 24 hours, or as long as practical, before beginning cleaning and disinfection.
- The minimum personal protective equipment (PPE) to be worn for cleaning an area is disposable gloves and an apron. Hands should be washed with soap and water for 20 seconds after all PPE has been removed.
- Cleaning staff should clean and disinfect all areas and high-touch surfaces.
- Additional cleaning/disinfecting may not be necessary if more than seven days have passed since the infected persons have visited your facility or used vehicles.
- Remember waste (used paper towels, disposable mop heads, etc.) should be stored safely and ideally not put in to a communal waste area for at least 72 hours.
Cleaning and Disinfecting:
Hard (Non-porous) Surfaces
- Non-porous surfaces should be cleaned using a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection, the Irish Government advice suggests: Use of a viricidal or a combined detergent disinfectant solution at a dilution of 1,000 parts per million available chlorine.
- Use of a household detergent followed by disinfection (1000 ppm av.cl.). Always follow manufacturers’ instructions for dilution, application, use of PPE and contact times for all detergents and disinfectants.
- Ensure employees are properly educated on how to safely use and remove PPE.
- Additionally, diluted household bleach solutions can be used if appropriate for the surface. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application, ensuring a contact time of at least one minute and allowing proper ventilation during and after application. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date and never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. The mixture can create hazardous vapors.
Porous Surfaces Including Laundry
When cleaning and disinfecting soft (porous) surfaces like carpets, curtains and other woven fabrics, first clean these surfaces with soap and water or other suitable cleaners. Avoid shaking dirty laundry, drapes, etc., to make sure you do not make the virus airborne. Then, if possible, launder these items following the manufacturer’s directions. When laundering items, use the warmest water setting appropriate for the items and dry completely. Clean and disinfect anything used for transporting laundry in line with the cleaning guidance above. Where items cannot be laundered, wash and use a suitable disinfectant or consider steam cleaning at 70c+ to help prevent infection. Dispose of any items that are heavily contaminated with bodily fluids and cannot be cleaned by washing.
Clean and disinfect electronics regularly. Electronic devices may include cell phones, tablets, touchscreens, keyboards, remote controls and ATMs. Remember to focus on frequently touched surfaces. When cleaning and disinfecting electronics – both shared and personal – follow the manufacturer’s instructions on appropriate products to use. If there are no cleaning and disinfecting guidelines provided by the manufacturer, consider using disinfectant products such as wipes or sprays with at least 60 percent alcohol.
Develop and consistently follow cleaning and disinfection procedures for vehicles, with a focus on commonly touched surfaces. Conduct these procedures at the beginning and end of each driver’s shift. Maintain adequate ventilation of the vehicle while cleaning and disinfecting. Refer to the sections on PPE and hand hygiene below.
- Where visible dirt is present, first use a soap and water solution to clean hard non-porous surfaces within the vehicle. Examples of these surfaces include seats, armrests, door handles, seat belt buckles, light and air controls, doors, windows and grab handles. Following the cleaning, utilise disinfectant products that have qualified for use against COVID-19, and that are suitable for the material. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding concentration, application method and contact time for all disinfectants.
- For seats and other porous materials, first remove visible contamination, clean and disinfect with appropriate products indicated for use.
Wash or sanitise hands immediately after cleaning and disinfecting, removing gloves, other PPE or contact with others. To thoroughly wash hands, use soap and water for 20 seconds. When washing hands is not possible, and as long as hands are not visibly dirty, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer made of at least 60 percent alcohol. Other key times to clean hands are after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose or using the restroom, prior to preparing or eating food, or after public visits or interactions.
It is important to develop and implement procedures and policies that address the use of PPE.
- Require cleaning staff to wear disposable gloves and, in some cases, disposable coveralls/clothing for cleaning and disinfection processes, including handling waste.
- Ensure PPE materials are compatible with the disinfectant and/or cleaning products being used.
- Follow manufacturer recommendations for additional PPE requirements.
- For example, wear goggles or face shields in addition to safety glasses if there is a splash risk.
- Remove gloves and disposable clothing carefully and dispose of them properly to prevent contamination of the wearer or surrounding areas. Perform hand hygiene following the removal of gloves.
- Coveralls, aprons or work uniforms can be worn if disposable clothing is not available. Launder washable (reusable) clothing following use and frequently perform hand hygiene after handling laundry.
Additional Considerations for Employers
- Follow any government and Department of Health guidance to ensure you are following appropriate guidance and protocols for COVID-19.
- Prior to conducting cleaning or disinfecting tasks, develop policies and provide training to staff. Training should cover topics including when to use PPE, what PPE is needed, how to properly put on, remove and dispose of PPE.