One of my favorite questions is “how do you clean?” While everyone has their own methods, one thing is certain – it has really been on people’s minds and has changed considerably since the pandemic hit.
This change has been driven by four primary factors:
- New needs
- New information
- Availability of supplies
- Shifting consumer attitudes
These factors have resulted in a need to “unlearn” some things and to start rethinking others. Read on to uncover better ways to approach cleaning and disinfecting and why reframing your thinking is crucial in the wake of the pandemic.
A New Threat Changes Cleaning Forever
Prior to the pandemic, cleaning and disinfection was primarily “custodial.” Cleaning to remove soil loads, or undesirable substances such as dirt, dust, fluids and waste, was typically accomplished by checking off what needed to be mopped, wiped, washed, polished and vacuumed, then creating a schedule and deploying crews to perform these tasks. Performance was evaluated on whether these areas and surfaces looked clean and smelled as if they had been disinfected. In other words, was there a noticeable fragrance, like lemon, lavender, orange or even just a strong chemical odor? If so, the assumption was that the space was clean.
Before the pandemic, sustainability was gaining importance and green cleaning practices were being adopted to a larger degree. Even so, in too many cases, green cleaning and sustainability programs were still viewed as a “nice to have” but not imperative or worth any added investment. Once COVID-19 emerged, our cleaning needs changed from aesthetics and sustainability to an urgent need for preventing the transmission of pathogens.
When the pandemic hit there was, as we now know, an overreaction by both the general public and corporations. With little known about how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was transmitted, and new information and recommendations coming our way each day, the reaction was to throw every possible solution in our arsenal at it in large volumes. Everything from groceries to clothes to the mail were being disinfected amid fears of COVID-19 spreading. This “hygiene theater” resulted in people being exposed to dangerously high levels of cleaning and disinfecting chemicals in their homes, work environments and the places they visit. Now, we have a clearer picture of how the virus spreads and the potential dangers of chemical overuse.
Another result was the run on cleaning and disinfecting supplies that led to shortages and major delays. Cleaning and disinfecting wipes were frequently used, and sometimes misused, to disinfect seemingly every surface and object within reach. Electrostatic sprayers and misters used even larger volumes of disinfectants. To further complicate things, the global supply chain for everything from spray bottles to electronic components has been disrupted due to labor and manufacturing shortages, directly or indirectly affecting producers of cleaners and disinfectants.
Buyers of cleaning and disinfecting supplies, whether industrial, commercial or residential, are now paying more attention to what they are buying and from whom.
- Industrial buyers are paying more attention to supply chain stability so as not to disrupt their own production processes.
- Commercial buyers are shifting to on-site generation (OSG) of cleaning and disinfecting solutions with systems that convert water, salt and electricity into electrochemically-activated solutions (ECAS).
- Residential buyers are placing more emphasis on social responsibility and a company’s values. Accenture’s survey of more than 25,000 consumers found that 50% say the pandemic caused them to re-evaluate what’s important to them in life. “Reimagined” consumers have shifted their buying habits, which will require companies to meet higher expectations.
Additionally, everyone is paying more attention to sustainability and social responsibility. Consequently, we need to unlearn and rethink how we manage cleaning and disinfection.
Unlearning and Rethinking Cleaning
Caring and cleaning are together driving change. To adapt to this new “cleaning for health” approach that considers the wellbeing of people and the planet, we need to unlearn some things and start rethinking the way we manage cleaning.
- Checklists help determine cleaning and disinfection needs
- Sensory assessments like visuals and smell help evaluate performance
- Sustainability and green cleaning are a “nice-to-have” but not imperative
- More is better – more chemicals, more caustic, more frequently
- Just-in-time sourcing of supplies is possible
- How to determine cleaning and disinfection needs – Risk assessments can help you determine which surfaces and areas are the highest priority. These assessments should consider where and when facilities experience the most traffic, what surfaces are most likely to transmit pathogens, the number of staff and product available and more. With this information, cleaning professionals can scale cleaning and disinfection as needed if the level of risks changes over time.
- Product efficacy and chemistry – There is no smell associated with cleanliness despite what we’ve been conditioned to think. And even if a surface looks clean, it’s possible there are lingering pathogens that the naked eye can’t see. This is why using effective products and applying them correctly is so important. Confirm whether the products you’re using are proven to eradicate pathogens of concern. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and dwell time to ensure you aren’t rushing the process.
- Environmental impacts of chemicals, containers and waste – Chemicals can seep into water supplies and negatively impact our communities and wildlife populations. Meanwhile, plastic waste is a growing issue around the world. Eliminating chemical shipments, relying on refillable bottles and an on-site generator, and using drain- and disposal-safe products reduces the environmental impact of cleaning.
- Safety of workers, patrons and occupants – While removing, killing or inactivating pathogens on surfaces is key to protecting public health and safety, so is the method in which we achieve this. Caustic chemicals with harmful ingredients can have long-term health effects on those who directly work with these chemicals and those who occupy the spaces where they are used. Safe and effective products help facilities protect the public and employees from both pathogens and toxic chemicals.
- Where and how to source supplies – It’s essential to be prepared with the right supplies as outbreaks often happen unexpectedly. Plus, having adequate supplies can also reduce the risk of an outbreak occurring. Relying less on traditional supply chains, and more on controlling your own supply with OSG systems allows you to produce as much cleaner and disinfectant as needed.
PathoSans is leading change with on-site generation of safe, sustainable and readily available cleaning and disinfecting products. To learn more how ECAS can support your cleaning and disinfecting efforts, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ken Campbell is Sales Director for PathoSans, a leading provider of on-site generation (OSG) devices that produce ready-to-use, highly effective cleaners and disinfectants known as electrochemically activated solutions (ECAS). Learn more at www.pathosans.com.