New normal: this is how COVID-19 could change cleaning forever

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TORONTO –
This viral pandemic will forever change the way we clean and disinfect hospitals, long-term care homes, schools, stores, offices and even our homes, said a senior director of environmental services in health care facilities. .

“All of a sudden, this pandemic is a revelation to everyone about the importance of best cleaning and disinfection practices in healthcare and beyond,” Keith Sopha told CTVNews.ca at ” a telephone interview in Ottawa.

“There is a real opportunity to learn from this. “

Under the weight of COVID-19, hospitals operate according to peak capacity protocols and have doubled routine cleaning and disinfection efforts, says Sopha.

Grocery stores, banks and other essential services are stepping up routine disinfection of their stores, and places where people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been decontaminated by workers in a combination of hazardous materials.

Sopha hopes that soon professional cleaners will need to be certified, as will food handlers, electricians and hairdressers.

He says advanced training that covers disinfection and the proper use of protective equipment is vital, because the use of inappropriate methods or products can actually spread the microorganisms responsible for infections. It was part of a research project that was soon to be published on cleaning and disinfecting schools.

“In some cases, we found more microorganisms on the desks after cleaning than before,” said Sopha, whose Ottawa company CleanLearning is working to spread best hospital practices to other areas.

“We need to train and certify cleaning professionals because this crisis shows that front line cleaning staff are essential. What they do is important and how they do it is important. “

He also plans to reach out to the federal government in hopes of coordinating a special training program for housekeepers for people in other sectors who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. As the influx of COVID-19 patients hits Canadian hospitals and more front-line workers are infected with the disease themselves, he expects demand for hospital cleaners to skyrocket.

“DO THE EASY THINGS JUST”

It’s important to keep in mind that health officials say that the main method of transmitting this virus is to pass respiratory droplets from one infected person to another, usually within six feet, through the eyes, nose or mouth.

There have been no documented cases of transmission of new coronaviruses through contaminated surfaces, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control. But the virus is known to survive on surfaces for hours or days, and some infectious disease experts say transmission to the surface is certainly possible.

Washing your hands with soap and water using a lot of friction, without touching your face and keeping a physical distance from those outside the house are crucial steps to control this virus, explains Jason Kindrachuk, assistant professor and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Emerging Viruses at the University of Manitoba.

Proper cleaning and disinfection at home is the next layer of defense, he said.

Wiping frequently touched surfaces in your home with sanitizers recommended by health authorities, cleaning kitchens and bathrooms more often, and doing lots of laundry with towels and sheets will also reduce potential transmission, says Kindrachuk.

“A coronavirus is basically a ball of protein surrounded by a layer of fat. The soap disperses this outer layer of fat and the protein underneath breaks down so that it is no longer infectious, “he said.

“If you do things easy correctly, it will go a long way with this virus. “

CLEANING VERSUS DISINFECTION

A CDC guide to cleaning and disinfecting homes with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 says, “Cleaning visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for preventing COVID-19 and d other viral respiratory diseases in households and communities.

The terminology here is important. Cleaning refers to the removal of dirt, grime, debris and germs. Cleaning does not kill germs such as viruses and bacteria that make us sick. But removing them decreases their number and the risk that they can infect us.

Disinfection refers to the use of chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. It must come after cleaning.

The good news is that the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 respiratory infection is relatively easy to remove from surfaces using soap, water and disinfectants, says Sopha.

Many effective products to kill the virus – Health Canada has approved 222 – are already part of routine cleaning programs in institutions and even at home, he says.

In addition, says Sopha, there is also a range of emerging disinfection technologies, including ultraviolet light robots and electrostatic sprays that spray a fine disinfectant that can reinforce existing cleaning methods in institutional environments such as healthcare facilities. and schools. COVID-19 is expected to significantly accelerate the drive for innovation in the field.

WHAT WORKS AND DOES NOT WORK

Bleach, isopropyl alcohol and hydrogen peroxide are recommended by Health Canada and other authorities to disinfect this new coronavirus.

Common green household cleaners, including vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda, are not considered effective in controlling COVID-19 and are not disinfectants approved by Health Canada, the United States Agency of environmental protection or the CDC.

There is no doubt that there has been a rush of cleaning supplies in grocery stores in the past few weeks, as items such as disinfectant wipes and sprays have become difficult to find on store shelves. But resist the urge to experiment, says sustainability advocate Candice Batista.

She generally recommends using natural or do-it-yourself products to clean and disinfect. But during this health crisis, she urges people to follow expert advice.

“It is really important to use products recommended by health authorities,” said Batista, who appears frequently as an environmental expert at the Marilyn Denis Show. “I would be wary of DIY right now. “

Sopha understands the desire to avoid toxic or harsh chemicals, but he also urges people to refrain from mixing their own compounds unless they follow the dilution instructions.

For example, bleach should only be mixed with water to dilute it. Mixing with other compounds can produce deadly gases. And many concoctions can irritate the skin.

“If you are not a chemist, beware of what you mix. “

If store shelves lack approved products, Sopha suggests using dish soap and water with “good old grease for the elbows” because friction eliminates dirt and microorganisms.

Batista says she uses hydrogen peroxide products to disinfect her home. She has not used bleach for years because she does not tolerate fumes well and thinks it is bad for indoor air quality and the environment. But even she says she considered buying bleach on a recent grocery trip.

“I think people are scared right now and that can push them to buy products that they don’t normally use. “

EXPERT CLEANING TIPS

  • It is important to clean the surfaces first. Mop, dust, vacuum and clean the appropriate surfaces with soap and water to remove dirt, grime and grease;

  • Then use a disinfectant (bleach, hydrogen peroxide or alcohol-based compounds) that kills microorganisms, including viruses and bacteria;

  • It is essential to follow the directions on the label of any disinfectant you use. The labels indicate whether the product is effective against viruses, on which surfaces it can be used safely and how to dilute it properly.

  • The labels also contain the contact or residence time of the formulation, which means that the surface must remain moist for viruses and bacteria to be killed;

  • If the surface dries before the prescribed residence time, which can range from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, reapply the disinfectant;

  • Disinfect counters, sinks, toilets, tables and floors and focus on high contact areas, including door handles, flushers, fridge and cabinet handles, curtains showers, faucets, remote controls, telephones and computer keyboards;

  • If you use a bleaching product, open the windows, turn on the fans and limit your exposure to breathing fumes;

  • Wash towels, bath rugs and sheets hot or disinfect and avoid shaking them;

  • If your normal cleaner is depleted, use dish soap and water;

  • An effective all-purpose cleaning solution is 2 cups of water, 1/2 teaspoon of dish soap, and if you have it, 5-10 drops of an antibacterial essential oil, such as tree oil. tea, lavender, thyme, cinnamon or citrus;

  • Always remove your shoes before entering the house to avoid tracking down dirt and germs.

RESOURCES

If you have a cleaner in your kitchen cabinet and are wondering if it can help protect your family, check to see if it has a Drug Identification Number (DIN) on the label, which indicates that it is approved by Health Canada. Then look for this DIN on Health Canada’s list of disinfectants that will work against this virus.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has created a similar list of 357 products here.

Health Canada also has a list of over 830 approved hand sanitizers here.

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