How to Provide Cleaner (and Greener) ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES
By Severine Zaslavski
A good cleaning program begins with quality chemicals, then adds cleaning tools, the proper dilution of chemicals, and proper cleaning practices.
Q: What should be cleaned?
A: Each infection control practitioner and environmental services manager establishes cleaning and disinfection schedules and methods according to the specific area in the facility, type of surface to be cleaned, and the amount of soil present. In general, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends procedures for two different housekeeping surfaces: high-touch and low-touch. High-touch housekeeping surfaces in a patients room (such as doorknobs, wall areas around the toilet, and the edges of privacy curtains) should be cleaned with general-purpose cleaners or disinfectants more frequently. Low-touch surfaces, such as hardsurface floors, are horizontal surfaces with infrequent hand contact and should be cleaned on a regular basis, when spills occur, and after the patient vacates the room. Clean walls, blinds, and windows when they are visibly soiled. Remember that skin is also a surface, so hands should be washed often.
Q: Is green cleaning appropriate for a hospital?
A: A healthcare facility is the ideal location for a green in other words, an environmentally friendly cleaning program. Products with Green Seal certification contain no NTA, EDTA, dyes, carcinogens, reproductive toxicants, fragrances, or endocrine disruptors (e.g., phthalates). In addition, they ensure low aquatic toxicity; no or minimal VOCs due to air-pollution regulations; no or minimal phosphates due to wastewater treatment; and no alkylphenol ethoxylates due to emerging local wastewater treatment regulations.
Q: Are green products just as effective as other products?
A: Absolutely. Unfortunately, there is the perception that environmentally responsible cleaning products are weak and not effective. This may have been true for some products because there were no universally accepted standards for green products prior to 2002. The chemical cleaning industry has accepted guidelines established by a third-party organization, Green Seal (www.greenseal.org). If you want chemicals just as effective as or better than other products, be sure to look for the Green Seal logo on the product packaging. There are clear, stringent standards for green products for the following categories:
- General Purpose Cleaners (GS 37)
- Restroom Cleaners (GS 37)
- Glass Cleaners (GS 37)
- Carpet Care Cleaners (GS 37 October 2005)
- Floor Care Products Finishes and Strippers (GS 40 November 2005)
Q: What is the best way to clean a floor?
A: First, remove organic matter and visible soils. Scrub the floor with cleaning chemicals that have been mixed at the proper dilution ratio. Using general-purpose cleaners according to instructions and rinsing with water will remove most particulates. New self-contained microfiber mopping tools effectively eliminate cross-contamination. With a built-in reserve bottle added, the chore is easier, saves time, and minimizes chemical exposure.
Q: Must I always use a disinfectant to clean the floor?
A: No. Studies have shown there is no advantage to using disinfectants over regular soap and water (general- purpose cleaners) or microfiber-based mopping tools. It has also been shown to have minimal or no impact on the occurrence of healthcare-associated infections. The CDC categorizes floors as environmental surfaces that can be effectively cleaned using less rigorous methods.
Q: How often do I need to change my mop head and bucket solution?
A: Bucket solutions, mop heads, and cleaning cloths should be changed at a minimum of every three rooms or when the solution becomes visibly dirty. Using the same tool from room to room distributes contaminants and microorganisms even faster. Cleaning professionals who inefficiently tote buckets of dirty water from room to room risk injury, cross-contamination, and potentially unsafe, wet floors. Thanks to 100-percent microfiber technology, one floor-cleaning tool can do it all and in a quick, environmentally friendly manner.
Q: How do microfiber tools work?
A: Microfiber mop heads have a positive charge that attracts contaminants without redistributing soil around the room. The fibers are absorbent so the mop holds sufficient water for cleaning without dripping. The floor dries quickly because it is merely damp, reducing possible slip and fall injuries. A 2002 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-sponsored study indicated that cleaning with microfiber products can reduce cost and reduce surface contamination by 99 percent. Note that not all microfiber products are the same. Just like green chemicals prior to 2002, there is no established industry standard for this item. Compare fiber type, weight, and absorption rates and be sure to buy from an established, trusted source.
Q: Dont I use microfiber cloths just like other cleaning cloths?
A: Cleaning with microfiber cloths requires different cleaning practices. It is best to spray the solution on the surface, allow dwell time (per product use directions), and wipe dry.
Severine Zaslavski is the housekeeping platform leader for JohnsonDiversey, North America.