How to Provide Cleaner (and Greener) ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES
By Severine Zaslavski
A good cleaning program begins withquality chemicals, then adds cleaning tools, the proper dilution of chemicals,and proper cleaning practices.
Q: What should be cleaned?
A: Each infection control practitionerand environmental services manager establishes cleaning and disinfectionschedules and methods according to the specific area in the facility, type ofsurface to be cleaned, and the amount of soil present. In general, the Centersfor Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends procedures for two differenthousekeeping surfaces: high-touch and low-touch. High-touch housekeeping surfaces ina patients room (such as doorknobs, wall areas around the toilet, and theedges of privacy curtains) should be cleaned with general-purpose cleaners ordisinfectants more frequently. Low-touch surfaces, such as hardsurface floors,are horizontal surfaces with infrequent hand contact and should be cleaned on aregular basis, when spills occur, and after the patient vacates the room. Cleanwalls, blinds, and windows when they are visibly soiled. Remember that skin isalso a surface, so hands should be washed often.
Q: Is green cleaning appropriatefor a hospital?
A: A healthcare facility is the ideallocation 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 minimalVOCs due to air-pollution regulations; no or minimal phosphates due towastewater treatment; and no alkylphenol ethoxylates due to emerging localwastewater treatment regulations.
Q: Are green products just aseffective as other products?
A: Absolutely. Unfortunately, there is theperception that environmentally responsible cleaning products are weak and noteffective. This may have been true for some products because there were nouniversally accepted standards for green products prior to 2002. The chemicalcleaning industry has accepted guidelines established by a third-partyorganization, Green Seal (www.greenseal.org). If you want chemicals just aseffective as or better than other products, be sure to look for the Green Seallogo on the product packaging. There are clear, stringent standards for greenproducts for the following categories:
Q: Whatis the best way to clean a floor?
A: First, remove organic matter andvisible soils. Scrub the floor with cleaning chemicals that have been mixed atthe proper dilution ratio. Using general-purpose cleaners according to instructions andrinsing with water will remove most particulates. New self-contained microfibermopping 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 toclean the floor?
A: No. Studies have shown there is noadvantage to using disinfectants over regular soap and water (general- purposecleaners) or microfiber-based mopping tools. It has also been shown to haveminimal or no impact on the occurrence of healthcare-associated infections. The CDC categorizes floors as environmental surfaces that canbe effectively cleaned using less rigorous methods.
Q: How often do I need to change mymop head and bucket solution?
A: Bucket solutions, mop heads, andcleaning cloths should be changed at a minimum of every three rooms or when thesolution becomes visibly dirty. Using the same tool from room to roomdistributes contaminants and microorganisms even faster. Cleaning professionalswho 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-cleaningtool can do it all and in a quick, environmentally friendly manner.
Q: How do microfiber tools work?
A: Microfiber mop heads have a positivecharge that attracts contaminants without redistributing soil around the room.The fibers are absorbent so the mop holds sufficient water for cleaning withoutdripping. The floor dries quickly because it is merely damp, reducing possibleslip and fall injuries. A 2002 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-sponsoredstudy indicated that cleaning with microfiber products can reduce cost andreduce surface contamination by 99 percent. Note that not all microfiberproducts are the same. Just like green chemicals prior to 2002, there is noestablished industry standard for this item. Compare fiber type, weight, andabsorption rates and be sure to buy from an established, trusted source.
Q: Dont I use microfiber clothsjust like other cleaning cloths?
A: Cleaning with microfiber clothsrequires different cleaning practices. It is best to spray the solution on the surface, allow dwelltime (per product use directions), and wipe dry.
SeverineZaslavski is the housekeeping platform leader for JohnsonDiversey, NorthAmerica.