Essays For Cleaning Professionals
Nature Has NOT Changed Soil-Misinformation Has Led to Lax Cleaning Practices
The message may be applied to any building... Home, School, Church, Office, Gym, Restaurant, etc.
Many cleaning chemical sales people seem to portray disinfectant-detergents as awesome, almost magical, germ killers—i.e. apply a disinfectant or sanitizer solution onto a surface and all germs die... the surface may no longer be an infection peril. Almost like a fairy tale—"And the surface remained pure forever after."
Teaching healthy cleaning for over 40 years seems to have caused my mind to ask more questions than deliver answers. To seek answers, I interviewed medical people, biologists, chemists, and anyone who would allow me to engage them in conversation.
Here is how I see matters:
- Germs are microorganisms that live in soil. Nature uses organisms to digest (recycle) soil. (Soil is something that exists where it is not wanted. e.g. Jelly on toast versus on the floor.)
- Because germs do not have stomachs, they cannot store food which would allow them to separate themselves from their host (soil) and live on a clean surface—a clean surface would not allow germs access to food.
- When soil is removed from a surface, my logic tells me that the germs go with the soil.
Bottom line... To minimize the availability of germs, cleaning practices need to focus on washing away soil rather than leaving a "disinfectant" film (residual) on a surface to "kill" germs... Because germs live in soil, if there are germs on a surface after washing, soil was left behind—symptoms of incomplete cleaning. If a disinfectant-detergent was the cleaning solution, the disinfectant residual film was contaminated and rendered ineffective by soil it was trying to remove. The ineffective disinfectant residual then takes on the roll of a binder (glue) and securely holds on to "left behind" as well as the newly-collected soil to cause unnecessary and unhealthy soil buildup.
To ensure optimum sanitation, a cleaning staff should be required to rinse everything they wash with a separate (and clean) mop, washing cloth, etc. using CLEAN fresh cold (unheated) water. That is how, in the "old days", custodians performed their work and epidemics were a non-issue. Rinsing, as in rinsing washed dishes, ensures that any remaining soil is effectively removed. Once the surface is clean, it is sanitary and safe.
Todays quality cold water detergents are free rinsing and do not require a fresh water rinse...
But... And, a HUGE BUT... Only if the cleaning solution is changed when the bottom of the container can no longer be seen. NEVER allow your washing solution to become filthy... To ensure best soil removal, apply a light amount of solution to the soiled surface, let the solution set a few seconds, and then pick up the solution and soil thoroughly using a clean mop, cloth, etc., or wet vacuum. "Any Old Way" of performing the task will heighten the risk for infections! To deal with any germs that may remain in "left behind" soil, add ½ ounce of household chlorine bleach to a washing/mopping solution or, more preferably, to a cold water rinse solution. e.g. Chlorine is used in drinking water to kill any germs that may remain after filtration.
If you subscribe to using a disinfectant, the disinfectant must be applied to a truly clean surface—"pre-cleaned" is how an EPA-registered bottle label is required to say it. When a disinfectant solution or spray is applied to a clean surface, its only effective until the first contamination from landing airborne germs... First contamination may also come from the soil that is to be removed or from the touch of a hand onto a treated surface—either will introduce more germs than a disinfectant solution residual film can handle. Once contaminated, the effectiveness of the disinfectant solutions germ-killing residual film is over or severely compromised at best. The contaminated area needs to be washed and rinsed well and re-treated with a disinfectant solution or spray in order to leave a residual film that remains active for a few hours—as with hospital operating or emergency room surfaces being protected while waiting for the next patient.
Think about the ineffectiveness of a disinfectant solution when it is used for floor mopping... Once the mop with soil in it is placed into the bucket of solution, the solution in the bucket becomes contaminated. The condition worsens each time the soiled mop is placed into the bucket. Flat mops containing disinfectant solution are contaminated as soon as the clean mop meets the soiled floor. Think logically and thoroughly before embracing sales pitches or the innuendos of product literature.
Disinfectants or sanitizers are not "Holy Water"... Indiscriminately spreading a solution or spray over soiled or partially cleaned surfaces does not work... It sets the stage for germs resistant to the disinfectant or sanitizer to live on and reproduce in whatever soil that may have been left behind. It would come as no surprise to learn that the proliferation of "super germs" is accelerated under these conditions because they have no competition for soil space from the germs that were killed—germs, that if alive, our immune system would normally have handled.
Since it is impossible for everyone using a facility to be followed around and have everything they touch washed, rinsed, and disinfected immediately after contact (to ensure that the next person gets a disinfected surface), it makes every bit of sense to wash surfaces with a quality cold water detergent solution (grease holds soil particles and floats in cold water) and rinse well with clean tools and fresh cold water on a schedule commensurate with the number of contacts—degree of usage.
Our immune systems are designed to control the unsafe proliferation of germs in our bodies. If we do our best at washing away soil (especially hands), our immune systems will be able to do their job effectively—the human immune system has been doing an excellent job since the first human arrived on earth. Mankind has to rethink the way disinfectant manufacturers have been allowed to teach us about germ warfare... The way they have us thinking and practicing is profitable for them but mighty dangerous for us. Louis Pasteur and Grandma had it right—wash (nothing antibacterial) and rinse well and use clean hand towels, mops, wiping cloths, etc.
I would not put blind faith in hand sanitizers. I have an e-mail from the manufacturer of Americas most popular brand of hand sanitizer saying that the product does not work if hands are soiled or contain oils (body oil included)—they say that hands must be washed if they are soiled because the soil will contaminate and void the affect of the sanitizer. They go on to say that oils, fat, grease, etc. may prevent the sanitizers ethyl alcohol from reaching the germs. Yet, nowhere on their product labels or packaging do they mention what they told me in an e-mail!
Contrary to what you may view or hear in a TV or radio commercial... Cleaning "any old way", practicing "one-shot" aerosol spray germ killing, or applying
a disinfectant-detergent solution onto a soiled or partially cleaned surface to kill germs can prove to be extremely dangerous... Each year, 100,000
US hospital visitors die from Nosocomial infections. I dont even want to think about how many of our aged die unnecessarily in nursing homes from Nosocomial
When an infection outbreak occurs, communications from the affected organization usually proclaim an order to elevate their "disinfection" program. I will offer praise to any administrator who directs housekeeping/custodial personnel to wash, using "soap and water", and rinse using fresh cold water... And, who is unrelenting with the mandate to change wash and rinse water frequently. Oh yes, to complete the circle of healthy living, drive home the point that everyone must wash their hands often—especially after using toilet facilities or before handling food.
Healthy cleaning is not more difficult... It just needs to be done correctly. Healthy cleaning does not even require more labor... If cleaning is done properly, healthy results will be achieved in less time. Our customers tell us that they can get about double the work done when they do their work correctly using products that work quickly and thoroughly.
Removing soil removes germs... If its clean, its healthy.
TQH and Total Quality Housekeeping are Registered Trademarks ® of the TQH Systems Corp.
Gabriel First Corp. is a TQH-Certified vendor.
© 2014 TQH Systems Corp.
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