So the COVID pandemic has made hand sanitizer standard equipment in vehicles. Disinfectant spray abounds in most households. The focus on “clean” has never been more elevated.
No doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic inspired a cleaning frenzy. But here’s the question now: How many people are cleaning thoroughly enough to prevent the spread of germs?
Some don’t know what “clean” really means in the context of infection prevention, says Tricia Holderman, author of “Germinator: The Germ Girl’s Guide To Simple Solutions In A Germ-Filled World.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic got a lot of people thinking about germs,” says Holderman, owner and CEO of Elite Facility Systems, a consulting company that handles facility cleanliness and infection prevention for hospitals, NFL and NBA teams, and other businesses.
“Suddenly, every other person you meet is a clean freak. People who never knew infection prevention was a thing were suddenly spraying their groceries with disinfectant and walking around in homemade hazmat suits.”
Everybody has a different idea of clean, she says. Some people, for example, insist on having floors so sparkly and shiny you could eat off of them.
But there is a difference between cleanliness and infection prevention.
“Just because something looks clean doesn’t mean it’s germ-free,” Holderman says. “There are specific things that cleaning needs to accomplish to create a safe, healthy environment.”
Holderman explains the four categories of cleaning and how to keep your house not just clean but sanitary:
• Surface cleaning. This involves vacuuming, sweeping, dusting or wiping. The right way to clean, Holderman says, is to get the dirt off of a surface, but many people instead only move the dirt around because they wipe in circles or mop back and forth over the same areas.
“Use leading-edge cleaning,” she says. “After first clearing everything off the surface, you always lead with the same edge of your mop, rag, or whatever you’re using and always move forward, pushing the dirt away from the surface you’ve already cleaned. But remember, in regard to removing germs from the environment, cleaning alone isn’t enough to make a place safe.”
• Disinfecting. Disinfecting is the chemical process of killing germs, usually by applying a spray or liquid solution to them.
“Some people tend to combine surface cleaning with disinfecting by spraying a disinfecting cleaner and then wiping it off,” Holderman says. “When done properly, this process makes whatever surface you clean as clean as it looks.”
• Sanitizing. This is the reduction of the number of germs to a safe level. It’s mostly used in food preparation areas and refers to eliminating or reducing bacteria.
“What you do to sanitize will vary, depending on your needs,” Holderman says. “For example, you sanitize your hands, but you should never use disinfectant on your skin, only sanitizer designed specifically for that purpose.”
• Sterilizing. Sterilizing takes disinfecting to the next level by adding heat, Holderman says. “Most germs will die if heated to a certain temperature,” she says. “For example, most viruses will die at 160 degrees. Sterilization is done mainly in professional settings, like hospitals and dental offices. Chemicals can also be combined to be used for sanitization when heat is not the best option.”
At home, Holderman says, a regular combination of cleaning and disinfecting should be more than enough to keep you and your loved ones safe.
So there you have it.
As Holderman says, “Germs linger and spread and it’s important to know the most effective ways to get rid of them before they get to you or your loved ones.”
— Times and Democrat, May 17