By Liz Caracciolo
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an increased expectation and demand for more regular cleaning and disinfecting in our homes and businesses. Subsequently, a proliferation of new products and technologies to disinfect effectively and efficiently have been brought to market. However, sorting through the various product claims and choices to determine which solutions can be trusted can be quite confusing. The fact is that many products do not live up to either their hype or claims.
It’s our goal to debunk the myths and help business owners understand which technologies for commercial cleaning and disinfection really work.
EPA List N Disinfectants
These are products approved by the EPA for use against SARS-CoV-2, the novel human coronavirus that causes COVID-19. With their easy-to-use application system, these products are invaluable tools to keep on hand to disinfect spaces throughout the day, especially high-touch areas like doorknobs and phones. When using these disinfectants, it is critical to follow proper dwell times as indicated on the label for full effectiveness.
Steam cleaners can safely kill germs and viruses in hard-to-reach places or on porous surfaces like upholstered furniture. However, it is important to keep in mind that steam can damage some surfaces, like wood or marble. Despite its proven results in killing germs and viruses, it can be difficult to know how long a surface needs to be treated to effectively sanitize given a wide range of variables from surface type and steam temperature and it is important to know whether or not the specific disinfectant used in these devices has proven capability to specifically kill the SARS Covid 2 virus.
Ultraviolet Light (UV) Technology
Ultraviolet Light Technology is known by a few names, including Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation, UV-C Light, and LED Blue Light. UV-C is often used in combination with other procedures. While this technology can be effective, often times workspaces need to be retrofitted to accommodate incorporating UV technology, which can be cost prohibitive for many businesses. But with that said, new technologies are emerging to bridge that gap, including light bulbs that perform the same role without having to install specialty electrical devices. This could be a good fit for hospital rooms or even outpatient medical treatment centers.
Though effective, most UV-C Technology currently on the market is only safe to use in empty rooms because its light can cause sunburn and related cell mutations that could lead to skin cancer. Unless there is down time or an after-hours cleaning cycle, it could be impractical for use in high-traffic areas such as waiting rooms and other common spaces where people gather.
While the pandemic has caused many difficulties, it has also inspired innovation. The use of robotics has revolutionized the industry. Whether UV-light-zapping germicidal robots, robots that spray disinfectant to disinfecting drones that deliver effective and efficient sanitation application methods, new technology is being mobilized in various sectors of public environments, from hospitals to hotels. As the field continues to evolve at a breakneck pace, this emerging technology for disinfection equipment will be interesting to watch in the next year as its efficacy is evaluated, improvements are made, and costs become more manageable.
The pandemic saw an emergence of widespread use of electrostatic sprayers, which mix disinfectant solutions with air, then apply an electric charge to them through an electrode inside the sprayer nozzle. The disinfectant is then sprayed onto surfaces. Any negatively charged surface bonds with the positively charged disinfectant, resulting in a more even and thorough coat of disinfectant, which aids in the killing of any pathogen.
Some of the benefits of this process are:
- Reduces the time it takes to cover and disinfect all surfaces and hard-to-reach places by 50% compared to conventional methods
- Applies chemicals in a more efficient, controlled manner
- Helps avoid liquid pooling often associated with trigger sprayers
- Keyboards, monitors, and desktop/laptop encasements can be treated electrostatically if they aren’t saturated in solution
The EPA considers electrostatic sprayers “low-pressure sprayers.” Any disinfectant labels that include the language “low-pressure sprayer” or “low-pressure coarse sprayer” indicate that the product can be used through an electrostatic sprayer. While this is an effective tool in disinfecting possibly the broadest range of surfaces, training is required to ensure comprehensive coverage and results.
Foggers and Misters
Foggers emit a mist that consists of tiny droplets of disinfectant. The particles in the “fog” are so small that they remain suspended in the air long enough to kill airborne viruses and bacteria. The disinfectant also eliminates pathogens on surfaces, including ceilings, walls, furniture, and floors.
This is a rapid and efficient way to reach hard-to-get areas. And in most cases, it’s not necessary to move furniture or equipment around before or during the cleaning process, which simplifies the cleaning regimen. EPA refers to fogging as “Fumigation” and wide-area spraying. Any EPA-approved disinfectant product indicated for use in fumigation can likely be used in a fogger.
Foggers and misters are effective for:
- Killing airborne germs and bacteria
- Eliminating pathogens on surfaces like ceilings, walls, furniture, floors
- Reaching difficult-to-clean areas like behind or under furniture
Typically, the particles emitted in the fog or mist are so small and fine, they evaporate quickly and don’t require wipe-down. However, depending on the sensitivity of the surface you’re cleaning, you may still want to wipe down the surface after the dwell time elapses. It is also wise to remove any paper documents that could be saturated by the fog or mist.
Antimicrobial Surface Protection Products
Antimicrobial Surface Protection Products are applied by spraying or wiping on a surface and may provide long-lasting protection. Once applied to a disinfected surface and allowed to dry, the solution creates a covalent bond that has a unique, spiked structure and a positive electrical charge. On contact, the spikes punch through the cell walls of the microbes.
As with many commercial cleaning and disinfecting technologies, significant advances are being made in product development. Most recently, OpenWorks has started using Monofoil D, a product that combines the List N EPA-approved disinfectant, which provides disinfection against COVID-19 and other viruses, including the flu, with surface protectant. The patented two-step application process of first cleaning, then disinfecting and protecting the surface provides a longer-lasting surface defense than cleaning and disinfecting alone.
EPA-registered products that claim long-lasting effectiveness are limited to those that control odor-causing bacteria on hard, non-porous surfaces. EPA researchers hope to determine whether antimicrobial products can provide residual disinfection on surfaces over time and how durable the disinfection ability of the product is with normal use, including routine cleaning and natural weathering.
Cleaning and disinfecting a commercial space is a tremendous undertaking that can be complicated and requires in-depth knowledge of using the right tools in the right environments to create effective results. As new products and technologies emerge, they will undoubtedly equip companies with the germ-fighting resources to create the cleanest spaces possible. The most challenging task at hand will be deciding what tools are the best for your particular environment.
When vetting new technology, always consider its complexity and investments you will need to make to ensure its effective use; its track record compared to other technology; and finally, both short- and long-term costs that will come from integrating the technology into your day-to-day cleaning and disinfecting regimen. Working with a qualified commercial cleaning service can often relieve the stress of managing cleaning and disinfecting yourself, and ensures every surface is properly treated, easing much of the heavy decision-making and investments that you would have to undertake.
For more information on COVID-19 commercial cleaning best practices, download our free report or contact us today.
Caracciolo is COO of OpenWorks, a national facilities management company, headquartered in Phoenix, that helps a variety of customers across the country manage an assortment of facility services, including cleaning and disinfecting, to help them maintain a healthy and safe environment.