Part two of this three-part article focuses on how to use chemicals to clean and disinfect soft surfaces.

The chemical approach is to douse the fabrics in disinfectant, watch the dwell times and then rinse.

That’s the approach Pine Crest takes for its soft surfaces. Residents often vomit, defecate or urinate while sitting on soft surfaces in the facility. These bodily fluids soak deep into the fabric and must be removed. Housekeepers typically douse the fabric in a disinfectant designed to kill specific germs then use water and a water extraction tool to flush out the fabric. The facility uses a hydrogen-peroxide-based disinfectant designed for hospital use.

“We sought a different product, because C. diff was becoming a recurring problem and bleach was damaging these surfaces,” says Slaminski.

Johnson says his hospital uses a quaternary disinfectant specified for hospital use on its soft surfaces. The chemical disinfects and deodorizes at the same time, and Johnson says it’s “safe to use on all patient contact surfaces.”

“Any time you use a bleach product, it will do some damage to soft surfaces,” he says.

With cleaners and disinfectants designed for soft surfaces, as long as the surface isn’t riddled with holes and other imperfections, such products will clean and disinfect without damaging the surface.

The savvy cleaning operation should do its homework before using chemicals on any surface. Both Slaminski and Johnson say it’s important to know what the soft surface is made of, then work with a distributor to spec chemicals that are safe to use.

“You want to be sure whether it’s the bed or the mattress or a keyboard cover that you’re reading the manufacturer’s specs and using the products recommended for that surface,” says Johnson. “That way you’ll get longevity in the product and won’t void the warranty.”

Johnson also relies heavily on experts within the hospital’s infection control department.

“We meet with them regularly and call them any time guidance is needed with a specific product,” he says.

The cleaning chemical’s manufacturer can also be a good resource, says Hicks.

“You need to show the manufacturer of these products what you’re using to disinfect, and then ask them, ‘Do you approve the use of this disinfectant on your product?’ If they refuse to do that, then I would look for a different product.”