The COVID-19 pandemic is bringing much-needed awareness to the cleaning industry and the public about the value and importance of preventing the spread of infectious microorganisms.

"In the past, we liked to say cleaning is for health, but we could never prove it," says Griffin. "Now, we know that cleaning is actually a life or death issue because of COVID."

He adds that to fully understand the importance of disinfecting vacuums and carpet cleaners, EVS workers as well as building occupants should keep in mind the two fundamental tasks that they face. First is removing dirt and foreign bodies from the carpet. Second, is disinfecting the carpet to kill fungi, bacteria and viral microorganisms.

"One of the things, I think, most people don't understand about this is how long some of these things can live on surfaces," says Griffin. "Some can live 30 days or longer on the surface. You can't see them. You can't necessarily smell them or even know that they are there."

The task of disinfecting vacuums and other machines is complicated by how it fits in with all the tasks that are performed by custodians.

"Most times, people don't fit in [time for] keeping custodial closets or equipment clean, organized, usable and maintained. They don't include this in the overall time on a worker's shift and that is where the biggest problem lies," says Allen. "It's getting as much done cleaning as possible inside a worker's shift, and oftentimes non-cleaning tasks are never factored in."

As a result, if an organization hopes to incorporate a machine-cleaning program, it must realize that it is adding to the amount of overall time and resources that is needed to maintain the facility, Allen says.

"If you are looking to adjust the equation, the best way is to do it onsite with a visit and assessment," he says, referring to supervisors, vendors and distributors.

For example, a site assessment may render that instead of five cleaners equipped with upright vacuums, splitting 25,000 square feet evenly, the facility or service provider should instead purchase a wide-area or rider vacuum that could handle the main areas of the facility such as large hallways and spaces.

Brendan O'Brien is a freelance writer based in Chicago.

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Machine Cleaning Programs Minimize Pathogens