The ramifications of not disinfecting frequently are massive. Pathogens that are left behind after cleaning can multiply quickly and can last hours or days on surfaces or can travel in the air due to their small size, says Wilcox.

“This can then allow for more infectious outbreaks and a harder time to stop the spread and thus re-infect people using the facility,” she says. “Not dealing with germs in the workplace is like walking into a cage of hungry tigers with a meat suit on and hoping one of them or all of them don’t come after you. Germs, microbes and pathogens are getting hearty and more resistant to sanitizers, disinfectants and antibiotics and we need to be smarter.” 

Disinfecting often and correctly in office buildings has been shown to decrease instances of the common cold, influenza and cases of diarrhea by 70 to 80 percent.

One misunderstood and overlooked aspect is the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning high touch surfaces of debris and soils should be accomplished with the least toxic cleaner that can be used in the facility, says Wilcox. Ideally, a non-synthetic cleaner that contains no dyes or fragrances and is biodegradable and sustainable should be used.

“Cleaning removes soils and is a necessary step before any sanitizing and disinfecting should happen,” she says. “A two-in-one step of cleaning and trying to disinfect at the same time is never advised. The reason is that a lot of formulation goes into products so a product that tries to be both a cleaner and disinfectant will not be great at both.”

After cleaning, disinfecting products can be used. Custodial managers should determine the most common microbes or potential pathogens that they incur or may come across and use a product that can kill all of them in order to streamline the process, she says.

“Once a disinfectant product or chemical class is chosen, all staff should be trained on how to use it correctly, meaning what concentration to use in what location and how long the product needs to sit to work,” says Wilcox. 

Brendan O’Brien is a freelancer based in Greenfield, Wisconsin.


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High-Touch Surfaces Need Improved Disinfecting