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COVID-19: How to prevent germs from spreading

09 June 2020

SafeSite Security Solutions provides analysis on the impact of deep cleaning in a bid to minimise the risk of Coronavirus.

Contract cleaning has now taken on a new meaning with the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe. Whether you are a private landlord or a commercial property owner then gaining the confidence of your tenants and employees and demonstrating that you are proactively protecting their health is vital.

The BBC has reported that professional cleaning firms are busier than ever as more cases of Coronavirus are being reported, with doctor’s surgeries, offices and schools seeking deep cleaning services following patients, employees, teachers and pupils being tested for the virus.

Commercial cleaning companies are reporting that clients, particularly those in UK cities, such as large businesses and restaurants, are requesting further services, such as preventative deep cleans, since Coronavirus cases hit the UK. 

A Coronavirus deep clean should include the close and careful sanitisation of all touch points, floors and fittings. Germs can easily and quickly spread from one person to another by touching unclean equipment or surfaces.

A full fogging service, carried out to the correct European (EN) standards for killing bacteria and viruses, is a sensible additional precaution for the highest level of hygiene. 

Public Health England (PHE) has published advice on what people need to know about cleaning (in non-healthcare settings) if someone suspected of carrying the Coronavirus has been present. This guidance has been prepared based on knowledge of other viruses and is being regularly reviewed and updated.

Risk analysis

If you are carrying out a deep clean at premises where you suspect someone may have been carrying the virus, the main risks to consider are:

  • Contaminated surfaces
  • Virus shedding from people who may be carrying it
  • The amount of time an infected person spent in the setting
  • The amount of time that has passed since the individual was last in the setting.

Studies of other viruses suggest that these risks are most likely to be reduced significantly over 72 hours. It is therefore recommended that an area be kept closed and secure for 72 hours, before cleaning, as the amount of virus living on surfaces will have dramatically reduced over this period of time. The same period of time is recommended for the disposal of cleaning items and personal protective equipment (PPE).

At a minimum, disposable gloves and an apron should be worn. Additional PPE for the eyes, mouth and nose might be necessary if visible contamination is present. Your local PHE Health Protection Team can advise on the most appropriate PPE for cleaning settings where a higher level of virus is indicated.

Responsible waste removal is essential if infection is suspected. Contaminated waste should not be stored with normal waste for 72 hours. If this is not possible then collection can be arranged through a specialist waste contractor who will treat it appropriately.

Waste disposal

One of the main health risks is at vacant properties where they may have been used as a place of shelter by drug users or squatters, who may leave human waste and other hazardous items behind. Human waste is not only unpleasant; it also carries a high health risk and the possibility of disease transmission. Human waste should only be removed by a professional waste removal company, licensed to transport and dispose of human waste in accordance with current UK standards and legislation. The area should be deep cleaned afterwards to ensure any remaining harmful bacteria are completely removed.

To protect the health of your property and its occupants, you may want to provide your tenants with a daily cleaning schedule, for ongoing germ control. Here are 10 top tips and pieces of advice to stop the spread of germs in your property:

  1. Focus your cleaning efforts on areas of the house where germs are most likely to spread, for instance the kitchen and the bathroom.
  2. Soap and hot water will rinse germs away, disinfectant will kill them.
  3. Damp surfaces are a breeding ground for germs so make sure you thoroughly dry all counter tops and chopping boards.
  4. Make your cleaning schedule a regular one, tackling germ hot spots on a daily, rather than a weekly, basis.
  5. Clean your cleaning equipment. Unless the tools you’re cleaning with are germ-free, then you’ll only be spreading harmful bacteria around. Use disposable cloths where possible. Reusable cloths should be disinfected after use or washed at 60C after each use. After washing, dry all cleaning equipment thoroughly.
  6. Use two buckets when using liquid cleaners – one for mopping, one for rinsing.
  7. Consider steam cleaning carpets and soft furnishings for effective germ control.
  8. Wash household linens, towels and underwear at 60C to kill germs.
  9. Use hands-free bins for food waste disposal to minimise the risk of germs spreading.
  10. Store pet food and equipment separately from the rest of the household.