Cleaning and disinfecting are part of an important routine to prevent infectious diseases in schools. Other measures include staying home when sick, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often, and getting an annual flu shot. Below are tips on how to slow the spread of flu through an effective cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting program.
- Know the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing
Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap or detergent and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection. Clean first to remove grease, oil, dirt, dust, etc. from all surfaces. Cleaning is an important step in creating a surface environment conducive to sanitizing and disinfecting.
Disinfecting kills germs and bacteria on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but kills germs on a surface after cleaning and further lowers the risk of spreading infection.
Sanitizing reduces the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards. This process works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or objects to lower the risk of spreading infection. In a food service environment, sanitizing surfaces and utensils reduces the pathogens down to an acceptable level to eliminate the risk of spreading disease.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are touched often
Follow your school’s standard procedures for routine cleaning and disinfecting. Typically, this means daily sanitizing surfaces and objects that are touched often, such as desks, countertops, doorknobs, computer keyboards, hands-on learning items, faucet handles, phones, and toys. Some schools may also require daily disinfecting these items. Standard procedures often call for disinfecting specific areas of the school, like bathrooms.
The installation of SafeHandles sleeves and tape will help reduce the amount of time and chemicals needed to sanitize the school environment. Rather than transferring germs from one user to the next, SafeHandles continuously reduce the presence of pathogens as they arrive. When you consider the dwell time necessary for many disinfectants, installing SafeHandles where possible can help reduce janitorial overhead.
- Clean and disinfect correctly
Always follow label directions on use and dwell time of cleaning products and disinfectants. Wash surfaces with a general household cleaner to remove germs. Read the disinfectant label to make sure it states that EPA has approved the product for effectiveness against the influenza-A virus.
It is important to match your cleaning and disinfecting activities to the types of germs you want to remove or kill. Most studies have shown that the flu virus can live on a surface and potentially infect a person for up to 48 hours. Other germs and bacteria can live on surfaces for much longer, potentially risking the spread of disease, even after a weekend break.
Using electrostatic spray application can quickly sanitize difficult to clean electronic items that are touched often, such as phones and computers as well as cubbies, equipment, and areas difficult to access. Since these technologies do not require post-application wiping, you get the benefit of maximum dwell-time while the surface dries.
- Use products safely
Pay close attention to hazard warnings and directions on product labels. Cleaning products and disinfectants often call for the use of gloves or eye protection. For example, gloves should always be worn when working with bleach solutions. Never apply bleach or bleach hybrid products electrostatically. For electrostatic applications, use Pure Hard-Surface or similar sanitizers.
Ensure that custodial staff, teachers, and others who use cleaners and disinfectants read and understand all instruction labels and understand safe and appropriate use. This might require that instructional materials and training be provided in other languages.
- Handle waste safely
Follow your school’s standard procedures for handling waste, which may include wearing gloves. Throw disposable items used to clean surfaces and items in the trash immediately after use. Wash your hands with soap and water after emptying waste baskets and touching used tissues and similar waste.
As an alternative to chemical treatments, SafeHandles offers both electrostatic sanitization and passive antimicrobial tape and sleeves. SafeHandles products contain a slow-release sanitizer and the time it takes to install them is similar to the amount of dwell time needed for a traditional disinfectant. It’s important to weigh the time involved in using these methods correctly versus the cost and time involved in application of SafeHandles’ installed sanitizing products.