By Harrison Greenspan
Now with the desolating second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic crashing down on us all, shelter-in-place orders may begin to be reinstated, mandatory mask-wearing may become inevitable, and the anxiety of moving past this horrific virus may not come sooner than later. Due to this once again rising anxiety, more and more people are about to become OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) regarding germs, bacteria, and the world of cleanliness in general. And that level anxiety might be actually warranted, as this insidious virus should have people scrambling to protect themselves, their homes, and businesses from potential contamination. Local governments are also being extra cautious, as many have passed emergency ordinances to increase the cleaning of city hotels and commercial offices. For example, in addition to the increased cleaning as a precaution against COVID-19, the Mayor of San Francisco signed the “Healthy Buildings” ordinance which requires that hotel and office employees get training on the new standards, as well as retaliation against those refusing to perform work under unsafe conditions. Although there are already lawsuits against this type of extreme ordinance, we are quickly realizing the extreme may very well be the new normal.
Accordingly, sanitization and cleaning products are flying off the shelves supporting this notion of America becoming rightfully OCD about the virus. Comparing sales of products between 2019 and 2020, disposable gloves are seeing a 670% increase in sales, hand soap and sanitizers are up 262%, and household cleaners with a 195% increase. As much as Americans are becoming more hygienically conscious, there are still many facts about the virus to consider, especially ones that should enlighten those people who are truly taking this virus seriously. These are clear signs pointing towards launching a cleaning services small business as soon as possible, as American businesses and homeowners will be, and quite frankly already are, thinking about hiring this type of service now more than ever. This is especially true while we are bombarded with many disheartening COVID-19 stats daily.
The Scary Facts About SARS-CoV-2 AKA the Novel Coronavirus AKA COVID-19
As you probably know by now, the spread of the virus occurs most frequently among close contacts within 6 feet due to the types of transmission, whether that be person-to-person via respiratory droplets (part of the idea of social distancing is that droplets can generally carry for only 5 to 6 feet), or from contact with contaminated objects or surfaces (such as doorknobs, countertops, keyboards, handrails, sink faucets, and toys). These droplets come in the form of mouth or nose secretions, which include saliva, respiratory secretions and secretion droplets. For example, the droplets are released from the mouth or nose when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks or even sings. And once a person infected with coronavirus starts singing their favorite song and those droplets hit a surface, some evidence suggests that the virus can remain viable on surfaces (made from a variety of materials), anywhere from a couple of hours to a few days, while other evidence has shown that the virus can remain viable on certain surfaces up to a whole week. Additionally, people who are asymptomatic can transmit the virus as well, albeit at a lower rate (based on evidence coming from China).
The virus also becomes even more dangerous in situations where there is little to no ventilation indoors. Although it is unknown how long the air inside a room occupied by someone confirmed to have the virus remains potentially infectious, it is safe to say the risk is much higher with these circumstances. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), “Facilities will need to consider factors such as the size of the room and the ventilation system design (including flowrate [air changes per hour] and location of supply and exhaust vents) when deciding how long to close off rooms or areas used by ill persons before beginning disinfection. Taking measures to improve ventilation in an area or room where someone was ill or suspected to be ill with COVID-19 will help shorten the time it takes respiratory droplets to be removed from the air.” As such, many small businesses (primarily restaurants) have installed hospital-grade ventilation systems to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
The Differences Between Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting
One of the most significant facts to consider and understand about cleaning (one you should explain to customers as well as potential customers), is that cleaning does not kill bacteria, viruses, or even fungi, all of which more commonly referred to as “germs.” Cleaning is accomplished by combining water, a cleaning product, and the act of scrubbing. Although cleaning a tabletop surface, for example, won’t kill the germs, it is a vital first step in the process. Cleaning a surface will remove dirt and debris that can make way for products and methods that do kill germs, thus creating a more effective process.
On the other hand, sanitizing or disinfecting a surface will kill the germs. Sanitizers reduce bacteria on a surface by at least 99.9%. Conversely, disinfectants kill a wider range of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and mold. These methods work great on all surfaces such as:
· natural stone (including marble, granite, and limestone)
· upholstery, fabrics, and drapes
· carpets and area rugs
· on hard non-porous surfaces like stainless steel and the components of your HVAC system (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system)
Techniques and Equipment Used to Effectively Fight the Coronavirus
According to the CDC and as aforementioned above, it is most effective to clean a surface or object before sanitizing or disinfecting. Once thoroughly cleaned, you can move on to sanitizing or disinfecting, which is accomplished by means of various techniques to fit various situations. For example, the technique of “fogging” uses a fine spray of disinfectant for those hard-to-reach spaces, such as air duct systems and any nooks or crannies that would be otherwise missed. As another example, “wet spraying” is the act of completely coating a surface with a sanitizing solution through a spray, then allowing it to dry. Wet spraying is usually done in public spaces, as it is efficient to sanitize large open areas. You might have seen this done by people in hazmat suits through footage on the news.
Speaking of hazmat suits (hazardous materials suits), these pieces of PPE (personal protective equipment) will be essential to protecting you and your workers while on the job. The United States Department of Homeland Security defines a hazmat suit as "an overall garment worn to protect people from hazardous materials or substances, including chemicals, biological agents, or radioactive materials." Such suits are also often combined with a self-contained breathing apparatus (aka SCBA) to ensure a supply of breathable air. Moreover, hazmat suits are classified as any of Levels A, B, C, or D, based upon the degree of protection they provide. As an example, some levels of hazmat suits will also protect you from fires or high temperatures (firefighters use them at times), although I’d be surprised for you to be put in that situation while sanitizing an office space. For a complete buyer’s guide on Hazmat suits, click HERE!
Lastly, do not trust the labeling of sanitization products, as many promote their product by slapping on a bolded “hospital grade” or industrial grade.” Terms like these are purely for marketing and do not certify a product as reaching a certain standard or quality. As recommended by the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), please click HERE for a list of disinfectants that work well against COVID-19. And of course, follow the instructions on the label for all cleaning and disinfection products for concentration, dilution, application method, contact time and any other special considerations when applying.
Determine What Needs to Be Cleaned and What Needs to Be Sanitized
Although some of your customers will be adamant on you sanitizing every nook and cranny of their business or home, some surfaces only need to be cleaned with soap and water. The following is a non-exhaustive list of what should be cleaned as opposed to what should be sanitized:
· Surfaces that are out of reach and simply not touched frequently should be cleaned, not sanitized, especially when covering a lot of ground and need to conserve resources.
· If the area is outdoors, spraying disinfectant on sidewalks and in parks and gardens is not an efficient use of disinfectant, particularly due to the fact that it has not been proven (according to the CDC) to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
· Be aware of who resides in an area that needs to be cleaned and/or sanitized, especially regarding young children who will take every opportunity to put objects into their mouths. As such, if there are toys or objects lying around, make sure to have the customer clear away those objects before proceeding to clean and/or sanitize.
· Certain outdoor areas and facilities (such as bars and restaurants) may have additional requirements to not only effectively sanitize, but also safely sanitize. More information can be found on the CDC’s website on Food Safety and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
· According to the CDC, there is no evidence that shows that the virus can spread directly to humans from water in pools, hot tubs, spas, and other water play areas.
· If the area has been unoccupied for at least 7 days, only a normal cleaning routine is necessary since the virus has not been shown to survive on surfaces longer than 7 days.
· Soft and porous materials are generally not as easy to disinfect as hard and non-porous materials, thus requiring disinfectant particularly made for these types of materials. And if the soft or porous material is not frequently touched, it can simply be cleaned and laundered instead.
Regulations, Ordinances, Rules, & Licenses
One question you may be asking is whether the EPA regulates companies claiming to disinfect for COVID-19? The short answer is “No,” as the EPA does not license companies that provide cleaning (and sanitization) services. However, the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has a variety of regulations relating to, among other things, eye and face protection, hand and foot protection, toxic and hazardous substances, and ventilation. For more details on federal safety and health rules, check the cleaning industry section of the OSHA website. Further, because of the fact that some of the chemicals you and your employees may be handling are somewhat toxic, California, for example, requires that you prepare an Injury and Illness Prevention Plan. For more information, please visit the Division of Occupational Health and Safety(DOSH) of California’s Department of Industrial Relations. And lastly, be sure to check at the state or local level for more information regarding potential regulations or ordinances on the type of disinfectants or sanitizers that can be used within their respective municipality.
So, while your customers may see that you have the relevant paperwork to show that you are abiding by safety regulations and rules, one last factor that can help set you apart from your competition is certification. Although a certification is not required to launch a cleaning and disinfecting services small business, it is a way to show you have the necessary skills to complete the job at the highest professional level. And best yet, considering we’re still battling this unrelenting virus, there are already COVID-19 certifications you can acquire by taking classes. Additional information can be found at Zack Academy.
And finally, always be sure to follow the guidelines outlined throughout the CDC’s website, especially their Guide for Cleaning and Disinfecting. Best of luck on launching your Cleaning and Disinfecting Services Small Business!
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