Prioritising hygiene and preventing cross-contamination during the pandemic

Prioritising hygiene and preventing cross-contamination during the pandemic

The far-reaching implications of the ongoing pandemic have presented countless challenges for modern facilities management (FM) teams, but perhaps not many more pertinent than establishing effective cleaning practices. James Taylor, Marketing Director Specialties EMEIA at Berry Global, discusses the cleaning solutions delivering positive change in the sector.

As the world continues to be engulfed by one of the most unprecedented events in modern living memory – with the UK entering a second lockdown as we write this article  – health, hygiene and overall wellness are top of the agenda for leadership teams across a range of industries. For facilities managers, this means taking the necessary steps to safeguard occupants of all types of premises during the crisis has become of paramount importance.

Charged with the maintenance and management of buildings, and most importantly the people within them, facilities managers have a vital role to play in ensuring the most appropriate and effective prevention and contamination strategies are implemented. And while the exact dynamics of transmission are still being determined, it is known that Covid-19 can live on plastic and stainless steel surfaces for up to three days , according to research from the Centres for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).

The close and careful sanitisation of all high traffic ‘high-touch’ touch points, common surfaces, floors and fittings, therefore, has become one of the most important aspects of the role of FMs if they are to prevent cross-contamination of harmful bacteria and effectively limit the number of confirmed cases.

Nonetheless, while maintaining cleanliness of surfaces with the greatest concentration of microbes can prevent them acting as vectors for the spread of the virus, achieving it across progressively complex and diverse environments is certainly not a simple task. Professionals must not only consider the increased demands placed on staff, but also adapt cleaning practices to the requirements of the given environment, by implementing the most effective solution to meet infection prevention targets.

Add into the mix the wider business considerations such as the environmental impact of cleaning practices, as well as the cost efficiencies of solutions being used, and the challenge being faced becomes even greater.

Breaking the chain of infection

The positive news for modern FMs is new cleaning technologies are increasingly being deployed that instil greater confidence when it comes to delivering effective and efficient infection control. What’s more, today’s professionals who are tasked with breaking the chain of infection of Covid-19 have arguably the broadest range of high-quality cleaning solutions at their disposal – each developed to tackle very specific cleaning tasks.

For present-day facilities teams, fundamental to the success of any hygiene strategy is finding the perfect balance of cleaning solutions that not only deliver high hygiene standards, but also avoid common inadequacies when it comes to infection control.

Traditional woven cloths, for instance, have for a long time remained the backbone of many cleaning professional’s arsenals. This is despite extensive research revealing that some 30%  of the germs they pick up whilst cleaning are subsequently deposited onto the next surface wiped – a critical misstep when it comes to cross-contamination prevention.

Re-usable 100% cloths have made significant improvements in this arena, with their superior cleaning performance and greater microbial removal proficiencies making them a logical substitute for woven cloth equivalents. Despite this, they do present their own disadvantages. A study by the American Journal of Infection Control found that 93% of microfibre cloths tested, used to clean hospital rooms after being laundered, still contained dangerous levels of bacteria such as E. Coli.

A clean outlook

In an age where infection control has assumed the primacy in efficient hygiene management processes, one solution that is adding significant value is working with disposable microfibre wipes and cloths.

The limited time usage of microfibre based solutions feature a unique structure that facilitates the removal of 99.99% of bacteria, securely trapping it in the material without the use of chemicals, and significantly reducing the risk of cross-contamination. While, by virtue of being completely disposable after use, safeguarding against bacteria being released onto the next surface cleaned.

When it comes to superior cleaning efficacy and lower pathogen transmission, disposable 100% microfibre wipes and cloths also provide significant benefits. Comprehensive testing conducted under simulated cleaning conditions, against numerous bacteria at University College London recently discovered that the number of median log3 MRSA and K. pneumoniae incorporating a soil suspension on single-use solutions were consistently lower than re-useable (laundered) microfibre cloth comparatives.

Relatedly, while disposable cloth and mops displayed no relevant microbial contamination following extensive investigations, spore forming bacteria were recovered from both pristine and laundered microfiber cloths and mop heads used for cleaning hospital rooms after washing (Berry Global/University College London Hospitals report, 2019).

Spray and wipe solutions

Of course, while the adaptability and clinical performance of disposable cloths and mops are applicable for a wide number of cleaning practices, inevitably categorically niche cleaning procedures will require a more tailored solution.

For high touch surfaces that are routinely cleaned with spray and wipe systems, the improved dwell time delivered by advanced impregnated wipe systems can maximise the effectiveness of regular cleaning regimes.

Sophisticated impregnated wipe systems allow cleaning professionals to simply add their own chemical of choice to the dispenser bucket and wiper roll, instantly creating different high performing impregnated wipes for various areas. This makes them a more efficient choice when compared to purchasing varying pre-saturated wipes. Such a degree of flexibility is an essential requirement for cleaning teams operating under budgetary restraints.

Disposing of re-usable materials

In an age where being environmentally conscious and sustainable is becoming more and more imperative for organisations, organisations face new considerations when it comes to selecting cleaning materials. The ecological balance of cleaning solutions, for instance, has rapidly moved its way up the criteria checklist during the selection process.

Facilities management professionals spanning a breadth of industries are realising the wider benefits of disposable cleaning solutions. Using such materials not only means the extensive and thorough cleaning required to stave off Covid-19 can be achieved, owing to the superior cleaning performance and greater microbial removal competencies of re-usable 100% microfibre cloths, wipes and mops, but it can be done so while limiting the risk of cross-contamination.

In large and complex working environments, in particular, the carbon emitting cycle of laundering a wide assortment of disposable solutions can have a heavy burden on the environment.

Over the life cycle of a typical washable cloth and mop, a total of 0.8KwH energy is consumed per wash and 1.6KwH per tumble dry cycle (2.4KwH total). Given that each reusable cloth/mop is used 200 times on average over a period of 3 months, a total of 480KwH would be consumed over the average product life cycle.

To put this into context, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) , such consumption produces 0.339 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent to 842 miles driven by an average passenger vehicle or CO2 emissions from 38.2 gallons of fuel consumed.

It is in this regard that the effectiveness of disposable microfibre cloths for cleaning surfaces and floors, when compared to re-useable equivalents, can be particularly advantageous. Such solutions eradicate time-consuming and high carbon emission emitting laundering processes, while at the same time markedly improving infection control management.

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Prioritising hygiene and preventing cross-contamination during the pandemic