Arlen Pettitt

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Eight cleaning facts that debunk common coronavirus myths

Tony Sullivan, Environmental and Decontamination Manager, NHS Deep Cleaning and Advisory Service

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As Coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, so do the myths and misconceptions surrounding the virus. That’s why the NHS Deep Cleaning and Advisory Service is working to combat this misinformation, as part of our commitment to extending the NHS standard of cleaning into the community.

We’ve spoken to Tony Sullivan, the Environmental and Decontamination Services Manager based at University Hospital of North Tees and board member for the professional body for decontamination, the Institute of Decontamination Sciences, about the facts when it comes to cleaning and Covid-19. Here’s what he had to say:

1. A Disinfectant cannot protect against Coronavirus for a number of days or weeks

Simply put, a disinfectant only protects a surface / room against Coronavirus until the next person walks into the room / touches the surface and then immediately the integrity of the room is compromised. Regardless of product or company claims, a one off deep clean cannot keep surfaces free of Coronavirus for, say, 30 days. Organisations should instead be investing in a service that helps them maintain a certain standard of cleanliness.

2. Decontamination is not effective without a thorough clean first

As I always say, remember C before D (clean before decontaminate). There is absolutely no point in decontaminating a room if thorough cleaning has not been performed beforehand. This is because the disinfectant will not even reach the surface and will instead be soaked up by the particles of dust and dirt that have not been cleaned away.

3. Handwashing is more effective than hand sanitiser

Yes, alcohol sanitisers are a good alternative solution to handwashing when you’re out and about but should not be used as a substitute.  Contrary to popular belief, soap and water is your best form of defence. That’s because the molecules in hand soap break down bacteria and viruses, including Coronavirus, while hand sanitiser is less effective at removing some germs.

Rebecca Denton-Smith, Lead Nurse for Infection Prevention and Control for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust added: ‘It’s the actual physical motions of handwashing that help to shed pathogens as well as the soap itself, which is why it’s extremely important to follow good hand hygiene practice, ensuring that you cover all areas of the hand every time you wash’.

4. PPE is essential when cleaning, regardless of the cleaning agent

PPE is an obvious necessity for most people when cleaning, especially when it comes to your bleaches and ammonias. However, some may be tempted to dodge the gloves, mask and apron here and there when using safer solutions. Whilst our cleaning service uses a pH neutral solution, it’s important our staff still use PPE. That’s because they need protecting from the environment they’re cleaning, which may pose risk to infection, and not just the chemicals they use.

5. Sanitisation is not effective against Coronavirus

‘Sanitisation, decontamination, sterilisation…’ There’s lots of companies out there offering lots of different things, but only certain cleaning procedures kill Coronavirus (no tests to date have confirmed Covid-19 efficacy) and, to many people’s surprise, sanitisation is not one of them. Decontamination and sterilisation are in fact the ones that are effective against the virus whilst sanitisation is a process which focuses on reducing the amount of pathogens in a room down to a safe level.

6. Common touchpoints are more than just door handles and bannisters

Do your cleaners know what the common touchpoints are in your building? While door handles, light switches and bannisters are often thought to be the key touchpoints in a room, it’s important your cleaning staff focus on the less obvious touchpoints too. For example, when was the last time those coat hooks in the corridor were cleaned? Training is key here.

7. Coronavirus is not hard to kill

It’s surprising to think that, despite the chaos caused by Coronavirus this year, the virus itself is not difficult to kill. However, this only stands if cleaning is carried out properly with effective cleaning solutions and following the correct processes. It could in fact be said that knowledge and training of cleaning staff is one of the keys to killing the virus.

8. Prevention is better than cure

This is arguably the most important fact – prevention is better than cure. If the correct preventative measures are in place when it comes to infection control, then organisations are in a much better position as their risk of a Coronavirus outbreak is reduced significantly. However, this can only be achieved by upholding a high standard of cleanliness, which is exactly why our NHS Deep Cleaning and Advisory Service is available for all organisations up and down the country.

Tony Sullivan

Environmental and Decontamination Manager at the NHS Deep Cleaning and Advisory Service

For further information about cleaning practices in line with the NHS protocol for cleanliness, please visit deepcleaning.nhs.uk.

For further advice and support from the NHS Deep Cleaning and Advisory Service, please call 0808 196 3103 or contact support@deepcleaning.nhs.uk 

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