Why 'regular' cleaning isn't enough to protect your home from COVID-19

Sanitisation expert warns of the dangers of ‘regular’ cleaning during the virus pandemic – and the six steps needed to eradicate all traces of lingering contamination from essential workplaces

  • Lisa Macqueen is an anti-viral cleaning specialist based in Sydney, Australia 
  • Her company has been inundated with inquiries since the COVID-19 crisis began
  • Coronavirus can remain infectious on hard, shiny surfaces for up to three days 
  • Surfaces should be cleaned for three times longer than usual to kill the virus
  • Household cleaners must be traded for hospital-grade chemicals to destroy it
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

An anti-viral cleaning specialist has warned that workplaces and public spaces should be cleaned for three times longer than they normally would during COVID-19 to effectively remove all traces of the deadly respiratory virus.

Lisa Macqueen is a leading anti-viral cleaning specialist and co-founder of Sydney commercial cleaning agency Cleancorp

Lisa Macqueen, co-founder and director of Cleancorp, a Sydney-based commercial cleaning company, said while a ‘regular’ clean of a 300sqm space typically takes one cleaner around two hours, a heavy-duty ‘coronavirus’ clean of the same area should take at least six hours.

Ms Macqueen told Daily Mail Australia that while it’s encouraging a growing number of clients are requesting heavy-duty cleans amidst the pandemic, many are still unaware of the ‘potentially devastating consequences’ between a regular and an anti-viral clean.

She said essential workplaces like supermarkets, schools, factories and medical clinics must upgrade their cleaning procedures by following six simple steps to prevent contamination as the coronavirus crisis continues. 

Cleaning specialist Lisa Macqueen says essential workplaces like supermarkets must upgrade their cleaning procedures to prevent contamination. Pictured: A cashier sprays disinfectant over a checkout at Coles supermarket in Collingwood, Melbourne on Thursday, April 2

1. Trade household-grade chemicals for hospital-grade disinfectants

Offices, construction sites and public spaces should be cleaned with hospital-grade anti-viral disinfectants during the COVID-19 outbreak because traditional cleaning products are too weak to kill infectious droplets of the virus.

Coronavirus is spread through contaminated respiratory droplets which become airborne when someone infected with the disease coughs or sneezes.

The virus can also be spread through handshakes and other physical contact with an infected individual, and by touching door knobs, taps or other surfaces which have been handled by a person with COVID-19.

The time between when a person is exposed to the virus and when symptoms first appear is typically five to six days, but the time frame can range anywhere from two to 14 days, according to NSW Health.

To be classified at hospital-grade standard, Ms Macqueen said disinfectants must contain at least 10 percent ethanol or cationic, nonionic or amphoteric surfactants – chemical compounds which lower the surface tension of water and break down the structure of the virus.

2. COVID-19 clean should be three times longer than a regular clean

While a standard clean of a 300sqm space typically takes one cleaner around two hours, a COVID-19 clean of the same area should take at least six hours, according to Ms Macqueen.

This extended time allows cleaners to thoroughly cover surfaces with hospital-grade disinfectants and give chemicals time to soak in or ‘cure’, which eradicates all traces of viruses and bacteria lingering in the area.

She said business owners hiring new cleaners should confirm they have completed the Australian Government Department of Health Infection Control Training for COVID-19 to ensure their workplace is being sanitised with effective chemicals and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).

While a standard clean of a 300sqm space typically takes one cleaner around two hours, a COVID-19 clean of the same area should take at least six hours. Pictured: A cleaning team works at a tram shelter in Melbourne CBD on Wednesday, March 25

3. Upgrade regular cleaning to include all ‘shared touchpoints’

CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 6,445

New South Wales: 2,886

Victoria: 1,299

Queensland: 999

South Australia: 433

Western Australia: 532

Australian Capital Territory: 103

Tasmania: 165

Northern Territory: 28

TOTAL CASES:  6,445

RECOVERED: 3,624

DEAD: 63

While cleaners typically spend most time dusting and removing grime from the corners of kitchens and bathrooms, cleaning during coronavirus should be more heavily focused on ‘shared touchpoints’ like door handles, TV remotes, taps, microwaves, fridge doors and lift buttons.

Caretakers of shared workplaces where multiple businesses operate and public spaces like airports and train stations which have high volumes of people passing through should be particularly vigilant about disinfecting common touchpoints. 

For the highest level of infection prevention, Ms Macqueen said businesses should expand their cleaning operations to include workers’ personal items including pens, desks, chairs, armrests, laptops and even cars.

4. ‘Pandemic clean’ is vital for a site with confirmed case of COVID-19

The chemicals used in regular cleaning are too weak to break down the viral structure of COVID-19, which means a deep ‘pandemic clean’ is essential for any building or site which has recorded a confirmed case of the respiratory illness.

Locations with confirmed infections should organise a thorough cleansing of walls, ceilings, floors and carpets in addition to heavy-duty cleans of touchpoints and personal items with hospital-grade disinfectants.

‘Key to a pandemic clean is allowing these chemicals to be left to soak on surfaces for 10 to 30 minutes at room temperature to ensure they remove all traces of viruses and bacteria when they’re wiped away,’ Ms Macqueen said.

Cleaning of a known contamination site should be conducted only by professional cleaners wearing full hazmat suits and PPE including hospital-grade face masks and gloves, using disposable equipment which is sealed in plastic bags and disposed of immediately afterwards.

HOW LONG CAN COVID-19 SURVIVE ON SURFACES?

In the air: Infectious disease researchers have found COVID-19 remains infectious in contaminated airborne respiratory droplets for at least three hours, however they have not determined whether humans produce enough of the disease in a single cough or sneeze to infect another person.

On soft, porous surfaces: COVID-19 can survive on porous surfaces like cardboard, paper, clothing and soft furnishings like pillows and Doonas for up to 24 hours. Porous surfaces allow air and water to pass through, which makes them much less likely to hold infectious volumes of the virus compared to non-porous objects like door handles, taps and phone covers.

On hard, shiny surfaces: COVID-19 has been proven to stay active on hard surfaces like glass, plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours. Hard, shiny materials are non-porous which means water, air and vapour cannot pass through and instead rest and accumulate on the surface.

World Economic Forum researchers have confirmed the virus does degrade over time, reducing the likelihood of infection the longer contaminated droplets have sat on a surface, but you should still avoid touching handles, buttons and other objects in public spaces. If unavoidable, you should avoid touching your face until you have thoroughly washed your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. 

Frequently touched household surfaces like taps, door handles, computer keyboards and toilets should be cleaned using bleach or alcohol solutions of at least 70 percent alcohol.

On hair: There is no evidence to suggest coronavirus can be carried in strands of beards or facial hair.

5. Introduce ‘adenosine triphosphate’ swab tests

To guarantee the highest level of protection possible, Ms Macqueen said cleaners should conduct an adenosine triphosphate (ATP) swab test on a surface after it has been sanitised to ensure germs have been completely eradicated.

ATP is a molecule which is found only in and directly around living cells. An ATP swab test determines whether any organisms, including viruses and bacteria, are active or growing in the tested area.

Regarded as highly effective, ATP swab tests are used to sanitise hospital wards, operating theatres and restaurant kitchens.

Ms Macqueen said cleaners should conduct an adenosine triphosphate (ATP) swab test on a surface after it has been sanitised to ensure germs have been completely eradicated. Pictured: Cleaners disinfect handrails and signs at Royal Randwick Racecourse in Sydney on Saturday, April 4 during The Championships which was run behind closed doors

6. Cleaning materials must not be shared between areas

Cleaning equipment should never be shared between sites to avoid the risk of cross-contamination from one area to the next.

Ms Macqueen said cleaners should colour-code mops, cloths, buckets and wipes to ensure the same materials are confined to a single site.

Most importantly, cleaning equipment must never be shared between bathrooms and kitchens to prevent the spread of germs carried in human waste to areas where food is handled and prepared.

Cleaners should colour-code mops, cloths, buckets and wipes to ensure the same materials are confined to a single site.Pictured: A council worker washes the seating area overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Circular Quay to destroy coronavirus contamination on Wednesday, March 25

How to disinfect your home during COVID-19, according to an anti-viral cleaning specialist

In the current environment, anti-viral cleaning specialist Lisa Macqueen says a regular clean like your typical ‘spray-and-wipe’ of household surfaces is not enough.

She said people must adopt a three-step approach, which involves a regular clean of all surfaces with detergent and water, followed by the application of a disinfectant containing anti-viral components. 

While hospital-grade anti-viral disinfectants are usually used only by professional or commercial cleaning companies, and can be difficult to acquire, especially in this current climate, Ms Macqueen says chlorine-based Domestos is sufficient for a precautionary coronavirus clean if you are certain the area has not been touched by a person infected with the illness. 

The product should be left to ‘cure’ on a surface for 10 to 30 minutes, so that its anti-viral qualities can soak in and eradicate bacteria. Once that’s done, the product should be wiped off with a clean fresh cloth.

Source: Cleancorp

Cleancorp has been commissioned by Australian Government departments, embassies, multi-national businesses, schools, strata companies, construction companies, medical sites and pharmacies to keep their workplaces safe throughout the coronavirus crisis.

Recognised as ‘Australia’s coronavirus cleaning specialists’, Cleancorp received over 1,000 inquiries about anti-viral cleaning directly related to COVID-19 in March alone, an enormous increase on its usual trade. 

The company has helped organisations create ‘outbreak plans’, which involve additional cleaning between shifts and cordoning off frequently used areas for sanitising throughout the working day.

Although time consuming, Ms Macqueen said these measures are necessary to prevent further spread of the virus.

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