As we continue to adjust to life in the COVID-19 era, facility managers are learning that a clean facility is no longer enough. Gone are the days when employees were happy with a dust-free desk and floors so shiny they could see their reflection. Today, employees expect and deserve a healthy, disinfected workplace.
Here’s some good news: SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is an enveloped virus, meaning it is one of the easiest types of viruses to kill—if you have the right disinfectant.
When selecting a disinfectant to fight the novel coronavirus, you must choose one on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2. The disinfectants on this list have not been tested specifically against the novel coronavirus in a laboratory setting because the virus is new. However, they all are effective against either a harder-to-kill virus or another similar type of human coronavirus, indicating they should be effective against SARS-CoV-2 as well.
But just because they’re on List N doesn’t mean they’re safe. Disinfectants are classified as pesticides, and some pesticides are more hazardous to human health than others.
And above all else, your disinfectant should be safe.
It should be safe for your employees. Obviously employee health is the No. 1 priority. The Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) rates chemical hazards on a scale from 0 (minimal hazard) to 4 (severe hazard). The safest disinfectants have a HIMS rating of 0.0.0.0—the lowest toxicity level possible. They also are food-grade safe, meaning it’s safe to use them on food contact surfaces, and have a near-neutral pH level to prevent chemical burns.
Don’t forget to make sure the people applying the disinfectant are safe, too. They must take the proper precautions and follow the directions on the label carefully. This includes wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) as needed.
It should be safe for your surfaces. Not all disinfectants can be used on all surfaces. Using the wrong disinfectant may damage or discolor a surface. Again, it’s important to read the label carefully to determine if the disinfectant is indicated for the surface in question.
Generally speaking, non-porous surfaces can be disinfected, but porous surfaces can only be sanitized. Semi-porous surfaces should be sealed to minimize migration of microorganisms. This means some surfaces, like carpet, cannot be disinfected. But there’s more good news: Carpet and textiles are porous, which means they are less hospitable to viruses than non-porous surfaces. Regular deep cleaning and sanitization will help keep these surfaces both clean and healthy. Look for products that have the Carpet and Rug Institute Seal of Approval.
It should be safe from false claims. Some products claim extended kill times of 30 days or more. These can provide a false sense of security. They also are not compliant with the EPA’s emerging pathogen policy; in fact, the EPA issued a press release in April about its efforts to partner with retailers to prevent the sale of unregistered products “with unsubstantiated and potentially dangerous claims of protection against the coronavirus.”
And this shouldn’t need to be said, but as the EPA points out, disinfectants are for use on surfaces, NOT humans.
Once you decide on the right disinfectant for your facility, it’s vital that you read and follow the directions on the label. Different disinfectants have different dwell times, and if you do not allow the disinfectant to remain visibly wet on the surface for the proper amount of time, it reduces its effectiveness.
You’ll also want to consider your application method. Electrostatic spraying, which evenly coats surfaces, is the most effective method for applying a disinfectant. Electrostatic sprayers also have a larger droplet size than ultra-low volume (ULV) foggers, thereby preventing the spray from becoming aerosolized and potentially causing respiratory distress. Choosing the right disinfectant is more important than choosing the best application method, but electrostatic spraying will lessen the chances of negative health outcomes.
At APEX Surface Care, we have more than a decade of experience selecting and using disinfectants. All management and field staff complete a seven-hour infection prevention course and are qualified to help you and your employees breathe easy. Contact us today for a free infection control consultation for your facility.