Infection control methodology #2: Cleaning

Updated: Jul 20


Step two of our infection control methodology is to clean, which is disrupts the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and undermines surface transmission.

It’s the second in our series of blogs on the subject of our infection control methodology: test, clean, disinfect and test again. Previously, we looked at the first pillar of this process, testing. This time around we’re going to look at how deep cleaning is an integral part of reducing the risks for surface transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. We’ll focus on what we know about the virus, before discussing the importance of cleaning as step two in infection control.

An ‘envelope’ with nasty contents

To understand why the cleaning part of the process is so important, it’s worth taking a closer look at what we know about the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The virus is known as an RNA virus, denoting that its primary genetic material is RNA rather than DNA. RNA viruses have much shorter generation times than many other pathogens and can mutate rapidly. They’re also smaller than most bacteria, and so they can be more difficult to shift from surfaces.

The RNA virus has very little genetic material encoded in it, which is why it can replicate so easily when it infects a host cell. One of the parts of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is an oily surface coating, called the ‘envelope’, which acts as its protective layer. The combination of soap and water disrupts this envelope, leaving the virus with no way of infecting a host cell. In the previous blog of this series, we saw how the virus can survive for longer on various surfaces. Therefore, it’s vital to break the chain of transmission, especially if testing has shown the presence of the virus.

Cleaning is an essential part of infection control methodology

In fact, it’s doubly important to clean surfaces in workplaces with a pH-neutral cleaning solution first before disinfecting. As noted above, this disrupts the virus itself, but additionally, it removes dust, oils and dirt. As the active virus is so small, it can easily be absorbed into such particles, giving the virus another hiding place. It’s also important to think carefully about which hard surfaces need to be focused on for infection control. Think about risk factors in workplaces and the balance between frequency of use against the likelihood of infection. Many different individuals touch lift buttons and door handles throughout the day, whereas window catches and desk drawers are not such common touchpoints.

Before we carry out any infection control cleaning, we carefully assess all the risks. Most importantly, we always display warning signs near areas to be deep cleaned and disinfected. When our teams are carrying out first response deep cleaning and decontamination, they wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). It’s vital to have the correct PPE, and clear instructions on how to put on and remove all such equipment. For infection control scenarios, we insist on every possible precaution. As a minimum, this would include a Hazmat Category 3 suit, A1P2 mask and two pairs of disposable gloves. Where this is single-use, we ensure that discarded PPE is properly and safely disposed of.

Protecting yourself in your own environment

Beyond the workplace, everyone can think about their approach to cleaning. Consider carefully the materials you’re using in your home and take care to clean as well as disinfect. Sanitise cleaning cloths and sponges frequently. For reusable items, put them in your microwave for 30 seconds to eliminate pathogens after use. Better still, only use disposable cleaning materials and throw everything away once used, washing your hands immediately after disposal. Wear suitable coverings such as aprons and gloves while cleaning. Once you get home at the end of the day after being in public places, put clothes directly in the laundry and wash them. And don’t forget to wash bedding more often than usual too.

Just as cleaning surfaces is critical, the first line of defence for all of us is hand hygiene. Soap interferes with the fats in any virus particles on the skin, lifting them from the surface and allowing the water to rinse them off. You should wash hands with soap for 20 seconds under warm water, covering all surfaces of your hands, fingers and wrists. Rinse and dry hands thoroughly. You can see a simple guide from the WHO (World Health Organization) on the correct method for washing hands here.

What to do before our next blog in this series

Look out for the next in our infection methodology blog series, when we focus on disinfectants and the best way to deliver them. But in the meantime, you can find out more about tackling the virus with our free SARS-CoV-2 Fact Sheet. We bust some social media myths about the virus and tackle misinformation head-on – as well as providing some useful do’s and don’ts. Register to download the fact sheet for free.

To find out more about our infection control methodology and the cleaning methods we deploy for deep cleaning and decontamination, contact one of the team today.

Post by Shaun D. Doak

Shaun is the CEO of React Group plc., a business dedicated to specialist cleaning, hygiene and decontamination. He is deeply committed to making sure that every one of our company’s clients receives the highest possible level of service. An expert in HVAC and commercial and industrial cleaning methodologies, Shaun has extensive experience in the facilities management and renewable services sector.

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