Cleaning companies urge businesses to develop plan as they reopen

Experts say dwell time is one of the keys to disinfecting properly
Posted at 6:49 PM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 18:49:09-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia is set to partially reopen certain businesses beginning May 15, and the responsibility for ensuring common spaces and surfaces are disinfected appropriately lands squarely on individual companies and organizations.

Local professional cleaning companies said finding the guidelines laid out by Virginia and CDC is the easy part; following them correctly can prove more difficult.

As a part of phase one of reopening Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam lists several advanced cleaning and disinfection guidelines all businesses must follow to keep the virus from spreading among their employees and customers.

They include:

  • Disinfecting high touch areas every two hours
  • Disinfecting common use objects in public spaces before each use
  • Proper instruction for workers on using EPA-approved disinfectant products
  • Providing time for employees to wash their hands regularly during shifts

Jen Jackson owns River City Cleaning based in north Richmond. Since its founding more than a decade ago, Jackson said they only used “green” cleaning and disinfecting products they made in house until the coronavirus pandemic. They have now switched to an EPA-certified disinfectant called Hillyard, which has been proven to kill coronavirus but is not certified eco-friendly.

“We’re being extra cautious,” she said. “It’s been a tough choice, but it’s actually a very clear choice when you look at what’s at stake.”

You can find a list of disinfection products specifically tested for use against SARS-Cov-2 by the EPA here.

Jackson said even if someone gets a certified disinfectant many people do not use them appropriately.

“I think the standard image that comes to mind is to spray and wipe and keep moving. To disinfect, you actually have to give it dwell time,” she said.

Dwell time is the amount of time you must allow the product to soak on a surface for it to fully kill viruses.

“Even if you’re using a disinfectant and you just spray and wipe and you’re not giving it the time to do the work, you might not be really disinfecting the surface that you’re cleaning,” Jackson said. “For our product, the recommended time is 10 minutes and then come back and wipe it down. That’s what gives the product the time to actually kill the pathogens.”

Local cleaning crews are instituting various disinfection and protection procedures for their own employees and customers as well.

Jessica Medrano, owner of AM Cleaning Services, said after reading CDC cleaning guidelines, disposable items like masks, gloves, shoe covers, and aprons are required fashion for her employees when entering a home or business.

“Lots of reading. It got overwhelming, and it got very scary,” Medrano said. “Every home that we visit, we use new gloves and new masks at all times. And we wash our hand regularly from the time we enter the property until we finish cleaning the home.”

“We try to use what the CDC mentions in regards to the products. We try to not do any short cuts because we want to make sure we kill the virus.” she said.

Should the company’s supply of protective gear run out, Medrano said she would shut down her business because of the nature of their work and dangers coronavirus presents.

“If it comes down that we couldn’t, unfortunately we’d have to let our customer know we don’t have the right equipment,” she said.

“We have too, a this time with the coronavirus, we have to make it a priority.”

Jackson said businesses need to develop a cleaning and disinfection plan unique to their space for the safety of all their customers and employees because there will be new “cross-over patterns” once people begin entering.

“I’ve seen some businesses sanitizing high touch points every hour, but that might not be as necessary for an office where there might not be as much traffic coming through. So I think it’s really about making that customized plan,“ she said. “As a community, we share space. That’s just part of our daily life... with a great plan of action, I think we can keep each other safe."

The CDC has detailed guidelines on best practices for reopening businesses following COVID-19 closures. You can find them here.