6 Expert Ways to Properly Disinfect a Public Space

By Mr. James Careless

In Light of Covid 19 and with permission from our friends at Church.Design. Museum Arts would like to take the opportunity to reprint an excellent article by Mr. James Careless, While his article was written for a Church/Architect Audience it is certainly applicable to our Customers in the Museum, School and Hospital Industries as well.

In the days before COVID-19, cleaning churches seemed to be enough. Custodians washed the floors, surfaces, and bathrooms, removing obvious dirt and making everything look clean and bright.

Now that COVID-19 has arrived, the game has changed. Churches don’t just need to be cleaned, they need to be disinfected, too. Here’s why: "Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to physically remove germs from surfaces," according to the Centers for Disease Control website. (This site is actually aimed at schools, but the same considerations and methods apply to churches--and can apply to other businesses, like your design firm--as well. "This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection."

Virtually all custodians know how to clean ... but most do not know how to disinfect.

Disinfecting, on the other hand, "works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects," the CDC website reports continue. "This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection."

When church custodians disinfect after cleaning, they hit COVID-19 (and other germs) with a one-two punch that substantially reduces risks to people inside the facilities. Here’s the problem: Virtually all custodians know how to clean (it’s their job). But most do not know how to disinfect.

1 - Get the right chemicals

The tried-and-true products you use for cleaning will not necessarily disinfect, as well. To be sure, go out and buy proper disinfectants such as bleach, Lemon Quat (Quaternary ammonia), and Virox 5 liquid/wipes (accelerated hydrogen peroxide).

If the last two names seem wildly unfamiliar, you can always use bleach products such as Clorox. This and other bleach products are a known commodity, cheap and widely available.

Individual bleach manufacturers may provide guidelines to make the COVID-19 disinfection process easier. The Clorox Co., for example, has posted a substantial informational website entitled "CloroxProTM and Clorox Concentrated Bleaches for Use Against SARS-CoV-2." The company's website provides a downloadable chart that explains which products to use to kill COVID-19, each product’s level of Sodium Hypochlorite concentration (the vital ingredient), the dilution ratio for mixing bleach and water, the instructions for using these mixes on hard non-porous surfaces, and the contact time required to kill COVID-19.

2 - Stay safe by reading the labels

Disinfectants kill germs, so they are generally harsh to humans and even dangerous if not used as directed. This is why anyone cleaning, including church custodians, need to read disinfectant labels closely to ensure safety.

... protective gloves, eye wear, face shields, and clothing may be required, with requirements varying from disinfectant to disinfectant.

In many instances, protective gloves, eye wear, face shields, and clothing may be required, with requirements varying from disinfectant to disinfectant. Proper ventilation is also a must when working with products such as bleach.

In addition, manufacturers report that users should not mix disinfectants with other products unless the label explicitly says to.

A case in point: Mix bleach with vinegar and you end up with toxic chlorine gas. Meanwhile, blending bleach and ammonia results in similarly deadly chloramine gas, while bleach and rubbing alcohol creates chloroform.

The rule of thumb: Bleach should only be mixed with water, and nothing else.


3 - Time matters

Disinfectants need time to kill germs--the process is not instantaneous. For example, Clorox stipulates that, for its various COVID-killing solutions, the cleaners must "contact surface for at least five minutes" before being removed through a thorough rinse-dry process.

So forget the familiar quick wipe that everyone is accustomed to: Disinfectants need time to kill germs.

Another important caveat: Disinfectant solutions should only be applied to surfaces that have already been pre-washed (cleaned) and rinsed, to remove visible dirt and eliminate the chance of chemical interactions between cleaners and disinfectants.

4 - Rubbing helps

It isn’t enough to lay disinfectant onto a surface and then go for a coffee. Custodians need to actively rub the disinfectant into the surface, so that all parts of it (including scratches and dents) get wet. The same is true for the rinsing process.

A bit of good news: it is possible to buy handheld surface scrubbers to spare stress and strain while cleaning. Using a handheld scrubber also ensures a consistent agitation speed and pressure.

5 - Spraying is a "no"

One thing that those cleaning should not do is spray the disinfect (or cleaner) onto the surface. The reason is that doing so can actually lift virus particles into the air, spreading them onto other surfaces and into the custodian’s breathing space. So put away the sprayer, cleaning product manufacturers suggest.

Instead, use a bottle plus a microfiber cloth, disposable paper towel, or disinfectant-saturated wipe instead (do not flush) to apply the disinfectant.

[Spraying can] actually lift virus particles into the air, spreading them onto other surfaces and into the custodian’s breathing space.

6 - Hot and strong aren't necessarily better

When it comes to disinfectants--and cleaning solutions--making the mix hot and strong doesn’t necessarily translate into a better end result. In fact, too much heat can cause a disinfectant to vaporize dangerously into the air, while an excessive concentration may simply consume more product than necessary with no more germs being killed.

The rule of thumb: Read the labels to get the temperature and concentration correct. It's also worth noting that some industrial disinfectants can be purchased with dispensing stations that only release the right amount into the bucket for the right mix every time.

You can find our Friends Church.Design and Mr. Careless at https://www.instagram.com/church.design/

We're Here to Help

Museum Arts, Inc.
2639 Freewood Drive
Dallas, TX 75220

(972) 310-7520

 (214) 357-5644

Office Hours

Monday - Friday:
7am - 5pm