Establishing a routine cleaning practice is essential to maintaining a clean and healthy environment, and should be the first step to be undertaken, prior to sanitizing or disinfecting. Cleaning involves physically removing visible and invisible dust, dirt, oils, and germs from a surface, with the help of detergent in water, accompanied with a minimum 30-seconds of scrubbing, similar to the motion and vigorousness by which we wash our hands. Directions of the product label should strictly be followed, especially if the mechanism of action for the product entails a different application. More pressure should be applied to more deep-seated dirt, as germs can hide underneath dirt, oil, dust and debris, and render them inaccessible to a sanitizer or disinfectant that may be applied after.
Most commercial disinfectants, especially bleach and quaternary ammonium compounds are rendered ineffective, in the presence of dirt, oil, and dust. Thus, one must ensure that the surface to be disinfected is thoroughly cleaned.
Surfaces that are handled multiple times a day, especially those in the kitchen, should be cleaned more frequently, to prevent the possibility of microbes from entering our body through the food we eat. These surfaces would include:
- kitchen counters
- cupboard handles
- cooking utensil handles
- microwave and toaster dials and door handles
- refrigerator handles
- sink handles
- the kitchen floor
On top of preventing microbial contamination, incorporating these practices also keeps small insects and from being attracted to food-soiled surfaces that we commonly touch during food preparation.
If it is available to you, the author recommends
- replacing cupboard handles and doors to a push-type mechanism, to allow for handsfree opening and closing of doors
- keeping all cooking utensils behind a covered area to prevent dust and other air-borne pathogens from landing and staying on their uneven surfaces, making them more difficult to clean
- allowing a lot of natural light into the kitchen as sunlight prevents the growth of mold
- having storage areas that keep appliances out of reach of dust and airborne particles
Those stylish light-filled kitchens you see looking sleek and clutter-free aren’t just serving up calming eye candy, but are a good practice to follow to help keep your food preparation area clean and virus-free. Letting counters be free from clutter also makes cleaning a breeze, and prevents traces of cleaning products from wedging into the cracks of cooking tools, that may inadvertently make their way into our food.
In our workspaces, whether shared or individually occupied, surfaces with a high touch count would include
- telephone receivers
- light switches
- elevator buttons
- bathroom doors
- bathroom stall locks
- wash basin handles
- flush handles
Given the difficulty of controlling the hygiene practices of those touching these surfaces, frequent cleaning using water with detergent, with a damp microfiber cloth, ideally every two-three hours, depending on the touch count, should be done in order to curb the spread of pathogens. In some instances, disinfection of these surfaces should also be performed on top of regular cleaning, most especially if there is an outbreak of an infectious disease amongst the immediate members.
Beyond cleaning and disinfecting or sanitizing our spaces, the practice of regularly washing our hands, or sanitizing them with in the absence of immediate access to soap and water is the single most efficient, and cheapest way to stop the spread of virus in our homes, workplaces, and social spaces. Keeping in mind that reliance on cleaning products alone should be avoided given the potential harm they may cause our personal health and the environment.
- Placing footwear mats at all entryways is an effective way to remove dirt and other debris that may accidentally have been tracked in by our outdoor shoes. They effectively collect, and halt the spread of, outdoor dirt. Daily vacuuming of the dirt collected should be done, to avoid buildup of dirt on the mat, rendering its function useless.
- Use of microfiber cleaning cloths make removal of organic matter from surfaces much easier due to its improved absorbing capacity. Regular washing of these cloths after use is also necessary, whether by hand or by machine, in order to mitigate the spread of bacteria from surface to surface.
- Vacuums are a quick and easy tool for getting deep seated dirt, dust, and solid substrates off of rugs or carpets, thus preserving their life and keeping them clean. Vacuuming of rugs and carpets should also be done daily, to take out food spills and other small particles.
What tools to avoid
Sponges promote bacteria and mold growth and are difficult to clean.
Cotton mops and cloths neither clean, nor capture germs as well as microfiber material, are much heavier when wet, and, in fact, spread germs across surfaces instead of capturing them. Applying a quaternary disinfectant with cotton can also reduce its effectiveness.
With these tips and tools in mind, we can all do our part to make sure that we lessen the spread of infectious disease.