The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages people to regularly clean frequently touched objects, such as doorknobs and tables, to reduce the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus. But many people have been failing to do the most important part of cleaning potentially contaminated surfaces.
People usually spray a disinfectant on objects and wipe it immediately. Despite the effectiveness of the product, it may not completely kill the germs because of the improper application.
“A lot of people spray a surface and then wipe it around right away,” Cory Chalmers, CEO of professional cleaning service Steri-Clean, told Business Insider. “But you’re not letting the disinfectant do its job. The most important step is the cleaning step.”
Clusters of germs called biofilm commonly cover dirty surfaces and resist disinfectants. Chalmers said people must remove the biofilm first before spraying or adding a chemical on the surface to kill lingering viruses or bacteria.
Steri-Clean provides biohazard cleaning services for facilities contaminated with infectious diseases. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has been helping to disinfect homes, cruise ships, offices, factories and fast-food restaurants to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Steps To Clean, Disinfect Surfaces
When cleaning, Chalmers said people should focus first on removing the dirt from the object. Put soap on a rag or paper towel and wipe the surface to remove the biofilm.
However, it is important to keep changing the sides of the towel when cleaning another object. That would help avoid spreading germs around the house.
“People sometimes will walk around the house with the same rag, cleaning all the surfaces. That doesn’t do anything because now they’re just spreading the germs around,” Chalmers said. “Once that towel or rag that you’re using is full of germs, it’s not going to absorb anymore.”
After wiping it with soap and water, apply a disinfectant spray or wipe. Check the manufacturer’s instructions on the bottle to see the chemical’s “dwell time,” or how long it needs to sit on a surface before it kills germs.
Some disinfectants take only nearly 30 seconds, while other products may take up to 10 minutes to eliminate germs.