As facilities across the country get closer to reopening, owners and operators are planning for a new normal.
There is so much information available regarding cleaning and disinfecting measures for businesses, that it can be a little overwhelming. The amusement and entertainment industry has long been diligent about the practice, but in a COVID-19 world, it’s important to understand what’s different, and how to continue to offer a clean safe place for families to play.
To help answer questions on the topic, we sat down with Andrew Morris from Chemical Concepts. The Philadelphia-area company is a distributor for a wide variety of antiviral products and specializes in helping companies hone their cleaning and disinfecting strategies.
Question No. 1: What’s the first step a facility should take when it comes to disinfecting?
Morris: The place where it all starts is having a plan that’s specific to your facility, the kinds of equipment you have, and the environment you’re in. Every situation is unique, and your plan should be, too.
The next thing is to identify all areas, activities and job tasks with potential exposure to COVID-19. Where are the touchpoints? What areas experience high traffic and activity, and which are rarely accessed?
The third thing is to think about the measures you should be taking to reduce or eliminate that potential exposure. You’re looking for ways to decrease the spread of the virus, and to prevent transmission between guests and employees.
Question No. 2: It’s not just about spraying disinfectants, is it?
Morris: No. It’s critical to have a normal cleaning routine in place. This is hopefully something that was happening before COVID-19, but maybe it needs to be ramped up. If you’re using a disinfectant and the area isn’t clean – if there’s soil or contaminants, for instance – you likely won’t get optimal results.
Disinfectants are not a substitute for cleaning. The reality is that you want disinfectants for peace of mind and extra safety, but soap and water go a long way in preventing disease.
That extends to personal hygiene. You can mandate hand washing for employees and management, but you can’t necessarily control guests. You can, however, promote good hygiene by having hand washing stations and hand sanitizer available.
Question No. 3: Once we've cleaned, how do we choose a disinfectant?
Morris: When a business owner is looking for a disinfectant, they need to do research based on their own situation. The best place to start is the EPA’s List N, which includes products and ingredients that meet the EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Look for an EPA registration number. You can search this number on the EPA website to see if it is approved. It is possible the disinfectant’s active ingredient is on List N and not the product itself. In my opinion, that would be acceptable as well. In either case the supplier or manufacturer should be able to supply the EPA registration number and tell if the product is on the list.
Question No. 4: Are there different disinfectants for different surfaces?
Morris: Yes. The first thing to keep in mind is that the manufacturer’s label is essentially the law. Whatever they specify is what you have to abide by, so read the label closely. You want to be careful that the product matches the types of materials you have.
For example, HB Fuller Foster 40-80 is labeled for hard, non-porous surfaces only. These include counters, glass and hard plastic. The Fiberlock Shockwave RTU is labeled for both porous and non-porous surfaces, like carpet and upholstery, and other textiles. Look at what the manufacturer says and follow their directions.
Step 2 is the application method. It has to make sense for the types of surfaces you’re disinfecting. Coarse spray equipment is going to be putting out a decent amount of liquid. Common sense tells you this might not be appropriate for upholstery or sensitive electronics. Conversely, self-contained pressurized containers put out a very light mist. When used properly, they can be suitable for upholstery and the like. There are other methods, too, like fogging machines and electrostatic machines that produce a fog or a mist. All have their pros and cons, so talk with an expert or a vendor if you’re unsure.
You also need to consider dwell time. Most manufacturers specify a dwell time of 10 minutes. That means whatever you apply will be on the surface for 10 minutes. You don’t want too much liquid on your electronics for that long.
Question No. 5: Are there any concerns about using disinfectants in areas where children will be?
Morris: That’s something to think about, for sure. Again, read the label. But it’s important to remember that most products on List N are more or less household cleaning products that people have been using around children for a long time. Products like Lysol are recognizable brand names. Some on List N might be more industrial grade, but there are only a handful of chemical bases for these disinfectants.
Question No. 6: Should facilities worry about staining or discoloring fabrics or plastics?
Morris: You’ll want to read the label, and test a small amount in an inconspicuous area. We always recommend buying a small container first, and doing some kind of test.
Question No. 7: How often should you disinfect your facility?
Morris: There’s no one-size-fits-all. It’s important to understand how disinfectants work. They kill on contact, and during the 10-minute dwell time. But once that’s done, the surface is only disinfected until it’s contaminated again. There are products out there that purport to protect for 24 or 48 hours, or even a week. I would be highly suspicious of those claims, particularly since you need to think about guest trust and employee morale. Do you really want to tell them that you’re only disinfecting once a week?
With that in mind, look at your situation. What are high-touch or high-traffic areas, and what are low-touch or low-traffic areas? In general, it makes sense to disinfect high-touch areas, like doorknobs and bathrooms, several times per day. Low-touch areas might need less. It’s all about how many people are touching something and how much traffic there is. Above all, fit your plan to your facility, and talk to an expert if you have questions.
Want to talk to the experts at Chemical Concepts, reach out to them at 1-800-220-1966. or firstname.lastname@example.org.