Critical cleaning and disinfection

15th of September 2010
Critical cleaning and disinfection
Critical cleaning and disinfection

Effective environmental hygiene requires a methodical and frequent cleaning and disinfection regime - they are both critical in the prevention of infection spread. Diversey has experience in working with professionals from all industries to develop the most appropriate procedures, as the company's Meredith Theelen, Arnoud Gengler and Melanie Witt explain.

The H1N1 flu pandemic and, more recently, the resurgence of the NDM-1 bacteria, reminded the world that all societies remain vulnerable to viruses.  This realisation is reinforcing the importance of effective cleaning and hygiene practices in stemming the spread of infection.

Antibiotics and other remedies are proven to help reduce the instances of some infections, but with more antibiotic resistant strains appearing, the most effective approach is to prevent the spread of infection in the first place. Consistent personal hygiene, especially hand hygiene, and thorough cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces are the best strategies for fighting back against the viruses that threaten us. Many types of infection, including the new strains of bacteria containing the NDM-1 gene, are spread most easily by person-to-person contact or by touching contaminated surfaces.

Surface treatment and disinfection

Effective environmental hygiene requires a methodical and frequent cleaning and disinfection program. In healthcare, for example, areas such as hospital wards, beds, treatment rooms, tables and other surfaces that are routinely touched by patients, staff and visitors require frequent attention. Other institutions such as hotels or restaurants need to focus on infection prevention because visitors to these facilities are more likely to be potential carriers of infection versus people showing actual symptoms. In addition to a high emphasis on personal hygiene, priority must also be placed on regular cleaning and disinfection of frequent hand touch sites such as door handles, light switches, telephones and remote controls.

Effective cleaning and disinfection is a critical line of defence against the spread of infection. Where high concentrations of people pose substantial risk for cross contamination of pathogens, a disciplined and consistent cleaning program can reduce the potential for widespread outbreaks. In many instances, these cleaning programs should make use of combined cleaner-disinfectants, which dual-action performance that is appropriate in many applications. Disinfectants alone can also be used as a final treatment, followed by a clean water rinse.

However, it should be understood that disinfectant products do not reduce the risk of infectious micro-organisms unless the prescribed application method is followed. In all cases, it is essential that the manufacturer’s recommended dosages and contact times are correctly followed. Risk of re-contamination is also possible unless the correct processes for cleaning and disinfection are employed.

Contact time is particularly important to ensuring the effectiveness of disinfectants, which can be challenging to operators who are under pressure to continually fight the spread of infection. Disinfectants and detergent-disinfectants must be left in “wet” contact on the treated surface for the full time recommended by the manufacturer. Once the contact time is complete, the clean surfaces should be rinsed with clean water and left to dry. For laundry disinfectants, the machine must follow the correct program to meet the minimum time and temperature requirements for the specific disinfectant product.

Diversey develops its laundry disinfection systems to minimise the margin for error. These systems are also designed to work efficiently in low temperatures, reducing their environmental impact through energy reduction and reducing the amount of time required in the laundry cool down process.

For effective infection control, use of disinfectants should be limited to surfaces requiring specific treatment rather than a general widespread application. In addition, the amount of dirt or soiling on the surface should be taken into account. Depending on the type of problem and application, a separate cleaning step may be needed before disinfection is effective. Under slightly soiled conditions, a combined detergent-disinfectant is recommended to enable a user to clean and disinfect a larger surface area at the same time or move on more quickly to other core activities while maintaining the same high levels of hygiene. Under clean conditions, a disinfectant alone may suffice.

In cases where clean surfaces must be used again without being soiled or following periods of prolonged non-use, a final treatment disinfectant followed by a clean water rinse is enough to maintain a suitable level of hygiene.

Professionals in all industries should ensure they routinely clean (and in the case of healthcare environments, disinfect) their hands to reduce the potential spread of infections. In the healthcare industry, Diversey recommends following the World Health Organisation’s “5 Moments for Hand Hygiene”: before patient contact, before an antiseptic task, following the risk of exposure to body fluids, following patient contact and following contact with the surroundings of patients.

For other industries, it is sufficient to frequently wash hands, especially after (or after suspected) exposure to microbes. To promote best practices, Diversey offers several instructional leaflets describing the correct method and frequency of hand cleaning and disinfection across several industries.

Effective hand hygiene

Effective hand hygiene requires soap or disinfectant remain on the hands for the full contact time outlined in the product usage instructions, while also taking care to clean inaccessible areas such as under finger nails. Typical contact times are around 30 seconds for most products, including alcohol gels that need to be applied to clean dry hands.

Two other important factors in hand hygiene are skin mildness and sensory properties. With skin mildness, all suppliers claim that their products are mild and safe to use. The European Cosmetics Directive helps in this regard by setting out accepted standards for hand cleansers. However, skin mildness and disinfection efficacy are not always easy to combine. It is important to ensure that the combination of very frequent use and efficiency to kill micro-organisms does not harm the skin of professionals such as healthcare workers.

Diversey has developed special product formulations that ensure that the skin is left healthy and clean, even after frequent disinfectant use. Sensory properties play an important role in driving hand hygiene compliance because a product that does not feel pleasant to use is less likely to be used. Offering hand disinfectants that are pleasant, fun to apply and leave users with a feeling of cleanliness are essential to a good program. Diversey has focused its range of hand hygiene products to meet this unique combination of requirements.

Diversey’s expertise in disinfection

Diversey has extensive experience working with professionals in all industries, including hospitals and other healthcare settings, to help identify, develop and implement the most appropriate and effective cleaning and hygiene processes and reduce infections. The company also works with its customers to train cleaning staff on the most appropriate methods.

The company has a complete set of cleaning and hygiene products designed to prevent the spread of infection. These are widely used by cleaning professionals because, as a global leader in cleaning and hygiene, the Diversey has a broad team of experts and resources that keep it at the forefront of its industry and provide unrivalled support to its customers.

Every cleaning situation is unique, and the company encourages infection control specialists and professionals in the industries it serves to ask about the proper cleaning and disinfection procedures and appropriate use of its products. These include antiseptic hand rubs and washes, spill-kits for removing infected bodily fluids, building care products for cleaning hospitals and other facilities and laundry products for the linen and clothing. Each product is designed and proven to kill specific infections or a broad range of spores, bacteria and viruses that cause them.
Key to Diversey's customer support is its ability to supply the right products when required.

During the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, for example, the company was able to increase production of vital products such as hand cleaners and disinfectants to meet the dramatic increase in demand from its customers throughout Europe and around the world.

Diversey has established a dedicated website at to give accurate and timely information and advice on how to combat and prevent a wide range of infections. The site was created as part of the company's global response to the Influenza A (H1N1 swine flu) pandemic and continues to be updated with relevant information. The company also offers its other resources to support infection control specialists.


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