Dressed to Clean

Marc Ferguson, International Business Development Manager for Kaivac, discusses what you should – and shouldn’t – wear whilst cleaning.

Every time a cleaning professional starts their day by cleaning one of their client’s restrooms, they are potentially exposing themselves to every germ that may have been left there since the last time the restroom was cleaned.

Without proper training and precautions, not only is it possible that the cleaning worker could become infected with a disease-causing germ, but they could potentially pose a danger to others by spreading those pathogens on to surfaces, which are then touched by other people.

Over the years, there have been many articles published in worthy publications discussing more effective and faster ways to clean washrooms. New procedures have also been developed as well as new products. Further, new technologies have been introduced that have taken this cleaning to a much more advanced level, eliminating the need to touch any washroom surfaces in the cleaning process.

But, no matter what products, techniques, or equipment are used, we still need to make sure that cleaning workers are dressed for the job, especially when it comes to washrooms. This all focuses around wearing the correct protective gear. However, before we discuss the protective gear that should be worn, let's focus on the one basic necessity in restroom cleaning as well as all types of cleaning: handwashing.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that hands should be scrubbed for 20 seconds, including the backs of hands, and then rinsed with clean water. While some experts suggest drying hands using a paper towel is preferable to air drying, the CDC recommends both practices, not indicating one is better than the other.

We should also note that hands should be washed before and after restrooms are cleaned. We know that in the course of cleaning the washrooms, pathogens may collect on our hands, which can be removed by handwashing. But what is often overlooked is that as we begin our cleaning work in the washroom, we may also be introducing new, potentially harmful pathogens. These should be removed before cleaning begins.

Now that we have that clarified and understand the importance of proper handwashing, what should cleaning professionals wear to protect their own health when cleaning restrooms?

Proper eyewear

Typically, this refers to the wearing of goggles, but we want to take this a step further. When cleaning washrooms, custodial workers should not just wear any type of goggle, but those that have ‘indirect’ ventilation or are non-vented. Not only is there the possibility that pathogens will enter


the eye during cleaning, but the risks are also present when we are mixing or spraying chemicals. Goggles with indirect ventilation are designed to allow some air into the enclosed area, but limit the passage of liquids from a splash, for instance. Non-vented goggles take this a step further: they completely surround the eye area, preventing air or liquids from coming in contact with the eyes.


While some cleaning workers may wear a uniform when performing their work, a protective gown should be worn by all cleaning workers when cleaning washrooms. During cleaning, pathogens, chemicals, and soils can collect on clothing. These contaminants remain on the worker's clothes while at work; gather more soils over time; go with him/her on the way home from work, and are very likely worn around the house.

As we begin our cleaning work in the washroom, we may also be introducing new, potentially harmful pathogens.

This means those pathogens have an excellent chance of getting on the hands of the cleaning worker during and after work. Then they may be passed on to others on a bus, for instance, and then spread to surfaces at home, surfaces that may be touched by others including children. Gowns designed for wearing in the workplace are typically very comfortable, light, and can be tossed in a laundry bag – where they belong – at the end of the shift.

Proper hand gear

There are all kinds of gloves: some are designed to be worn when working with acids; others if there are concerns about cuts and burns; and still others when working with hazardous materials.

Latex gloves are made of natural rubber from plant sources and are considered a ‘general use’ glove because they can be used in a variety of work-related situations and are perfect for washroom cleaning. However, do not select gloves that just cover the hands. It is often best to choose extra length gloves that cover both hands and the wrist, which offer greater protection.

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