FEATURE Always Check the Label

With an influx of new cleaning and hygiene products on the market, it has become difficult for buyers to separate genuine companies from those capitalising on the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, Lorcan Mekitarian, Chairman of the Cleaning & Hygiene Suppliers Association (CHSA), advises on what to look for to avoid choosing the wrong products.

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Demand for cleaning and hygiene products, including hand sanitisers, gloves, soſt tissue and aprons, has soared in the coronavirus pandemic. This, in turn, has presented a golden opportunity to rogue traders. The challenge for buyers is to differentiate between the unscrupulous but apparently credible companies and those trading ethically.

The Cleaning & Hygiene Suppliers Association (CHSA) represents approximately 200 manufacturers and distributors of cleaning and hygiene products, from large multinationals to small independents. The Association has a rigorous Code of Practice and operates five Accreditation Schemes, all underpinned by a process of independent inspection.

When the coronavirus hit, the demand for cleaning and hygiene products escalated. Whether it was aprons, gloves, hand sanitisers, products for cleaning hard surfaces or soſt tissue, people needed more, and they needed it immediately. The unscrupulous made the most of the opportunity. They created new businesses overnight, claiming expertise, knowledge and product excellence.

The UK hand sanitiser market has been described as a ‘Wild West’, as all sorts of organisations with no relevant track record have turned to producing alcohol hand gels.

Extraordinary claims have been made for cleaning chemicals, including residual effects. They say cleaning once with a hard surface sanitiser will keep a surface sterile for days. It sounds perfect, but it’s only true in laboratory conditions. In a real- life environment, as soon as someone or something touches the surface, there’ll be a residue on which the coronavirus can survive. New methods of application, including fogging and misting, have also been described as the panacea. The evidence, however, suggests they are more about cleaning and hygiene theatre. People need to look behind the

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headline claims. Every reputable supplier will be able and happy to provide data sheets- essential for understanding true product efficacy.

We’ve seen shiploads of products like masks and gowns being rejected as not fit for purpose – a consequence of the marked increase in imported Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) with fake or no CE marking. The CE certification mark indicates conformance with European Union directives regarding health and safety or environmental protection.

This is not acceptable under normal circumstances. In the context of the pandemic, these claims put care home employees and residents at risk.

Faced with these claims, our advice is to be cautious. If you are a buyer of cleaning and hygiene products we recommend to:

1. Be sceptical about product claims. It if sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Ask for evidence to back up the claims, obtain CE declaration and or any test reports to show conformance to specification.

2. Buy from a reputable supplier. Look for the CHSA logo and CHSA Accreditation Scheme stamp.

The CHSA is a membership organisation of about 200 manufacturers and distributors of cleaning and hygiene products. Our commitment to standards began in 1997, with the launch of our first Accreditation Scheme. We have since added more and now have Accreditation Schemes for distributors and for manufacturers of plastic-based, of cotton- based, of cleaning and hygiene chemicals, and of paper-based and woven products.

Every member of the CHSA has also signed our rigorous Code of Practice, requiring them to “maintain a high standard in the conduct of its business.”

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