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POST PANDEMIC: MOVING FORWARDS


Historically, housekeeping practices are in constant evolution. Multiple variables force us to modify certain procedures and working methods and to develop new cleaning tools. Time constraints, financial and human resources also force us to adapt our ways of doing things. Despite these changes, the overall concept of ‘cleanliness’ remains the focus of our hygiene and sanitation activities.


Despite this fact, people both within and from outside the industry will give different answers if you ask them what their definition of the term cleanliness is. Some will talk about the elimination of stains, others of microorganisms, while others will refer to a general and pleasant visual state. These divergent views of what cleanliness means inevitably leads people to use different types of products to achieve the same goal; some will use cleaning products, others disinfectants or sanitizers and others disinfectant cleaners.


Cleaning products can make a surface ‘clean’ by removing dirt and microorganisms. For their part, disinfectants are not intended to achieve this state of cleanliness; they are used to kill microorganisms. Cleaning products and disinfectants have completely different functions, but they also have a certain complementarity.


As their use is aimed at killing microorganisms, disinfectants are classified as biocides or pesticides. It is well-known that their use can produce harmful effects on health, the environment and microbial ecosystems and that is why they must be used with great care


Justified disinfection is the art of disinfecting only where and when it is useful and relevant to do so. It is the opposite of systematic or abusive disinfection.


The process of disinfection aims to minimise the number of microorganisms on a surface. If correctly applied, disinfection can bring benefits in terms of individual and community protection by reducing the risk of transmission of microbial diseases.


What is justified disinfection? For a surface to present a risk of transmission of microbial disease, it must be able to serve as a vehicle between a microorganism and humans. For example, floors, ceilings and most walls cannot typically be used as a vehicle because we do not touch them. The presence of a pathogenic microorganism on these surfaces therefore does not represent a real biological risk to our health.


In contrast, a door handle, tap or toilet flush handle and light switches present a genuine risk as we touch them frequently and then put our hands to our face and possibly our food. They can be sources of indirect transmission of microorganisms (individual - surface - individual).


What to disinfect: Only surfaces frequently touched by hands (high touch) should be disinfected, as only these surfaces can serve as a vehicle for the transmission of microbial diseases justifying the use of the disinfectant


When to disinfect: Disinfecting a surface provides immediate but short-lived protection. It will be contaminated again and will have lost its disinfected and ‘safe’ status as soon as it is touched again - which can sometimes happen a few seconds after disinfection. It has been shown that a disinfected


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surface can return to its original level of contamination (in terms of microbial load) within 2.5 hours or six hours after its disinfection, depending on the microbes present. Indeed, in a hospital setting, disinfection was not found to make a significant difference in the colony numbers of certain bacteria, with microbial surface loads being indistinguishable 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after the disinfection procedure.


Since it would be impractical and excessive to disinfect a surface each time it is touched, maintenance programs generally provide one disinfection per day when disinfection is required. This frequency can be increased if necessary, depending on the situation and the traffic in a given location.


How to disinfect? Like everything, to disinfect a surface, you must do it correctly and observe the following application conditions: 1. Apply the disinfectant on a recently cleaned surface (the activity of most disinfectants is reduced if used on unclean surfaces; the most effective regimen is precleaning, followed by disinfection).


2. Use the correct concentration of disinfectant, as prescribed by the manufacturer.


3. Adhere to the wet contact time prescribed by the manufacturer.


If these conditions are not met, you have not properly disinfected the surface and cannot expect to obtain the benefits sought by the disinfection process.


In summary, there are only two situations where it is justified to disinfect:


a. If you can comply with the three application conditions required to ensure effective disinfection (listed above).


b. When there is a real risk of disease transmission or infection via a critical area or surface (e.g. a door handle, tap, pay phone, keyboard etc. – not walls and floors).


Besides these two situations, there is no beneficial reason to try to disinfect surfaces. Recognising that guidance arising from the current pandemic talks about the disinfection of critical high touch points you should:


● Target only frequently affected ‘high touch’ surfaces that could potentially serve as a vector for the transmission of a disease.


● Comply with the dilutions, procedures and wet contact time required and only disinfect recently cleaned surfaces.


Conclusion Considering the human and environmental risks and consequences associated with the overuse of disinfectants, it is difficult to find a valid reason, with little to no advantage, that justifies systematic disinfection of all surfaces. In most cases, good surface cleaning procedures provide an appropriate level of security.


Remember, the best possible protection against microbial infections starts with an individual’s personal hygiene - starting with healthy hand hygiene.


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