If you look back on 2020, you will see that the pandemic not only altered lives permanently but it also altered how we, professionals from the cleaning and hygiene industry itself, view cleaning and hygiene.
What once upon a time used to be a task focused on keeping an area clean and hygienic has now become a task to ensure that spaces are disinfected well. Every facility, every area is now being treated like a healthcare centre. And healthcare centers are being cleaned like never before in modern history.
Customers at facilities, now more than ever, expect to be privy to the cleaning practices that any facility has. They need to be constantly reassured that the cleaning and disinfection has been done in the most efficient manner possible. Whether it is the visible optics of seeing cleaning personnel at work, or it is software solutions that show that a place has just been disinfected, they want to be told, time and again, that disinfection is the number one priority of the facility.
And the onus for this lies on the cleaning/FM/housekeeping manager. How will you assure your visitor if you yourself are not sure of the kind of disinfection that has taken place? This is where the concept of testing your surfaces comes into play.
- Testing helps verify that the cleaning tools and practices being used are effective
- Testing helps understand that training has taken place effectively
- It helps give feedback to housekeeping personnel about their activities
- Testing software also allows for teams to track their progress in cleaning and disinfection
- Finally, and most importantly, it ensures near perfect disinfection
Cleaning monitoring demonstrates that the cleaning process and frequency, including any mechanical cleaning actions, are sufficient to maintain surfaces well - without product residue or infectious organisms. These studies demonstrate that materials can be cleaned to the desired chemical and microbiological levels.
Disinfectant studies can support cleaning studies by showing that application of the disinfectant reduces or eliminates microorganisms, but they should not be considered a substitute for establishing that the cleaning agents and physical cleaning actions are acceptable.
So how does testing a surface work?
One of the most popular methods is fluorescent markers. The surface is marked with a fluorescent gel before cleaning. Once the cleaning is carried out, a black light is shone on the surface and the areas that have not been cleaned or disinfected well glow in the light. This is the most basic method of testing cleaning - but not necessarily the most reliable and pretty time consuming.
ATP monitoring has proved to be one of the most effective modes of testing cleanliness. According to an article by Hygienia, ATP monitoring basically measures residual organic matter that may remain on the surface being tested after cleaning and disinfecting. Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is an enzyme present in all organic matter. The process involves a simple swabbing of a surface, and then inserting of the swab into a handheld luminometer. Results are available within seconds! Moreover, these ATP systems come with software that allows the user to track trends and monitor data regularly.
However, the authors caution, one must not think that ATP monitoring detects the type of pathogen left on the surface. For this, the only solution is microbial testing.
Microbial testing is a long-drawn procedure and can help managers understand the long-term effects of a certain cleaning procedure and tool. It typically requires a swab being submitted to a lab where the cultures are grown and then tested. However, this is pretty effective in detecting isolated microorganisms. Especially when it comes to the Coronavirus.
Overall, testing and monitoring has been considered pretty effective when it comes to understanding cleaning and is a useful tool to not only pitch contracts to clients but to also retain those very clients by showing positive results.