Maintaining a Hygienic Environment

by Michael Kupneski, R&D Section Head, P&G Professional

Maintaining a Hygienic Environment: Smart and Simple Cleaning Tips for any Long-Term Care Facility

There are many facets of an efficient and effective cleaning program in a long-term care facility, from cleaning, to disinfecting, to infection prevention, to creating a “just like home” environment. Providing a safe and clean living space can be challenging, but with the right processes in place, administrators and housekeeping staff can maintain a hygienic facility for patients, residents and guests.

According to a “Cleaning Industry Insights” survey from P&G Professional, products that get the job done right the first time and work quickly, in addition to simpler cleaning routines, were reported as the three most helpful elements when it comes to performing cleaning services in four industries, including healthcare. With that in mind, following are smart and simple cleaning tips to maximize your cleaning program and help provide a comfortable environment for residents.

Cleaning vs. Disinfecting: Know the Difference!

Many professional cleaners are unaware of the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Make sure housekeeping and nursing staff know the distinction between the two. Cleaning is the process of removing the soil from a surface, as soil can harbor germs such as E. Coli, Salmonella and Influenza. Disinfecting is the process of killing these germs. Cleaning well allows the disinfecting agents to work more effectively than disinfecting alone.

With new technology in cleaning products, cleaning and disinfecting no longer needs to be two separate steps. It can be accomplished in one-step with multipurpose cleaning products. To help achieve the best results in a long-term care environment, look for professional multipurpose cleaning products that feature hospital-grade disinfectants, which have been formulated to remove a broad range of target soils and disinfect simultaneously. These products are efficient, effective and help get the job done right the first time, and can also help save on purchasing multiple products and increased labor time. Look also for products with 24 hour protection particularly in high-touch areas.

New Innovations for Soft Surface Sanitization

Review cleaning and disinfection product regimens and replace products as needed with today’s advances. New products like Febreze® Professional™ Sanitizing Fabric Refresher kills 16 types of soft surface bacteria to sanitize those soft surfaces that can’t be washed, such as mattresses, upholstered furniture, couches and curtains, while eliminating odors with the refreshing power of Febreze. Small product changes like this can help comfort residents with the refreshing smell of Febreze while keeping them safe by killing 99.9% of bacteria on the soft surfaces in their environment.

Create Cleaning Protocols and Checklists

Educate staff on cleaning and disinfecting protocols, and make sure they have been trained on areas to clean and how to do it correctly. Create a checklist that accounts for all high-touch areas in the facility, from sink faucets, to doorknobs, to drawer pull handles, to tables and chairs, to make sure these places are consistently and properly cleaned and disinfected. A checklist inspection sheet helps ensure that every task is completed each and every time. Repeat training also helps ensure that staff stays aware of what you expect and helps them know that doing things right are important to you.

Remember, workers will do what you inspect, not always what you expect. Make sure to have a system in place to confirm that the cleaning being done is meeting facility needs and standards.

Proper Dwell Time: Read Labels!

Whether using a multipurpose product or a stand-alone disinfectant, the solution must be left on surfaces as indicated on the label instructions in order to be most effective. Cleaning professionals should avoid simply spraying and wiping and instead read and follow label instructions carefully, regardless of brand. Products are only effective when used properly.

Clean and Sanitize to Prevent Cross-Contamination

Cleaning tools, such as scouring pads, brushes, mops and scrapers, can be sources of cross-contamination. Put procedures into place to properly clean and sanitize tools regularly. Also, remember to thoroughly clean and disinfect high-touch areas that can spread germs further.

The Dirt on Restroom Sanitation

Since restrooms can harbor many different types of germs, it is critical that they be cleaned regularly and correctly to maintain a clean appearance and remain odor-free. These small but tough-to-clean areas contain a dozen or more highly touched objects, such as door handles, toilet seats, urinals, faucets, sinks, flushing levers, counters, partitions, soap and paper dispensers, and more.

24 Hour Protection

The new Microban Professional technology, which kills 99.9% of bacteria in 5 minutes and provides 24 hours of protection from bacteria growth — even after multiple touches, is ideal for high-touch areas. Traditional sanitization or disinfectant products may clean and disinfect, but they do not keep working after initial contact whereas products like this can protect against bacteria in between cleanings.

Just Like Home: Laundering for Hygiene and Comfort

Linens, towels, and garments washed in highly effective detergents from trusted brands that consumers have used in their homes for decades can also be comforting and reassuring to guests who may be dealing with serious health issues. In a recent poll of more than 500 professionals working in long-term care facilities across the country, 85 percent of those surveyed agreed that residents who are surrounded by familiar sensory experiences, such as softness or fragrances, say they feel more comfortable and at home in their living environment. Similarly, 82 percent of respondents reported that residents say they feel more at home in their facility when they use brands they know and trust. Be sure to choose a laundry system that produces familiar softness and freshness on fabric to help create a home-like environment for consumers while they are away from home. 

Detergents that are phosphate-free with a near neutral pH formula extend linen life and make fabrics noticeably softer to the touch. To achieve the proper level of hygiene in laundry procedures, it is imperative that cleaning professionals follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for laundry. Temperatures above 140º Fahrenheit are recommended for either the wash cycle and/or the dryer cycle.

Infection Prevention

The CDC has reported that nearly two-thirds of all norovirus outbreaks reported in the United States occur in long-term care facilities. To prevent the spread of these and other germs, staff should regularly clean and disinfect surfaces and areas with an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered disinfectant. Product labels should indicate what bacteria and viruses a disinfectant or multipurpose product is effective against. 

Also, frequent hand washing is one of the best ways to fight against the spread of viruses and bacteria. Post signage in the facility, reminding staff, patients and visitors to do so.

Exceed Patient and Visitor Expectations

Patients expect to live in a clean environment and guests expect to enter one when they visit their loved ones. Patients, guests and staff will notice if an area is not properly cleaned, which will lead to customer dissatisfaction. It’s always a good idea to proactively ask residents and their guests about how the facility is doing with cleanliness, and when they express room for improvement, act on it.

These simple tips can help ensure an effective and efficient cleaning and disinfecting routine that promotes good patient care and makes the most of valuable staff time and resources. By incorporating these tips into your routine, you can help provide patients with a clean and comfortable living space – “just like home.”