There are many facets of an efficient and effective cleaning program in a hospital or long-term care facility, from cleaning, to disinfecting, to infection prevention, to creating a “just like home” environment – especially during the holiday season. 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 recent “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 patients and residents, and a clean start to the new year:
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. Plus, human nature leads us to use what we already have in our hand, which is why multipurpose products are so useful since they clean a variety of surfaces and soils. 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.
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
UV lights and light bars are being used more and more for sterilization, but it’s important to remember that these are meant as an add-on to an existing cleaning routine and should not be relied on to replace proper cleaning.
Furthermore, 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.
Especially in restrooms, cleaning professionals tend to look for scented products to hide a smell, but it’s most important to clean the source of the odor rather than mask it. A scent should be used to provide added pleasantry to an environment for patients.
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 residents or patients 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.
The CDC reports that nearly two-thirds of all norovirus outbreaks reported in the United States occur in long-term care facilities. In the winter, low temperatures tend to allow more pathogens to spread – and also cause more people to be in closer proximity indoors – making following precautions especially important this time of year.
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 or residents and visitors to do so.
Patients and residents expect to live in a clean environment and guests expect to enter one when they visit their loved ones. Patients or residents, 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 patients/residents and their guests about how the facility is doing with cleanliness, and when they express room for improvement, act on it.
Performing extra cleaning tasks over the holidays can help promote a hygienic environment that benefits patients and residents, staff and visitors. Plus, when things are properly maintained, they last longer, which makes better use of budgets. And, a clean facility helps showcase an environment that everyone can be proud of as we ring in the new year.
These simple tips can help ensure an effective and efficient cleaning and disinfecting routine that promotes good patient or resident care and makes the most of valuable staff time and resources. By incorporating these tips into your routine, you can help provide patients or residents with a clean and comfortable living space – “just like home.”
About Michael KupneskiMichael is the R&D Section Head at P&G Professional. He also holds a degree in chemical engineering and is responsible for all formula design, technology development and process development for P&G Professional’s air care, hard surface cleaners and dish products globally.