Updated: Sep 26, 2020
Since the World Health Organization announced that COVID-19 has transitioned from an epidemic to a pandemic, almost everyone has been talking and acting about it. People have become more health-conscious, and businessmen have started manufacturing hand sanitizers and face masks now more than ever. Even people in the cleaning industry have stepped up to do their share. If you are into social media, as most everyone is these days, you might have stumbled upon that cleaning service video advertisement that tells you to “Keep your hotel or resort clean and disinfected with ease with commercial-grade disinfectant sprayers and foggers that cover large areas in minutes”. In the video, a man was supposedly demonstrating how the product works. He was wearing an N95 particulate mask rather than an approved respirator as prescribed by OSHA 3280-10N-05.
So, there he was, hawking a ULV fogger to mist every surface in an office environment like some magic wand that can easily zap away any trace COVID-19 carries, walking back and forth instead of from the furthest point of the room working to the door. This product is being peddled on a cleaning forum on Facebook and it was getting a lot of attention, with 374 reactions to the video and 208 comments as the last. What’s disturbing is, the vast majority of cleaning people were impressed with the dog and pony show if the 208 remarks such as “where can I purchase” is a fair survey of the situation.
It’s a pseudoscientific sales tactic, yet someone with a scientific background ought to have helped him in implementing the correct operation of the product since they are selling it to cleaners, who in turn will offer their services to others. It is clear that they are selling a product and possibly assume that cleaners know the dos and don’ts of cleaning so the focus was on the product and not so much on meeting Federal and State requirements. At the Federal level, there are both prescribed protocols and regulations on the lawful use of registered disinfectants. CDC, OHSA, NIH, and the EPA are all qualified sources. Also, State and County Health Departments are great sources for guidance on cleaning and sanitizing.
Unless a cleaner is fully aware of their guidelines, he has no business applying chemicals in a consumer environment. For example, the EPA is clear: “Unless the pesticide product label specifically includes disinfection directions for fogging, fumigation, or wide-area or electrostatic spraying, EPA does not recommend using these methods to apply disinfectants. EPA has not evaluated the product’s safety and efficacy for methods not addressed
on the label. A disinfectant product’s safety and effectiveness may change based on how you use it. If a pesticide product’s label does not include disinfection directions for use with fogging, fumigation, wide-area, or electrostatic spraying, EPA has not reviewed any data on whether the product is safe and effective when used by those methods.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you clean contaminated surfaces with liquid disinfectant products to prevent the spread of disease.” From the point of view of a Certified Microbial Remediation Technician, one can see that there are so many things wrong with what that man is doing in the video. For one, the task is being performed without regard to efficacy in sanitizing (what you put down minus what is used up must leave disinfectant residual for the prescribed dwell time).
Furthermore, there was no mention in the video that organic load needs to be removed before applying an antimicrobial agent. Failing to do so is negligence. To understand what negligence actually is one must be aware of a little thing called the Business Judgment Rule in Law. Secondly, there is no way you can get adequate dwell time with a ULV application alone, not to mention the more nuanced aspects of things like protecting normal flora. Touchpoint cleaning requires technical judgment on an item by item basis as contents in the space must be treated according to permeability and susceptibility to harm from the cleaning agent.
Most importantly, the observance of Occupational Health and Safety measures were
grossly insufficient for the dispersion and aerosolization of chemicals. The poor practices like what was displayed by this product distributor is one of the contributing factors of antibiotic resistance that has resulted in the evolution of superbugs like MERSA and VISA. It is also the reason that so many improperly trained cleaning people have of late, wound up in emergency rooms after poisoning themselves. Without a doubt, this company has unintentionally produced a great training video for what NOT to do. You wouldn't believe the number of job sites I’ve walked on and the cleaners there couldn't even tell me the difference between cleaning and disinfecting.
It makes my head hurt watching these companies come in and use foggers or electrostatic sprayer and leave without even wiping one piece of furniture or surface down before applying a disinfectant. Professionals should invest in gaining knowledge and skills rather than be totally reliant on tools to do the job. A man is necessary to operate the tool, the tool cannot operate by itself. Think about it. Don’t most of us hire professionals for what they do and not what they have? Maybe a cleaner should try starting with or becoming a trained and certified Microbial Remediation Technician, that way he can market himself as an educated and skilled cleaner, not just as “the man with the latest tool”. Cleaning people ought to avail themselves of generally accepted practices rather than have a salesman
be their sole source of guidance. People are most certainly being harmed by ignorance. Consumers should only hire professionals who have the right credentials, people who have the know-how, and not just the tools, however flashy they may be.
Author Scott Britton is the owner of Happy Window Cleaning/ Happy Cleaning and a certified Applied Microbial Remediation Technician since 2005.