While massage therapists should always employ superior sanitation practices, COVID-19 has created a whole new emphasis on keeping clean—one that needs to include contact time.
Our industry is facing unprecedented sanitation requirements because of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The coronavirus is known to mainly spread through person-to-person contact with respiratory droplets. These droplets can contaminate surfaces or be inhaled when near someone who is breathing, talking, sneezing or coughing.
Yet, despite all the extra sanitation efforts being made during this incredibly challenging time, most are not effective. Improper sanitation can lead to the spread of germs—a term that refers to bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses.
Are You Cleaning, Disinfecting, or Sanitizing?
What is the difference between cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing? The CDC’s report, “Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility,” states:
Cleaning: Physically removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects by washing with soap or detergent and water and rinsing or wiping them away.
Disinfecting: Generally uses chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. Surfaces or objects must be cleaned prior to applying a disinfectant for efficacy. Disinfectants do not work properly through the physical debris that must first be removed during cleaning.
Sanitizing: Lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects by either cleaning or disinfecting to lower the risk of infection.
Contact time, also known as dwell time, for disinfectants, is the amount of time a surface should remain wet to achieve a sanitization product’s desired result. Disinfection is less effective when proper contact times are not observed. Contact times also require a proper amount of disinfectant, which is just as important as the contact time itself.
For example, some products advertise that they kill 99.9% of germs; however, to kill those 99.9% of germs there is usually a contact time where the surface area must remain wet with the disinfectant.
A contact time, on average, can last between 30 seconds to 10 minutes—or more. The Environmental Protection Agency notes: “If you are using an EPA-registered disinfectant, the product label will contain the dilution and contact-time information along with other critical safety information.”
Sanitizing is less effective when proper contact times are not observed. Contact times also require that a proper amount of sanitizing product is applied, which is just as important as the contact time itself. Here are some examples of products you might be using where contact times should be practiced and adhered to:
Disinfecting Wipes: Some of the most popular household wipes (including those made by Lysol and Clorox) recommend that the surface being disinfected must remain wet for four minutes after being wiped. Disinfectant wipes are perfect to wipe down your massage therapy table, face cradle (including its handles), table leg knobs, door handles or any other hard surface in your massage therapy practice room.
Disinfecting Sprays: In addition to contact time, sprays may have further directions, such as distance to spray a surface to sanitize it. Lysol recommends spraying for three to four seconds within 6 to 8 inches of the surface being sanitized and a contact time of three minutes where the surface must remain wet.
Bleach Solution Soak: When one-third cup of household bleach is mixed with 1 gallon of water, objects should usually be immersed for not less than 60 seconds and not more than 10 minutes, depending on what is being disinfected.
Hand Sanitizer: Hands should remain wet with a hand sanitizer for at least 20 seconds after application. Contact time language is usually not used with hand sanitizer, but I feel it’s appropriate because many will not wet their entire hands with hand sanitizer—nor keep them wet for at least 20 seconds with plentiful product. Our sparing use of sanitizing agents today is mostly born from the appalling shortage of sanitizing agents available during this pandemic, which has not been helpful in preventing the spread of germs.
If You Don’t Use Contact Time, Are You Really Sanitizing?
The four sanitizing products and practices listed above have contact times that range from 20 seconds up to 10 minutes, where the surface areas or objects being sanitized must remain wet. Proper sanitation is regularly not achieved if a product’s contact time is not provided.
Some massage therapists will spray or wipe a surface area with a sanitation product and then wipe it dry without allowing for contact time. Are you one of them? This is one of today’s most widespread and improper uses of a sanitizing product. It is important to not rush the sanitization process and instead adhere to proper contact times, or else the entire effort could be an expensive waste of time and leave you exposed to a dirty or infected workspace.
Hard surfaces versus porous objects can have different contact times. Different kinds of sanitizing agents, as well as different sanitation-product manufacturers, could have contrasting instructions.
It is extremely important to follow each product’s individual instructions to keep yourself and your clients safe and healthy, especially during this viral age of COVID-19. It only takes a few seconds to read and practice these various uses, but those few seconds could make the difference of properly sanitizing your business—or leaving it exposed to germs.
About the Author:
Selena Belisle is the founder of CE Institute LLC in Miami, Florida. She has been practicing massage therapy for over 30 years and is approved as a continuing education provider by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork and the Florida Board of Massage.
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