While cleaning and disinfection may not be glamorous, they are the most important weapons in your arsenal to prevent the spread of disease.

At any given time, your business is under threat by an invisible army of pathogens.

Disease-causing microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria and fungi can often strike when least expected—and we have all learned from the COVID-19 pandemic that infections can bring our businesses and communities to a standstill. As germs continue to mutate and spread in the future, prevention will be our first and best line of defense in the war against pathogens.

Disinfection: Mundane but Necessary

While cleaning and disinfection may not be glamorous, they are the most important weapons in your arsenal to prevent the spread of infection. In fact, cleaning and disinfection save lives. We can no longer think of it as a box to tick, and unless you’re completely independent, if you work in a clinic, spa or any other shared space you are part of a team responsible for the infection prevention practices within your place of employment.

The best cleaning and disinfection protocols are only as effective as its weakest link. Luckily, we can break it down into six simple steps:

Know your Disinfection Responsibilities

The first and most important step in building your protocol is ensuring you and anyone you work with understands their responsibilities. This includes developing a plan that outlines what surfaces or areas and how frequently they need to be cleaned and disinfected.

As we have learned from the pandemic, anything can walk through the door. No matter how good your protocol or products are if a frequently touched surface gets missed pathogens will take this opportunity to slip in.

Form a plan based on the levels of infection risk

When it comes to infection risk, not all surfaces are created equal. Some surfaces are higher risk than others, based on the frequency of contact. For instance, cups or stones that you use directly on the client’s skin will carry a much greater risk compared to floors or surfaces in your storage areas. Other high-risk surfaces include those that are touched frequently throughout the day, such as light switches, doorknobs, and point-of-sale equipment.

To make your plan, identify:

a. What are the surfaces throughout your facility that need to be cleaned and disinfected?

b. For each surface, what is the infection risk (high risk vs. low risk)?

c. How frequently does each surface need to be cleaned and disinfected? This will depend on the risk level – high-risk surfaces such as massage tools might need to be disinfected after each client, while lower risk surfaces such as floors or staff areas might be disinfected on a daily or even weekly basis.

You can also utilize thecustomizable protocol tool builder for massage facilities at https://learnaboutrejuvenate.com/

Understand that Cleaning is Not the Same as Disinfecting

We know that cleaning and disinfection help get rid of germs, but how? And what do each of these terms mean? Cleaning is the process of physically removing dirt and debris from a surface, which can include pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

However, the cleaning process is not designed to kill pathogens—that’s where disinfection comes in. Cleaning and disinfection work hand in hand—once dirt is lifted off the surface, the disinfectant kills whatever pathogens might be left behind.

Some products are one-step cleaner-disinfectants, using detergents to remove dirt and antimicrobial active ingredients to kill pathogens. Others are just disinfectants, and therefore a pre-cleaning step with a separate product is required.

petri dishes
These petri dishes show: 1) microbial colonies on a surface that looks visibly clean; 2) what is removed by cleaning; and 3) what surfaces look like when disinfection is completed and contact times are met.

Choose the Right Disinfectant for Your Needs

There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to picking the right disinfectant– it comes down to finding the right balance to meet your needs. Asking yourself a few important questions can help guide your decision:

a) Is it a one-step cleaner-disinfectant? One-step products with built-in detergents offer the advantage of combining cleaning and disinfection into a single step, eliminating the need to pre-clean using a separate detergent product.

b) Is it safe to use? Choose a product that is non-toxic and non-irritating to eyes and skin and does not cause respiratory issues such as Occupational Asthma when used as directed. The product’s label and Safety Data Sheet (SDS) will alert you to any hazards to look out for when using the disinfectant.

c) Is it effective in a realistic contact time? The disinfectant you choose should be effective against a broad spectrum of pathogens that are relevant to you or your facility. The disinfectant should also be capable of killing pathogens in a realistic period of time, also known as the product’s contact time,which can be found on the product label. Disinfectants must remain wet on the surface for the length of their contact time to work properly – if they evaporate before this, they may need to be reapplied multiple times. Choosing a product with a rapid contact time can help you not only avoid using more product but also turning your room around faster.

Learn How to Properly use your Disinfectant

Just because you are using a disinfectant, does not mean you or your colleagues are truly disinfecting. Everyone tasked with cleaning and disinfection needs to be is trained on the “Two Ps” of disinfection: product and process.

In terms of product, this includes all aspects of how to use your disinfectant, including contact time or whether it needs to be diluted (and what ratios are required), and whether personal protective equipment is needed to prepare or use the product.

In cases of emerging viral pathogens like SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 virus), regulatory agencies like the EPA enact the Emerging Viral Pathogen Rule. COVID-19 will not be the last emerging pathogen. Be strategic and plan for the future. Choosing to use a hospital disinfectant that kills more than 99.9% of bacteria and meets the Emerging Viral Pathogen Rule shows you are thinking about future outbreaks and investing in the long-term health of you, your colleagues, your staff and your clients.

Disinfecting in 3 Simple Steps
Disinfecting in 3 Simple Steps:
Step 1: Remove visible soil.
Step 2: Apply the disinfectant to the surface by wiping or spraying. Allow the surface to stay wet for the contact time listed on the product label.
Step 3: Wipe surface dry if still wet after the contact time has been met

Set up a Quality Control System

Just as it is important that you and anyone you may work with are aware of their roles and responsibilities, it is similarly critical that everyone is accountable for making sure that cleaning and disinfection is done properly.

Using logs is a great way to keep track of whether your protocol is being followed and can provide a visual for your clients to see you are taking their health seriously. Labels for disinfectant materials help keep track of important information, such as the expiry date of the solution. If you use concentrated disinfectants, ensure you have test strips on hand to confirm the dilution is correct.

The threat of germs may be a fact of life for massage facilities, but infections don’t have to be. Both during a global pandemic and beyond, infection prevention is one of the best investments you can make to protect your business as well as your team and family. Done right, cleaning and disinfection are two of the best tools at your disposal in the war against infection.

About the author

Nicole Kenny is the vice president of Professional and Technical Services at Virox Technologies. with over 20 years of experience as an infection prevention trainer, presenter and author working in the field of environmental hygiene and disinfection. Virox is the creator of Rejuvenate Disinfectants specifically formulated for the professional beauty industry.