Mops and COVID was published in Greenteacher Magazine for client KAIVAC
Recently, I gave a virtual presentation to a local Chamber of Commerce. The topic: Mops and Covid and Cleaning.
About fifty people attended and the organizations they represented ran the gamut. There were dentists, lawyers, several managers of banks, facility managers, and at least three public and private school administrators.
Regarding how the coronavirus is spread, I pointed out that most studies now indicate it travels primarily from one person to another via inhalation. However, I also indicated that the pathogens that cause the disease can collect on surfaces, and if those surfaces are touched—and then we touch our face or the food we are about to consume—there is a possibility we can contract the virus.
This was confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier in the year.
The CDC reported that while the coronavirus “does not spread easily” through touching surfaces or objects, it still “may be possible” to pass on the virus from contaminated surfaces.
During the presentation, we also discussed an issue that has not received much attention—pathogens causing the virus can and do collect on floors. A study team at the Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, China, one of the first hospitals in the world to treat those infected with the disease, reported the following:
Floor swabs had a high rate of positive tests, potentially due to virus droplets falling on the ground. Half of the ICU staff’s shoes also tested positive. Also, as medical staff walks around [the hospital], the virus can be tracked over floors, as indicated by the 100 percent rate of positivity from the floor in the pharmacy, where there were no patients.
I added that cleaning professionals should always bring two pairs of shoes with them when they work: one pair to wear in and out of the facility and another to wear while cleaning in the facility. These “working shoes” should be removed and washed after each shift. Washing them will prevent any remaining pathogens from being walked into the next facility or the cleaning professional’s own home.
This raised another question; Should we continue to clean floors with mops now that we know coronavirus droplets can collect on floors? In other words, are mops and COVID connected?
To address this floor/mop quandary, the following are some of the points I made about mops and COVID and cleaning and the questions I was asked:
Do mops collect soils and pathogens?
It has been scientifically proven in , mostly in hospitals, that mops and mop water collect pathogens during the mopping process then spread these pathogens to other floor surfaces.
But how often do we touch floors?
We do not touch floors directly that often. It is how we indirectly touch floors that is the concern, especially now with COVID. As soon as custodial workers, for instance, touch the bottom of their shoes, they could have the pathogens on their hands. Then, if they touch additional surfaces, they can pass the virus that is on their hands from the floor to those surfaces. This is just one of several examples. Others include such innocent things as tying shoelaces that have dragged on the floor or picking up a purse placed on a floor, such as in a restroom.
Should we stop mopping floors and stop using mops?
Not necessarily, but it will prove helpful if we do. Mops and mop buckets have their own unique cleaning needs. (See sidebar below.) If they are kept clean and changed regularly—as often as after each room is mopped—they can probably be used, although an alternative cleaning method is recommended.
What are alternatives to floor mops?
There are, for instance, floor machines called auto scrubbers. Many of these, however, are costly to purchase and to own. Plus, they are often designed for cleaning large floor areas. A classroom may be too small an area to use them. For schools specifically, I suggested the use of “auto vacs.” Like traditional floor machines, these are proven just as effective, if not more effective. Another benefit, they are inexpensive to purchase with a low cost of ownership.*
How does green cleaning fit into this mopping discussion?
We cannot get around the fact that mops and COVID requires us to use more disinfectants than ever before. While there are green-certified disinfectants in Canada, we are now using them in such large amounts that there is potential they are negatively impacting the environment and the user. One reason for this: When we mop floors, the disinfectant may not be used “efficiently.” This is an important word when it comes to the use of disinfectants.
Custodial workers may be manually diluting the disinfectant with water, which invariably means too much disinfectant needs to be used. Plus, they change the mop bucket water frequently, requiring more and more disinfectant to be used. And, let us not forget that mops need to be laundered repeatedly, after every use. Invariably, this also requires the use of even more disinfectants.
With scrubbers or auto vacs mentioned earlier, dilution is more precise, making disinfectant use more efficient.
Should we continue to follow these steps even after COVID is no longer an issue?
Yes. In every crisis, good things can evolve. One of the good things evolving from the pandemic is that every aspect of cleaning is being re-evaluated, and this includes floorcare. The professional cleaning industry will never be the same after this pandemic … it will be better.
Drew Bunn is the Canadian Director of Sales for Kaivac Canada, manufacturers of professional cleaning tools and equipment engineered to help protect health and stop the spread of infection. He can be reached at email@example.com.
*“Costs to own” or “cost of ownership” usually refers to such things as purchasing necessary parts for a machine and maintenance costs once a machine is purchased. Traditional floor machines tend to have many components that may need to be changed. Further, these are complex and complicated machines, requiring repair and service over time.
Sidebar: The Cleaning Needs of Mops
- Mop heads should be changed frequently, as often as after each floor is mopped. This is the procedure adopted in many hospitals. Cleaning workers should carry several mop heads with them when working.
- Mop heads should be cleaned after each use.
- “Spaghetti” mops are a welcome setting for pathogens to grow and thrive. To eliminate the pathogens, disinfectants are necessary. It is also essential to change disinfectants frequently. Varying disinfectants helps prevent pathogens from becoming immune to the disinfectant.
- Flat mops can be cleaned more quickly and are not as hospitable to pathogens. Flat mops should be used instead of spaghetti mops.
- Poles and buckets must be cleaned. These should be rinsed first, washed with an all-purpose cleaner, and then disinfected—a three-step process. This should be done at the end of each cleaning shift.
More Kaivac related articles can be found here.