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As we return to our workplaces after months of working at home, keeping our offices and workspaces safe and clean is on everyone’s mind. MedExpress is ready to share some tips for employees and their employers on how to change their cleaning and disinfecting routines for the better.

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November 23, 2020

Daily cleaning and disinfecting are two of the simplest – and most necessary – steps that everyone can take to help stop the spread of COVID-19. MedExpress has pulled together some helpful tips to get started.

Learn the Difference Between Cleaning and Disinfecting

Before we begin, it’s important to define the difference between cleaning and disinfecting.

Cleaning is typically defined as the act of sweeping, dusting, mopping and wiping down surfaces to eliminate dust and dirt.

However, while cleaning removes some germs, proper disinfecting is required to eliminate the bacteria and viruses that remain on hard, nonporous surfaces, like workspaces. Unless these spaces are disinfected throughout the day, they can be a breeding ground for germs.

Did you know that the average desk is covered with 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat?1 Talk about gross.

Cleaning Tips for Employees

To eliminate those germs – and help reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 – get in the habit of starting and ending each day by first cleaning your workspace with soap and water, then disinfecting with sprays or wipes.

To keep your area safer, concentrate on the most popular homes for germs: telephones, desks and computer keyboards. If your workspace has shared tools and work desks, they should be disinfected at the open and close of business. Additionally, employees should wipe them down when finished with their tasks (and, of course, wash their hands). Just be careful cleaning and disinfecting around electronic equipment and computers.

Keep Your Tech Clean Without Damaging It

employee disinfecting work place keyboard

Before you clean and disinfect your computer, turn it off and unplug it. Then, use a microfiber cloth and a solution of 50% water and 50% vinegar to wipe your machine. Take care to use a minimal amount of the solution and avoid any ports.

This same solution is perfect for computer and mobile phone screens by going from corner to corner with a similar cloth.

If you have an external mouse, disconnect it and remove any batteries before cleaning and disinfecting. Use a cloth with a small amount of alcohol to wipe the outside. If it has a ball inside it, remove it and wipe it clean. Allow it to dry before reinserting.

Finally, to clean your keyboard, start by spraying the keys with compressed air to loosen up any dust particles. Then, wipe the entire keyboard with a small amount of alcohol and use a Q-tip to gently clean between the keys. Follow the cleaning regimen by disinfecting your keyboard with a 70% isopropyl alcohol wipe or disinfecting wipes, as long as they don’t contain bleach. Additionally, you should avoid aerosol sprays and keep your disinfecting to the display, keyboard and other exterior surfaces.2

Allow everything to dry for several minutes before powering back up.

Prep Your Desk or Workstation

Consider returning to work to be the perfect time to get your workspace more organized. Beyond making things look nice, it also creates an easier space to disinfect. Try to keep as much flat space as possible open and to not cover your area with clutter.

Start by throwing away all of those papers and folders that you no longer need (and don’t forget to recycle them, if possible). If you have equipment that doesn’t work, like pens or broken tools, throw them away. A good rule of thumb is that if you don’t read it or use it once a week, you don’t need it. Finally, while we all love desk decorations, now is the time to keep them to a minimum.

How to Make Your Own Disinfectant Wipes

While the Center for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency have released guidelines for products that meet their criteria for use against COVID-19,3 finding those products may be difficult.

The good news? Making your own wipes is easy. Here are two “recipes” for bleach and alcohol-based wipes. Keep in mind that you should never mix household bleach with ammonia or clean your computer equipment with bleach. It’s always a good idea to check with your employer before using any homemade products to clean your workstation.

Bleach-based Wipes4

Bleach (at least 1000ppm sodium hypochlorite)

Water

Paper towels or cloths

An airtight storage container

  1. Remember to have adequate ventilation and always wear rubber or nitrile gloves to protect your hands.
  2. Mix 5 tablespoons of bleach to 1 gallon of water in your container.
  3. Soak paper towels or clothes in the mixture for at least 5 minutes.
  4. Close the container tightly. 

It’s important to note that this bleach solution will only be effective for the next 24 hours, so you need to repeat this process any time that you disinfect with this method.

Alcohol-based Wipes4

Isopropyl alcohol or ethanol (91-95% alcohol)

Water

Paper towels or cloths

An airtight storage container 

  1. Remember to have adequate ventilation and always wear rubber or nitrile gloves to protect your hands. 
  2. Depending on the potency of your alcohol, adjust your mix. 91% isopropyl alcohol should be mixed at a ratio of 7 cups of alcohol to 3 cups of water while ethanol’s proper mix is 6 cups of alcohol to 4 cups of water.
  3. Soak paper towels or clothes in the mixture for at least 5 minutes.
  4. Close the container tightly and store in a cool, dark place. 

How Should You Disinfect Your Space?

a person wearing gloves disinfecting a door handle with cleaner

It’s important to wet the surface you want to be disinfected completely, then only wipe in one direction to avoid cross-contamination. You should also switch out your cleaning wipes often. For proper safety, always make sure to read the product’s directions before use. Plus, you should always have plenty of ventilation and wear gloves (and wash your hands when you’re done).5

Tips Employers Should Know

While social distancing, wearing masks or face coverings and encouraging frequent hand washing can help, they’re no replacement for proper cleaning and disinfection when it comes to reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19. The CDC has created a three-point guidance plan for cleaning and disinfecting public spaces, workplaces, businesses, schools and homes.6

Step 1: Develop a Plan

  • Areas that have been unoccupied for a week or more only require routine cleaning. High traffic spaces and surfaces that are frequently touched by multiple people will require disinfecting throughout the day.
  • Remember to clean and disinfect door handles, desks, light switches, water faucets (which you may want to shut down altogether for the time being), shared tools and phones. If employees share the use of keypads, such as on copy machines, they should be wiped with disinfectant wipes after every use.7 
  • Ensure that you have an adequate supply of cleaning products and the personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate to wear during their use. 

Step 2: Put Your Plan in Action

  • Start by cleaning visibly dirty surfaces with soap and water before using an EPA-approved disinfectant against COVID-19. Follow the safety information and instructions for usage. 

Step 3: Keep Following the Plan

  • Frequently touched surfaces should be disinfected at least once a day. In addition, continue practices that limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19, such as reducing the sharing of common spaces and frequently touched objects. 

While all of these cleaning and disinfecting procedures may seem overwhelming at first, once you get in the habit of enacting them, they’re actually pretty simple. They’re also a necessary step in helping protect yourself and everyone that you work with.

If your workplace needs help with COVID-19 testing, our Employer Health Services team can help. From testing at a MedExpress center or working with us to create a custom on-site testing and screening solution, we have a plan that fits your organization. Learn more about our COVID-19 resources for your workforce here.


References:

More Germs Than a Toilet Seat. Last updated June 3, 2019. Accessed September 15, 2020.

How to Clean Your Apple Products. Last updated August 5, 2020. Accessed September 15, 2020.

Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). Accessed September 1, 2020.

COVID-19: How to Make DIY Disinfectant Wipes at Home. Accessed September 1, 2020.

6 Steps for Safe & Effective Disinfectant Use. Accessed September 1, 2020.

Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes. Last updated May 7, 2020. Accessed September 1, 2020.

Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes. Last updated May 7, 2020. Accessed September 1, 2020.

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