Blog, COVID-19

COVID Cleaning and the CDC: “You Need A Little Dirt!”

December 15, 2020, Author: Park Ave Cleaning

COVID Cleaning Certification: A Refresher Course in the Science of Cleaning

We got our COVID cleaning certification from the (AHCA) American House Cleaning Association last month.

It had not seemed urgent. With my own 15+ years in the business and my crew members with nearly the same longevity, I felt we basically knew it all. I’m obsessed with the science of cleaning, and I’ve studied it a lot! But, as so often happens when you enter a classroom to update your training, I learned some new things! 

Our March-to-December COVID Journey

We all went a little crazy back in the spring, when we realized a mysterious new VIRUS was stalking us. The experts – who couldn’t agree on much – had us madly cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting everything from our own high touch surfaces to the food deliveries being dropped outside our doors. Hand-washing took on a new dimension! Even the kids, bless their hearts, did not have to be nagged to wash their hands. We were all doing it 20 times a day. 

But now, while we’re still super cautious, we know much more. We know:

  • The coronavirus is transmitted primarily through respiratory droplets, and infects humans through our respiratory systems. 
  • The virus stays alive for only a short while without a host. On ordinary household surfaces, it will be dead within hours. 
  • More encouragingly, the virus’ outer layer is made of a fatty acid that is easily neutralized with a simple soap and water washing.

Armed with this knowledge, we are emboldened to leave the house again. Perhaps to go to the grocery store if we really need to — appropriately masked and conscious of maintaining our 6-foot  “social distance” from others.

Here’s what I learned newly in my training:

You Need a Little Dirt!

The CDC does not recommend disinfecting all your ordinary surfaces every day. It turns out, we need a little dirt!

For COVID cleaning, they advise daily disinfecting for only the most “high-touch” surfaces, such as:

Park Avenue Cleaning COVID-cleaning list of high-touch services in a home

And you can do that after cleaning with just a spray of alcohol, left to dry on the surface.

Countertops in your kitchens and bathroom should ideally be cleaned every day. But we’re surprised to learn that overly sterilizing and sanitizing them is not necessarily going to make a bigger difference. 

In fact, you can get “too clean.”

Here’s the parallel: Just as antibiotics kill all the bacteria in your body – not just the bad ones, but the good ones too – the complete absence of germs in your environment reduces the body’s defensive capabilities. This weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to other bugs. In the same way, over-sanitizing can get your environment too germ-free. 

While a downright dirty, dusty house is a threat to your health, an overly clean one will eventually be the same. Turns out there’s a level of immune system support that your “normal” pretty messy lifestyle provides. Turns out, you need a little dirt! 

(Thank goodness about some of this, right? We can all feel a little bit better about our beautiful messes?)  

Avoiding Cross-Contamination

The main thing with proper cleaning has always been to stay conscious and systematic while doing it. Headphones and music may be fine, but it might not pay to be spaced out. It’s too easy to re-contaminate areas you have already cleaned – for instance by re-using dirty water or rags.

Our system has us start at the top of the house and work our way to the bottom. We are systematic in kitchens and bathrooms. Checklists for each space ensure both that we miss no surfaces, and that we work in an orderly progression.

We all know to be careful with cross-contamination when we’re handling meat or poultry. It’s the same concept with careful cleaning in COVID-times. Clean. Sanitize. Disinfect (where necessary). Move to the next surface, keeping an eye on the water in the bucket and swapping it out when it shows dirt.

When needed, we disinfect with an undiluted alcohol spritz from spray bottles. We’re careful to coat the surface, and never wipe after spraying – allowing for that essential “dwell time” that ensures germs will be completely eradicated (see below).

Disinfecting Correctly: Clean + Sanitize = Disinfect

Because we can never talk about this topic too often, let’s review the correct process for disinfecting.

Clean first, using the most basic cleaning solutions you can get away with. We tend to use plain soapy hot water – with the soap being mild dish soap. If you’re really keen on fragrances, you can add the beautiful, light scent of pure essential oils to the mixture. But adding 10% alcohol in the bucket allows you to combine the cleaning and sanitizing process.

Finally, if you’re really concerned about those high-touch surfaces we mention above, hit them up with an alcohol spray. To be effective, you must leave on the surface to dry for what the CDC calls “dwell time.” Dwell time varies between products. Please read the labels — but the average is about 6-10 minutes. (If someone in your household is sensitive to harsh smells like pure alcohol, we recommend an all-natural disinfectant concentrate like Melaleuca’s Sol-U-Guard.)


Park Avenue’s COVID-Related Changes

Our COVID Routines

Since COVID began our obsession with cross-contamination has only grown. Our COVID-cleaning routines go to great lengths to ensure it won’t happen – both within a client’s space and between clients. 

We have been forced to give up on our “green” leanings, for now. We are using much more plastics and disposables, which doesn’t make us happy. But it’s essential. We now need separate plastic bags to dispose of the rags, trash, and even vacuum bags for each household (a fresh vacuum bag for each client is now standard operating procedure). 

We all wear full personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves. And we change everything in between clients.

Our cleaning checklist is designed to make sure we hit surfaces in the correct sequence to avoid any possibility of cross-contamination by re-infecting previously sanitized surfaces. This takes concentration and our crews are well trained in it.

When Park Avenue Cleaning Comes To Your House

If possible, we like to send crews in when you and your family are going to be out. If that is not possible, we will ask you to occupy another room while our crews are in your home.

We do also ask that if someone in your household gets sick on the day of your appointment that you let us know. Just to be safe, we will most likely want to reschedule.

All the cleaning equipment we bring inside – cloths and rags, buckets, plastic bags, and vacuum bags – will be new out of the package or will have been sanitized before coming into your house. When we are done, the disposables will leave your house in sealed plastic bags – this includes all our PPE. Same with the washables, so they are never commingled with those of another household.

We now have our COVID cleaning certification and we are following the guidelines of our industry and the CDC. We are keeping ourselves and our families safe as well. And we’re helping clients who have been in the house with their beloved children for most of the year now. 

We see you! You are a school teacher now (homeschooling), and chief entertainment officer — keeping your family sane all while somehow keeping down your job. At some point, doing the cleaning yourself is just not worth it! You need your time for other vital things! 

And (even without a lot of company coming this year) the holidays are right around the corner. It just may be time for that “top-to-bottom clean” feeling.

Park Avenue Cleaning can deep clean your home and keep it germ-free with regular maid service — so you can concentrate on what matters. 

Call us today for our COVID-certified, white-glove service. We proudly serve Columbia, Ellicott City, Catonsville, and the Greater Baltimore, Maryland metro areas.