We normally associate cleaning with good hygiene practices, but what if your cleaning methods and tools could actually be making you sick? There have been several studies over the years detailing how cleaning equipment may actually be helping the spread of diseases: this is often caused by improper use of cleaning equipment.
How could your cleaning equipment be making you sick?
Ask yourself this: how often have you seen cleaning staff changing the equipment they use for different areas? You’ll often see cleaning staff using the same mop for both the bathroom and kitchen, which opens up an opportunity for cross-contamination.
It’s highly likely that that the bathroom floor could be harbouring more bacteria than other areas in your workplace, therefore using the same mop for the bathroom and the rest of the office spreads those same bacteria to other locations.
The same principle goes for cleaning equipment at home: we tend to use the same spaghetti mop for the entire house. What’s worse is that many of us still use old school mops which need to be rung out by hand, exposing you to all the dirt and bacteria you’ve just cleaned up off the floor.
How do mops spread germs
The main reason why mops spread (rather than remove) germs is because, though you may start off with a clean mop and water with detergent, when the mop is dipped into the bucket for the first time, the water becomes contaminated with bacteria from the floor. The cleaning chemicals in the bucket, which are supposed to disinfect, begin to lose their effectiveness. The more you dip the mop in the water, the more contaminated the water becomes. So at the end of cleaning a particular area your cleaning equipment will be contaminated with bacteria and grime, it’s at this point that cross contamination occurs as people would generally continue to use the same mop if not the same water in the next area of the building, thus resulting in germs transferring from the first area cleaned to the next.
In a study published in 2004, "Household Cleaning and Surface Disinfection: New Insights and Strategies" in the Journal of Hospital Infection, It was found “that mops, stored wet, supported bacterial growth to very high levels and could not be adequately decontaminated by chemical disinfection. Laundering and adequate drying provided effective decontamination, but the buildup of bacterial counts occurred if mops were not changed daily or if disinfectant was omitted from the wash water.”
What can you do to stop the spread of germs?
1. Retire the spaghetti mop and use microfiber flat mops
An easy way to stop the spread of bacteria is to use “easy to clean” tools. The old school spaghetti mop is known to spread (rather than remove) dirt and germs from the floor, and can harbour potentially dangerous contaminants increasing the risk of cross-contamination. Those that don’t have a hands free rinsing function add even more hygiene risks.
My recommendation would be to switch to a microfiber flat mop as their mop heads are easy to change and launder, helping to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
2. Use different tools for different surfaces
My top tip to prevent cross-contamination is to use a colour coding system, where each colour represents a specific area or room, therefore, preventing the use of the same tool in several different areas. While there’s no legal rule for colour coding cleaning equipment, there are certain conventions that are generally used across the cleaning industry which could help differentiate which equipment is used in certain areas. According to a blog on Cookmill these colour codes are as follows:
- Red - High-risk areas such as toilets and bathrooms
- Yellow - Kitchen and food preparation areas
- Green - Public areas
- Blue - Low-risk areas where there is less risk of bacterial contamination
Additionally, when using the microfiber flat mop one could have area designated mop heads that you change for the specific room you are cleaning
These simple alternatives can help stop the spread of disease by using appropriate cleaning practices and tools to help you stay healthy and hygienic when cleaning.