On the 17th February this year - 3 weeks before the first Coronavirus case was reported in SA - we wrote a blog piece called How to motivate to get your office bathrooms deep cleaned. The stats at the time had the global death toll having just surpassed 1100 and an estimated 45,000 people infected. So much has changed in the 4 months since that post, with the global death toll from Coronavirus at the time of writing sitting at 474,998, the total number of infections at 9,220,300 (and both rising daily) and South Africans heading towards 100 days of lockdown.
What hasn't changed - in fact what is even more relevant now than it was then - is the need for regular bathroom deep cleaning in office and shared bathrooms. Let me explain why.
A CNN article in February reported that “Experts are investigating if the coronavirus can spread through piping systems” after residents on different floors (but vertically above and below one another) of the same building contracted the virus. The article went on to state that while scientists agree that Coronavirus is mainly transmitted by direct contact and through contaminated droplets, Microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung said that an improperly sealed pipe could have resulted in virus transmission, by carrying infected faeces into the building's ventilation system and blowing it into people's bathrooms. "As the pipeline that transfers faeces is connected to the air pipe, it is very likely for the virus in the faeces to be transmitted through the air fan into the toilet."
As a result, Hong Kong's Center for Health Protection advised the public to maintain drainage pipes by regularly pouring water into drain outlets and to put the toilet lid down before flushing "to avoid spreading germs." An article on IOL on May 30th featured the somewhat alarming headline in the same vein: “The answer to how Covid 19 is spreading in South Africa might be found in sewage” and states that as “Coronaviruses may survive in stool samples for three to four days. Interconnectedness of the wastewater plumbing network can facilitate exposure, as in Hong Kong”.
We’ve long maintained that the Journey of the Germ starts with toilets that are flushed with an open lid. We’ve also always maintained that good personal and office hygiene starts in a bathroom that has been deep cleaned, to ensure that bacteria are eliminated from recesses, u-bends and other hard-to-reach areas.
And there have been further developments regarding Coronavirus spreading throughout sewerage systems since I wrote my first article. An article on CNN Health on June 16th urges readers to “flush carefully”, stating that there’s “good reason to put the lid down before you flush: a new computer modeling study shows how a flushing toilet can send a cloud of little particles containing fecal matter into the air - fecal matter that could carry Coronavirus.”
The CNN article ended off by saying "’whenever possible we should keep the toilet seat down when we flush, clean the toilet seat and any other contact areas frequently, and wash our hands after using the toilet. While this study is unable to demonstrate that these measures will reduce transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, many other viruses are transmitted through the fecal-oral route, so these are good hygiene practices to have anyway."
We certainly couldn’t agree more, as this supports the message in all of our blog posts to date. Regular, proper handwashing techniques, combined with social distancing, not touching your face and wearing a mask in public are our weapons in the war against Coronavirus, and as our President says, “It is about each of us taking personal responsibility, wherever we are and whoever we are, for curbing the spread of the disease.The power to defeat coronavirus is in our hands.”
But - as we have said before, and as the CNN article makes clear - good hand hygiene practices don’t exist in isolation. They need to be combined with excellent hygiene in our homes, and (perhaps even more importantly) at our places of work, especially as under the easing of level 3 lockdown restrictions, more and more South African businesses are reopening.
And given the evidence that Coronavirus can exist in wastewater and be spread through the toilet sneeze effect, excellent hygiene should definitely extend to the office bathroom. Office bathrooms are often in poorly ventilated parts of the building and if hygiene isn’t made a priority, they come to be associated with odour, germs and filth. An unhygienic bathroom (as we have seen from the Hong Kong building example above) poses very real health risks to you, your colleagues (and by extension, your family).
Which brings me back to the title of my article; what better way to ensure the health and wellbeing of your employees and colleagues than by ensuring that bathrooms are hygienic? A bathroom deep clean, coupled with excellent daily cleaning, can help you achieve this. Daily cleaners don’t have the right equipment, skillset or the right products to address the problem on their own. They may be able to mask the smell with air freshener; clean surfaces and the inside of the toilet with general chemicals, but this is no match for bacteria and scale buildup. The equipment needed to get into recesses and crevices - where germs are most concentrated - is usually not at their disposal.
So why a Deep Clean from Initial?
Initial’s Ablution Hygiene Treatment (AHT) is delivered by trained hygiene specialists to sanitise toilets, bathroom fixtures and surfaces. Patented bio-enzyme preparations, which are 100% environmentally friendly, are used to remove the buildup of scale, dirt and faecal deposits, and are compatible with septic tanks.
Initial is also the only provider to offer antibacterial fogging as part of our deep clean. Antibacterial fogging uses a high-level disinfectant in an aerosol state (a very fine mist), and is the bathroom equivalent of our Specialist Disinfection Service, which you can read more about here.
The mist reaches into every crack and crevice and covers every exposed surface of your bathroom, penetrating the places daily cleaning just can’t reach. Compared to manual cleaning, fogging is an extremely fast, efficient and water-wise service which significantly reduces the overall bacteria count in a bathroom, for safer, healthier environments. Read more about the service and its benefits here.
If you aren’t sure that you have a problem in your bathroom but just want some peace of mind - and who doesn’t these days - you can always contact Initial to send in an expert consultant to do a free onsite assessment. Or take a look at our COVID-19 service offerings here.