What We Can Do to Help Stop Cross ContaminationValerie Michiels
Cross contamination is a fancy name for when bacteria moves from one surface to another via some form of direct contact. For instance, in a commercial kitchen, it can occur when a knife used to skin a chicken is then used to cut meat. Any bacteria in the chicken can now be transferred to the meat.
But cross-contamination can refer to more than just bacteria. It can also include toxins, viruses, germs, pathogens, or similar contaminants found on one surface which are then transferred to another. The big problem with cross contamination is that very often these contaminated surfaces are then touched by people.
When this happens, if someone eats something from a contaminated surface, with contaminated utensils, or touches their mouths, nose, or eyes, with contaminated hands, those contaminants are now spread, and if they are a health risk, can cause someone to get sick, often very seriously.
So how can we reduce cross-contamination? Interestingly, because the goal of cleaning is to protect human health, proper and effective cleaning is one of the best ways to minimize cross-contamination. Some of these ways include the following:
Avoid using sponges. While they may appear clean, sponges can be a significant source of contaminants because bacteria and other pathogens are invisible to the human eye. Cleaning cloths can also spread contaminants. If cleaning cloths are used, change them frequently.
Realize that floors can spread contamination. We may not realize it, but we touch floors directly or indirectly by as much as 50 times per day. If the floor is contaminated, those pathogens may now be on our hands. When mopping floors, empty buckets frequently, ideally after each room cleaned, and change mop heads frequently. This can reduce the spread of pathogens. If using a disinfectant, use a broad-range disinfectant. This type of disinfectant can kill a wide variety of germs and bacteria.
Use disinfectants on high touch areas. Disinfectants should be used on any surfaces touched by many people. This can include desks, pencil sharpeners, door handles, water fountains, dispensers, flush valves, etc. Always remember to clean these surfaces first with an all-purpose cleaner, and then clean again with a disinfectant.
Test surfaces. Years ago, the only way to test the cleaning effectiveness of surfaces was to swab surfaces, then swab a Petri’s dish, and then wait two to four days for the results. Now we have options that are much faster. For instance, ATP monitoring devices can indicate if ATP is present on a surface within 15 seconds. While its presence does not indicate a specific pathogen is present, it is an indication that they may be present, and more effective cleaning is called for. Additionally, UV light devices can be used on many surfaces to see if pathogens are present.
Keep cleaning equipment cleaning. Cleaning equipment can spread contaminants. It’s easy to see how this can happen with dirty mops, sponges, cleaning cloths, etc. But contaminants can also gather on floor machines, vacuum cleaners, as well as cleaning tools. Keep them clean and allow them to thoroughly air dry between uses.
Keep cleaning equipment off the floor. Related to this, it is always best to keep cleaning tools off the floor. If moisture or liquids are spilled on the floor, they can collect under cleaning equipment touching the floor. Additionally, keeping cleaning items off the floor helps ensure they air dry. Most pathogens die quickly when there is little or no moisture present.
Select the right cleaning solutions. The types of cleaning solutions used can have a very direct impact on cross contamination. Work with an astute janitorial distributor to help select the best cleaning solutions that meet your cleaning and disinfecting needs.
Finally, stay aware. Just knowing how contaminants spread is one of the most effective ways to reduce cross contamination. As in so many situations, when it comes to protecting human health and preventing cross-contamination, knowledge is indeed power.
For more information on fighting cross contamination, contact an Avmor representative.