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Proper Elevator Cleaning & Disinfecting To Prevent The Spread of COVID-19

Proper Elevator Cleaning & Disinfecting To Prevent The Spread of COVID-19

It's now common knowledge that avoiding poorly-ventilated, enclosed spaces is vital for preventing the transmission of COVID. Unfortunately, that isn't possible for everyone. People who live or work in high rise buildings and wheelchair users need to use elevators, which puts them at risk. Facility managers can help cut this risk with proper cleaning and disinfection procedures. Here's how:

1. Understand the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing.

These terms are often used interchangeably, but they don't really mean the same thing. Cleaning removes stains and surface debris. Some cleaning agents can help remove viruses and bacteria from surfaces, but they don't actively kill them. Disinfecting may not remove dirt and stains, but uses chemicals to kill or inactivate pathogens. Sanitizing involves lowering the number of pathogens to acceptable levels, and may or may not use chemicals to do so. Regular soap and water can clean, disinfectant products like quaternary ammonium disinfect, and steam cleaners, UV-C lighting, and sanitizing compounds sanitize. They are all complimentary, but one can't take the place of another.

2. Get into the small spaces.

Elevators might look like a simple metal box, but they have a lot of nooks and crannies where debris and pathogens can collect. When cleaning, make sure to hit the tracks between entryways, door treads, between the door split, and the light fixtures. Use a disinfectant on elevator buttons, but be careful not to spray them directly -- this can make liquid seep in, damaging the electronics underneath. It's important to clean surfaces before disinfecting them. Removing surface debris will help remove some bacteria and viruses, and make thorough disinfection easier. Avoid using sponges to clean, since they provide a lot of interior surface area for bacteria to grow. It's also important to avoid using strong-smelling cleaners on the elevator's interior since it will take a long time for the scent to dissipate and can cause headaches and nausea until it does. While bleach is a good disinfectant, it has strong fumes and can damage some plastic-based fixtures.

3. Find the right disinfection schedule.

"Often enough" is pretty variable. If a building has a lot of traffic and multiple elevators, the elevators may need to be disinfected once a day. For a smaller building with one elevator, every three days to a week may be fine. This, of course, depends on the type of facility -- an office building that screens people before entering will not need to be disinfected as often as, say, a hospital or apartment that may house sick people.

4. Use the right cleaning and disinfection products.

By now, most facilities probably have effective disinfection products in their cleaning rotation. If not, it's vital to consult the EPA's list of products effective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. When it comes to elevators, not just any disinfectants will do. Many of these products use harsh chemicals, which may damage elevator interiors. This is more than just a cosmetic consideration. If polycarbonate-based fixtures are scratched or otherwise damaged this can create tiny crevices that can harbor viruses and bacteria. To maintain the integrity of metal and plastic surfaces, always use non-abrasive cleaners and disinfectants designed to work on those materials.

5. Embrace new sanitizing technology.

Disinfecting almost always involves using chemicals, but sanitizing is a bit more expansive. While it might not kill all viruses and bacteria, it can reduce them to the point where infection is very unlikely. UV-C fixtures use special wavelengths of ultraviolet light to inactivate airborne pathogens, while fans help keep air circulating. Innovative air purifiers, like the CASPR 200c, use photocatalysts and UV lighting to convert natural humidity in the air to create oxidizing compounds. These are harmless to humans but can cover the interior of the elevator shaft to reduce pathogens.

6. Enforce social distancing.

It might not technically be cleaning, disinfecting, or sanitizing, but the importance of maintaining distance can't be overstated. The virus hangs in the air, and airborne transmission appears to be a much bigger vector than surface transmission. Unfortunately, elevators generally don't allow for 6-plus feet of distancing, so facilities may need to figure out ways around this. Reducing elevator occupancy, offering freight elevators for general use, and offering added incentives for taking the stairs can help. It's also important to make sure elevators are properly maintained to avoid any extra downtime. Elevators are small, usually crowded, and not exposed to fresh outdoor air -- all things the CDC and WHO have warned against when it comes to avoiding COVID. While using elevators may be non-negotiable for many people, there are ways to help make them as safe as possible. By thoroughly cleaning before disinfecting, using the proper products, disinfecting often enough, using new sanitizing technology, and reducing elevator occupancy, facility managers can keep their elevators clean and visitors healthy.

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