Tips for Improving Indoor Air Quality

pollutionMost of us tend to think of pollution as something that only occurs outside — smog, billowing smoke stacks and haze hanging in the air are all perfect examples. But the truth is, indoor air is often more harmful and polluted than anything we come into contact with outdoors.

The average person spends nearly 90 percent of their day indoors. With so much time spent at home, in the office or at school, it shouldn’t be a surprise that indoor air quality (IAQ) can have a significant impact on your health in more ways than one. In fact, poor IAQ is associated with a variety of health concerns, including asthma, nausea and fatigue.

So can you improve indoor air quality?

  • Reduce Chemical Pollutants: High-efficiency filters, green commercial cleaning products and germicidal lights can all play a part in reducing indoor contamination. These products help control particles, chemical vapors and bioeareosls.
  • Balance Indoor Humidity: High levels of humidity have been linked to asthma and increase the risk of mildew, bacteria and dust mites. To control humidity levels, you should invest in a high-efficiency filter, as well as a dehumidification system based on humidity levels rather than temperature.
  • Eliminate Dander: Reduce allergies and asthma by making sure your facility is clean and free of common triggers such as roaches, dust mites and mold. Common methods to attack the dander problem include high-efficiency air filters and germicidal lights.
  • Counter Carbon-Dioxide: Poor air circulation can drastically reduce concentration levels and increase fatigue. Control ventilation systems exchange and dilute contaminated air by introducing fresh air, based on current building carbon dioxide levels.
  • Eliminate Dander: Reduce allergies and asthma by making sure your facility is clean and free of common triggers such as roaches, dust mites and mold. Common methods to attack the dander problem include high-efficiency air filters and germicidal lights.

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New Study Reveals More Americans Are Going Green

green productsAccording to the 5th Annual Tork Sustainability study, Americans are more interested in going green than ever before.

The study, which surveyed 2,068 adults aged 18 and older, found that seventy-eight percent of participants (up from 69 percent the year prior) purchased green products last year.

The results also revealed that the reasoning behind purchasing green products appears to have shifted. Twenty percent (up from 14 percent) of those surveyed cited health reasons as a major reason behind their green purchasing decisions, while 47 percent (down from 48 percent) cited the environment.

Are Americans willing to pay more for green products?

When it comes to green cleaning products, organic clothing, CFL bulbs and other popular green products, Americans appear to be split on whether or not they’re willing to pay more. According to the survey, 43 percent of Americans would pay more for products that could be guaranteed of ethical manufacturing practices, while 44 percent say they would not.

Additionally, participants with children under the age of 18 were significantly more likely to pay more for responsible and ethically sourced products (51 percent) than those without children (39 percent).

“People are paying more attention to health when choosing to buy green, and I believe that adults are more aware when children are in the house. It suggests this trend will continue as future consumers are being raised with these values,” said Mike Kapalko, Sustainability Marketing Manager for SCA, the company responsible for this annual survey.

Are interested in learning more about green cleaning products? Contact National Purity today!

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Infection Control: Tips for Preventing Cross-Contamination

cross contaminationIf you’re a cleaning professional in a hotel, office building, healthcare facility or any high traffic arena  — you need to take special precautions to help control the spread of infection. Below we’ve listed some quick and ways to make your facility less vulnerable to cross-contamination.

Choose the right products. Certain viruses can survive on surfaces for more than eight hour — so it’s important to have the right products on hand. Soaps, detergents and water can do a good job cleaning soiled surfaces, but disinfectant is necessary if you really want to prevent cross-contamination.

Start color-coding. Using a color-coding system for cleaning equipment, tools and information can help all custodial workers (even those with language barriers) identify when and how to use your facilities specialized products and equipment to prevent cross-contamination.

Focus on common touch points and hotspots. Door handles, faucets, keyboards and other high traffic areas around your facility. These areas are the most likely to harbor and spread harmful bacteria and germs.

Clean and disinfect regularly. Daily and weekly cleaning schedules are the best way to prevent the spread of harmful infections.

Encourage hand washing through signage. Regular hand washing is still the most effective way to prevent cross-contamination. Your facility should already have a hand washing protocol in-place for new employees. Adding signage to restrooms will encourage your staff to follow-up on their training.

Make sure your employees receive proper training. Cleaning is more than brooms, mops and buckets. To do the job right, your employees need specialized training and education. An educated staff that has access to necessary products and equipment is the best way to minimize the risk of infection at your facility.

 Image Credit: Mountain Pulse

Four Cleaning Myths Debunked

cleaning-mythsNot all cleaning techniques are created equal. If you’re still making some of the mistakes below, it’s time to update your cleaning routine.

Cleaning and disinfecting are the same.

When it comes to facility management, cleaning and disinfecting are two very different tasks. Cleaning is used to remove dirt and grime at the surface level to prevent the spread of disease. The better job you do cleaning, the more effective the next step — disinfecting — will end being. Disinfecting goes deeper than regular cleaning by tackling microscopic organisms like viruses and bacteria.

You should always vacuum first.

Cleaning should always be performed top down. This means you should begin with dusting and end with vacuuming. As you’re cleaning, dust particles and other debris will collect and fall to the floor. They can easily be removed with a vacuum. If you choose to vacuum first, you’ll need to do it a second time to eliminate resettled dust and debris.

More is always better.

Though you might be tempted to add more and more cleaning solution to a particularly dirty cleaning job — more is not always better. In fact, more cleaning product can attract more dirt and grime. When you use too much cleaning product, a sticky cleaning residue can be left behind which can be incredibly hard to get rid of. In most cases the only thing you need more of is elbow grease.

Bleach is the number one cleaner.

As we’ve stated before, there are a number of reasons NOT to use bleach when you clean. For one thing, bleach isn’t a cleaner; it won’t actually remove dirt, grime or grease (though it does kill germs). Other problems with using bleach in your cleaning routine? It has a surprisingly short shelf-life (only 3-6 months) and it’s highly corrosive (so much so that it can destroy or damage metal or stainless steel).

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Women’s Handbags May Be Dirtier Than Average Public Toilet

purse-bacteriaWomen’s handbags are a lot dirtier than you might think.

In fact, a new study has revealed that a whopping one in five handbags contain more germs than the average public toilet.

Not only are these findings a little (okay, a lot) gross…they’re potentially dangerous. According to UK study researchers at the Initial Washroom Hygiene, women’s handbags actually contain enough bacteria to be considered a public health risk.

“Handbags come into regular contact with our hands and a variety of surfaces, so the risk of transferring different germs onto them is very high – especially as bags are rarely cleaned,” said Peter Barratt, technical manager at Initial Hygiene.

The Biggest Offenders

According to the results, leather handbags contain the highest levels of harmful bacteria. Their soft, spongy exterior creates the perfect environment for germs to breed.

Handbag interiors also contained high levels of bacteria. Hand cream, lipstick and mascara, in particular, were found to harbor the most bacteria.

Preventing the Spread of Harmful Bacteria

Minimizing the spread of harmful bacteria is easier than you think. If you carry a handbag, make sure to clean it regularly with disinfecting wipes. The same goes for interior objects that you use on a regular basis (especially your makeup).

Proper hand washing with foaming hand soap is also essential — especially after touching the inside or outside of your handbag.

“Once these germs get on the bags, they can easily be transferred via hands onto other surfaces. Regular hand sanitization is essential to prevent the presence of bacteria in the first place and thorough cleaning of bags is recommended to prevent the build-up of contamination,” Barratt said.

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Cleaning and Asthma: Tips for Minimizing Common Triggers

asthma triggersAsthma is a chronic respiratory disease affecting more than 25 million Americans. To minimize potential triggers in your facility, the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) has recommended the following cleaning strategies:

  • Don’t rely too heavily on disinfectants. Some facility managers are under the impression that disinfectants are a good way to minimize symptoms of asthma for employees and other building inhabitants. In most cases, however, simply disinfecting an area isn’t enough. Regular dustings, carpet cleanings and extractions are the best way to tackle asthma attacks through cleaning.
  • Empty vacuum cleaner bags often. Keeping dust mites at bay is key to reducing asthma symptoms. Ideally, vacuum bags should be emptied before they’re more than one-third full. Empty vacuum bags will ensure your staff is able to effectively eliminate dust mites and other debris that may contribute to upper respiratory problems.
  • Dust on a regular basis. As we stated above, too many dust mites can aggravate symptoms of asthma. Use microfiber cloths to eliminate dust mites on a daily basis.
  • Maintain HVAC systems. A/C and heating filters should be changed on a monthly basis to prevent dust from circulating through the building. Filter enhancers can be sprayed onto A/C and heating units to capture more debris and allergens.
  • Have carpets professionally cleaned. Deep carpet cleans should be performed at least once a year. Regular vacuuming should be performed on a daily basis using a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) vacuum. HEPA filters prevent trapped particles from escaping back into the air.

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How many germs are lurking around your office?

germ-hotspotsWhen it comes to spring cleaning, we always say better late than never. A thorough cleaning not only freshens up your office space, it reduces the risk of germ-related infections for your employees.

According to a research study conducted at the University of Arizona — that tested hundreds of surfaces to calculate average total bacteria counts, per square inch — you should keep an eye (and throw in some extra cleanings) on the following germ hotspots:

  • Dish sponges: Easily the dirtiest object in your office (and home), the average dish sponge contains a whopping 775,460,560 germs per square inch. Most sponges are more likely to contribute to the mess than actually clean it up. And it’s pretty difficult to clean a soiled sponge, so we suggest just tossing it out weekly, or after you use it to wipe down surfaces contaminated by raw meats or vegetables.
  • Kitchen faucet handles: The average kitchen faucet has more bacteria (approximately 228,854 per square inch) than the average toilet flush. Keep germs at bay with regular cleanings. Sanitary wipes are one of the easiest and most effective ways to eliminate harmful germs.
  • Keyboards/Mouses: Most custodial staff will steer clear of personal spaces, so it’s up to the office staff to keep their workstation clean and tidy. Sanitizing wipes are the best way to wipe down keyboards and mouses (which contain more than 61,500 germs per square inch). Weekly cleanings should be performed — or daily if you’re feeling under the weather.
  • Cellphones: How many seconds, minutes, hours a day to you spend touching and talking on your cellphone? A lot. As a result, most cellphones are pretty dirty — averaging about 11,000 germs per square inch. To prevent germs from spreading to your face and mouth, you should sanitize it daily.
  • Doorknobs: Most of us have a fear of touching doorknobs and handles — and for good reason — but in actuality, they aren’t as dirty as you might think (probably because we’re all avoiding them). The average doorknob contains about 8,643 germs per square inch, which means it still needs a good cleaning at least once a week.

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4 Things You Should Know About Restroom Cleaning

restroom-cleaningHow a business maintains its restroom is a direct reflection of its overall dedication to the customer experience. Nobody likes a dirty restroom. And a company that doesn’t maintain a clean restroom is likely to suffer in the long run.

If your cleaning routine needs a quality upgrade, we suggest starting with the basics. Below we’ve outlined four things you need to know about restroom cleaning:

1) Know the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. It’s a common misconception that cleaning and disinfecting are the same thing. In actuality, they serve two very different purposes. Cleaning removes unsightly soil, dirt and debris. Disinfecting eliminates viruses, bacteria and germs.

2) Identify your restroom touch points. Before cleaning a restroom, you need to identify all “touch points.” Touch points account for surfaces that people touch frequently. To prevent the spread of infection, they should be cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis. Common restroom touch points include:

  • Door knobs and handles — including those used to get in and out of restroom stalls
  • Balance rails
  • Toilet seats
  • Toilet flushers
  • Faucets and knobs
  • Soap dispensers
  • Paper towel dispensers — including levers and knobs
  • Hand dryer buttons
  • Light switches

3) Always clean before you disinfect. Cleaning and disinfecting go hand-in-hand, but order is still incredibly important. A thorough cleaning with soap (or detergent) paves the way for a strong disinfectant.  It also reduces the spread of germs and infection prior to killing them with disinfectant.

4) Pay close attention to hazard warnings and directions on product labels. Most cleaning products require the use of gloves and/or eye protection. Common cleaning chemicals can easily cause irritation to the skin, nose and eyes if you aren’t properly prepared. You and your staff should read and understand all appropriate uses before diving into the cleaning process.

What’s the dirtiest room in your office building?

office-kitchenIf you think the public restroom is the dirtiest room in your office — you’re wrong.

According to the results of a new study, the office kitchen is probably a lot dirtier than the restroom. The study, which took 280 samples from 70 kitchen appliances in eight different offices, revealed that half of all surfaces in workplace kitchens are contaminated with high levels of coliforms — a bacteria present in fecal matter.

The swab results revealed that 75 percent of all kitchen surfaces contain more bacteria than the average feminine sanitary bin.

So which kitchen surfaces were the biggest offenders?

  • Chopping boards: A quarter of chopping boards tested were found to have four times the safe level of coliforms.
  • Fridge handles: A third of fridge handles were carrying high levels of coloiforms.
  • Microwaves: Thirty percent of shared microwaves were shown to be contaminated around the handles and buttons.

Initial Washroom Hygiene, who carried out the study, had this to say about the results: “Shared office kitchens can be very busy areas with a heavy footfall, making this space a potential hazard for cross-contamination when good hygiene practices and hand washing aren’t encouraged.

“As workers prepare their lunches on the kitchen surfaces, it’s vital to ensure these surfaces are sanitized on a regular basis and that, as a minimum, towel dispensers, soap, and hand or surface sanitizers are available to mitigate the risks.

Other Contaminated Surfaces in Your Office

Shared kitchens aren’t the only offenders. Researchers at the University of Arizona have also confirmed that office telephones, desktops, table tops, door handles and photocopiers are hotspots for harmful bacteria.

Fortunately simple interventions like regular hand washing with foaming hand soap and water — can drastically reduce the risk of employees’ contracting harmful infections. Thorough cleanings with disinfectant are also necessary to eliminate dangerous pathogens that might be lurking around the office.

Hand Washing: Discerning Fact from Fiction

hand-washingMyth #1: You should only wash your hands with hot water.

Soap and warm water have long been said to prevent the spread of disease and infection — but is hot water really more effective than cold?

Surprisingly, the answer is no. A 2005 study (published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine), asked participants to wash their hands in temperatures ranging from 40 to 120 degrees. What researchers found was that water temperature didn’t really matter when it came to eliminating germs.

Temperature might not matter, but time certainly does. Another study at Northwestern University found that participants who washed their hands for just five seconds did nothing to eliminate bacteria on their hands. While people who washed their hands for 30 seconds killed nearly everything.

So what’s the moral of the story? Feel free to wash your hands at a comfortable temperature, just make to be as thorough as possible.

Myth #2: Hand sanitizers work just as well as soap and water.

Though hand sanitizer might seem like a quick and easy alternative to getting your hands wet, it’s not as effective. Numerous studies, including a recent one at the University of Maryland have shown that regular old hand washing is still the best way prevent the spread of disease and bacteria.

If you’re in a pinch, hand sanitizer is better than nothing — as long as it’s alcohol based (at least 60 percent) and you allow it to dry for at least 15 seconds.

Myth #3: Frequent hand washing promotes healthy skin.

When it comes to your skin, hand washing is a necessary evil. Yes it prevents the spread of disease and infection — but too much can wreak havoc on your skin. In fact, contact dermatitis (a red, itchy rash) can develop as a result of frequent hand washing.

If you want to keep your skin soft and supple, we suggest limiting hand washing (to a point). The main goal of hand washing is to remove or reduce the number of organisms on your hand normally, as well as those picked up from the environment.

To avoid over or under washing, the Mayo Clinic recommends these guidelines:

Always wash your hands before:

  • Preparing food or eating food
  • Treating wounds, administering medicine or caring for a sick or injured person
  • Inserting or removing contact lenses

Always wash your hands after:

  • Preparing food, especially raw meat or poultry
  • Using the toilet or changing a diaper
  • Touching an animal or animal toys/leashes or waste
  • Blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • Treating wounds or caring for a sick or injured person
  • Handling garbage, household or garden chemicals or anything that could be contaminated.

Note: These guidelines should be more stringent if you work in the food or health care industry.

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