5 Questions to Ask When Creating Your Disinfection Program

Do your cleaning and disinfection procedures address the most high-risk areas in your facility?

Inspired by Dr. Elizabeth A. Scott 

Throughout the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, cleaning and maintenance professionals have been following more stringent cleaning and disinfection procedures to help reduce the spread of the virus. Naturally, that has come with more high-powered disinfectants being used across facilities.

Using these effective disinfection chemicals is necessary, but without the proper training and knowledge of said chemicals, you can unknowingly release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air that can impact indoor air quality. Instead of a blanketed approach to disinfecting every surface with a harsh chemical, it’s key to understand your chemicals, their benefits, how to use them, and where to use them. You can create a targeted approach that addresses the most highly contaminated areas or surfaces.

5 Questions to Ask When Creating Your Disinfection Program

Commercial facility cleaning professionals can consider the following questions to determine what cleaning and disinfection procedures will help reduce the spread of pathogens most effectively:


A good starting point would be to determine who is the most at risk in the environment. Elderly people and immunosuppressed individuals have a higher risk of severe illness when exposed to Covid and other germs like the flu, according to Health Canada and Public Health authorities. This necessitates additional precautions. Environments and facilities that account for more people at risk like seniors’ residence and long-term care nursing homes, for example, require more disinfection tasks or increased frequency.


Next, decide what products to use. When choosing your products and chemicals, pay attention to the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. Cleaning physically removes soils from surfaces, while sanitizing lowers the number of germs to a safe level, and disinfecting kills bacteria and viruses on surfaces. Different products can perform these tasks and disinfection is ineffective if surfaces are not first cleaned. Check that your products are listed on the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or Health Canada websites and are proven to inactivate pathogens of concern, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Additionally, be sure to use the appropriate cleaning product on the right surface to avoid any damage or discolouration for example. A bleach-based product may be correct for cleaning a toilet bowl but could damage fabrics or an electronic device.


Cleaning professionals can then determine where and what to disinfect within the facility. High-touch points, or surfaces that everyone in the facility touches, include tabletops, counters, light switches, elevator buttons, door handles, remote controls, water fountains, and more. Other high-risk surfaces such as toilet handles and faucets in restrooms, or those that are in contact with raw food in foodservice areas should also be a priority. In general, elevated surfaces, including counters and handrails, are likely to receive a lot of hand contact, whereas surfaces like floors may not need disinfection at all. However, these considerations will change from facility to facility. For example, floors in childcare facilities may become high-touch points when children play on the floor.

While sanitizing something like an elevator button after each touch is not sustainable, facilities can encourage building staff and occupants to wash and sanitize hands frequently to help reduce the risk of transmission via hands and high-touch surfaces.  Public Health recommends handwashing as one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs. When soap and water are not readily available, be sure to choose a sanitizer with at least 70% alcohol content. Facilities can make restroom hand soap available and provide hand sanitizing stations at building entrances and other pivotal areas like elevators, to proactively reduce pathogen spread.


While custodial staff typically disinfect at the end of the day, pathogens are traveling between people and indoor spaces all day long. Cleaning programs can include more frequent disinfection and identify times and areas that require more thorough disinfection or more frequent hand washing. Each program should be designed based on the needs of the facility. Medical centers will require more frequent disinfection tasks and a cafeteria will require disinfection between mealtimes. Using a focused hygiene approach can help employees identify the most important times for cleaning and disinfection without relying on cleaning crews. For example, wipes and bottles containing disinfectants can be placed on tables and prompt users to disinfect their seats and tabletop upon leaving.


The final step is to train cleaning professionals on best cleaning practices and guidelines. Managers can provide staff with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and ensure that training and job aids are available in universal pictograms. In addition, the safety data sheets that accompany cleaning and disinfecting products should be available to anyone who wishes to review them.

When cleaning and disinfecting a surface, start by cleaning off any debris before applying disinfectant. Then, follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding contact time. Cleaning and disinfecting products come with a recommended length of time to leave the chemical wet on the surface before wiping. Following these contact times ensures the chemical reaches its full efficacy against pathogens. After leaving the surface wet with the disinfectant for the contact time, wipe with disposable or microfiber cleaning cloths. Cleaning professionals must also be careful not to carry dirt from one surface to another by using a different cloth on each surface or for each cleaning task. Colour-coded microfibres can help reduce cross-contamination.

Finally, manual disinfection can be advantageously completed by the application of a disinfectant using an electrostatic sprayer. This technique ensures complete coverage of all surfaces, in addition to reaching high or hard-to-reach surfaces. Make sure that the disinfectant and the electrostatic device have been tested and approved, otherwise, serious health risks could be caused by improper use or equipment.

Focused hygiene for facility safety

By identifying the most important areas to disinfect and following disinfection best practices, facilities can help reduce the risk of pathogen spread. Additionally, facilities can encourage regular handwashing and hand sanitizing to eliminate germs before they reach high-touch points in the facility. Follow these five questions to develop a cleaning and disinfection program that addresses the most high-risk areas without the overuse of chemicals.

Lastly, there is growing evidence that to better protect against the risks of virus spread, individuals and other occupants of a workspace or shared space must be educated about the risks associated with their behavior in certain situations. Eight critical moments were identified as being at risk if people do not wash their hands during these situations. Being aware of these moments and the resulting need for handwashing can help break the chain of infection.

These moments are:

Workstation, leaving and returning,

After entering, leaving a building,

Savouring, having a meal,

High touch surfaces,

Handling garbage, recycling,

After bathroom usage,

Nose blowing, sneezing, coughing,

Dressing, preparing food.

You will notice the anagram for easy recall: WASH HAND. To learn more about the Chain of Infection, read this article here

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