Mythbusters: The Truth About Multipurpose Products for Effective Cleaning

by Michael Kupneski, P&G Professional

Cleaning and disinfecting are both vital to an effective cleaning program and accomplish different tasks. Cleaning removes the soil and dirt from a surface while disinfecting kills microorganisms that cause disease, odor and/or spoilage. Recent studies have shown that there continues to be a general lack of consistency and rather significant confusion within the professional cleaning industry about whether you can do both cleaning and disinfecting at the same time and the correct processes and procedures for doing so.

In a recent P&G Professional™ survey, 68 percent of respondents said that if you want to clean and disinfect a surface, you have twice as much work on your hands. It appears that respondents believe these tasks must be done separately with two different products. While it’s true that each act is vital, they in fact do not have to be done separately. A multipurpose product like Spic and Span® 3-in-1 All-Purpose Spray and Glass Cleaner can effectively do both.

The key is reading product labels to confirm if a product is in fact multipurpose and how to properly use it. I often hear about professional cleaners using a disinfectant as a multipurpose product, thinking that if they are disinfecting, they must also be cleaning. The truth is that most stand-alone disinfectants are not effective cleaners and vice versa. When a disinfectant only is used, it is unfortunately just disinfecting the dirt without actually removing it from the surface.

At the ISSA/INTERCLEAN® North America 2012 Conference, I participated in a well-attended panel discussion with several experts with varying backgrounds on this exact topic, titled “Cleaning up the Confusion on Disinfection.” We spoke about the power of multipurpose products and the myths and facts surrounding the cleaning and disinfecting processes.

Ann Schenkel, director of Business Development, Healthcare/Education, North American Corporation was one of the panelists and had this to say: “It is true that you have to clean the surface or else all you will be doing is disinfecting the dirt, but it no longer has to be a two-step process. That is old school thinking. In fact, recent science and new chemical technologies have introduced new products to the market that now clean and disinfect against most viruses in one step.”

I think some of the myths and misconceptions about cleaning and disinfecting may simply stem from a lack of knowledge on the part of management and their employees. Management may not have a clear understanding of the benefits of multipurpose products, while employees may not be trained on proper usage of those products. With a multipurpose product, businesses can accomplish the same cleaning efficacy as a two-step process in less time and at a lower cost.

Schenkel added, “There has also been a long divide between Infection Prevention or IP and Environmental Service or housekeeping. Until recently, they really didn’t work well together, so while IP was learning about all of the new technologies, they were not working with housekeeping to put these new measures into place. As a result, it was either up to housekeeping to research and change their processes or their suppliers to bring it to their attention, many of which had an ‘if it isn’t broke, why fix it’ mentality.”

Proper training and process implementation are extremely important for any organization. If these business tools are not put into place then foodborne illness or sickness may occur – which can be detrimental for any organization. The result of this can be costly, resulting in down time, lost revenues and poor publicity. Making sure cleaning protocols are effective is key to any establishment’s long term profitability and success.

“Whether we kill the pathogens or clean them away, we need them gone from the food flow or from a path that may contaminate others. Bacteria, left unchecked, can double every 20 minutes and thus be more likely to transfer and contaminate hands and then transfer again,” said Jim Mann, founder and executive director, Handwashing For Life Institute, and P&G Professional Advisory Council member who also participated in the Chicago event. “The pathogens that come in the front door with guests are left behind on a variety of surfaces. Even norovirus, the number one source of restaurant outbreaks, is found in restrooms and service areas and can live there comfortably for days.”

Often times, cleaning and disinfecting are looked at as necessary, mundane tasks and it can be easy for a busy business owner or manager to lose sight of how great an impact these tasks can have on a business. Whether at a local restaurant or a worldwide sporting event, proper cleaning and disinfecting are vital to a customer’s experience and a business’ reputation. Studies have shown that the perception of clean can often times impact a customer’s perception about all other aspects of the business, whether related or not. For example, if a restaurant is dingy and not kept, the customer will also find the food less satisfying.

Jan Matthews, CEO, RP Global, and former Head of Catering, Cleaning and Waste for the 2012 London Olympic Games, and P&G Professional Advisory Council member also participated in the ISSA panel and drove home this point in the panel discussion as well as her Lunch and Learn session at ISSA. “If it (cleaning) wasn’t done well, it would affect how people perceived the rest of what we were doing. And not just food and beverage cleaning and waste, but the whole games… the queues would appear longer, the food would seem more expensive, the seats wouldn’t be perceived of as good, the transport would seem awful and the security would appear to be an issue, even when it really wasn’t.”

There are clear business benefits to utilizing products with new technologies and taking advantage of better processes. The following tips emphasize best practices for any business to optimize their cleaning and disinfecting processes and procedures.

  • Simplify Cleaning – Multipurpose products, such as Comet® Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner or Spic and Span, can make cleaning easier by reducing the number of products needed and minimizing rework. Fortunately, these also reduce costs!
  • Create Cleaning Protocols – Put cleaning and disinfecting protocols into place, outlining how to do it correctly and ensuring that all high touch areas within a given space are consistently and properly cleaned and disinfected.
  • Recognize Employees – Management should give employees a clear vision for the business to ensure all employees know the important part they play. Setting up recognition and reward systems can help keep everyone motivated to follow cleaning guidelines.
  • Customer Satisfaction – Customers will notice if an area is not properly cleaned. It’s always a good idea to proactively ask customers about how your business is doing with cleanliness, and when they tell you, act on it.

For any business, cleaning and disinfecting are very important processes, but they no longer need to be done separately. They can effectively be completed as one task with multipurpose products. As more businesses discover the benefits of this one-step process, they’ll be able to cut down on costs and cleaning time while providing an atmosphere worthy of customer satisfaction and appreciation.

Source: CMM Online, February 2013