Proper Surface Disinfection Frequency – Key Considerations
As many hotels welcome back their guests with enhanced cleaning and disinfection measures, one of the questions we often hear is, “How frequently should surfaces be disinfected?” Building on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidance, we want to provide considerations for how to think about the right level of surface disinfection frequency.
Frequency of disinfection should be based on the risk of pathogen transmission and its impact.
To determine the risk of pathogen transmission, you want to consider three factors:
- Probability of contamination with pathogens – This is the likelihood of the area in question to have exposure to contaminants. Probability of contamination can be either high, medium or low. For example, bathrooms are generally considered medium probability of contamination, given that surfaces can be exposed to blood and body fluids. Meeting rooms might be considered low probability, since these surfaces are not generally exposed to blood and body fluids.
- Susceptibility of the building occupant – This looks at whether the building occupants are more susceptible or less susceptible to infection. A facility that houses people who are immunocompromised, like a hospital, is considered to have more susceptible occupants. Everyone else will generally be categorized as less susceptible.
- Potential exposure – This is defined by high touch surfaces and low touch surfaces. If an area has a lot of high touch surfaces, then it would be considered high potential exposure. If the area primarily has low-touch surfaces, then it would be considered low potential exposure. It is possible that a space has both high and low touch surfaces. In such a case, you may increase the frequency of disinfection on the high touch surfaces to twice a day, and low touch surfaces to once a day, for example.
In summary, high touch surfaces in dirty, contaminated areas occupied by vulnerable populations should be disinfected most frequently.
According to the CDC guidelines for healthcare facilities, you can assign a numeric value to these risk factors to calculate a total risk score by area. Based on this method, the CDC recommends disinfecting surfaces in highest risk areas after each use. Such highest risks areas are predominantly in healthcare facilities. In non-healthcare environments, the risk levels are usually moderate to low with moderate requiring at least daily surface disinfection, and low on a fixed schedule (e.g., weekly).
While this is a good tool to consider, it is not perfect. There are several other factors such as increased traffic flow and/or outbreaks of infectious diseases that can increase the risk of pathogen transmission and therefore, you’ll want to also increase the frequency of surface disinfection.
Also, if there is a blood or body fluid spill (e.g., vomit, urine), then you’ll want to block off the area, remove the soil and clean and disinfect the surface immediately.
It is also a good reminder that even when a surface is disinfected, if an infected person touches the surface, then the surface can easily be re-contaminated.
While it is important to disinfect high touch surfaces frequently, it may not always be possible due to limited resources or other factors. In such instances, get your staff members and even your guests to help by placing disinfecting wipes near frequently touched surfaces.
It is also important to remember that surface disinfection is just one part of infection prevention and control. It is only when you combine surface disinfection with good hygiene practices and social distancing that we can minimize the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
Related information: For tips and best practices to disinfect surfaces, please click here.