Cross contamination can cause the spread of germs and viruses, including COVID-19. Although healthcare workers are often trained on reducing cross contamination, custodial professionals are sometimes not given the same guidelines. A custodian in a school could wear the same gloves from restrooms to classrooms and easily spread germs. Harmful pathogens collected on gloves after cleaning one room are easily spread to another room. The first step in knowing how to reduce custodian cross-contamination is knowing some of the main causes of cross-contamination in the first place.
Custodial professionals are required to wear gloves when performing certain cleaning tasks. With the increased use of disinfectants during the pandemic, this is especially true. Pathogens can live on these gloves for long periods of time, as they do on any surface. Workers are usually given little to no direction on how to keep their gloves clean to prevent the spread of disease.
Mops and Floors
Pathogens can transfer from floors to patients or students if after walking on a contaminated floor people touch the bottom of their shoes and then their eyes, mouth, or nose. Mops are one of the main causes of contaminated floors. As soon as you start the cleaning process, mops begin to collect pathogens. Mops that are saturated with contaminants spread pathogens rather than remove them. Many of these disease causing pathogens can cause HAIs.
Contaminated towels are another common cause of cross-contamination, especially when used to clean high touch points. Cleaning equipment also becomes contaminated easily, including scrubbers and mop handles. Keep in mind which parts of your equipment are touched most frequently when cleaning and disinfecting your facility, anything that’s a high touch point has a higher chance of cross-contamination and spreading germs.
Stopping the Spread
Consider switching to a microfiber program to help reduce the chance of cross-contamination. There are microfiber rags and mops your facility can utilize. Using a microfiber mop eliminates the need to dip the mop in your mop bucket (the main cause of contamination). Using a cotton mop makes it harder to reduce cross-contamination since you’re constantly dipping your mop in contaminated water. Clean and disinfect high touch points routinely, especially between shifts. If a custodian has contaminated gloves and touches a mop handle, a spray nozzle, or a rag, then the next person will become contaminated even if they’re using new gloves.
The CDC recommends changing your gloves in these scenarios:
- change gloves after working with each patient
- change exam gloves as soon as possible when working with patients
- gloves should be changed whenever they are visibly soiled, punctured, or torn
- If using a color coded system, switch gloves after changing to a new color-coded product
- When going from one building to another or one floor to another
- After cleaning restrooms
Always remember to wash hands after gloves are removed to help further reduce the spread of germs. With the increased frequency of cleaning and disinfecting, and using PPE more frequently, it’s important to ensure you’re not being counterproductive with your efforts. We’re all in this together, and keeping in mind these tips to reduce cross-contamination will help to reduce the spread of COVID-19.