There’s no doubt the year 2020 has changed the way our businesses, both private and public, operate. Overnight most of the American workforce was told to go home and shelter in place until further notice. This left our public facilities mostly vacant until recently, as states have begun to reopen one by one. Now the question is, how can we keep people safe in public places? One thing almost every facility has in common is some sort of seating. From a few benches to thousand seat auditoriums these surfaces will be disinfected repeatedly, many times a day, much more than they have in the past. Wiping down a hard surface area such as a bleacher seat or plastic chair is straight forward, but what about fabric seats? How do we safely clean those surfaces without compromising the product?
The first thing you should know is the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. Cleaning is simple– removing soil from a surface. Although cleaning does remove germs from your surfaces, it does not kill them. Typically, you should clean a surface to rid it of particles before sanitizing or disinfecting.
Second, sanitizing lowers the number of bacteria on a surface to levels that public health organizations consider safe. This is the middle road, as it does more than cleaning, but does not carry the broader kill claim that disinfectants do. The plus side is sanitizing products tend to be faster and safer than disinfectants. Lastly, disinfecting kills infectious fungi, bacteria, and viruses on hard environmental surfaces. The key word is HARD surfaces. Because of this, a soft or porous surface can never truly be 100% disinfected.
According to seating manufacturer, Irwin Seating, there are five basic steps you should follow when planning a cleaning regime to disinfect your seating:
You can find tips and best practices as well as a list of fabric manufacturers on Irwin’s website.
Once you have followed the five basic steps to setting up your cleaning regime, you’re ready to get started. Keep three things in mind that could have an impact on your seating when cleaning. Those are:
Studies have shown that excess cleaner on your products will cause build up over time, which can be nearly impossible to get out. This is another reason it’s important to rinse with a damp cloth after you clean with a product. Also, be wary of health-grade cleaners. These cleaners have a different chemical makeup than your standard sanitizers or disinfectants. There is not much data to show what the long-term impact these chemical makeups can have on fabrics in a non-healthcare setting.
Many people have their own comfort levels when it comes to disinfecting. More than likely people will be using their own disinfectants to wipe down or spray an area before they sit down. By not following proper cleaning instructions (avoid saturating the fabric, always wipe with a damp cloth, and then dry) you could be adding more chemical residue to your fabrics than you realize. Antimicrobial treatments have become popular because they protect products from microorganisms and stop their growth, but they do not work against viruses. This means they don’t offer any defense against COVID-19 and cannot be used as a sole source for cleaning your fabric seating. Lastly, be sure your employees are practicing personal safety when cleaning, breathing in harsh chemicals can have adverse effects on your health.
For more information read the Association for Contract Textiles (ACT) white paper on “Cleaning Resources & Considerations”. ACT is a professional trade association of companies involved in the design, development, and products of textiles for commercial use. When in doubt reach out to H2I Group with any questions.
Want to earn Health, Safety, and Welfare AIA credit? Watch the recorded webinar from Irwin. The brief registration process ensures you will receive your AIA credit and reference documents.