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3 Keys to Establishing a Successful Collaborative Cleaning Program

Feb 10, 2021

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to establish new healthy habits in every facility, from schools to offices and gyms to hospitals. While regular, professionally executed deep cleaning and disinfection is an indispensable part of any cleaning and maintenance program, it cannot replace daily disinfection of high-touch surfaces and objects.

Implementation of a collaborative cleaning program, wherein all (or some) building occupants participate in cleaning and disinfection procedures alongside dedicated cleaning staff, is the most practical pathway to creating truly safe environments in a world changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The “all hands on deck” approach is successful because it:

  • Increases the overall breadth and frequency of disinfection.
  • Lessens the burden on cleaning teams, so they may dedicate more time to disinfection of high-touch objects and surfaces.
  • Promotes greater personal accountability and inspires greater confidence.
  • Circumvents illness-related closures and absenteeism, both of which directly affect business and/or funding in diverse markets.

Read on for the 3 keys to instituting a successful program.

1. Identify collaborative cleaning tasks.

Many cleaning and disinfection functions will still be the responsibility of cleaning staff, particularly if they are complex, time-consuming, or otherwise inappropriate for a building’s average occupant. Facility managers or other stakeholders should, however, consider encouraging or requiring those who use the facility or certain areas within it to complete tasks that don’t require specialized training and won’t cause significant disruption to established routines. These include:

  • In shared spaces:
    • Throwing away all trash.
    • Disinfecting used surfaces and objects in shared spaces.
  • In individual spaces:
    • Disinfecting daily.
    • Emptying one’s own trash and recycling bins.
  • In cafeterias or cafés:
    • Doing one’s own dishes and throwing away trash.
    • Covering food with a paper plate or paper towel before placing it in the microwave and cleaning up if food splatters.
    • Disinfecting tables after use.
    • Labeling items placed in refrigerators.
    • Cleaning up any solid or liquid spills and cleaning and disinfecting as needed.
  • In restrooms:
    • Replacing soap dispenser cartridges and paper towels when empty.
    • Cleaning and disinfecting counters and toilets/urinals, mopping floors, and cleaning mirrors in the event of an accident or as needed.
    • Alerting the cleaning team by calling or emailing if special attention is needed.

2. Choose collaborative cleaning products.

The goal of collaborative cleaning is to ensure health and safety, so “green” products that meet or exceed health and environmental standards (while still providing desired performance) are the best choice where possible. Sustainable products that are verified by testing, easy to use, and require little or no personal protective equipment (PPE) are the gold standard.

Particular attention should be paid to selection of disinfectants, as elevated and often uneducated use carries serious risks, with many active ingredients causing skin corrosion, asthma, and other long-term health issues. For example:

  • Thymol, which has grown in popularity as an active ingredient in disinfectant products due to the short supply of quats:
    • Is a suspected asthmagen
    • Is a skin sensitizer (can cause skin allergies)
    • Is a terpene that can react with ozone to form formaldehyde, which is a carcinogen in addition to an asthmagen
    • Did not pass the Design for the Environment Antimicrobial Pesticide Pilot Project criteria to be considered a safe disinfectant
  • Bleach, which has a long history of unnecessary use as a cleaner or disinfectant:
    • Is an asthmagen
    • Can make existing asthma worse
    • Is corrosive and can damage eyes and skin
    • Can be fatal if swallowed
    • Gives off a potent vapor
    • Creates gases that cause lung damage and death if mixed with ammonia or acids.

On the other hand, the following disinfectant active ingredients are considered safer in terms of asthma, cancer, reproductive toxicity, and skin sensitization:

  • Citric acid
  • Lactic acid
With a citric acid active ingredient, Betco specifically recommends GE Fight Bac™ RTU  and Wipes  as the disinfectant of choice for collaborative cleaning programs. It is also suitable because it:
  • Does not require any PPE
  • Scored all zeroes for every category on the Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) scale
  • Is in the lowest toxicity category for any disinfectant
  • Is on the EPA Design for the Environment list (RTU)

All supplies should be conveniently placed according to identified tasks. Non-chemical needs may include:

  • Trash can liners
  • Paper towels
  • Labels and pens
  • Mops
  • Microfiber cloths

3. Set and communicate collaborative cleaning expectations. 

Finally, building occupants at whom a facility’s collaborative cleaning program is aimed should be informed of what to do and how to do it. We recommend taking the following actions:

  • Outlining the program via newsletter, audio or video announcement, bulletin board, etc., with a special focus on how participation will benefit building occupants
  • Encouraging supervisors, authority figures, or other leaders to set positive examples of compliance
  • Placing signage that outlines specific tasks and cleaning/disinfecting processes in relevant areas

For your convenience, a zip file of sample signage can be downloaded by clicking here.

Do you have questions about establishing a successful collaborative cleaning program that were not addressed in this post? Please click here to let us know, and a Betco representative will reach out shortly to provide answers, advice, and insights to promote the health and safety of specific facilities and their occupants.