COVID-19 and Power washing: Combating the Problem
Covid-19 and power washing are currently very important topics in our industry. Power washing companies are scrambling to not only remain open and stay in business, but to also provide legitimate value to the community. Unfortunately some companies are providing information that needs clarification. Our goal is not to discredit those companies trying to help out in their communities, but to provide factual information on Covid-19 with the use of power washing. After all, this is a world crisis and utilizing catch phrases or reinventing the way you do business to attempt to capture customers through the promise of sanitizing the exterior of your home might promote a sense of safety with the average South Jersey homeowner that just doesn’t exist. The purpose of this article is to provide factual and scientific information on COVID-19 with the use of power washing, disinfection & sanitization as they relate to our community and to the public as a whole.
Aqua Boy Powerwashing has been serving our community for well over a decade. We care about our fellow neighbors, businesses and of course our customers. We will always value honesty and factual information over ‘getting a sale’ and will present this information to our customers. Because we always operate with their utmost safety in mind, we consulted with a local microbiologist who specializes in industrial biocides, disinfectants and sanitizers. We wanted to learn more about the mechanism of action on these chemistries, their safety and their overall use during this time. As we’ve all seen, use of these chemicals has increased, and so we all need to understand the risks, if any, associated with their industrial use as well. Below are the answers to our most pressing questions.
With regard to the COVID-19 virus, what is your experience with disinfectants against this?
Well, as an industrial microbiologist, my role was primarily involved with controlling contamination with bacteria, algae and fungi. However common household disinfectants work very well against viruses, provided they are used at the proper concentration and applied directly.
You mentioned proper concentration and application. What do you mean exactly?
With these specific chemistries, it’s important to use the proper dilution or preparation of sanitizer or disinfectant. This is especially imporatant as most household products have already been mixed and are ready to be applied as is. In a commercial setting, most agents come in concentrated form. Therefore they must be prepared in the correct end-use concentrations for applying to surfaces. Too little active agent and an incomplete kill will occur, too much agent you run the risk of health and safety concerns.
What’s the best way to prevent spread of this virus or kill it in and around public areas such as supermarkets?
As we’ve all seen, read and heard, the best way to prevent spread (right now) is to remain separated from others, especially in large numbers in public. Proper personal hygiene such as hand washing is equally if not more important. In terms of the virus in public, I’ve seen many businesses spraying sanitizers, wiping down surfaces and even installing physical barriers such as plexiglass shields. To eradicate the virus, many agents are being used. These include bleach, peroxides, alcohols and quats, or quaternary ammonium compounds. These are typically found in household cleaners.
As we’re in the power washing business, are there any approved methods to use in disinfection or sanitization for our customers?
Well with exterior homes, I would say there’s little to worry about for the homeowner as you’re specifically cleaning the outside of the home. As long as there’s no contact between you and the customer, risks are minimized to you both. Regarding public areas, many of them such as school playgrounds and common park localities, have been closed. There’s no need to sanitize anything. In the case of supermarkets and cleaning shopping cats and baskets for example, proper safety, protocols, training and manufacturer directions should be followed of course. This is especially important if using chemical agents in combination with the power washing. Not all companies I would argue, are properly trained (or equipped for that matter) to properly disinfect surfaces. And when I say ‘surfaces’ we as microbiologists are concerned with touch surfaces, or surfaces that serve as ‘fomites’. Fomites are simply inanimate objects that serve as transmission points for one person to the next. Things such as door handles, buttons, touchscreens, doorknobs and the like.
Speaking of surfaces, are there any other surfaces of particular importance when it comes to power washing and disinfection? What about concrete?
Again, fomites are of most concern. Places where people touch. Surfaces that people walk on — you mentioned concrete for example — there is no concern here. It would be silly to waste disinfectant and possibly risk exposing yourself or others just to attempt to disinfect concrete. Just because the surface appears to be dirty doesn’t mean it’s contaminated. After all these are microbes, you cannot see them, so cleaning a surface simply because it appears dirty is only for aesthetics. Plus, you walk on concrete. Even if you were to disinfect it, it would become subject to environmental contaminants again very quickly. In my opinion that is a waste of time and resources.
How do these chemical sanitizers work to kill microorganisms?
This depends on specific chemistries. Most work in several different ‘modes of action’ as they say. Most disrupt the bacterial cell wall, causing lysis or breaking of the cell wall. Some work by inhibiting respiration. Some act on proteins or enzymes that the cell needs for replication. The important thing to note is the application time. Not all sanitizers work instantly. Some work inside 30 seconds, some take longer. You have to leave the sanitizer in place for the duration of time. Simply spraying on sanitizer and wiping it off immediate does very little. Heat also works well in conjunction, however not always by itself. That’s why it’s imporant to be trained on proper use of these chemistries, their intended target, and their correct application. Even more importantly, operator and public exposure to these agents should be minimized. Operators need proper training in PPE and other safeguards. I fear that many of them aren;t following any guidance here.
Guidance is very important, thank you for mentioning that. Speaking of which, do you have any specific guidance on the use of disinfectants in general?
Yes and no. For powerwashing companies, I recommend they be trained in safe handling of course. But most importantly, these companies need the education for specific chemistires they are using. They need to understand the inactivation times and proper application methods. You can’t just go spraying these around indiscriminately. Perhaps some are just providing a ‘peace of mind’ for their customers, which is equally dangerous in my opinion. Companies should be able to answer any and all questions about the specific chemistry they’re employing. If they cant explain them in detail, they shouldn’t be using them at all. For homeowners, here’s a great place to start: Cleaning and Disinfection for Households
Aqua Boy Powerwashing will continue to base our services on logic, facts and science. Again, we put our customers, business, neighbors and employees at the forefront of everything we do, including their safety. We will continue to donate our time to customers, the community and our clients. Therefore we will assist with chemical disinfection where appropriate and reasonable for the application. We do not believe ANY company should be performing misleading ‘sanitizing or disinfection’ for publicity or simple ‘peace of mind’ especially when not appropriate or with trained expertise. We have observed that not all companies act in this manner and simply attempt to use the pandemic to bolster their business.
Our employees are trained in the proper use of sanitizers and will be supervised when appropriate to use them. We cannot stress enough the importance of understanding exactly what a power washing company will do for you, especially if disinfection or sanitization is mentioned.
Please continue to ask your provider all the hard questions that should be answered. In the meantime, Aqua Boy Power Washing remains at your service. Rely on our expertise, our science and our experience.