In the U.S. today, there are 4,575 prisons housing approximately 2,220,000 adults. That means about one in 100 U.S. adults are in prison and if they were all located in the same city, it would be the fourth largest city in the country.
These numbers are important for correctional administrators to know because it is their job to keep these people as healthy as possible while they are under state and government supervision. While this can involve a variety of strategies, at the top of the list is proper cleaning. Yes, for these 2.22 million people to be healthy, the prisons they live in must be clean and healthy; and one way we do this is by understanding what we can call cleaning “jargon.”
Two words that are often misunderstood, for instance, but are key to maintaining health in a facility, are cleaning and sanitizing (or disinfecting). To help us understand what these two words mean in very practical terms—and how they differ—picture a basket of fruit and vegetables, containing apples, berries, carrots, lettuce, etc., that have just been picked off a farm. As beautiful as this basket appears, the fruit and vegetables are likely covered with organic matter that may harbor different forms of bacteria.
Before consuming, and to ensure the food is safe to eat, we apply a disinfectant to the fruit and vegetables. However, doing this may not be killing or removing the bacteria at all. This basket of food may not be safe to eat because the organic matter on the fruit and vegetables can inactivate or reduces the effectiveness of most sanitizers and disinfectants, rendering them ineffective.
This happens in professional cleaning and it is why we must clean surfaces first and then disinfect. Cleaning is the actual removal of soil and organic matter using appropriate detergent chemicals or aqueous ozone. In fact, aqueous ozone is used to treat water and the same system now being used in professional cleaning. Once the organic matter has been removed, then sanitizing or disinfecting is possible.
So, now we have a better understanding of what the term cleaning really means. There still may be some misunderstanding as to what sanitizing and disinfecting mean. Below we clarify those terms, along with several other frequently used cleaning jargon:
Sanitizing: After effective cleaning, surfaces can be sanitized. This yields a 99.999 percent reduction of pathogens or microorganisms of public health importance. In most cases, a sanitizer may be all that is necessary in correctional facilities.
Disinfecting: A disinfectant kills all pathogens and microorganisms on a surface based on its “kill claims.”
Kill claims: Every EPA-registered disinfectant sold in the U.S. will list which pathogens it is designed to eliminate. However, it is not always possible to know exactly what pathogens are present on surfaces that can negatively impact human health. Because of this, correctional administrators should be aware of more cleaning jargon; they should select a “broad spectrum” disinfectant, which is designed to kill a large number of different types of pathogens.
Contact time: Also referred to as “dwell” time, this is a very important term in disinfecting surfaces. This is how long a disinfectant must remain on a surface (wet) before it effectively “kills” the germs and can be wiped. The contact time varies between 30 seconds to 10 minutes.
Surfactants: Most cleaning detergents contain surfactants. The surfactant reduces the surface tension between the surface and contaminants so they can be removed from the surface.
Solvents: This typically refers to cleaning agents that dissolve grease and oil on surfaces.
Acid cleaners: We turn to acid cleaners to remove mineral deposits on surfaces that traditional cleaning agents cannot remove.
Aqueous ozone: The ozone molecule (O3) creates a cleaning agent that has proven extremely effective at oxidizing or “destroying” organic matter on surfaces. While it isn’t used as a disinfectant in professional cleaning, as of June 2001, ozone cleaning was approved by the Food and Drug Administration to kill foodborne pathogens. When ozone is mixed with water it becomes aqueous ozone.
On-site/On Demand: Also known as “on-site generation,” this is a relatively new term in professional cleaning that can prove very useful when cleaning and maintaining correctional facilities. It refers to the creation of a cleaning solutions in the user’s facility to use where and when needed. It is used predominantly in reference to the aqueous ozone cleaning systems.
“Cleaning IoT”: We would be amiss if we did not add one more term that will likely be heard more often in professional cleaning, and that is IoT, which stands for the Internet of Things. More manufacturers are introducing cleaning tools and equipment that remember what they are supposed to do without the need for human guidance or can tell administrators where, for instance, paper or soap supplies, or floors that are wet. While the technology is still in its infancy, it’s here and we can expect to see it much more frequently in the future.
Matt Montag is national sales director for Cleancore Technologies, a leading manufacturer of aqueous ozone cleaning system used for professional cleaning.