Cleaning and COVID-19

Combating COVID-19 with Electrostatic Misters

This virus is not hard to kill. I’m sure for educators throughout the country, that message is as unexpected as it is encouraging. The fact is the virus that causes COVID-19 is not hard to eliminate. However, in a school setting, it does take some very specific cleaning steps and the use of some very specific cleaning products to eradicate it. But these steps can be learned, and these products are now available to school districts around the country from several manufacturers.

One of the cleaning products some cleaning contractors are now reporting that are proving most effective are what are referred to as electrostatic misters. Made by different manufacturers, these misters spray a disinfecting mist or fog onto surfaces, which kills pathogens as it is applied. As the systems are used, the mist wraps around the immediate and surrounding surfaces, further enhancing its effectiveness.

Although these technologies are not new, with COVID-19, the need for them has increased exponentially. Earlier this year, airlines started using electrostatic misters to ensure airplane cabins were as healthy and sanitized as possible. However, in recent weeks, many types of facilities—including educational facilities—have jumped on the bandwagon and are using them as well.  

To further enhance the effectiveness of these misters, some contractors are also using hypochlorous acid. Don’t let this “25-cent word”—hypochlorous—confuse you or the word acid raise concern. Hypochlorous acid is a weak acid found in many cleaning solutions, approved for both commercial and residential use.

With chlorine as one of its main ingredients, it helps clean and disinfect surfaces. When used in conjunction with electronic misters, this cleaning process provides more thorough coverage, essentially leaving no place for germs and pathogens, including those that cause COVID-19, to hide. Additionally, using the two products together helps create a shield, temporarily blocking surfaces from further contamination. 

Putting It to Work

One school district that has used the misting systems mentioned earlier to considerable success is Klein Independent School District (Klein ISD) located near Houston, Texas. Made up of 50 schools, the district has a student population of about 50,000.

According to Scott Lazar, Klein ISD director of plant operations, the misters are “state-of-the-art” technology, which is undoubtedly needed right now. What they do is apply the mist to virtually all surfaces in the school, whether they are considered high touch or indirectly touched by students or staff.

Lazar also notes that by using this technology, cleaning crews can clean and disinfect a much wider area at one time. We referenced this earlier. For instance, when cleaning a countertop with a sprayer and cloth, or when mopping floors, only those specific areas that are touched with the cloth or mop are being cleaned. With misters, surrounding areas such as walls around countertops or the base of furniture and baseboards are also being cleaned.

To determine the procedure’s effectiveness, the district performed adenosine triphosphate (ATP) monitoring tests. ATP systems detect whether cells that could potentially spread disease are present on a surface; they do not indicate whether specific germs, such as those that cause COVID-19, are present. Nevertheless, when the district tested surfaces after using this technology, they reported that some readings, which had been as high as 100 before cleaning, were reduced to 12 after cleaning.

Safety, Training, and Application

It is believed both the misters and hypochlorous acid are very safe to use, either separately or in conjunction, as long as they are used properly.  Each manufacturer of the misting systems will provide specific instructions on how to use its equipment. Read the manufacturer’s instructions first before using the machine and do not assume different brands can be used in the same manner. Further, using an electrostatic mister, custodial workers should wear masks and gloves. 

Further, the entire area being misted should be cleared of people. This helps ensure the mist is not inhaled by someone not wearing a mask. It also gives the mist a chance to set on surfaces, without intrusion, allowing it to work most effectively.  This follows traditional “best practices” when using any type of disinfectant.

Before using the technology, some surfaces should be cleaned first. For instance, if using a mister in a restroom or kitchen area, clean the entire area first. When cleaning is completed, then use the mister.

High-touch areas that may become very soiled during the day, should also be cleaned before using a mister. This helps improve the efficacy of the technology, further contributing to protecting health. 

The Future of Clean

We know this is an unprecedented situation, and the professional cleaning industry will never be the same again. Cleaning manufacturers, ISSA, and other organizations are stepping up to the plate to develop new best practices specifically designed to protect human health. These advancements will be a part of our industry long after this crisis has passed.

About the Author

Robert Kravitz is a frequent writer for the professional cleaning industry. He can be reached at [email protected]