While we’ve moved past the initial difficulties that we faced with Covid-19 in spring 2020, experts point to a possibility of a second wave of the virus occurring in the fall. With that in mind, we thought it would be great to offer some information on disinfecting, sanitizing, and PPE. Some -or all- of this information might be familiar to you but it’s good to refresh your memory to keep you, your customers, and your employees as safe as possible. We included a handy checklist with everything you need to prepare for another round of Covid-19.
Covid-19 Disinfecting and Sanitizing
It’s important to remember the difference between simply cleaning versus effectively sanitizing. Cleaning a surface with regular soap or materials like vinegar only removes dirt and other larger particles. Sanitizing means you actually disinfect a surface and remove potentially dangerous germs and virus molecules.
Products like Lysol wipes, Clorox, and hydrogen peroxide are acceptable for sanitizing small areas in office spaces, waiting areas, and break rooms. Areas that see heavy traffic at your car wash require bulk products that you probably don’t normally stock. It’s important that the disinfectants you purchase are approved to kill Covid-19. The EPA has a full list of approved products on their website. Kleen-Rite has made a note in the product information for all of the EPA-approved products that we sell. If you don’t see a specific note about EPA approval, we cannot guarantee that the product removes Covid-19.
A March 2020 study -now published in the New England Journal of Medicine- has determined that Covid-19 can survive in the air for up to three hours, on surfaces like cardboard for up to twenty-four hours, and on hard surfaces like stainless steel and plastic as long as three days. It’s daunting to think about all of the surfaces people touch at your car wash. Coinboxes, vacuums, vending machines, foam brush handles, paystations, and changers are just the first things that come to mind. Keep consistency in mind and develop a simple plan. Disinfect at a time when customers won’t inhale fumes or touch dangerous materials, and when you can leave the disinfectant on the surface for the recommended ten minutes for maximum effectiveness.
Never combine disinfectants and cleaning agents unless you are absolutely sure it is safe. Mixing chemicals can create toxic fumes that are very hazardous. You can use the same towels or pads that you’d normally use to apply cleaning product or scrub surfaces, but it’s highly recommended that those items be disposed of after one use to avoid moving virus molecules from one area to another.
Covid-19 Masks and Face Shields
Short of a full respirator, N95 and KN95 masks have the greatest ability to block harmful particles. These masks block 95% of small (as small as .03 microns) and large particles in addition to containing saliva and droplets from the mouth of the wearer. Please note that because N95 masks act as a filter, they can affect breathing and oxygen supply.
Three-ply surgical masks are commonly used among surgeons, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. They are more loose-fitting and do not create a seal between the mask and skin like an N95. They block splashes, sprays, splatters, and droplets that may contain virus and bacteria. Surgical masks also limit the spread of liquid from the mouth and nose of the wearer.
For non-healthcare environments, simple cloth masks are sufficient to block the spread of liquids from the nose and mouth. These are either made at home or purchased at hardware shops, clothing stores, and more. Cloth masks don’t have formal guidelines but should be as dense as possible without causing discomfort to the wearer. Masks should also fit as close to the face as possible.
The CDC still recommends reserving N95 and surgical masks for healthcare employees and first responders. If you choose to use these masks when cleaning potentially infected areas or around somebody you fear has the virus, please use as sparingly as possible (but remember, do NOT reuse).
N95 and surgical masks are disposable and should not be reused or shared. After use, wrap in plastic and dispose in a safe waste receptacle. Do NOT share cloth masks but DO wash them regularly.
Face shields are made with sturdy plastic materials like PET plastic. A face shield typically has an elastic strap to secure it to the head, with a section of foam on the forehead for comfort. Shields provide a solid layer of protection between harmful airborne materials and the mouth and nose. They are typically used in conjunction with a mask of some kind.
Covid-19 Hand Washing and Sanitizing
You’ve heard it many times by this point, but you simply can’t hear it enough: wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands! It is the easiest and most effective way to reduce the chances of contracting and spreading Covid-19. This means you should also encourage customers and employees to regularly wash their hands. Keep restrooms and sinks clean and fully stocked with soap and hand towels. It’s also a good idea to have touch-free soap dispensers to limit contact.
As a reminder, you should follow the procedure recommended by the CDC when washing hands. Vigorously scrub hands with soap and water that reaches beyond the wrists. Make sure to scrub fingers and get underneath the fingernails while washing.
Either to replace hand washing areas, or as a complement to them, hand sanitizing stations should be available to customers and employees. Hand sanitizers should be at least 60% alcohol (this is also a reliable guideline for alcohol-based disinfectants) to achieve proper sanitization. You can also stock up on small bottles of hand sanitizer for resale at your car wash. This promotes a safe environment while providing a small profit stream at a time when revenue may be down. You can also pass small bottles out to employees so they can constantly sanitize their hands with ease.
When used properly, gloves can provide a barrier between the hands and potentially infected surfaces. They also cut down on the surfaces that the wear comes in direct contact with, limiting the chance that they may spread Covid-19. Disposable nitrile gloves provide proper protection while still cost effective. Always stock a variety of sizes so employees can choose the one that provides the best fit for their hands.
Nitrile gloves are the most puncture resistant of all rubber-type gloves. They can be dyed different colors, making it easier to see puncture holes. Nitrile gloves are is chemically resistant, so they’re great for cleaning tasks. They’re also available with a textured design that provides excellent gripping ability.
Do not wear gloves for extended periods of time or use over multiple surfaces. If not used once and thrown away, there is a serious risk of spreading germs from one surface to another. Change gloves frequently and always maintain a routine of regular hand washing or application of hand sanitizer. In some cases, you might even be better off skipping the gloves and instead be extra fastidious about washing your hands.
Social Distancing and Safety Practices for Car Washes
- Avoid getting too close to others, especially in confined spaces, unless it’s absolutely necessary. Stay six feet away if you are in a shared space.
- Encourage all employees to stay home if sick. Make sure they know their job is not in jeopardy if they take sick days as a safety precaution.
- Wear cloth face coverings when in public spaces. These do not need to be N95 or surgical masks.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Frequently and vigorously wash hands using a thorough twenty-second process.
Be Safe, Be Responsible, Keep Your Business Running
Marc Lipsitch, DPhil, is professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics. He provided some virus insight in an article published on the American Medical Association website titled Harvard epidemiologist: Beware COVID-19’s second wave this fall.
“Almost every government is talking about lifting control measures. Not every government, but many, because of the economic burdens. Given the fairly high caseloads that we have in the United States, that’s a really risky thing to do right now,” Lipsitch said.
“I hope that the summer weather will help,” he added, but his research indicates that the warmer weather will only reduce transmission rates by about 20%. “That’s only enough to slow it down, but not enough to stop it.”
“We will have a harder time controlling coronavirus in the fall … and we will all be very tired of social distancing and other tactics. The hard thing will be to keep enough of it to protect our ICUs and keep the number of cases from flaring up,” he said.
Part of the responsibility of reopening your business is to properly disinfect, practice social distancing, and generally create an environment where customers and employees are being mindful of the area around them. We certainly understand that you want to get your business back to normal as soon as possible. To get there, it will mean being at least as careful -and probably more so- in the fall and early winter as you were in spring. Stock up on products and optimize your plan now!