COVID-19 and Window Cleaning Misconceptions

Hazen WarlickIndustry, Window Cleaning, Window Cleaning Business

Window Cleaning Misconceptions During COVID19

Don’t worry! This is not another generic corporate COVID-19 statement!  If you are a window cleaning professional, this is what you need to know to protect yourself, your employees, and your company during this anything but ordinary season. The following information has been obtained from the Center for Disease Control and The Clorox Company websites, and presented in the context of standard janitorial and chemical guidelines.

Before you add something new to your window cleaning bucket with the intent on destroying COVID-19, you’ll need to understand the specific words you choose to describe the job you are doing as a window cleaning professional, the most common antiviral chemicals you’ll find available to you, and the general procedures for using them. 

  • Make sure to use correct terminology to avoid making false claims.
    • “Clean” 
      • REMOVE the Virus
      • Definition: the removal of visible soil, debris, microorganisms and organic substances from surfaces; may not completely eliminate viruses but reduces their numbers by removing some contaminated matter.
    • “Sanitize”
      • REDUCE the Virus
      • Definition: the reduction of viruses and bacteria to safe levels (set by public health standards) to decrease the risk of infection; may not kill all viruses.
    • “Disinfect” 
      • KILL the Virus
      • Definition: the elimination of pathogens and disease-causing microorganisms, except bacterial spores.
    • “Decontaminate”
      • KILL or REMOVE the Virus
      • To neutralize or remove dangerous substances, viruses, bacteria, germs, etc.
  • Here are some common chemicals you should be able to get a hold of to fight viruses for a window cleaning professional.
    • Soap and Water
      • Soap and water work to “clean” windows. The soap removes most of the viral particles that have attached themselves to surfaces so they can be washed away.
      • The virus has an outside coating, and the stuff inside (DNA or RNA) is what causes the disease. It’s kind of like the outer casing on a bomb. For a virus, that coating is a protein, and the soap or detergents help to break up that coating, so the virus spills its guts and falls apart.
  • Bleach
    • Bleach is very effective at killing the coronavirus, as well as virtually every other virus and bacteria on the face of the earth. 
    • You should wear gloves to protect your skin, and don’t mix bleach with anything but water.
    • Here’s the CDC’s formula for making a diluted bleach solution: Use 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) of bleach in one gallon of water or 4 teaspoons of bleach in one quart of water.
    • Keep in mind that bleach is a harsh cleaner. Be careful not to let it splash onto anything else. Bleach can also damage some types of paint, and over time it can corrode metal.
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
    • Alcohol solutions with at least 70 percent alcohol are effective against coronavirus on hard surfaces. 
    • First, clean the surface with water and detergent (soap). Apply the alcohol solution (do not dilute it) and let it sit on the surface for at least 30 seconds to disinfect. Alcohol is generally safe for all surfaces but can discolor some plastics.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
    • According to the CDC, household (3 percent) hydrogen peroxide is effective in deactivating rhinovirus, the virus that causes the common cold, within 6 to 8 minutes of exposure. Rhinovirus is more difficult to destroy than coronaviruses, so hydrogen peroxide should be able to break down coronavirus in less time. Pour it undiluted into a spray bottle and spray it on the surface to be cleaned, but let it sit on the surface for at least 1 minute. 
    • Hydrogen peroxide is not corrosive, so it’s okay to use it on metal surfaces. Similar to bleach, it can discolor fabrics if you accidentally get in on your clothes.
  • Distilled White Vinegar and Vodka
    • Disinfection recommendations using either vinegar or vodka are popular online, but there is no evidence backed by the CDC that they are effective against coronavirus.
    • There are better uses for both of these substances!
  • Proper Technique
    • To decontaminate a surface, you can’t just swipe it. You have to scrub it until the entire surface is wet, then let it dry on its own. The force that you put into the cleaning process can really pay off here. You’ve got to physically wipe away the virus. The antiseptic agent is the additional measure of security that any virus left behind will be killed.
  • It’s critically important to use enough of the disinfectant and give it time to work. Read the label on the back of the product! For example, here’s how Clorox says to disinfect hard, nonporous surfaces with its wipes:
    • “Use enough wipes for the treated surface to remain visibly wet for 4 minutes. Let the surface dry.”
  • Before mixing ANY chemicals, ALWAYS consult directly with the manufacturers. Mixing chemicals can be extremely dangerous for a window cleaning professional and any other professional.
    • For example, mixing isopropyl alcohol and bleach yields chloroform, which causes damage to the nervous system, eyes, respiratory system, skin, and kidneys. If you are lucky, you’ll end up dizzy, but it could very well kill you too!
    • Adding a “dash” of bleach, isopropyl alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide to your window cleaning solution is not reliable enough to ensure virus neutralization or removal. 

This simple guide is by no means the only source you should consult before you begin single-handedly wiping out COVID-19 like some modern-day janitorial Batman. Before you put on that cape, head over to the CDC website, which outlines the details on the latest information you’ll need to destroy this virus with a vengeance. With knowledge and teamwork, we will overcome this monster. As Harvey Dent said, “the night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming”.

Stay safe out there!

-Hazen Warlick