Every facility manager wants to offer practical and effective cleaning solutions in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but in an effort to act quickly, many are unintentionally giving into hygiene theater. 

Hygiene theater can be defined as cleaning or disinfecting practices that are performed just for the sake of looking good, or to provide a false sense of security against COVID-19. 

This concept was recently introduced in an article published by The Atlantic. Their story highlights cleaning and disinfecting measures that have cost cities millions of dollars. One example being shutting down the New York City Subway to disinfect. 

One argument that can be deduced from the article is that cleaning and disinfecting surfaces is a waste of time because the chances of infection from a surface are low. 

But data suggests that disinfecting surfaces is necessary. While it is not the main way viruses are spread, viruses can still be transmitted from surface to person. In fact, the CDC has encouraged the public to intensify cleaning and disinfecting practices, which have also been encouraged in every  California state issued reopening checklist.

It is important to acknowledge that disinfection isn’t new. While more people are paying attention to disinfection services now more than ever, there has always been a need for them. Especially in medical settings where new, potentially dangerous pathogens are introduced to the facility on a daily basis. This is because disinfection prevents the spread of a variety of pathogens, not just COVID-19.

People are now realizing the importance of disinfecting in other settings, like in schools to keep staff and students healthy and prevent absenteeism. Businesses that are open to the public, like retail stores, are also making a point to enforce more vigilant disinfecting measures. 

However, fear has led to the real hygiene theater–people disinfecting incorrectly. For example, spraying down and wiping surfaces without allowing the right amount of dwell time or not using products that are effective against emerging pathogens.

So, how do we avoid hygiene theater? We start by cleaning for health.

Cleaning and disinfecting should not be performative. It should be done to keep buildings looking good, but also to keep building patrons healthy. We spend too much time and emphasize on appearance and not sanitation. Cleaning for health is important. 

The fact of the matter is that cleaning and disinfecting does make people feel safer. Peace of mind is not a bad thing as long as it is backed up with best practices, products and methods. 

If your business is under a tight budget, you don’t need to call in a service provider to perform daily disinfection of your building. We’ve been working with our customers to educate them on CDC guidelines so that they can protect their buildings themselves if they so choose.

This includes helping them find disinfectants and creating procedures they can share with their staff to keep common areas and personal work stations disinfected throughout the day.

We’ve also made all these training videos available to the public on our social media and YouTube channel. Rather than create fear, let’s educate. It has always been our goal to make this information available and easily digestible for everyone. 

If you are interested in learning more about disinfecting and how you can effectively protect yourself and others, you can watch our four part Train With Us series by clicking here.

We want to thank The Atlantic for opening up this discussion. They are right that hygiene theater is a waste of time. Instead, put your efforts into methods, products and practices that will actually disinfect surfaces and leave them pathogen free. 

Have questions? Leave a comment below. 

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