Avoiding Problems When Disinfecting Hospital Surfaces

Guidance on ensuring success when it comes to the most effective products and procedures.

By J. Darrel Hicks, Contributing Writer

Environmental services departments have their hands full when it comes to properly disinfecting surfaces in hospitals. Managers must select the most effective products, ensure workers receive training and revisit procedures to ensure the success of department efforts. 

Recently, I posted a question on LinkedIn asking followers for their top one or two hospital disinfecting practices. I received over 5,300 views and 39 replies from around the globe. Here are the top suggestions from the brightest professionals in the field on things managers and front-line workers should not do when disinfecting hospital surfaces:  

“Don’t disinfect dirty surfaces. Cleaning and disinfecting are two distinct processes. Disinfection is less effective on surfaces covered in visible dirt, dust or organic matter.”  

— C. Rosario: Director, Custodial Services, Fairfield University 

“Don’t assume that everyone knows the correct process for cleaning and disinfecting.” 

— Carol Calabrese, RN, BS, T-CSCT, CHESP, CIC 

“Don’t use hard-surface disinfectants on soft, porous medical devices and materials — i.e. mattresses — as a wipe-and-walk process.” 

— Bruce Rippe, CEO, Trinity Guardion 

“Don’t be afraid of using too many wipers or pre-saturated wipes when cleaning. That is why departments have them. Odds are we have cross-contaminated some surfaces in the room being processed.” 

 — Benjamin Kenyon, T-CSCT, T-CHEST, T-CNACC, CMIP 

“Don’t have a large variety of disinfectants in the hospital. It is not beneficial, and it creates confusion.”  

— Madelaine Cuevas, BSN, MSN, CCRN, CIC, LTC-CIP 

“Don’t assume all cleaning and disinfecting wipes are equal. Don’t use manual high-level disinfectants when there is not anyone to monitor it, educate on it and check compliance.”

— Julie M. Richards, MSN, RN, CIC, FAPIC, IPC Specialist, Defense Health Agency 

“Don’t assume staff know which products to use, when to use them, where to use them, who should use them and, most importantly, why they should use them. Don’t assume staff will figure it out on their own. They depend on their leaders to support their needs and the organization’s needs.” 

 — Carlos Mendoza, MPH, CIC, LTC CIP, CFPM 

“Don’t use disinfectants without cleaning agents within the disinfectant itself. All isolation cleans should be done with a thorough cleaning first and then an application of disinfectant. Environmental services is not always well informed about what is going on in the patient area. Use standard precautions at all times, and clean and disinfect.” 

 — Dennis Boyd, PMP, MS, T-CSCT, President, DMB Health Consulting Group 

J. Darrel Hicks, BA, MESRE, CHESP, Certificate of Mastery in Infection Prevention, is the past president of the Healthcare Surfaces Institute. Hicks is nationally recognized as a subject matter expert in infection prevention and control as it relates to cleaning. He is the owner and principal of Safe, Clean and Disinfected. His enterprise specializes in B2B consulting, webinar presentations, seminars and facility consulting services related to cleaning and disinfection. He can be reached at darrel@darrelhicks.com, or learn more at www.darrelhicks.com. 

December 11, 2023

Topic Area: Infection Control

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