Multi-unit residential property managers and owners have a legal and ethical responsibility to decrease health and safety risks for residents and employees. In this era of enhanced awareness of germs, viruses, and infection due to COVID-19, more multi-unit residential property managers are being proactive about infection control by increasing the frequency of their cleaning and engaging commercial cleaning professionals to handle regular disinfection.
Disinfection for Multi-Unit Residential Properties
Because of the way multi-unit residential properties are built, it is difficult for residents to avoid coming into contact with neighbors. The need to use common areas such as doors, lobbies, stairs and elevators to enter and leave their unit makes contact unavoidable. They also need to use shared facilities, such as laundry rooms, lobbies and recreation areas.
Providing a clean, safe, and healthy environment is essential for infection control. Here are some of the best practices for disinfection for multi-unit residential properties.
Cleaning and Disinfection
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) strongly recommends that frequently touched surfaces be cleaned and disinfected at least once daily. This includes door handles, stair railings, counters, and other high-touch areas. The CDC also recommends disinfection between uses for common areas as often as possible.
The CDC also recommends developing a regular schedule for increased routine cleaning and disinfection. It is a two-step process. Cleaning gets rid of dirt, dust, and grime on surfaces but does not disinfect them. After cleaning, a separate disinfection process is needed to kill or deactivate viruses, bacteria, and germs. When disinfecting, be sure to use EPA-registered disinfectants that have been listed on the Agency’s list for dealing with COVID-19 and other viruses. If you are using commercial cleaning companies or having your employees do the cleaning, it is important that they are trained in the proper application and storage of these chemicals.
Here are some other disinfection and infection control best practices:
- Ensure any janitorial staff or commercial cleaning company operators wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when disinfecting.
- When applying disinfectant, make sure surfaces are coated and remain visibly wet for the contact time specified on the product level.
- Disinfect the dirtiest areas last. This helps reduce the potential of cross-contamination.
- Disinfect from high to low to ensure that any materials that are dislodged from higher surfaces will be disinfected when you clean lower surfaces.
- Disinfection should be done after you finish cleaning and after completing other tasks such as emptying trash bins, mopping and vacuuming. This prevents dirt and dust that could be contaminated from contaminating areas you have already disinfected.
Disinfect Units When Vacant or between Tenants
When there is turnover in units, best practices dictate that you conduct a separate cleaning and disinfecting process– even if the tenant hired a commercial cleaning company to clean and disinfect the unit after they moved out. You need the peace of mind of knowing that the job has been completed to your standards and that the level of disinfecting that has been performed will meet incoming tenants’ expectations.
The CDC also recommends that you wait at least 24 hours after the previous tenant leave before cleaning and disinfecting and that you disinfect brand-new units before you let anyone occupy them. This can help with liability if incoming tenants have an issue, and can help when you are showing and marketing the unit for rent. Property managers should also consider doing a deep clean that goes beyond basic cleaning and disinfecting all units when they change hands.
Dealing with Outbreaks
If there is an outbreak at your multi-unit residential property – whether from COVID-19 or another virus such as influenza – it may be necessary to take additional disinfecting precautions for enhanced infection control.
Many multi-family residential property managers hire commercial cleaning companies to do electrostatic spraying to ensure a higher level of protection. Electrostatic spraying charges cleaning chemicals before dispersing them in aerosol form. These charged particles bond with surfaces and objects and wrap around them to coat even hard to reach places. If operators follow OSHA, EPA, and CDC guidelines, electrostatic spraying provides quick kill times for germs and viruses and leaves behind no residue. It is also up to four times faster than manual disinfection, which reduces downtime for common areas or units.
If you suspect an outbreak, contact your local public health agency and discuss the situation. The agency may be able to assist with notifying residents while maintaining confidentiality.
OpenWorks is a commercial cleaning and facilities management company that services companies throughout the U.S. Its elite network of more than 1,500 service providers helps customers make their facilities clean, safe, and healthy for employees, clients and visitors. Contact OpenWorks to request an estimate on cleaning and disinfecting services for your multi-unit residential property.