Proper Workplace Cleaning Procedures

28 April 2021

As commercial and retail spaces across the nation begin to resume something resembling normal operations, proper cleaning and sanitation procedures are more important than ever. While some rely on professional cleaning companies or in-house janitorial staff to handle almost all those duties, many depend on employees to handle day-to-day housekeeping tasks and only bring in hired hands for deep cleaning once per day or week. In either case, proper procedures need to be followed to maximize the health and maintenance benefits of cleaning. What follows is a brief look at some of the most mishandled tasks and how they should be performed.

Sanitizing and Disinfecting

These are among the most frequently confused and incorrectly executed tasks in the cleaning world—even among professionals. The two terms refer to distinct germ-killing operations and should not be considered interchangeable. Per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, “disinfecting” is the specific use of chemical products to kill germs on surfaces and “sanitizing” is any operation (mechanical or chemical) that reduces surface microbes to an acceptable level as defined by public health standards/regulations. Said another way, “disinfecting” means killing most of the germs on a surface while “sanitizing” means killing or removing enough germs to render the surface “safe” for a person with an average immune system.

Disinfecting products will always come with clear, specific instructions for use—those directions should be followed to the letter. Almost all disinfectants will need to stand on the target surface for some amount of time; this can be as short as 3 minutes for modern quaternary products or as long as 10 minutes for bleach solutions. Spray-on disinfecting solutions may need to be left to stand until dry, an interval that can vary greatly depending on ambient conditions. Whatever the form factor or method of application, wiping the product away before it has been allowed to work for the proscribed amount of time will essentially transform it from a disinfectant to a sanitizer; many include a second set of directions for exactly this kind of use, because it can be situationally relevant.

Now that we have a better understanding of the mechanics of disinfecting versus sanitizing, we can look at what should be disinfected in the workplace and how frequently it should be done. High touch points (HTPs), one of the most critical to address, are surfaces that are touched regularly by multiple people. Common examples include light switches, door knobs/push bars, knobs on sink faucets, copy machine panels, and so on. These surfaces should be disinfected as often as possible—a minimum of once every four hours for maximum impact. Surfaces that are interacted with less frequently or that are dedicated to a single individual (an office where every employee has their own workstation, for example) only need to be disinfected once per day.


The CDC defines cleaning as the use of detergent, water, and physical force/interaction to remove dirt, germs, and other impurities from surfaces. First, it’s important to note that cleaning, because it physically removes some germs from the target surface, can sanitize. Without the proper use of correct products it’s unlikely to do so—floors shouldn’t be considered sanitized just because they’ve been mopped with a degreasing solution, for example—but scrubbing does help remove some microbes. That’s why many disinfecting products will recommend that the area be cleaned before application.

On the cleaning side of the equation, one of the most frequently misused types of product are, in fact, degreasers. They’re commonly used on tile/linoleum floors, on counters in kitchens and restrooms, and for numerous applications in industrial facilities. Much like disinfectant products, degreasers often come with a set of specific instructions that should be followed closely but are all-too-often ignored. These products will typically need to stand on the target surface for some amount of time (usually a few minutes) to completely break down and capture greasy/oily residues; they should only be removed after they’ve had time to act. Failure to do so will spread residues rather than remove them, resulting in surfaces that feel “slick” or “filmy”. If the products are incorrectly applied to a certain area or areas repeatedly, this can lead to a greasy buildup that is especially unsafe on floors.

Whether you’re an employee tasked with housekeeping duties or a professional cleaner responsible for an entire facility, ABC Paper & Chemical Company is here to support you. We carry a broad selection of cleaning and disinfecting products and equipment, and our friendly, knowledgeable staff are ready to help answer your questions and help you formulate a solution that’s appropriate for your workplace.