When you have people living in your care home whose health is fragile, infection control is a hugely important issue. It’s vital to ensure that every member of staff does their bit to make it a safe and hygienic environment, and an important part of this is effective care home cleaning.
Read on below to find out which areas of your care home could be harbouring harmful bacteria, and how you can clean them effectively. Whilst you’re here, why not download our free care home cleaning schedule? It features a checklist to remind your staff of which areas should be cleaned regularly.
It may come as a surprise that the place where you clean kitchenware is actually one of the main culprits when it comes to bacteria. One study by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) found that 45% of sinks tested positive for coliform bacteria, and 27% contained mould. This is mainly caused by food particles from dishes remaining in the sink, which can become a breeding ground for bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella. To prevent these bacteria from setting up home in your kitchen, be sure to wash your sink and work surfaces with disinfectant every day, and don’t forget the taps!
Of course you need to wash chopping boards after every use, but are you doing it thoroughly enough? Just like sinks, chopping boards can harbour dangerous bacteria if small food particles are left on them after use. In fact, 18% of chopping boards tested by the NSF carried potentially dangerous coliform bacteria, while 14% contained moulds and yeasts. To protect your staff and residents, place chopping boards in the dishwasher immediately after use, or scrub thoroughly with an anti-bacterial washing up liquid.
Ironically, the objects carrying the most bacteria are actually the ones you’re using to clean things with. A staggering 75% of dish sponges and rags in the NSF study had traces of salmonella, E. coli and faecal matter, showing just how important it is to clean and regularly change your cleaning cloths. To prevent bacteria from cloths transferring to your hands during use, you should also wear gloves and follow best practice when it comes to hand washing.
When it comes to infection control, the areas to target first are the ones that people touch most frequently. Door knobs and handles, light switches, appliance knobs and bannisters are all prime places for bacteria to grow and be transmitted, and they’re often overlooked. In fact, 14% of oven knobs have been found to carry coliform bacteria, while 27% harbour moulds and yeasts. Including these items in your regular cleaning schedule is essential to stop the spread of bacteria, as is effective hand washing.
It may seem counterintuitive, but baths and showers provide the optimum conditions for bacteria to thrive. Warm, wet environments encourage bacteria growth, which is why it’s so important to wipe down baths with disinfectant every day and do a more thorough clean every week, making sure you dry the bath afterwards with a clean towel. A recent study found staphylococcus bacteria in 26% of bathtubs tested, showing just how dangerous it can be to neglect these areas.
It will come as no surprise that toilets are a prime suspect for the spread of bacteria. What many people don’t know, however, is just how much bacteria can be spread by flushing the toilet without first closing the lid. When you flush a toilet, all kinds of bacteria and, yes, faecal matter, can be sprayed several feet around the bathroom, making cleaning an even more challenging job. To stop this from happening, encourage all staff and residents in your care home to close the toilet lid before flushing.
Following on from the revelation about toilet flushing, it makes sense that toothbrushes and toothbrush holders carry a high level of bacteria. These are often placed close to the toilet, putting them in range of a bacteria spray. The NSF found that 27% of toothbrush holders carried coliform bacteria, while 14% carried staphylococcus bacteria. The moist environment makes them the ideal breeding ground for bacteria, so be sure to wash and dry them thoroughly, and store toothbrushes in a cupboard or drawer if possible.
Wet towels encourage bacteria growth, which becomes a big problem when they’re used to dry hands that have just been thoroughly washed. Prevent this by washing all towels at least once a week, and use a tumble dryer to get rid of germs. Hang towels up as far away from the toilet as possible.
A carpet can hold up to eight times its weight in dirt and dust, encouraging conditions that are ideal for dust mites and bacteria growth. Regular vacuum cleaning will prevent carpets from becoming unhygienic, but a carpet steamer is also recommended for infection control in a care home.
Computer keyboards, phones and remote controls are often overlooked when it comes to cleaning, but they have the potential to carry large amounts of bacteria. The NSF found mould and yeast on a range of electronic equipment, as well as staphylococcus bacteria on remote controls. As these are often communal objects, they should be regularly cleaned with anti-bacterial wipes as part of a thorough cleaning schedule.