Healthcare environments: how to keep public areas clean and safe

Cleanliness is essential in every healthcare setting. From hospitals and hospice homes to blood banks and birth centers, sanitization helps to keep everyone safe and healthy.

When we think of cleaning regimens within healthcare facilities, we often think about the disinfection of critical areas of the facility, such as patient treatment rooms and operating theaters. After all, cleaning these areas is key to preventing the spread of Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs) and post-operative infections (POIs). But these are not the only zones where sanitation is key.

Public areas such as waiting rooms, staff areas, cafeterias and restroom facilities are all places where pathogens can also be transferred. Here we explore a key aspect of hospital hygiene: how to keep public areas clean and safe.

Why routine cleaning of communal areas is key

People who are often already ill come together in the public areas of a healthcare facility. Regular spraying and wiping of surfaces may not be sufficient to prevent the spread of viral diseases. Cleaning is fundamental in assisting patient recovery and helps with the prevention and control of HAIs.

Healthcare facilities should thoroughly clean the public areas of their facility as well as key medical zones. The division of cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting will vary depending on the environment:

  • Cleaning involves using cleaning fluid and friction to physically remove organic matter including dirt, debris, blood, and bodily fluids. Cleaning removes rather than kills microorganisms. Effective cleaning involves leaving a surface visibly clean. In hospitals, high footfall in foyers, offices, and corridors means cleaning alone is often not enough to keep people safe from germs. However, cleaning is a prerequisite to disinfection, as some disinfectants and readily deactivated by organic matter. Routine cleaning of every public area within a hospital should be undertaken at least daily.
  • Sanitizing falls in the middle between cleaning and disinfecting. It involves removing microbes from a surface and killing bacteria. For sanitizers to be effective, they have to be mixed to a proper hospital-grade concentration.
  • Disinfecting of public areas can take place once the hospital environment is visibly clean and free from organic matter such as dust and dirt. Whereas sanitizing involves killing bacteria, disinfectants use a stronger chlorine releasing agent to kill both bacteria and viruses. For many chemical disinfectants, dilution, application and contact time must all be followed according to product guidelines to kill pathogens.

Things to look out for when cleaning public zones

The range of public environments within each healthcare facility mean each requires specialized approaches. Below, you’ll find a few tips on how to clean specific public zones within a hospital.

Waiting rooms and staff areas

‘Please take a seat in our waiting room’ is a phrase often heard in medical facilities. Here are a few tips to protect patients and visitors in waiting rooms and reception areas:

  • Make sure reception staff practice good overall hygiene, including hand hygiene
  • Ensure any toys left out for children to play with are sanitized regularly
  • Provide tissues and hand sanitizer in an accessible place for people to use
  • Consider removing magazines and leaflets from waiting areas as they can harbor germs
  • Ensure ventilation systems and aircon systems are cleaned regularly
  • Surface clean fixtures and fittings such as door handles and light switches regularly

Administration and office areas

Medical facility buildings include not only treatment, care and waiting areas, but also offices and administrative wings. Here are some tips for keeping these hospital admin zones clean and safe:

  • Provide adequate ventilation – indoor air quality is essential to office health and safety
  • Use hospital-grade disinfectant to clean all areas
  • Ensure regular disinfection of cabinet handles, desks, phones and keyboards
  • Encourage administration staff to conduct proper hand hygiene
  • Take room volume, layout and occupancy into consideration when deep cleaning

Kitchen and cafeteria areas

The kitchen and cafeteria areas of a hospital attract high level footfall and require a high level of hygiene and safety. Here are some tips for keeping hospital cafeteria areas sanitary:

  • Consider using sneeze guards to protect food in buffet style areas
  • Set up hand sanitizer stations and offer face masks at the cafeteria entrance
  • Sanitize all high touch surfaces including tables, chairs and food service points regularly
  • Clean and disinfect hard-to-reach spaces of the kitchen where dirt and bacteria can grow, including under sinks, storage units and countertop corners.

Public Restrooms and toilets

Sanitization of hospital restrooms is a must to maintain a hygienic environment and to prevent the spread of healthcare associated infections. Here are some tips on cleaning hospital facilities:

  • Clean sinks, taps, countertops and support bars first
  • Clean and disinfect toilets last
  • Steam high touch points including basins, toilets and light switches. As you steam, wipe down any residue with a microfiber cloth as you go. Tork Microfiber Cloths have excellent, proven microbial removal and cleaning efficacy to help ensure that surfaces are clean and hygienic. They are low-linting and leave a clean surface behind. The cloths offer durable performance and 300 washes. 
  • Mirrors should also receive a steam and microfiber clean
  • Floors should be cleaned in a clockwise direction, and from top to the floor
  • Remove any trash from bathroom bins
  • Stock up on supplies, in particular toilet paper, paper towels and hand soap

How automation can help

The science of cleaning products and disinfecting agents has evolved immensely in the last few decades. Automation can be a useful way to support the manual cleaning and disinfection of hospital cleaning teams.

Tork Vision Cleaning harnesses the power of real-time data to identify when and where there are service needs in your hospital. This helps you meet expectations by maximizing efficiency so that cleaning teams can work smarter and secure a better hygiene standard in public areas and beyond.

For more detailed information on how to keep the public areas of healthcare environments clean and safe, download the Tork Guide to Surface Hygiene in Hospitals and Tork Interactive Clean Hospital Training. Alternatively, discover Tork Cleaning Training for Care Homes.