Since the spread of COVID-19 began in 2019, every industry has been rushing to keep up with the rapid mandates and protocols that were being introduced accordingly. Although there has been much debate over which sectors of society were “essential” or not, there is one industry that has been regarded as essential throughout the entirety of the pandemic – commercial cleaning services. In this opinion piece Partner Solutions Facility Services offer an insightful overview of the transformation of the US professional cleaning industry during as well as in the aftermath of the pandemic.

As companies of all types began opening their doors after the initial lockdowns, they began relying on third-party commercial cleaning companies that had the capacity to conduct thorough, routine cleaning of their facilities to maintain high sanitation standards for both staff and guests. Contracting third-party commercial cleaners to handle their needs allows businesses to focus solely on maintaining regular business operations.

Cleaning vs sanitisation
Although the term “cleaning” is used as an umbrella to describe the entire industry, it is important to note that there is a very distinct difference between standard cleaning – think
household cleaners, furniture polish, vacuuming/sweeping – and sanitising. When cleaning with a soap-based or standard cleaner, bacteria and contaminants are significantly reduced but not eliminated. Sanitisation on the other hand, completely kills all bacteria and contaminants present on the surface and makes it inhospitable to them. The U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has determined that both cleaning standards are crucial to the containment of COVID-19, but they have also issued guidance to businesses on how to know which method is needed and when.

The most current best practices for commercial cleaning are considered to be:
• Daily or hourly cleaning using soap-based or mild disinfectants on surfaces in heavy traffic areas regardless of the presence of the virus or not.
• Thorough, full sanitisation of an entire facility following the presence of someone who has recently tested positive for COVID-19 in one of the building spaces.

As a result of this, commercial cleaning companies have had to adapt and expand their services to offer a wider variety of options, while also requiring investments into training and new products in order to keep up with consumer demands for complete sanitisation. In order to be able to deem a surface sanitised against COVID-19 they must use one of the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) List N products– which identifies disinfectants that are known to kill all strains of COVID-19 – but before businesses can use said products, they must acquaint themselves with correct product handling and usage procedures.

How consumer demands have fuelled change
In 2022, there are very few US industries that are still required to be closed, which means the demand for commercial cleaning services is as high as ever. Every business wants to be able to say that their facility is cleaner and safer than their competitors, while still maintaining full availability of services and hours of operation. This has led to commercial cleaners learning to streamline their methods so as to be as quick and efficient as possible, without lacking quality.

While doing so, the commercial cleaning practices being used throughout must be compatible with a variety of surfaces that are encountered in settings of all sizes where commercial cleaning is needed such as:
• Washroom surfaces – including glass and mirrors
• Kitchen and food-preparation surfaces
• All flooring types – tile, wood, carpeting, concrete, etc.
• Electronic components
• Fabric surfaces – clothing, furniture, drapery, etc.

When it comes to precise cleaning practices, commercial cleaners have continuously stayed up to date on the best practices for cleaning and sanitising any surface from the coronavirus. As a result, commercial cleaners have relied heavily on several cleaning practices that have resulted in success at combating the presence of the virus on surfaces.
Given the size of average commercial facilities, as well as the extensive list of surfaces to accommodate, most commercial cleaning companies have adjusted to working “after-hours”. By conducting their services before facilities open or overnight, commercial cleaners can get the job done without disrupting their clients’ operations. This also allows for cleaning crews to complete sanitisation regimens that require fully coating every surface in disinfectants with specialised handling standards or personal protective equipment needed while in proximity, which is often required when using most methods that sanitise against COVID-19.

Overall Impact of COVID-19 on commercial cleaning
The commercial cleaning industry has been exponentially growing since the start of the pandemic and has adapted to meet the demand for high-quality sanitisation and protection against COVID-19. Each individual commercial cleaning company has had to work overtime to focus their services around preventing the spread of COVID-19. Not only are commercial cleaners expected to fully sanitise large-scale facilities, but they are expected to do so without disrupting their clients’ day-today operations. Overall, commercial cleaning practices have increased in thoroughness and frequency, while also requiring cleaners to accommodate the need for commercial cleaning outside of traditional service hours.