The low down on COVID-19 cleaning
Many instructors are keen to get back to work, and restrictions across Australia are slowly easing. However, the dangers of COVID-19 have not yet passed, and re-opening will mean changing daily procedures to incorporate new cleaning processes and social distancing. There is lots of discussion about how this might look for our Pilates studios and workplaces.
While applying it in your own workspace might be tricky, the protocol for social distancing is by now familiar and fairly easy to understand: allow 4 square metres per person, keep everyone at least 1.5m away. On the other hand, the guidelines for cleaning and/or disinfecting to keep your studio safe aren’t as obvious and there are lots of questions about how we can apply them.
The article below these useful links examines information on hygiene and cleaning for COVID-19 from the Safework Australia website and considers how it might be applied in a Pilates setting.
Useful Safework links:
How to Clean & Disinfect your Workplace – COVID-19 (includes table of instructions for cleaning by type of surface)
COVID-19 Cleaning Checklist
Specific advice for cleaning Pilates equipment
Toesox Australia (Align Reformers), recommendation from PAA conference equipment sponsors: https://toesoxaustralia.com.au/blog/3-preparing-your-studio-for-reopening
PilatesEquip, advice from PAA conference equipment sponsors: https://pilatesequip.com/covid/
Pilates Health Equipment, offer their own interpretation of the information the Safework website with suggestions and recommendations for Pilates equipment: https://pilateshealthequipment.com.au/blog/post/dealing-with-covid19-in-your-studio/
- Department of Health: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information about routine environmental cleaning and disinfection in the community
- Department of Health: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Environmental cleaning and disinfection principles for health and residential care facilities
- Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry: COVID-19 Business Support
- Australian Industry Group: Coronavirus COVID-19 Advice and Resources
- Australian Council of Trade Unions: Coronavirus Updates – Workers’ Rights, Tools & Resources for dealing with COVID-19
Bulk disinfectant/sanitiser (Coronavirus tested)
COVID-19 – Cleaning & Disinfecting the Pilates workplace
The Safework Australia website contains a lot of information to help you protect your staff and clients when they visit your studio. We recommend checking their website regularly for information and updates.
Since it’s not always possible to know who is contaminated with COVID-19, re-opening safely will involve managing the risks that someone visiting you might be carrying the infection. They may then contaminate their surroundings by breathing, coughing, sneezing or simply by transferring the virus to surfaces in the studio.
There are fortunately practical actions that you can take to lessen the chances of surfaces becoming contaminated:
- Reduce the risk of COVID-19 entering the premises
- Ensure clients clean and sanitise hands (and other body parts?) frequently
- Stop germs reaching faces, nose & eyes – no touching!
- Reduce the number of touch points around the workplace for workers/clients
- Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly
- Create a barrier between the surfaces and the client (socks, gloves, equipment covers, sleeves)
- Track and record visitors in case of contamination
- Exclude COVID-19 from the premises
- Educate clients and staff that no-one should visit if they have a temperature, feel sick, have any symptoms or have been in contact with a confirmed case
- Ask visitors to leave non-essential belongings at home or in the car, or clean/disinfect them before entering
- Encourage use of the COVID-19 app to alert to contact with the virus
- Have sanitiser available at entry/exit points and soap and water available for hand washing with disposable towels for drying (no hand dryers). Post notices to remind everyone and educate your staff to be watchful with clients.
- No touching! Stop germs reaching faces, nose & eyes – Have signs displayed and issue constant reminders.
- Reduce the number of touch points. Walk through your premises and rationalise the surfaces/objects. Remove anything unnecessary and consider reducing the number of props you use in sessions.
- Clean and disinfect
Fact: Cleaning and disinfecting are two different processes.
- Cleaning means to physically remove dirt, grime and germs (bacteria and viruses), from surfaces using a detergent and water solution.
- Disinfecting means using chemicals to kill germs (bacteria and viruses) on surfaces.
A combination of cleaning and disinfection will be most effective in removing the COVID-19 virus. Cleaning reduces the soil load on the surface, allowing the disinfectant to work and kill the COVID-19 virus. Disinfectant may not kill the virus if the surface has not been cleaned with a detergent first.
Note: Allow the disinfectant to remain on the surface for the period of time required to kill the virus (contact time) as specified by the manufacturer. If no time is specified, leave for 10 minutes.
The process of Cleaning:
- Workplaces must be cleaned at least daily with detergent and water. If equipment is shared, it should be cleaned between uses, where practicable.
- Once clean, surfaces can be disinfected. Alternatively, you may be able to do a 2-in-1 clean and disinfection by using a combined detergent and disinfectant.
- Wear disposable gloves and discard after each clean. Wash hands immediately after removing gloves.
- Clean from the cleanest surfaces to the dirtiest – this stops the transfer of germs to the cleaner surfaces.
The process of Disinfecting:
- Apply disinfectant using disposable paper towel or a disposable cloth. If non-disposable cloths are used, they must be laundered and dried before reusing.
- Follow manufacturer instructions for the product to achieve disinfection
Several sources claim that microfibre removes more dirt and grime than cotton (fabric) or paper towels and wipes. They must be washed and dried before reusing, but also dry much quicker than cotton or terry towelling.
Applying these facts to a Pilates environment
Safework Australia states that surfaces should be cleaned with detergent and water at least every day and if equipment is shared, it should be cleaned between uses, where practicable.
Bearing in mind that frequently used surfaces also require disinfecting, a dual detergent/disinfectant is advisable if you can source one. Be sure to read the instructions carefully as a specific method of application is generally required to achieve disinfection.
You don’t need to clean every surface, only those that are likely to be touched, either deliberately (e.g. a door knob) or incidentally (e.g. brushing a door while reaching for the handle). There are some surfaces that are never touched (e.g. ceilings and cracks and crevices in machinery) and these do not need to be cleaned and disinfected.
Prioritise cleaning for surfaces that are touched frequently, e.g. Pilates equipment, props, mats, door handles, counters, phones, EFTPOS and amenities (such as toilets). Surfaces that are visibly dirty, or have a spill, should be cleaned as soon as they are identified, regardless of when they were last cleaned.
Safework states that disinfectants are usually only necessary if a surface has a likelihood of being contaminated with potentially infectious material. More frequent disinfection is recommended when you have multiple customers or others entering each day.
So, reformers for example need to be cleaned well daily, then in between each client you would only need to disinfect areas that have been touched – footbar, bed, headrest, shoulder pads, springs, handles/loops, straps, etc.
The best process here might be to ask each client to disinfect each piece of equipment as they use it, then they will only be exposing themselves to their own germs. Bear in mind that, to prevent cross contamination, cloths used for cleaning/disinfecting should be unique to each client too. Disposable is probably best unless you invest in a supply of microfibre squares that can be laundered at the end of each day.
Remember that for each client changeover there will be some surfaces other than equipment that also need a wipe over: door handles, EFTPOS, amenities, and storage areas for clients items.
Protecting your equipment
The question of how to disinfect all the different types of surface in a studio, and whether the chemicals you must use will affect them is a huge one. Repeated application of disinfectant is going to be detrimental for leather, wood, fabric, vinyl or elastic. Manufacturers generally advise only detergent and water for cleaning.
Unfortunately, we are faced with the reality trying to protect our workplaces; the safety of clients, workers and ourselves must be the first priority. Pay heed to equipment manufacturer’s directions where possible, but ensure that you also address the necessary cleaning and disinfecting to keep your workplace safe.
While it’s advised that hard surfaces are disinfected and the disinfectant left in contact for several minutes, at least this is a process that’s feasible between clients. Soft surfaces are a more difficult challenge (see table within) and may require some inventive thinking.
- Create a barrier between client and surface
Some equipment may lend itself to having removable ‘sleeves’ fitted (reformer beds, for e.g.), that can be exchanged between clients or even disposed of. We have heard that some studios are also preparing temporary vinyl covers for loops and straps, that will protect the material beneath and be easier to clean regularly.
Be aware that sleeves and covers probably won’t cover all surfaces that are touched and may move whilst being used. They may reduce the need for cleaning/disinfecting, but probably won’t fully replace it.
Your clients may also be open to purchasing their own handles/loops or bringing their own mat and small props along to sessions.
- Track and record visitors in case of contamination
Ideally, clients will have downloaded the COVID Safe app, which will track their movements and notify people who come into contact with the virus.
However, the app is not compulsory, so make sure you also have records whereby you can quickly track who was on the premises at any point in time, should the need arise.
Are there any cleaning methods I shouldn’t use?
You should avoid any cleaning methods that may disperse the virus or create droplets, such as using pressurised water, pressurised air (including canned air cleaners), dry cloth and dusters. The best cleaning method is to use warm water and detergent.
Is a sanitiser a disinfectant?
A sanitiser is a chemical designed to kill some bacteria and some viruses that can cause disease in humans or animals. These chemicals are not as strong as disinfectants, which makes them safe to use on skin. If you’re disinfecting a hard surface or inanimate object, a disinfectant is the best option.
Will an antibacterial product kill COVID-19?
Antibacterial products are designed to kill bacteria. However, COVID-19 is caused by a virus rather than by bacteria, so an antibacterial product is not necessary.
Do I have to use detergent to clean? I prefer to use environmentally friendly or natural products.
Yes. Using only water and a cloth, or other forms of cleaning agents, such as vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, will not be as effective as using detergent.
What should we wear to clean?
In most circumstances, it will not be necessary to wear protective clothing to clean your workplace. However, you should use personal protective equipment (PPE) that is necessary for the products you are using. As a starting point:
- Gloves are the minimum requirements
- Medical masks should be used if cleaning an area impacted by a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case.
- You need to provide any PPE and train your workers/clients on how to use it safely if it is required.