How to Clean When There are No Cleaning Products
Don't bother checking, the shelves are still empty—and they will stay empty for at least a little while more. Securing household cleaning supplies like Lysol spray or Clorox wipes has become a socially-distanced contact sport as shoppers squabble over the few remaining bottles or cans and manufacturers struggle to keep up with demand.
It's not hard to see how we got here. Panic buying and hording in early March created an unprecedented spike in demand. During that time, aerosol disinfectants sales climbed 343% while multipurpose cleaners sales are up 166%, according to an article in USA Today. No wonder this usually-steady sector finds itself overwhelmed.
So, consumers wait as factories jump into overdrive and supply chains are rejiggered. Product should be back in stock by early summer, says to Tom Derry, CEO of the Institute for Supply Management in that same article. But until then there is some good news.
The cleaning process is often more important than cleaning chemistry.
So being out of product doesn't mean you're out of luck. Here's how to clean when there are no cleaning products available.
What Cleaning Products Do
Non-abrasive, general-purpose cleaners use a variety of chemicals to break up and remove dirt, and soils. They usually include surfactants and builders to create a moderately foamy product and are pH neutral.
Household cleaning products designed to kill germs have been available for more than 100 years, according to the American Cleaning Institute. They contain antimicrobial ingredients like pine oil, quaternary ammonium compounds, sodium hypochlorite, phenols and ethanol. Any product that claims to kill germs must be registered with the EPA and carry a registration number on the label.
Where Cleaning Products Go Wrong
To get desired results, products designed to sanitize or disinfect must be used exactly as directed by the manufacturer. Sanitizers can usually be applied to a clean surface and wiped right up to remove most germs. Disinfectants, however, kill germs--if they are used correctly. That means allowing the product to dwell on a clean surface for a specific amount of time, often ten minutes, without drying. This requires several reapplications to keep the surface wet.
But the cleaning chemical is only part of the equation. Common cleaning tools like mops and rags can spread germs instead of removing them. For instance, the average kitchen dishcloth can contain 4 billion living germs according to the ACI. Using it can re-deposit those germs and pollutants right back on a surface. The same can be said for mops, which basically use dirty water from the bucket to paint surfaces with soils, germs and bio pollutants.
For Best Results Focus on Removal
Cleaning tools designed to remove dirt and soils eliminate cross contamination risks. Even better, they often work with just plain water. This makes technologies like Spray-and-Vac cleaning systems and microfiber-and-squeegee systems the perfect tools to clean when there are no cleaning products available.
Spray-and-Vacs, like Kaivac's No-Touch Cleaning systems operate differently than mops and buckets. Built for extreme soil removal, the technology works by first spraying surfaces, then rinsing using an indoor-pressure washer. Finally, a powerful wet/dry vacuum is used to both dry the floor and completely remove soils, moisture and bio-pollutants.
The same could be said for microfiber-and-squeegee systems that focus on removal. In fact, cotton rags and microfiber towels both leave about 80 times more bacteria behind on average as compared to a microfiber-and-squeegee system like Kaivac's KaiFly. That's because the squeegee, like the vacuum, removes soils and germs as it dries
In both cases the technologies achieve powerful, repeatable results because they fully remove dirt and germs using a vacuum or squeegee. In fact, results from an independent NELAP-accredited lab confirm that both the Kaivac No-Touch Cleaning system and the KaiFly Flat Surface Cleaning system removed greater than 99.9% of targeted bacteria when used with plain tap water only.
No cleaning chemicals required!
Click here to learn more about advanced technologies that clean when there are no cleaning products to be found.
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Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines.
Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.
She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.