Aug 20, 2019 Last Updated 10:52 AM, Aug 14, 2019

The science behind effective cleaning

Published in Technical Focus
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Demand continues to grow for disposable solutions that are cost-effective yet maintain performance quality. Central to this is the development of the high-performing microfibre, which reduces labour time while restricting the spread of infection. James Taylor, Marketing Director for Specialities at Chicopee, looks at how technology has helped deliver advanced product performance across a wide range of applications.

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Budget pressures, alongside the requirement to reduce labour time while improving cleaning effectiveness, has seen technology evolving that has revolutionised the way buildings are cleaned.

Environmentally-aware facility managers may be looking to move away from the use of large amounts of water and chemicals, seeking an alternative that satisfies both budget constraints and standards of cleanliness.

Another consideration – particularly in healthcare and educational facilities – is reducing the spread of germs and bacteria, achieving a minimal risk of infection being spread.

Fortunately, evolving technology has enabled the creation of innovative cleaning products which enhance performance and prevent the spread of infection while at the same time reducing cleaning time. Microfibre, in particular, has become the weapon of choice for many in the fight against grime – however, not all disposable microfibre cloths are created equally.

How does microfibre work?

Known as ‘mechanical cleaning’, the use of splittable microfibre requires neither detergents nor chemicals.

This method relies instead on the capillary effect – in essence, the synthetic fibres of a microfibre cloth are positively charged, whereas dirt, dust and bacteria are all negatively charged, so are attracted to the cloth as though it is a magnet.

This enables the fibres to dislodge then trap dirt and germs within the cloth, leaving the surface 99.99% free from bacteria. The dirt remains locked inside the fibres until the cloth is washed in hot water when they uncurl slightly and release their microbe content.

However, choosing to wash and reuse cloths takes up valuable time and resources, and does not guarantee that all bacteria will be removed during the laundering process.

Many facilities managers are now looking to disposable cloths to eliminate the danger of cross-contamination, with the added bonus of removing the need for laundering.

Generally speaking, the thinner the microfibre, the more effective the clean. The fibres used in Chicopee’s Microfibre Light cloth, for example, are around 1/100th the width of a human hair, around 80% thinner than standard microfibre. Using an advanced hydro-entangling process, the highly absorbent pulp fibres are locked between two layers of engineered fabric which lends strength and durability.

Fighting the spread of infection

While the number of reported cases of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) has fallen since the beginning of the decade, their prevention remains a priority for the National Health Service.

Patients in hospital are vulnerable to infection, when their immune system may not be functioning at 100%. In Europe alone, around 37,000 deaths a year are estimated to be as a consequence of a HAI, resulting in an extra 16 million days spent in hospital. Of these, around one fifth are judged to be preventable through improved hygiene routines.

In addition, the use of biocides such as chlorine and hydrogen peroxide has been linked to an increase in tolerance of bacteria to a wide range of antibiotics.

Adopting a rigorous hygiene routine, using disposable microfibre cloths, will help to restrict the spread of infection. Research conducted by the American Journal of Infection Control found that 93% of cloths – both woven and microfibre – that had been used to clean patient rooms still retained traces of bacteria such as E.coli after they had been washed.

The MRSA virus, meanwhile, can survive for up to three weeks on traditional cleaning cloths.

Switching to a disposable cloth made from 100% microfibre will remove the danger of such bacteria being spread onto the next surface to be cleaned while removing the additional time and costs involved in laundering cloths.

This is true for both surface cleaning and floor cleaning. While the risk of cross-contamination is higher with surface cleaning because of the high number of touch points, floors may pose more of an infection risk than previously thought. Bacteria on the floor of patient rooms is easily transferred to hands and surfaces when items such as linen and medical devices touch the floor.

Again, a disposable microfibre floor mop, harnessing the same mechanical cleaning technology as a cleaning cloth, will pick up dirt and bacteria then can be disposed of at the end of a shift, removing the danger of spreading bacteria.

Disposable mops are designed to be much lighter than washable pads, as the cleaning fluid is contained in the mopping tool rather than saturating the mop itself. However, many may feel very thin and flat, making it uncomfortable for the user.

The latest generation of disposable mops provide a soft foam base as well as an angled base on the mop, which allows dirt and dust to collect in the centre of the mop.

An effective all-rounder

The highest quality microfibre products are ideal for use across a range of sectors, from healthcare to facilities management. Low linting and high performing, the latest cloths and wipes will deliver a superior clean while significantly reducing the risk of spreading infection and bacteria.

This method of ‘mechanical’ cleaning is developing all the time, allowing the production of disposable materials to reduce labour time yet improve cleaning performance.

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