Knowing the Science Behind Cleaning & Disinfection is Key to Our Health

Your hospital, school, office, stadium, warehouse or building may feel safer with the lingering scent of bleach and disinfectant sprays. In fact, you may feel you need the strongest possible solutions to wipe away any viral trace. But in an effort to protect your people from colds, and viruses like COVID-19, you may be doing more harm if you hire the wrong disinfection provider. Armed with an arsenal of chemicals and little infectious disease experience, these blog-and-go companies may be unknowingly contributing to the next health crisis.

Potential Health Risks from Improper Commercial Cleaning & Disinfecting

From January to March of 2020, the CDC reported a 20% increase in calls to poison centers from exposure to cleaners and disinfects, compared to the year before. That’s because people are unknowingly creating toxic chemical concoctions in their best attempts to prevent illness and outbreaks in their home environments. These mistakes apply to inexperienced commercial cleaning companies as well.

When a disinfection company saturates your building office in chemicals without knowledge of how they can interact or affect surfaces, they put everyone at risk. For example, improper mixing, or poor layering can cause build-up, corrosion, and toxic residues that become a breeding ground for dust, dirt, bacterial and viral pathogens. Additionally, over-disinfection can release a high concentration of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) indoors, which can have short and long-term adverse health effects on our respiratory system. This is especially dangerous for people with the following medical conditions.


Overexposure to cleaning chemicals is especially problematic for the one in 13 Americans with Asthma–ironically a group the CDC identified as high risk for COVID-19. Common ingredients that can cause occupational asthma or make the condition worse are formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, hypochlorite bleach, hydrogen peroxide and enzymatic cleaners.


Allergies to ingredients in commercial disinfectants are very common. When these fluids come into contact with the skin or eyes, it can cause severe reactions that manifest as redness, itchiness and pain. This can also be irritating to the nose and throat, causing headaches.

Respiratory issues

Common cleaning supplies like chlorine bleach and aerosol products release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that contain respiratory irritants. This can cause chronic problems such as asthma and pulmonary disease. In the short term such irritation is especially dangerous for people with COVID-19, who suffer from respiratory failure in the worst cases.

Long term health concerns

According to Health Care Without Harm, traditional cleaning products and disinfects can present long term concerns including reproductive disorders, and central nervous system impairment. Even natural fragrances or masking agents in cleaning products may react with particles from the air to form formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

And that’s just the research you can find today based on standard cleaning and infection control plans. The unprecedented rise in disinfection due to COVID has yet to be tested. From hourly spraying and wiping to nightly fogging, you’ve probably never seen or smelled so many chemicals in your life. The EPA, CDC, and the world won’t know the extent of impact this may have for years to come.

Property Damage Risks from Improper Commercial Cleaning

Another risk of frequent cleaning and disinfecting is the degradation to your floors, walls, desks, furniture, and electronics over time. Many cleaning products advertise as “safe for surfaces” but that label claim does not account for the exponential rise in usage today.

At Total Cleaning, we see this as a major risk for property managers and business owners who work with inexperienced cleaning companies. Commercial cleaners who don’t have years of research & development under their belt simply will not know how to analyze product labels to determine true surface compatibility. As a result, they may inadvertently destroy surfaces with repeated usage. These companies are generally the cheapest to work with, but the savings you get today may cost you more in repairs or replacements in the future.

The Wrong Way to Conduct Commercial Cleaning

Commercial cleaning is one of the most in-demand services right now and profiteers are capitalizing on the fear and misinformation surrounding COVID-19. As a result, brand new businesses are offering rock bottom pricing and falsely promising long-lasting residual kill claims. Even former plumbers, pest companies and handy man providers are rebranding themselves as reputable commercial companies. Everyone wants a piece of the action, and some may be placing profits before human health. Here’s a few common mistakes that can corrupt air quality, while doing little to wipe away pathogens.

Mixing chemicals

Inexperienced companies may not have the supply chain or the knowledge to access chemicals that are proven safe and effective. Instead they may source whatever’s available and accidentally concoct a toxic, corrosive mess. For example, when you mix bleach with any ammonia cleaner, you create gases that can lead to chronic respiratory issues and death.

Improper spraying

Almost every commercial cleaning company will tout their fancy fogger or electrostatic sprayer. These devices certainly look impressive, but fancy tools need experienced hands and safe chemicals to work properly. It’s very easy to overspray, causing toxic chemicals to linger in the air and on surfaces.

On the other end of the spectrum, under spraying may be entirely ineffectual as well. Why? If you don’t keep surfaces wet for the required time based on the manufacturers’ instructions, you are wasting labor and resources while spraying chemicals that don’t provide protection.

But those aren’t the only issues. Droplet size matters too. When droplets are too small, the exposure to breathing them in is high. When they’re too large, they linger in the air and don’t encapsulate the surfaces they’re supposed to reach and treat.

Disinfecting without cleaning

You need more frequent disinfection today–no question. But disinfecting without properly cleaning is a recipe for residue disaster. Commercial cleaners must understand that your employees are constantly wiping their desks, cubicles, offices and objects, which may create a surface layer of sticky residue and build up. If the company does not properly pre-clean before disinfecting your surfaces, they are inadvertently adding layers to the sticky residue that breeds pathogens, as well as antibiotic resilient Super Bugs.

Unfortunately, there are several ways to do commercial cleaning dangerously wrong. That’s why it’s so important to think beyond short-term savings and invest in a long-term commercial cleaning partner who has the tools, training, and technology to keep you safe. 

The Right Way to Conduct Commercial Cleaning

Commercial cleaning done right is methodical. That’s why we never provide a quote and disinfection plan before we conduct a thorough onsite risk assessment. We would never feel comfortable showing up blind with our solutions and equipment.

Instead, we first analyze all the important components, such as population profiles, high touch surfaces, facility occupancy and access, and indoor air quality. Then we create a plan to prepare your surfaces for proper pre-cleaning. Lastly, we select the chemistry and the equipment to treat your specific pain points. Our goal is to create an environmentally sound cleaning and disinfection program that improves your environment’s overall health and safety.

At Total Cleaning, our technicians are trained in the science of infection prevention and our R&D team continually tests the best products, services and solutions for your long-term safety. We understand that every material from glass to plastic to wood needs different levels of care, and we adjust our protocols, solutions, tools and technology to match.

We’re also adjusting our processes to account for increased risk during the pandemic. We’ve enhanced our janitorial services by using more disposable products to prevent cross contamination. We’re also increasing our investment in protective equipment and staff training. Our goal is to treat every room in your building like it’s an isolation room for the most effective risk mitigation strategy. We believe the cost of erring in today’s pandemic is far too high.

Totally Cleaner & Safer

We look forward to serving you and playing a part in your success during this fight against COVID-19. In doing so, we hope to shed light on the dangers of improper-disinfection practices so you can choose a commercial cleaner with the knowledge to safely treat your facility without risk of damage to health or property. We understand the dangers of over-exposure to toxic chemicals and we will never sacrifice breathable air for a quick bleach-inspired fix.

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