Slowing the spread of seasonal flu, COVID-19, and other viruses through rigorous cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces remains a priority for the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities’ housekeeping team.

Flu viruses spread mainly from person to person when people with influenza cough, sneeze, or touch things that others touch. High-touch surfaces - such as countertops, desks, and door handles - should be cleaned and disinfected frequently and effectively.

At Virginia Tech, through the use of one-step disinfectant cleaning chemicals and an increase in high-touch surface cleaning frequencies, the housekeeping team is working hard to reduce the spread of the seasonal flu and COVID-19. 

“It takes a great deal of collaboration among our housekeeping teams and members of the university community to reduce the potential impact of flu across campus,” said Mike Mulhare, assistant vice president for emergency management. “Good hand hygiene is one of the most important steps that can be utilized to protect oneself. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, use hand sanitizer that is conveniently located throughout campus.”

With the flu season possessing the potential to be severe this year, play your part in protecting your community by getting a flu vaccine and following cleaning and sanitizing tips for mitigating the spread of illness below.

Clean like the pros

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Know the lingo

There are three types of cleaning processes: cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. 

  • Cleaning removes visible objects from a surface. It can remove germs from the surface, but it won’t kill them. 
  • Sanitizing reduces the number of pathogens on a surface and kills nearly all germs.
  • Disinfecting kills bacteria, germs, and fungi. The difference between sanitizers and disinfectants is that the latter is proven to kill viruses. 

At Virginia Tech, the housekeeping team uses a two-in-one chemical that both cleans and disinfects to quickly remove dirt and kill germs on surfaces.

“By utilizing a one-step disinfectant cleaner, our housekeeping team is able to be more productive and clean more surfaces more frequently,” said Greg Canaday, associate director for facilities. 

Dwell time

A critical factor for ensuring proper surface disinfecting is being mindful of the dwell time of the chosen chemical. 

Dwell time is the amount of time the chemical sits wet upon a surface before drying. If the full dwell time isn’t reached, potential bacteria, germs, or viruses have not been killed.

"Our housekeeping team is aware of the importance of making sure surfaces contain enough chemical to remain wet for the necessary dwell time,” said Canaday.

For the multi-disinfectant used at Virginia Tech, the dwell time is one minute. But for many household cleaners, it can be longer. “Check the recommended dwell time on the product you’re using at home. Apply enough chemical that the surface remains wet for the necessary dwell time,” said Canaday.

Dwell times vary among household cleaning products and brands. For example, Lysol disinfecting wipes require a dwell time of four minutes to fully disinfect (and kill potential flu viruses) a surface. 

Selecting the right cleaning products

When looking to purchase cleaning products for your residence hall or home, consider using a disinfectant named on the Environmental Protection Agency’s List N: Disenfectants for Coronavirus (COVID-19). These are proven to be effective at killing both COVID-19 and the seasonal flu. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces in your residence hall and home. If you or a visitor in your room or house has the flu or COVID-19, high-touch surfaces should be disinfected after every use.

An established strategy: Cleaning to reduce the spread of illness at Virginia Tech

The cleaning and disinfecting processes implemented by the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities’ housekeeping team to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 was actually established a year prior to the onset of the pandemic.

In 2018, the division initiated a new infectious disease control plan designed to deliver best-in-class disinfecting practices, training, and comprehensive mitigation plans. 

“Our infectious disease control plan has enabled our housekeeping team to be prepared and agile in helping to prevent the surface spread of outbreaks of the seasonal flu, H1N1, and COVID-19 in our university facilities. This strategy, coupled with our employees’ dedication to best-in-class service, has propelled our housekeeping team to be an exemplary model for mitigating the spread of infectious diseases,” said Canaday. 

This strategy was fleshed out further in the university’s COVID-19 operational plans. More details can be found on the division’s COVID-19 site.

More ways to prevent the spread of seasonal flu

Effective measures for preventing the spread of the seasonal flu include: 

  • Receiving a flu vaccine;
  • Wearing a face covering when indoors in public settings and on public transportation;
  • Practicing good hygiene through frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and more; 
  • Staying home when feeling under the weather;
  • Following social distancing protocols; and
  • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces on an ongoing basis.


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