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What is Deep Cleaning, Disinfecting and Decontaminating: Cleaning up these murky terms

Terms such as disinfecting, decontaminating and deep cleaning are often used synonymously but cleaning operatives and those within the cleaning industry should be able to differentiate with certainty. By undertaking deep cleans, you are maintaining one of the highest levels of environmental hygiene, be it in the home or your workplace. It is one of the best defences against infections, including COVID-19 from spreading.

 So, what is a deep clean, as defined by Cambridge Dictionary - “a very complete cleaning process that includes all parts of something, not just surfaces or places where dirt can be seen”. In practical terms, it’s more than just aesthetics – not just if a surface or area looks clean - it’s about the elimination and removal of biofilm, pathogens and microbial life.

It is important to note that a thorough deep clean is a prerequisite for any successful disinfection or decontamination process.

Different ways to clean, disinfect and decontaminate

There are 4 main physical and chemical means of cleaning disinfection and decontamination: (1) heat/steam; (2) liquid disinfection; (3) vapourisation/fogging; and (4) radiation. Read below for more information on these different means.

Heat Steam cleaning icon
  1. Heat/Steam Cleaning:

Although potentially paradoxical because of the use of water, the small levels of water used is super-heated to the point that the steam generated is ‘dry’ (moisture levels ≤5%).

Steam cleaning is one of the most trusted and convenient means of safely removing pathogens and destroying bacteria & viruses. It can be used with or without chemicals or detergents for an eco-friendly clean. It is also easy and quick to set up and can be utilised inside or outside, across all manners of surfaces, and as it ‘dry’ steam it can even be used on electricals.

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  1. Disinfection:

Is your typical spray bottle filled with halogens, be it – acids, alkalis, alcohol, halogens and chemical compounds. This has varying degrees of effectiveness, which hinge on the application, concentration, contact time and the biofilm they are looking to destroy and how the liquid waste is disposed of. If you are to spray liquid disinfectant on a sticky mark on a table, the table won’t be cleaned nor will it be decontaminated; you have to remove the liquid waste away whether through vacuuming, wiping with a cloth or mopping.

Fogging icon
  1. Vapourisation/Decontaminate Fogging:

The same basic principle as steam sterilisation, but decontamination is achieved by utilising chemicals to kill microbes, differing from steam which lifts the microbes ready for physical removal. It can create safer environments for cleaning operatives within 10 minutes, but it should be coupled with a physical deep clean to achieve long-lasting sterility.

Typically hydrogen peroxide solutions are the go-to chemical. The use of too strong a chemical can be hazardous to health and damaging to the environment.

Radiation icon
  1. Radiation:

There are 2 core subcategories here: ionizing and non-ionizing.

a. Ionizing radiation- Is not a practical way of decontamination, granted it will destroy micro-organisms but it could destroy the health of cleaning operatives in the process!

b. Non-ionizing radiation- Such as UV is effective in destroying microorganisms in the air, water and on surfaces, however, that is dependent on whether or not the organisms are directly exposed to the UV light. If the organisms are shadowed or under dirt or dust they will be shielded, greatly limiting UV’s effectiveness. Deep cleans should be undertaken before UV decontamination takes place. The equipment is typically costly to set up too. 


Dry Steam Vapour: heats, liquid disinfects and fogs in one!

Dry steam is unique in offering an all-in-one product solution in the battle against bacteria and viruses. It achieves excellent cleaning, disinfection and decontamination results via thermal and mechanical action of surface penetration and extraction to safely remove contaminants. 

Dry Steam technology with novel steam fogging attachments utilise 3 of the 4 main ways to decontaminate:

  1. Heat: steam machines super-heat water to generate dry steam, which easily saturates soiling on all manners of surfaces, to lift any biofilm that may act as insulation, which can then easily be wiped away.
  2. Disinfectant: as the dry steam saturates soiling, it is loosened from the surface, either with the use of our HEPA level vacuum cleaners or with a microfibre cloth the liquid waste can safely be removed
  3. Decontaminate Fogging: the super-heated steam propels a disinfectant solution as a vapour onto surfaces, killing microbes quickly.

This provides users with an environmentally friendly and more effective means of achieving decontamination. It is clear to see why Scientific studies by OspreyDeepclean, UCLH (University College London Hospitals) and TNO (Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research), focusing on the efficacy and removal of all biofilms and microbiological decontamination, demonstrated that Dry Steam Vapour performed equal to, or better than, conventional disinfection practices, achieving 4-6 log reduction.

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