Give ‘Em a Break from Germs: Strategies for Break Room Cleaning and Disinfecting
Company break rooms are popular places for employees to relax and recharge, but they can also attract less productive entities, such as bacteria, germs and mold. You may be devoting cleaning time and effort at your workplace to restrooms or kitchens (as you should!), but slacking off in break areas can have detrimental effects for your valuable workers, including the possibility of illness from foodborne organisms. Frequently touched surfaces in these areas can be especially germy, with one recent study finding that break room coffee pot handles had 34 times more bacteria that a school toilet seat! Implementing some simple break room cleaning sanitary practices will go a long way toward improving employee morale, keeping germ counts low, and reducing potential for illness.
Every office break room has “hot spots” where germs like to gather. Following are some best practices for those areas that can benefit from some extra cleaning and disinfecting attention.
Forgotten lunches, leftover birthday cake, condiments from last summer’s company picnic — food that is not disposed of in a timely way can get moldy and cause odors, not to mention serious illness. Make it company policy to toss any personal food before the weekend. Community condiments and dressings should be disposed of two months after opening. Consider supplying blank stickers and/or pre-printed day-of the-week stickers so employees can label and date their stored food for easier break room cleaning.
At minimum, the interior of company refrigerators should be cleaned and sanitized once a month, although once a week is optimal. A daily disinfecting of exterior handles and the freezer ice scoop (get one if you don’t have one already!) will cut down on germ transfer from these high-touch areas.
Counters and Sinks
Germs and bacteria love warm, damp environments, so avoid using sponges in sink areas. Opt instead for brushes or disposable towels for cleaning. Stock dish soap and make it a policy that dirty dishes are to be cleaned immediately and not left overnight. The sink area and entire faucet including the handle should be disinfected daily. Keep an RTU sanitizer on hand such as Table Time 200®. This ready-to-use, no rinse, food contact sanitizer eliminates 99.999% of bacteria in the kitchen and is safe to use in foodservice areas. Be sure to pre-clean spills and other food soils before sanitizing for complete germ killing effectiveness.
For obvious reasons, trash receptacles that contain food are a haven for germs. Cans should always be lined and tightly sealed when not in use. Empty the trash at least once a day, and wash interiors routinely to remove any stuck on grime. To prevent odors and inhibit the growth of mold and mildew, spray the interior of receptacles with Nyco’s Sani-Spritz Spray One-Step Disinfectant Cleaner to sanitize and deodorize. For this disinfectant, be sure the surface remains wet for three minutes, the contact time needed to kill all germs on non-food contact surfaces.
Break room floors often don’t get the attention that more public spaces do, but it’s important to keep them clean and hazard free as employees are susceptible to slips and falls. Address spills immediately for safety’s sake and to avoid attracting pests. Hard surfaces like tile and concrete should be swept daily and mopped regularly in your break room cleaning routine, while carpeted areas should be vacuumed once a week and deep cleaned at least twice a year. Not only is floor safety good for business, it’s good for employee morale.
Popular appliances like microwaves and coffee pot handles are magnets for germs and bacteria because of the number of hands that touch them. Clean and disinfect the handles of all small appliances daily − again we recommend Sani-Spritz Spray − to avoid cross-contamination throughout your organization. Don’t forget to regularly disinfect any vending machine buttons or water fountain levers, as well as break room drawer and cabinet handles.
A dirty microwave interior can be downright unappetizing. Make quick work of grime by microwaving one cup of water for several minutes, then wiping the walls of any loosened spills and splatters. Make coffee pots look new again by treating lime scale buildup with a good delimer.
Break room restrooms need the same careful attention given to more public spaces in order to prevent germs and bacteria from spreading. Keep toilets and surrounding floor areas clean and control any moisture around drains. Faucets, toilet levers and stall door handles should be disinfected daily. Always be sure soap dispensers and sanitizers are well stocked for good hand hygiene. Read up here on tips and guidelines for effective restroom cleaning.
Break room accidents are inevitable. Empower employees to clean minor messes when they happen by having an emergency cleaning kit on hand. The kit can include items such as paper towels and/or cleaning cloths, disinfectant, extra trash bags, a mop, wet floor signs, a plunger and gloves. Place in an easily accessible area and check regularly, refilling/restocking items as necessary.
By setting a few simple rules for maintenance and asking your facility maintenance team to make the break room a regular part of their cleaning rotation, you can help prevent the spread of germs and bacteria throughout your organization. The extra break room cleaning attention will pay big dividends toward keeping staff healthy and more productive. Not only are you creating a healthier space, you’re also helping boost morale by showing workers you care about them and their well-being.