By Robert Kravitz
In the professional cleaning industry, what we are learning about COVID is that preventing the spread of this disease is only as effective as the weakest link. This means that church leaders need to realize that to protect their congregants’ health, not only must the church be cleaned and sanitized, but so must church buses.
Bus Use Basics
Before we explore cleaning and sanitizing church buses, there are some “use basics” church administrators should be aware of. Among them are the following:
- Reduce the capacity of the buses to 50 percent or less.
- Make sure every other seat and every other row on the bus is left vacant to promote social distancing.
- Post signs on the bus that if someone feels ill, they should not board the bus. “Messaging” such as this has proven powerful in many situations. We can only hope it will do the same with COVID.
- Request that all riders wear masks. Unfortunately, the wearing of masks has become politicized. However, virtually all health organizations recommend wearing a mask. If your congregation’s welfare is the top concern, especially if seniors are on the bus, wearing masks should be mandatory.
- If the bus has a back door, passengers should enter and exit from the rear of the bus. This helps protect the health of the bus driver. If the bus does not have a back door, a plexiglass screen should enclose the driver’s area, or the driver should be allowed to exit the bus while passengers board or leave. Many bus drivers have contracted the virus and died because of their proximity to people entering and leaving the bus.
- Ensure the bus is well ventilated. If A/C and heat controls can be adjusted to allow more fresh air into the bus instead of recirculated air, this adjustment should be made.
Finally, conduct an “interior audit” of all areas touched by bus passengers. This information will be useful in cleaning and sanitizing buses. However, our goal now is to analyze how the bus is used, how people get in and out, work their way through seat rows, and what areas in the bus they come in contact with. Do not assume information like this; when it comes to COVID, we must know.
Cleaning and Sanitizing
While our focus will be on the maintenance of the bus’s interior, we should say a few things first about the exterior of the bus. People are very anxious now because of COVID. Because of this, church buses should be washed frequently. The cleaner they look from the outside, the more relaxed and confident congregants will feel boarding them and riding in them.
We should also mention that church administrators must perform due diligence when deciding what tools and methods they should use to clean the interiors of buses. For instance:
- Mops should not be used. The problem is that as they get contaminated, they can spread pathogens. Further, with use, the cleaning solution and disinfectant begin to degrade. Eventually, the disinfectant loses all its efficacy.
- Electrostatic sprayers may not be the best option. These systems mist surfaces to kill pathogens. Some studies have found them to be highly effective. However, just recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that EPA-registered disinfectants used by some of these systems do not meet EPA standards and guidelines. This means the disinfectant may not perform as expected or as effectively if used with one of these sprayers. “Trial and error” disinfecting is not an option when dealing with COVID.
With these points out of the way, here are some of the most effective ways to clean the interiors of church buses:
If possible, bus floors should be vacuumed with a backpack or canister vacuum. Make sure it is HEPA filtered. These filters can trap microbes before they become airborne. Further, vacuuming is more effective at removing embedded dust and soils.
Because of the concerns mentioned regarding mops, floor cleaning alternatives should be considered. One option that has proven successful is called “spray and vac” cleaning or no-touch cleaning. (The term “spray-and-vac” was coined by ISSA, the worldwide cleaning association.) These systems are essentially indoor pressure washers that apply metered cleaning solution to floors and other surfaces, rinse soils free from surfaces, and then vacuum up the soils and solution. The process tends to be quite fast.
The EPA lists disinfectants proven to be effective at killing the germs that cause COVID. Only these disinfectants should be used.
If these are plastic or hard surface seats, they should be cleaned using a spray-and-vac system. If cleaned manually, use microfiber towels. In addition to the seats, based on our audit of the bus interior, microfiber should also be used to clean handles, metal works, poles, window ledges as well as items in the driver’s area such as the steering wheel, levers, gear shift, and controls. Microfiber is more effective at capturing and trapping soil.
Treat Each Bus Separately
If manually cleaning the interior of buses, fresh cleaning tools must be used to clean each bus. For instance, while not recommended, if using mops, change mop heads after cleaning each bus. Do not reuse them. Similarly, microfiber towels should also be changed after cleaning each bus. An option here is to use “smart towels.” These can be folded into eight quadrants so that a fresh surface is available eight times, reducing the number of microfiber cleaning cloths needed.
Finally, church administrators are urged to keep up with the latest information from the EPA as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as it pertains to COVID and cleaning. This is a rapidly evolving situation. Some of the bus cleaning items discussed here were not even considerations six months ago. But they are now. To stay healthy, stay up to date.
Robert Kravitz is a frequent writer for the professional cleaning industry.