Cleaning and Disinfecting: What We've Learned Since COVID 19

Grooming Gab

Cleaning and Disinfecting: What We’ve Learned Since COVID 19

Cleanliness and sanitation have always been foundational necessities for a successful business. However, since the appearance of COVID-19, they are more important than ever.

I contacted Corina Stammworthy and asked her to share some of her expertise and vast knowledge on cleaning and disinfecting products and procedures for the pet care industry. You may have seen Corina recently on television. She and Macie Pisa were the winning team on ABC’s dog grooming reality show, Pooch Perfect. But, Corina is not just a TV star; she is also a microbiologist with a master’s degree in Biotechnology. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, she used her social media platforms to keep groomers informed about the virus and what they could be doing to combat it. She got down to the nitty-gritty of what it takes to protect your place of business, the pets you groom and yourself from the virus’s disease-causing pathogens.

In 2020, Ms. Stammworthy received the Barkleigh Honors Award for “Contribution To The Industry,” and she currently teaches seminars on sanitation and vaccination protocol at grooming shows across the country. I asked Corina to delve into some of the questions groomers may still have, beginning by explaining the differences between cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing.

“Cleaning means to remove organic matter (debris, dust, hair, feces, etc.) from a surface,” Corina explains. “That’s an important step because many microbes thrive when they can live on ‘stuff.’ Disinfecting means to kill or inactivate pathogens (things that can make us sick). Sanitizing kills all microbes and makes something sterile. Sanitizing is overkill for what we do in the salon. It’s reserved for things like operating rooms. Disinfecting is a sufficient level of biocontrol for the grooming salon.

“Salon sanitation begins with cleaning. We all want a magic spray that does everything all at once, but that doesn’t exist,” Corina continues. “Like it or not, you can’t get away from doing the work of regular cleaning. Disinfectants have better efficacy on a clean surface.”

Corina listed some of the things you should look for in a disinfectant: “It needs to be fast-acting, easy to use, and water-soluble. It should work on a wide variety of microbes and on multiple surfaces. Ideally, the disinfectant you choose should also be an environmentally-friendly cleaner, and be nontoxic, shelf-stable, and economical to use.” 

Corina emphasizes that no matter what disinfectant you choose, you will not get the results you desire if you do not follow the directions. 

She also shared some common disinfecting pitfalls: “Eyeballing the ratio when you are mixing the solution. That’s never a good idea. Follow the label instructions and measure everything accurately.

“Not leaving the product on the surface long enough—that’s a big one. When using disinfectants, contact time is key. Get in the habit of cleaning and wiping dry first, then applying wet disinfectant and leaving it on for the time recommended in the directions.

“Using old products. Most disinfectants have a shelf life. Store them according to the manufacturer’s instructions and dispose of them when expired.

“Mixing cleaning chemicals. That can be super dangerous! Even if you don’t kill yourself, mixing two chemicals might render each other ineffective,” she warns.

Corina is the co-owner of the Laundromutt Grooming and Daycare in Buffalo, New York. I asked her about the sanitation procedures she follows at her own business…

“We place mixed spray bottles of [disinfectant] at each grooming and drying station, and at reception,” says Corina. “We also use it to spot-clean floors throughout the day and it can be used to clean up urine.

“At the end of the day, we use bleach diluted 1:10. We mix it as needed and use it on surfaces that have already been cleaned. We never mix bleach with any other product. Once applied, we allow at least 10 minutes of surface contact time. We dump any unused mixture after 24 hours. Weekly, we use [a stronger disinfectant] as a deep-clean step on all non-metal surfaces,” she shares. 

“Be a label reader,” Corina continues. “Whatever disinfectants you choose for your salon, I recommend using veterinary-grade products over household-grade. They are typically a higher concentration and will be able to kill more pathogens.”

She urges every business to create and follow sanitation procedures for who does the cleaning, what is to be cleaned and which disinfectant to use. Train yourself and your staff on how to correctly use it, then set up quality control measures to make sure everyone is disinfecting properly.

In addition to chemicals, heat, UV light and dry air are the enemies of microbes. The heat produced by a steam mop is an efficient and easy way to disinfect your floors. And hot-cup sanitizers are a quick way to sterilize metal hand tools between pets. 

Ultra Violet (UV) light is a great way to destroy germs on multiple surfaces. You can get hand-held light sticks, table-top sanitizing cabinets or larger units that can disinfect an entire room. 

Microbes flourish in damp places. So running a dehumidifier will reduce the moisture content of the air which results in less droplet transmission. 

Groomers are eagerly attending the seminars on salon sanitation that Ms. Stammworthy has been presenting online and at grooming shows. Her industry-specific information helps groomers keep abreast of the products, procedures, and application techniques for effective cleaning and disinfecting.

“One of the most-asked questions I get is, ‘How do I clean my tools?’” Corina says. “Groomers have so many different materials that we have to clean and disinfect, it can be hard to know what to use. Something that works on one tool won’t necessarily be the right kind of chemical for another.

“For example, with shears and blades, it can be tough to pick a product that you know will work and not damage the actual material. My preferred method is to first clean them in an ultrasonic cleaner, and follow that by putting them in a UV sanitizer oven,” she shares.

Corina strongly advises that some of the procedures we followed during the pandemic should remain a part of your daily routine. One of these is staying home if you are sick…

“Groomers are notorious for having a ‘work-till-you-drop’ ethic,” Corina states. “You’ve got to be considerate of your co-workers and clients, and don’t go to work if you are sick.

“Handwashing is one of the best and easiest things you can do to prevent disease transmission. A thorough handwashing between pets and using hand sanitizer between each customer should be standard business practice for everyone.

“An occupational hazard of grooming is inhaling hair, dust, dander, and who knows what else, when you are drying dogs or dremmeling nails,” Corina continues. “Mask wearing became the norm for most groomers and was required by many states and municipalities. That’s something that you should definitely continue when performing these tasks.”

COVID-19 has reinforced the necessity to effectively clean and disinfect your salon, and to protect the health of everyone in your organization. And those tasks are now easier for you, thanks to the comprehensive, up-to-the-minute information provided by industry experts like Corina Stammworthy. ✂️

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Kathy Hosler

Kathy Hosler opened her shop in 1971 when she was just nineteen years old. She has built a terrific business and is still actively grooming today. Kathy is also a feature writer for Groomer To Groomer and Pet Boarding & Daycare Magazines, and has been nominated twice for the Barkleigh Honors Journalist of the Year Award as well as a Cardinal Crystal Achievement Award for Grooming Journalist.

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