It is said that all the elevators in the world put together carry the equivalent of the Earth’s population every three days. In fact, the average person takes four elevator rides everyday. Come to think of it, elevators have eased our lives in the era of high-rise buildings. Be it hospitals, shopping malls, hotels, offices or residential buildings, they are and will continue to be an indispensable part of our lifestyle.
While the pros of using an elevator are many, there quite a few cons too. One might think of what harm a seemingly simple elevator can possibly bring. The answer lies in two terms - germ and bacterial transmission. The constant flow of people inside and outside elevators results in several surfaces being touched, different germs being transmitted and consistent exchange of microorganisms. This becomes even more crucial in places like airports and hospitals where the germs are either foreign or too large in number.
The research - comparing elevator buttons and toilet seats
Generally when we think of maximum bacterial and germ transmission, we confine our imagination to a public washroom. However, a recent study done for Open Medicine revealed that elevators are the new breeding ground for germs. This interesting research was undertaken in three large urban teaching hospitals in Toronto, Canada, where 120 elevator buttons and 96 toilet surfaces were compared. For the elevators, samples were extracted from two interior buttons (buttons for the ground floor and one randomly chosen upper-level floor) and two exterior buttons. In a similar manner, swabs were taken from the exterior and interior handles of the entry door, the privacy latch, and the toilet flusher. The study revealed that the prevalence of colonization of elevator buttons was 61%. Elevator buttons had a higher prevalence of colonization than toilet surfaces, which stood at 43%.
The fact that elevators are more contaminated by germs than a public washroom caught everyone by surprise because while people wash their hands upon using the former, nobody thinks of cleaning their hands after touching anything inside an elevator! We, at Clean Middle East, spoke to three facilities and discussed their elevator hygiene practices. With each facility being different, it's interesting to see the focus areas of each.
Elevator cleaning at Sea Containers, London
Sea Containers, London, is a sophisticated hotel with approximately 359 guestrooms which blend in well with the area’s eclectic vibe. Here’s how they clean their elevators:
• Guest/staff elevator spring cleaned on a daily basis during late night because of volume of use.
• Elevator door channel cleaned by public area team during late night or very early in the morning to avoid high usage. Take the elevator “Out Of Service” and elevator door should stay open until finished cleaning.
• Public area attendant follow the specific method to clean each different surface of elevator, like chrome, marble, stainless steel and mirror.
• During whole day PA attendant wiped elevator buttons, handrails and any smudge on the wall or elevator door with use of an antibacterial damp duster.
• Report any maintenance issue if needed, use wet floor sign in case of any spillage or wet elevator floor to avoid any accident.
• Mirror should be stain free, chrome surface polished and dust free and marble floor spotlessly clean.
LEARNINGS FROM MEDCARE HOSPITAL
A hospital has to take special care that there is no transmission of germs or any sort of cross contamination - that includes elevators. At Medcare Hospital, a separate elevator is dedicated for the general public and for the transfer of patients and for biomedical waste. Proper cleaning and disinfection is performed as per the hospital policy with the approved disinfectant after each episode of biomedical waste transfer.
The hospital has strict policies and procedures in place for the proper cleaning and disinfection of the elevator after the transfer of a patient with the communicable diseases and has also explored Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) monitoring system in order to detect the amount of organic matter that remains after cleaning environmental surfaces. The Medcare Hospital authorities ensure that elevators are cleaned twice a day with approved hospital disinfectant.
Cleaning and disinfection is also performed other than the regular schedule if the elevators are visibly soiled or contaminated. Since the elevators button comes in high touch areas frequently cleaning is performed to avoid crosscontamination. An alcohol hand rub is also placed in-between the hospital elevators to minimize hand contamination.
“A variety of inanimate objects including hospital elevators can harbor microorganisms and these organisms can persist on the objects for the days due to lack of proper cleaning and disinfection protocols. The colonization of the elevator button creates the potential of microbial transmission due to repeated contact by diverse individual and most likely to colonized with the bacteria typical of skin commensal organisms.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is effective in removing the surface bacteria. At Medcare strategic placement of alcohol hand rubs outside the elevators helped us to attenuate the risk of potential transmission of microorganisms. Moreover frequent cleaning and disinfection protocols for high touch areas including the elevator button are in place,” comments Shaheena Surani and Dr. Neesha Nair from Medcare Hospital.
At Medcare, the cleaning of the elevators is performed twice in a shift with quaternary ammonia compounds. All the service elevators are cleaned with broad-spectrum high-level disinfectants after transfer of the waste. All the disinfectants used in the hospital are approved by hospital infection control and hospital safety and risk committee. The safety data sheet is reviewed in detail and necessary safety actions are considered prior to usage of any disinfectant.
Looking forward, both Shaheena and Dr. Neesha believe that automatic UV devices can be installed inside the elevator to reduce the contamination and prevent cross infection. It can continuously kill germs on elevator buttons in a convenient manner while providing good germicidal effect. A germicidal device for the elevator buttons can also be installed which includes a casing and a lamp tube which is capable of emitting germicidal light.
LEARNINGS FROM PARK HYATT
Like all areas of the hotel, it is important to keep the elevators clean. Since it is away from direct view, many hotels and even other facilities do not focus much on it.
Bhawani Bhargava, The Director of Housekeeping at Park Hyatt Hotels emphasises the importance of having hygienic elevators, “At Park Hyatt Hotels, we have a streamlined process of elevator cleaning. During the day, lobby attendants keep checking the elevators every hour. They clean and disinfect the surface and mop the elevator floor. For this, we use Stride Citrus Neutral Cleaner, a product of Diversey. The chemical is Green Sealed and safe for the user and environment as well. We occasionally use disinfecting wipes too, which we try to minimize as it goes to landfill and can be harmful environmentally. We also vacuum the elevator floor and door threshold grooves every night.”
Apart from these regular procedures, a thorough deep cleaning is carried out every week which includes dusting of walls and polishing of all surfaces. Bhawani believes that both elevators and public washrooms are strong contenders for most unhygienic public place. “If one does not have proper hand hygiene after using the toilets, the germs are carried to the elevators. Hence there is a high risk of cross contamination,” she comments. This coupled with the interesting Canadian research which reveals that elevator buttons harbour more germs than a public washroom makes her want to have alcohol based hand sanitizers installed at both places as people prefer to use hand sanitizers on the go.
Bhawani thinks that hand sanitizers cannot replace traditional hand hygiene technique of washing correctly with soap and water but they may reduce the spread of germs significantly. She would also like to explore NanoSeptic Continuously Self-Cleaning Surfaces, which claim to be very effective and safe to be used in high traffic areas (such as elevators).
LEARNINGS FROM DALMA MALL, ABU DHABI
Being one of the most popular malls in a city like Abu Dhabi also means that the housekeeping staff of Dalma Mall need to be on their toes to ensure a pleasant experience to their customers. Interestingly, Dalma Mall pays a lot of attention to its elevator hygiene, a concept, which remains forgotten by many others.
“Thousands of customers enter the mall every day, and elevators play a vital role in their quick and safe navigation. Maintaining the necessary level of hygiene in the mall is a primary concern of ours, including the hygienic nature of the elevators. Given the high volume of people using the mall this is a constant task as the buttons, wall panels, and other parts of the elevator play home to germs,” says Eng. Mohammed Rashid Al Hilaly, Sr.Operations Manager, Dalma Mall.
Dalma Mall follows a special cleaning method and schedule for the elevators. They avoid the hours in which there is more movement of people. Thus, the ideal is to perform the major cleaning from 01:00 a.m. to 06:00 a.m. However the minor cleaning is carried out on an hourly basis. Elevator cleanliness at Dalma Mall includes daily deep cleaning and hourly spot cleaning with antibacterial solutions. These tasks strictly follow a set SOP.
“We believe the elevator buttons are dirtier in commercial areas like shopping malls as the level of bacteria on elevator buttons averaged 313 colony forming units (CFUs) per square centimetre, compared to 8 CFUs on the average public toilet seat, though hospital elevators may be more prone to spreading germs as well,” he adds.
“In addition to this, we’re constantly searching for new cleaning technologies we can adopt. However, an automated solution for elevator cleaning is yet to be invented, though cleaning robots could be a future solution. We expect to see robot cleaning staff introduced in various sectors in the near future,” concludes Eng. Mohammed Rashid Al Hilaly. To conclude, it is high time that malls, hospitals, residential buildings, hotels and airports focus on the often neglected area - the elevator.
5 THINGS TO CLEAN INSIDE AN ELEVATOR
The elevator rails often go camouflaged and unnoticed. Use a powerful vacuum cleaner to suck away all their embedded dirt!
The area between the door and the floor, popularly known as pit, is perhaps the most forgotten element of an elevator. To attain a squeaky clean elevator, don’t forget the pits!
Walls and door
Mostly, the walls and the door of an elevator are made of stainless steel, so it is ideal to use a microfiber cloth, especially soaked with a little vinegar or a specific solution meant for steel.
Floors and mirrors
Most of the dirt is exposed at the floors and mirrors of an elevator. For floors, suitable products should be applied and, window cleaning techniques should be used for mirrors.
Lights and buttons
A soft and damp cloth is used to clean the lights and buttons. Elevator buttons should be cleaned with a degreaser that does not have caustic soda.