By Brian Miller
“How clean is my church?” It’s a thought that might not have been top of mind for many before the pandemic.
Now, however, it’s a critical question that deserves an accurate answer.
Church cleaning came under the microscope over the past year due to the spread of COVID-19 among congregants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the virus spreads mainly through respiratory droplets, which can typically travel up to six feet between people. Because COVID-19 travels so effectively in aerosol or droplet form, singing, chanting, and repeating prayers can increase the risk.
Even as more people become vaccinated, congregants will still expect leaders to help ensure that their safety by offering a clean environment. What is the answer, then? Religious spaces are designed to be dark about 75% of the week and bustling the rest of the time, yet it’s tough to sanitize the space when it’s vacant and expect that the cleanliness will last throughout the busy periods. A church can certainly become dirty again in an eight-hour period. Consequently, church cleaning during COVID-19 requires plans and processes to consistently clean all furnishings, floorings, and touchpoints — not only when the facility’s empty, but also when it’s filled with congregants.
Below are five church cleaning strategies that can discourage the spread of COVID-19 and offer congregants peace of mind:
- Choose an effective and safe disinfectant for surfaces.
Even though the most recent research shows the virus spreads mainly through respiratory droplets, there is still the chance droplets can land on surfaces and congregants could contract COVID-19 from touching a contaminated surface and then their mouth, nose, or eyes. This is a less common way for the virus to spread, but it does mean that disinfecting surfaces is still an important consideration for churches.
To do so, the CDC advises that you use an effective yet safe disinfectant product from the EPA List N, which includes disinfectants proven to be effective against COVID-19. Examine the product label to ensure that it can be used for both cleaning and disinfecting. If the label doesn’t specify that the product can also be used for cleaning, each surface you wish to disinfect should be thoroughly cleaned with soap or detergent before the disinfectant is applied.
- Map out a cleaning schedule for all building touchpoints.
Some touchpoints are obvious, such as the handles of the bathroom sink. Others are less apparent — a pew’s side railing or backrest, for instance. Church leaders and event planners should conduct a walk-through of all congregant spaces, including rooms used for smaller groups like choruses. They should identify touchpoints and then create a weekly chart of how often and when those items will be cleaned. It might be wise to consult with a local sanitization expert on both recommended frequencies and other options, such as post-treatment disinfectants, to ensure comprehensive compliance.
- Offer adequate hygiene supplies for visitors.
The adage “out of sight, out of mind” comes into play when it comes to remembering to stay clean and safe. Having hand sanitizer, masks, disinfecting wipes, and touchless garbage cans readily available throughout a facility encourages usage. Good places to put these items include doorways, entrances, exits, restrooms, and aisles. That way, no one can miss opportunities to be part of the solution.
- Encourage safety compliance with signage.
It’s easy for congregants to forget to maintain social distancing or keep their masks on. Appropriate signage can serve as an excellent reminder. For example, companies are manufacturing appealing and protective floor entry mats showing mask-wearing and social distancing reminders. The mats not only protect carpeted floors, but they also prompt readers to make wise choices. As an added branding benefit, many mats can be customized to include a special logo or message.
- Ask for help from true cleaning professionals who take their roles seriously.
Many so-called cleaning providers promise to come in, spray disinfecting products everywhere, and leave. However, they’re not always experts, and they’re not often focused on deep cleaning. Paying for deep cleaning handled by long-time, accredited professionals with a history of taking care of different types of surfaces is a smarter way to spend budgeted janitorial, building maintenance, or building safety dollars.
Religious facilities offer help, hope, and spiritual healing during times of crisis. However, congregants must feel safe and protected while using these spaces. Spending time upfront on developing new, thorough cleaning and sanitization protocols can help reduce worshippers’ risk of contracting COVID-19 and allow for safer congregations.
Brian Miller is an operational support specialist at milliCare Floor & Textile Care. In his role, he helps franchises become more efficient and productive in order to better serve their local markets.