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Thought Leaders: COVID Snake Oil Salesman

The term snake oil salesman come from the California gold rush when they would lie about the false cures that their “snake oil” could produce. With COVID, there are many new innovations taking place that are promising. So how do you sort the facts from fiction?

Many companies have entered the market to “fog” buildings. The premise is that COVID is everywhere and by fogging you can kill all of it. You’ll have to vacate your building, and no one can enter for 5 to 24 hours after the treatment.

The facts are that COVID is very fragile outside the human body. When aerosolized it can hang in the air for up to two hours, but usually less. This is not an airborne disease so fogging the air isn’t necessary.

COVID can live on paper and textiles up to 24 hours and on hard surfaces like your desk, door handles or restroom fixtures up to 72 hours. Fogging is subject to Newton’s law of gravity. The fog will settle on the tops of surfaces. Think of all the things you grab or touch that aren’t facing up. Fogging doesn’t reach those surfaces.

No disinfectant no matter how strong can penetrate dirt. The soiling can be as simple as body oil from your hands that forms a protective surface over the virus allowing it to live despite being fogged. It could be gross contamination like food smeared on a surface or the residue of hand soap on a restroom counter. The best practice is to clean first, then disinfect.

A better alternative is electrostatic spraying. In this process a disinfectant is electrically charged as it is sprayed as it reaches surfaces the positive charge of the spray is attracted to the negative charge of the surface. The positive charge causes the spray to wrap around and under the object creating 360-degree coverage.

But is electrostatic spraying even necessary? In some high use buildings this tool can be used in conjunction with a regular deep cleaning and disinfection process or to mitigate a COVID contamination when you have a positive case.

If the next COVID/snake oil salesperson is selling you fogging without manual cleaning first, just know that you’re not operating out of an abundance of caution. You’re wasting your money and leaving your building only partially protected if at all.

  • Do you clean before you spray?
  • Are you using an electrostatic sprayer? If not, how do you get the back and underside of objects?
  • Is your product EPA registered as effective against SARS COV-2? You can ask for the product manufacturer and name and look it up yourself.

If the answer to any of these questions is no, reach out to Total Facility Care and we can help you assess your cleaning and disinfection program and craft solutions that are right for your facility.


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