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How to Avoid Cross-contamination in the Workplace

Cross-contamination is the transfer of harmful microorganisms, mostly viruses and bacteria, from one substance or location to another. Contrary to popular belief, preventing cross-contamination in the workplace doesn’t start with a commercial cleaning service. The first line of defense in preventing cross-contamination and the spread of germs is with your employees. Frequent hand washing, the use of hand sanitizers, and regularly wiping down high-touch surfaces and objects with disinfectant are all ways your staff can do their part in reducing the spread of germs that can make people sick. 

Research published in Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health found that handwashing alone kills bacteria, and reduces the risk of infection with two common viruses up to 77%. “The workplace is ranked as one of the unhealthiest places you’re likely to inhabit on a daily basis,” says Dr. Lisa Ackerley, a hygiene expert and visiting professor at the University of Salford. Her study revealed that the main cause of germs in work environments is poor personal hygiene, with nearly 50 percent of office workers responding to her survey admitting they don’t wash their hands after visiting the bathroom.

“The number of sick days taken by employees could be reduced significantly if businesses implemented a better cleaning routine and employees improved their personal hygiene,” says Ackerley. 

Lower the risk of getting sick and spreading germs  

There is no way to escape every germ every time, but you can definitely lower the chance that you will get sick and spread those germs to others by taking a few simple steps:

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. And do it often.
  • If you don’t have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth until you wash your hands.
  • Use a spare paper towel to grab the restroom door handle as you leave.

Your hands and the surfaces you touch are germ highways. Crumbs and spills encourage the growth of bacteria that can lead to stomach bugs, coughs, flu, and even food poisoning. Bacteria and viruses that people bring back from the bathroom multiply on hard work surfaces and can remain infectious for a few hours upwards to a few days.

Did you know that a typical office keyboard can carry up to 7,500 bacteria at any given time; viruses such as the flu can linger on unclean surfaces such as work desks or electronic equipment for 24 hours; 60% of absences from work illnesses are contracted from dirty equipment in the office such as e-coli, staph, and bacteria. With 65% of office workers sharing phones and computers, and with a whopping 25,127 germs per square inch found on just a telephone, employers need to take cross-contamination and the spread of  germs seriously.  

Germy hot spots in the workplace  

  • Phones become a hotbed of germs every time they are used. The handset is continuously in contact with the mouth or face, and your fingers are always pressing the buttons. Even if the phone’s speaker is used, there will still be some type of contact. Research varies on just how many germs are on the average phone, but a study at the University of Arizona found that mobile phones carry 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats.
  • Computer keyboards are incredibly germy due to the numerous nooks and crannies between the keys where microorganisms can hide. Regular wiping down your keyboard with disinfectant and not sharing it with others will help prevent the spread of microbes.
  • Buttons, knobs, and handles are frequently touched and harbor germs that easily get passed from person to person. Routinely wiping down door handles, buttons, and knobs with disinfectant can significantly reduce the number of germs that get spread throughout the workplace on a daily basis.
  • Workplace desks are more germ-ridden than you might think. According to Dr. Charles Gerba, known as the University of Arizona “germ guru “The average office desk harbors 10 million bacteria, 400 times more than the average toilet seat. 
  • Coffee pots are germ havens mostly due to the water reservoir and moist coffee grounds that sit in the basket. This produces both germs and mold spores, especially if grounds are left sitting overnight or longer. Coffee pots and coffee machines should be routinely cleaned and sanitized.
  • Bathrooms and germs go hand in hand. Everyone uses the facilities and microorganisms are easily spread by way of faucets, toilet seats, stall doors, paper towel dispensers, and other surfaces. Even bathroom mirrors can harbor microbes from toilet plume (an airborne dispersal of microscopic particles created by the flush of a toilet or urinal). Bathrooms need deep cleaning and disinfecting on a regular basis, and routine cleaning daily in a busy workplace.

It may not be practical to wipe down every surface you touch, but washing your hands and using hand sanitizer can help kill the germs you pick up during your workday.

How employers can help eliminate cross-contamination and Workplace Illnesses

If you are an employer, follow these measures to help eliminate cross-contamination and the spread of pathogens in your facility:

  • Invest in designing an office space that embraces collaboration technology and remote work. Employees working from home can help reduce the chances of cross-infection among employees.
  • Provide personal phones, tablets, and laptops to your employees. Giving every employee their own devices will help them avoid sharing high-touch keyboards, computers, or phones, reducing the spread of germs.
  • Keep sanitizer in the reception area, shared spaces, and common areas  of your facility
  • Use signage to encourage employees to frequently wash their hands and/or use hand sanitizer when soap and water is unavailable
  • Encourage employees to wear a face mask
  • Encourage employees to maintain a 6-foot distance from others
  • If any of your staff has symptoms of illness, encourage them to stay at home 
  • Make sure sick employees don’t come back to the workplace until they are free of symptoms for at least 24 hours 

Routine cleaning and disinfecting is critical   

Most facilities need deep cleaning and disinfecting performed at least once a week. Some need it more often due to a higher chance of cross-contamination such as healthcare environments or the food industry. In healthcare settings, the spread of infections can occur between people, pieces of equipment, or within the body.

These infections can cause many complications. Untreated infections can lead to diarrhea, sepsis, pneumonia, meningitis, dehydration, multisystem organ failure, and death. Medical facilities must ensure that their staff follows proper hygiene protocols, along with equipment safety and a clean environment. 

In the food industry, cross-contamination can occur during any one of the four main food preparation stages, including production, processing, preparation, and distribution. Often, cross-contamination occurs between raw foods and ready-to-eat products and can lead to food poisoning. The World Health Organization (WHO) tracks millions of annual foodborne illnesses across the world.

According to WHO, nearly one in ten people in the world (an estimated 600 million people) fall ill annually and 420,000 die after eating food contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemical substances. Since cross-contamination can occur anywhere during the production chain, consumer protection laws demand that producers keep their facilities clean and that proper employee hygiene protocols (including frequent handwashing) are strictly followed.

Hiring a reputable commercial cleaning and janitorial company 

Cleaning multiple areas with the same supplies and equipment is one of the leading causes of cross-contamination in commercial facilities. Business owners and facility managers can help prevent cross-contamination and the spread of harmful microorganisms by hiring an experienced commercial cleaning and janitorial company that knows what they are doing. 

While some cleaning companies may be more proactive when it comes to separating their equipment and supplies while cleaning, they may fail to store them separately. It’s critical that restroom cleaning supplies, for example, be stored separately from general cleaning supplies and equipment.

Why your facility needs Cleanstart

At Cleanstart, our cleaning team is trained in proper cleaning and disinfecting procedures and understands how to prevent cross-contamination while cleaning. We use the right cleaning agents for the job at hand, EPA-registered disinfectants with a broad spectrum kill-claim, clean microfiber cloths (a different cloth for each area), and electrostatic spray technology to give your facility the highest level of clean and disinfection possible.

As recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) our cleaners give special attention to high-touch surfaces such as countertops, desks, phones, keyboards, doorknobs, handles, levers, buttons, equipment, machinery and other frequently touched surfaces by multiple people. 

We provide rapid response to businesses looking to achieve an enhanced level of hygiene and safety. By taking extra precautions today, you can reduce cross-contamination and the spread of pathogens in your facility, including viruses like SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Our commercial facility cleaning and disinfecting services include hand wiping and/or the use of an electrostatic sprayer to apply an EPA-registered disinfectant used to kill 99% of viruses (including the SARS-CoV-2). Cleanstart has been in the commercial cleaning and janitorial business for over 28 years. We have also been on the front lines combating the spread of COVID-19 since the beginning of the outbreak in early 2020 (See Time Magazine video featuring Cleanstart on the front lines).

We are able to provide fast, efficient, and effective cleaning and disinfection services and will customize a cleaning plan tailored to your needs and schedule. Daily, weekly and monthly cleanings are available as well as one-time emergency cleaning and disinfection visits.

Our Customer service guarantee

At Cleanstart, we stand behind our work and offer a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee. If for whatever reason our 5-star quality cleaning standard is not met, we will make it right by correcting the issue within one business day and at no additional expense to you. Our combination of proven processes, high standards, and uncompromising customer service take commercial cleaning and janitorial services to the next level.

✓ Over 28 years of experience in the cleaning and janitorial industry
✓ Thoroughly trained and vetted cleaning professionals
✓ Commitment to the highest quality clean
✓ Local, licensed, insured, & bonded service
✓ 24/7 cleaning options & support
✓ Customized cleaning solutions
✓ One-time and recurring professional cleaning visits
✓ 100% satisfaction guarantee
✓ OSHA, HIPAA, EPA, CDC, AORN compliant
✓  A+ BBB-rating

For more information about our high-quality commercial cleaning and janitorial services, please give Cleanstart a call today at (253) 921-2593 or request a free online cleaning estimate now!    


Cleanstart services the following locations in the Greater Puget Sound region:

AuburnBellevueBellinghamBonney LakeBremertonFactoriaFifeGig HarborKentLakewoodOlympiaPuyallup, RentonSeattle, TacomaTukwilaUniversity Place, King CountyKitsap County, Pierce County, and Thurston County.


5013 Pacific Hwy E unit 16 Fife, WA 98424 • Phone: 253.921.2593 • Email: Caleb @ thecleanstart.com