Cleaning services see increased requests as COVID-19 concerns rise

By , Daily Memphian Updated: March 19, 2020 10:53 PM CT | Published: March 18, 2020 4:00 AM CT
<strong>ServiceMaster employee Nick Eddy disinfects his cubicle with bleach wipes at the ServiceMaster headquarters in Downtown Memphis on Tuesday, March 17. Many corporations are shifting to working remotely and others are ramping up their cleaning regimen due to COVID-19.</strong> (Jim Weber/Daily Memphian)

ServiceMaster employee Nick Eddy disinfects his cubicle with bleach wipes at the ServiceMaster headquarters in Downtown Memphis on Tuesday, March 17. Many corporations are shifting to working remotely and others are ramping up their cleaning regimen due to COVID-19. (Jim Weber/Daily Memphian)

Editor’s note: Due to the serious public health implications associated with COVID-19, The Daily Memphian is making our coronavirus coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed.

While the number of COVID-19 cases in Shelby County has remained low, local cleaning services are seeing an uptick in the number of requests.

ServiceMaster Company is seeing more calls for both precautionary measures and because a person who was potentially exposed entered a building.

Steve Zimmerman of ServiceMaster said COVID-19 is an “enveloped virus” on surfaces. 

“Viruses are not alive, so we don’t kill them,” he said. “We inactivate them.”

He said the category of envelope viruses is easier to remove than mold or fungus.

“They require a host, so envelope viruses are much easier,” he said, although he said they don’t have enough evidence to support how long the virus exists on surfaces.

“Most of our protocol is in place to stop any infections,” he said.

“The last several weeks, we have seen a dramatic increase in preventive care,” added Pete Duncanson, ServiceMaster Restore’s director of commercial operations.

Restore deals with biohazard cleaning and COVID-19 falls under that umbrella.

Schools, churches, chain restaurants and gas stations are among those asking for thorough cleaning services. Duncanson there is no change in products due to the coronavirus.

“The products we use are all Environmental Protection Agency-registered,” he said. “There is (not a product) specifically for COVID-19 because they can’t test products for that.”

<strong>ServiceMaster day porter Adrian Curry cleans and disinfects the cafeteria at the ServiceMaster headquarters in Downtown Memphis on Tuesday, March 17.</strong> (Jim Weber/Daily Memphian)

ServiceMaster day porter Adrian Curry cleans and disinfects the cafeteria at the ServiceMaster headquarters in Downtown Memphis on Tuesday, March 17. (Jim Weber/Daily Memphian)

The company is cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces.

Zimmerman said the company standard has always been to clean, disinfect and sanitize. Sometimes they can be done simultaneously, but if the soil level is great enough cleaning must be done first. 

Cleaning is “the visual removal of dirt and debris.” Disinfecting is “removing pathogens,” and sanitizing is bringing something back to a safe level as outlined by the Food and Drug Administration, said Zimmerman. Sanitizing is usually tied to food. While no changes have been made at this time, Zimmerman said slight adjustments may be made in coming days as there are so many unknowns.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention asks people wait 24 hours before entering a building if there is a suspected or confirmed case. Additionally, they must wear gowns and gloves when cleaning those buildings.

While some of the corporate office is working from home, those cleaning the buildings cannot and the company is communicating with its staff.

“Our customers are in time of need and we are happy to meet that for them,” Zimmerman said.

While some employees are working overtime, it is not more than normal and they have been able to meet the uptick in demand.

Zimmerman said the company is educating clients about measures they can take between service cleanings – social distancing, wiping down surfaces with sanitary products and hand hygiene.

“In my 35 years, I’ve experienced flooding, H1N1 SARS ... this one is more widely spread than any other disease,” Ducanson said, noting social media helps people be attuned to the situation.

Residential cleaning services are also seeing larger demand. Steve Evans, owner of Memphis Maids, said the dozen housekeepers on staff are seeing a slight increase in home requests.

“There are people wanting us to come a little more often and some new customers,” he said Wednesday.

Some current customers are elderly, quarantining themselves voluntarily in their home and do not want the housekeepers to come. However, it has not negatively impacted the eight-year-old business.

He said he has asked employees and residents to let the company know if they are feeling ill. He has asked customers reschedule if they begin to feel sick for the well-being of his staff.

“Our job is to eliminate germs and not spread them,” Evans said. “We are very conscious trying to be as sanitary as possible.”

He said he is encouraging paper towels for cleaning instead of clean cloths. His staff is encouraged to wear rubber gloves more frequently and he will provide masks if housekeepers want them.

“We are thoroughly cleaning the entire house,” he said, noting bleach is used to disinfect in kitchens and bathrooms.

“We are in the business of helping people keep their homes clean and not spreading germs.”

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Topics

ServiceMaster ServiceMaster Restore Memphis Maids cleaning coronavirus outbreak COVID-19
Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren is a lifelong resident of Shelby County and a graduate of the University of Memphis. She has worked for several local publications and covers the suburbs for The Daily Memphian.


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