Canada’s car washes know a thing or two about making vehicles shine and look their best. With the COVID-19 challenge, this expertise may be called upon to not only remove grit and grime but get cars and trucks clean on a microbial level as well. Recently we had an opportunity to discuss these needs with ZEP Vehicle Care’s Director of R&D, Dr. Andrew Landa a medical microbiologist who spearheads the science behind the clean.
OCTANE: How are you seeing car wash operators step up to help with COVID-19?
Dr. Landa: We are seeing that operators are taking the safety of their staff very seriously. It can be a huge challenge to have people sanitizing car interiors. However, this must be done for police, first responders, taxi’s and other essential services as well as rental cars. UBER has reached out to us for advice and assistance with products such as hand sanitizers and other disinfectants.
At the gas station and car wash, bathrooms must be kept spotless and monitored well beyond what is done on a usual basis. Pay Stations and other touchpoints must be cleaned after each use and care should be taken to clean and sanitize those touchpoints while not possibly damaging the electronic components.
There is fear among businesses and staff. Organizations such as ours can help with knowledge about techniques and products. We can discuss the type of cleaning necessary, how to sanitize and show the steps. For example, just using a sanitizing spray on a dirty surface is not effective. A surface must first be cleaned of surface grime and then disinfected to achieve the desired results.
OCTANE: Do you have advice on best practises for car wash sites in this current crisis?
Dr. Landa: Automatic wash sites offer a no interaction service and are the safest option for exterior cleaning. Express exterior wash sites may be a bit more interactive with customers often having to choose their wash options. Here sites could offer clean styluses (a small pen-shaped instrument where the tip can be detected on a touchscreen. It is used to draw, or make selections by tapping, on devices such as mobile phones, ATMs, and car wash selectors) to customers to use on the pushbuttons. These devices can be placed in a small container of disinfectant for customers who can use them in place of fingers to push selections. The best case is for customers to utilize digital apps on mobile devices that allow choice and take payments. Interior detailing services are very quiet right now, but with the right protective equipment and proper knowledge, operators can offer their special skills to clean vehicles belonging to essential services.
OCTANE: What are the products that are useful in the fight against COVID-19?
Dr. Landa: We have a wide range of products such as Spirit II, a hospital-grade germicidal detergent and Whirl Away aerosol germicidal surface cleaner that are useful in this challenge. However, we ask people to look to organizations such as the CDC and EPA in the US and Health Canada in Canada for guidelines. It is important to read and follow all label instructions and guidelines for these products to be fully effective. Most products need to be applied and then allowed to rest on surfaces for several minutes to do the job. First, clean for debris and general grime and then apply a germicide. It is the same for hands. However, hands can have other challenges caused by frequent washing and for this reason, we advise health care professionals as well at the general public to utilize lotions to keep the skin smooth and in better shape to hold off germs and viruses.
OCTANE: What other advice do you have for operators?
Dr. Landa: First and foremost would be to wash your hands. As well, post guidelines where not just staff can see them, but let customers see you are taking this challenge very seriously and let customers know you are cleaning and sanitizing all touchpoints constantly. Monitor your staff’s health and be prepared to take action immediately if a team member shows signs of illness. And, lastly, work with your chemical suppliers to get the right products to do the job.