April 16, 2020 Landlord Advice

Cleaning Apartment Buildings in the Age of Coronavirus

Apartment landlords and property managers are starting to reassess their cleaning protocols to ensure maximum health and safety for their renter communities in the Coronavirus era. Apartment managers and independent landlords are adapting with intensive cleaning methods required to guard apartment buildings and common areas against microbial intruders. That means implementing a whole array of cleaning products and processes that go beyond household bleach.  
 

What Are the First Steps to Disinfecting an Apartment Building? 

Identify all high-touch surfaces in the common areas of the apartment building. These include doorbells, door handles, door frames, mailboxes, desks, computers, light switches, elevator buttons, trash lids, laundry machines, vending machines, garage doors, etc. Basically, anything that gets touched frequently in common areas is a candidate for disinfecting. 

Surfaces need to be cleaned thoroughly before disinfecting. Use soap and water to clean any excess dirt or dust from surfaces before applying disinfectant. Use an appropriate cleaning solution on soft surfaces like upholstery and carpets. Also make sure that disinfectants have ample time to dry once they’re applied to surfaces. Disinfectants will be less effective if they’re wiped or washed off before they have time to adhere to surfaces.  

Plan accordingly: the best time for disinfecting common areas might be early in the morning or late at night when there will be less foot traffic in and out of the area. Many cleaning and disinfecting products can irritate the skin or lungs; make sure to ventilate properly by opening a window or doors while cleaning. Check the labels on all cleaning products for guidance. 
 

man spraying disinfectant from plastic bottle onto a smartphone case

What Cleaning Products Disinfect Apartment Buildings & Protect Against Coronavirus? 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using an EPA-approved disinfectant for high-touch surfaces. The entire list can be found on the EPA’s website, but most products sold commercially will contain a product number on the label if they meet the EPA’s standards.  

If there aren’t any commercial cleaning products available, a diluted bleach mixture or 70% alcohol solution are both reliable disinfectants. Remember to wear gloves, masks and eye protection while cleaning or disinfecting common areas or shared spaces. Discard the gloves after use. 
 

How Frequently Do Buildings Need to Clean Common Areas, Like the Entrance Lobby or Gym? 

The existing apartment cleaning schedule may need to be augmented in the early stages of the Coronavirus outbreak. This is especially true if regular cleanings were only scheduled weekly or more sporadically.  

Apartment managers should consider beefing up the cleaning rotation to once daily if they have the time and resources to do so safely. Protecting residents’ and workers’ safety is paramount in combating the pandemic. And, in case landlords were wondering, apartment cleaning falls underneath the "essential services" umbrella of Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker's Stay-At-Home order. Paragraph 9 of the order states that individuals may “leave their residence to provide any services or perform any work necessary to . . . operate [and] maintain . . . building management and maintenance." 

Landlords may need to balance the cleaning schedule, so they avoid overworking an already-exhausted cleaning staff. If this is too burdensome, then consider hiring outside help to do a thorough round of disinfecting. This may benefit landlords who don’t have all the cleaning products they would need to completely safeguard against viral infections.  
 

What Types of Professional Cleaning & Disinfecting Services Are in Chicago?
 

A wide range of professional cleaning companies are adding Coronavirus mitigation to their services. Some of these companies are the typical contractors that landlords and property management companies hired to clean their communities in the pre-Coronavirus era; others are higher octane, meaning they’re versed in cleaning up large and hazardous messes on a regular basis.  

Biohazard removal & remediation companies: these are specialists in cleaning up biohazard materials such as blood, bodily fluids and other biological contaminants, and they are quickly adding Coronavirus cleaning and disinfecting to their service offerings. These companies build their business on tackling the cleanup jobs that might make even the most enthusiastic cleaners retch. They carry a high degree of professionalism, sanitation and regulatory compliance in their approach to disinfecting homes. 

Professional cleaning & janitorial companies: these are the cleaning pros that multifamily real estate might rely on for most of their regular cleaning and janitorial needs. They’re quickly formulating responses to Coronavirus, however. These new protocols include ramping up their disinfecting approach. Many of these cleaning companies are adopting the fogging technique, which applies disinfectant in a cloud of electronically charged vapor that instantly adheres to hard surfaces, to more thoroughly disinfect apartment buildings. 

Disaster recovery & cleanup services: these companies work closely with insurance providers to provide cleanup after heavy construction or disasters such as fires, flooding and tornadoes.  
 

washing hands in a sink with soap and water

How Long Should Deep Cleaning Continue in Chicago Apartments? 

It looks like apartment managers should adopt at least some of the Coronavirus cleaning guidance from the CDC in apartment common areas for the foreseeable future. That doesn’t mean hiring professional cleaning crews to come in every week from now on, but it does likely mean that landlords should intensify cleaning efforts going forward. 

The question that DIY cleaners may ask is how they can effectively disinfect their own homes without calling in the pros. For starters, the effort and expertise involved with cleanup of the Coronavirus will probably exceed the skill set for most DIY dustbusters out there. But, as with all things apartment-related, there’s bound to be a spectrum of services that are a) available to renters in Chicago and b) within the budget of many renters and landlords.  

The most important advice we can offer is be safe! Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) while cleaning and wash hands thoroughly after entering the building. Contact local health officials at the Illinois Department of Public Health if you’re uncertain about proper cleaning methods.