June 4, 2020

So You Know: Decontamination Terminology and Procedures Related to COVID-19

Over the past few weeks we’ve received many questions regarding COVID-19 and people wanting clarification around different methods of cleaning and decontamination and the requirements for businesses reopening.

One thing for sure is that the amount of information out there can definitely be overwhelming. It is important to understand terminology differences and then have a plan to move your business forward as it transitions into the new normal. Not only is it critical to protect employees but also to foster peace of mind for employees, your customers, vendors and anyone else who may enter your workplace.

Let’s cover off a few definitions and an explanation around general procedures used to assist you in making critical planning decisions based on the realities of your particular working environment.


Cleaning – Removes loose soils, preparing the surface or object to be decontaminated.
Decontamination – Kills germs on the cleaned surface, preventing them from spreading. If a surface is not cleaned first, the germs can hide under soils or in oil droplets, thus reducing the efficacy of the disinfectant being applied.

What type of material is the surface or object that you want to clean or decontaminate?

  • Hard and non-porous materials like glass, metal or plastic. Consult Health Canada’s and EPA’s list of disinfectants for use against COVID-19 specifically for use on hard, non-porous surfaces. Health Canada – Click here. EPA – Click here.
  • Soft and porous materials like carpet, rugs or material in seating areas. Thoroughly clean or launder materials. Consider removing soft and porous materials in high traffic areas. Apply disinfectant to materials if you can obtain the right product to do so.

It is also important to note what Fogging / Misting is:

Fogging / Misting – An application of an aerosolized chemical disinfectant via a fogging machine to reduce the numbers of airborne micro-organisms. It also applies disinfectant to surfaces that may be difficult to reach.

  • We often see the fogging/misting technique being implemented alone to “rid” of COVID-19. It should be known that this approach should actually be used in tandem with a wipe-method in order to ensure that the disinfectant kills the germs and not just sit on soil or oil droplets.
  • It is important to understand that fogging alone is not proven to rid of COVID-19 effectively.
  • Most chemicals have a required dwell time of between 30 seconds to 10 minutes to effectively kill the germs they’re intended to. Often misting is just applied as a thin coating and it may in fact evaporate too quickly, before it has even had a chance to disinfect the surface that it has been placed on.

Looking for further guidance on cleaning and applying disinfectant in public spaces or your own workplaces, businesses, schools and homes? Below is a 3-step plan to help keep you on track:


  • Determine WHAT needs to be cleaned. Areas unoccupied for 7 or more days need only routine cleaning. Maintain existing cleaning practices for outdoor areas.
  • Determine HOW areas will be cleaned. Consider the type of surface and how often the surface is touched. Prioritize frequently touched surfaces.
  • Consider the RESOURCES and equipment needed. Keep in mind the availability of cleaning products and personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate for cleaners and disinfectants by reviewing the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for the product(s) you intend to use.


  • CLEAN visibly dirty surfaces with soap and water prior to applying disinfectant.
  • Use the APPROPRIATE CLEANING OR DISINFECTANT PRODUCT. Use an EPA-approved disinfectant against COVID-19, and read the label to make sure it meets your needs. Health Canada – Click here. EPA – Click here.
  • Always FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS on the label. The label will include safety information and application instructions. Keep disinfectants out of the reach of children.


  • CONTINUE routine cleaning. Revise your plan based upon appropriate disinfectant and PPE availability. Apply disinfectant to frequently touched surfaces at least daily.
  • Maintain SAFE PRACTICES such as frequent handwashing, using cloth face coverings, and staying home if you are sick.
  • Continue practices that REDUCE THE POTENTIAL FOR EXPOSURE. Maintain physical distancing, staying six feet away from others. Avoid sharing common spaces and frequently touched objects.

As always, follow the updated guidance as provided by your federal and provincial government advisory bodies. Source of the above 3-step plan and decision tree can be found here.

On Side’s Decontamination Procedure

On Side Restoration has offered infectious control cleaning and decontamination services for over 40 years and this is not new to us. With COVID-19, On Side technicians carefully execute approved processes to efficiently rid of COVID-19. We implement grid-methods for cleaning and decontamination that allows for systematic, thorough elimination of germs. Given our experience and level of expertise in this arena, we are able to move fast and get any organization back feeling safe and secure, ready for operation.

If you would like any further clarification on anything you have run in to, let us know. Should you require decontamination as part of your reopening plan (prior to any staff/customers re-occupying a space), our staff can provide a budget for the initial deep cleaning and ongoing deep cleaning. We remain fully staffed locally and nationally for not only COVID but for property restoration requirements as well. Call or email us today for more details at 1-888-663-6604 or contactus@onside.ca

About the Author

Justin McConville, CRSP, Leader, Health, Safety & Environmental, On Side Restoration Services. Justin holds professional certifications as a Canadian Registered Safety Professional (CRSP). He has worked for On Side Restoration for the past 16 years, where he is responsible for the health and safety of over 1,300 On Side employees across Canada as well as the company’s hazardous materials divisions. Justin has been instrumental in the development of various policies and procedures to ensure continued compliance with multi-provincial regulatory requirements. Justin is an active member on the BCCSA Technical Advisory Committee which is focused on the development of industry safety standards and training. He is also a contributing member and subject matter expert on various committees including the WorkSafeBC/BCCSA: Prime contractor Committee, Asbestos Task Force Committee and Hazardous Materials Exposure Control Plan Committee. He was awarded the 2018 Safety & Health Week Champion Award by the BC Construction Safety Alliance for his dedication to and contribution in the development of industry safety resources.