Hard Vs Soft Surfaces: The Importance of Disinfecting Soft Surfaces

​In the world of industrial cleaning, the distinction between hard vs soft surfaces is crucial.

The importance of this differentiation has been underscored by recent health trends and challenges, such as post COVID-19 sanitation protocols, the spread of Norovirus and concerns over bird flu. Each of these issues highlights the necessity for tailored cleaning solutions that effectively address the unique characteristics of different surfaces. Proper cleaning and maintenance not only prevent the spread of pathogens but also ensure a healthier and safer environment for everyone. As we navigate these challenges, our commitment to innovative and effective world class best practices remains a top priority.

The Current Landscape

According to leading research from world health organizations, pathogens such as the Norovirus can survive on hard surfaces for up to two weeks, making their thorough cleaning critical in facilities like automotive manufacturers. Studies have shown that effective sanitization and disinfection cleaning protocols can significantly reduce the presence of pathogens on surfaces, improving safety and hygiene standards. For more information, visit CDC Guidelines on Cleaning and the CDC’s Cleaning, Disinfecting, and Ventilation Guidelines.

While hard surfaces are often the primary focus of cleaning and disinfection efforts, soft surfaces are just as important, if not more so, particularly in office and industrial settings. Soft surfaces, such as carpets, upholstery, and fabric-covered furniture, can harbor pathogens and allergens, potentially posing a greater risk if not properly disinfected. Understanding the differences between hard and soft surfaces, and the importance of disinfecting soft surfaces, is essential for maintaining a clean and healthy environment in industrial facilities and office spaces.

TEAM understands the nature of science-based cleaning to protect your facility and ensure a healthier tomorrow through precise surface cleaning and disinfection, tailored to each facility’s unique requirements.


Hard vs Soft Surfaces: What’s the Difference?

Hard Surfaces:

Hard surfaces include materials such as metal, glass, plastic, and wood. These surfaces are non-porous, meaning they do not absorb liquids or particles. Examples of hard surfaces in industrial facilities and office spaces include desks, countertops, floors, and machinery.

Cleaning and disinfection protocols are generally more effective on non-porous, hard surfaces. Disinfectants like sodium hypochlorite (bleach), hydrogen peroxide, and quaternary ammonium compounds can effectively eliminate pathogens on these surfaces due to the ease of applying a uniform layer of disinfectant and the lack of absorption. Because hard surfaces do not absorb liquids, they are relatively easy to clean and disinfect, making them a primary focus for cleaning efforts.

Soft Surfaces:

Soft surfaces, on the other hand, include materials such as fabric, upholstery, carpet, and curtains. Unlike hard surfaces, soft surfaces are porous, meaning they can absorb liquids and particles. This porous nature makes soft surfaces more challenging to clean and disinfect effectively.

In industrial facilities and office spaces, soft surfaces can harbor bacteria, viruses, allergens, and other harmful particles if not properly cleaned and disinfected. Common soft surfaces in these environments include office chairs, sofas, carpets, and curtains. Methods such as laundering with hot water and detergents, or using steam cleaning, are recommended to reduce microbial load on fabrics


Why Decarbonization Matters

Climate change poses significant economic risks, including decreasing resource availability, rising raw material prices, and increasing costs for doing business in regions prone to severe weather or natural disasters.
In 2022, the industrial sector accounted for 30% of total US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including indirect emissions from electricity end-use. Carbon dioxide (CO2) constitutes over 90% of both direct and indirect GHG emissions from industrial processes.

Comparative Science-Based Facts for Cleaning Hard vs. Soft Surfaces in Manufacturing Facilities


Hard Surfaces: Pathogens such as Norovirus and SARS-CoV-2 can survive on hard surfaces like metal, plastic, and glass for several days to weeks.

Soft Surfaces: Pathogens generally have shorter survival times on soft surfaces like fabrics and upholstery. SARS-CoV-2, for example, is less stable on porous surfaces such as cloth, where it tends to be less viable after a few hours to one day.


The Importance of Disinfecting Soft Surfaces

While hard surfaces may be more visible and easier to clean, neglecting soft surfaces can lead to the proliferation of bacteria and viruses, posing health risks to employees and visitors. Here are some reasons why disinfecting soft surfaces is essential in offices and industrial spaces:

1. Pathogen Transmission:
Soft surfaces can harbour bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens for extended periods, increasing the risk of transmission to individuals who come into contact with these surfaces. Pathogens can survive on soft surfaces for hours, days, or even weeks, depending on environmental conditions.
Regular disinfection of soft surfaces is essential for reducing the risk of pathogen transmission and maintaining a clean and healthy environment in offices and industrial facilities.

2. Allergen Control:
Soft surfaces can also hold allergens such as dust, pollen, and pet dander. These allergens can exacerbate respiratory issues and allergies, leading to discomfort and reduced productivity among employees.
Regular cleaning and disinfection of soft surfaces can help control allergens, creating a healthier indoor environment for employees and visitors.

3. Odor Control:
Soft surfaces can trap odors from spills, food, beverages, and other sources. Over time, these odors can become unpleasant and contribute to a negative indoor environment.
Disinfecting soft surfaces can help remove odor-causing bacteria and particles, improving indoor air quality and creating a more pleasant workspace for employees.

4. Long-Term Durability:
Regular cleaning and disinfection can help extend the life of soft surfaces by removing dirt, stains, and harmful particles that can cause premature wear and tear. By maintaining soft surfaces properly, industrial facilities and offices can save money on replacement costs and ensure a clean and professional environment for employees and visitors.


Best Practices for Disinfecting Soft Surfaces

Disinfecting soft surfaces requires a different approach than cleaning hard surfaces. Here are some best practices for disinfecting soft surfaces in offices and industrial spaces:

1. Choose the Right Disinfectant
Select a disinfectant that is safe and effective for use on soft surfaces. Look for disinfectants that are specifically formulated for use on fabric, upholstery, carpet, and other soft surfaces. If your facility is moving towards more sustainable practices, then partnering with a company like TEAM can help you reach your goals. The WHO, CDC and EPA provide guidance on disinfectants effective against COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 and other pathogens.

2. Follow Manufacturer Guidelines
Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for the disinfectant, including dilution ratios, application methods, and contact times. Proper application is essential for effectively killing bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.

3. Test in an Inconspicuous Area
Before applying the disinfectant to the entire soft surface, test it in an inconspicuous area to ensure compatibility and prevent damage.

5. Allow Sufficient Contact Time
Allow the disinfectant to remain on the surface for the recommended contact time to ensure effective disinfection. Contact time can vary depending on the disinfectant and the type of pathogen being targeted.

6. Dry Completely
Allow the soft surface to dry completely before allowing contact with employees or visitors. Proper drying helps prevent the growth of mold and mildew and ensures the effectiveness of the disinfection process.


Partnering with a Sustainable Industrial Cleaning Company

Elevating your facility’s cleaning practices means prioritizing both employee health and sustainability. Partner with a company that embodies sustainability as a core value. At TEAM, we believe in fostering a greener workforce that is empowered to innovate. For us, embracing sustainability leads to better-managed facilities, a cleaner environment, and a healthier community. Our comprehensive approach to sustainability through green industrial cleaning services is unparalleled.

Effectiveness of Green Cleaning Methods

Surface Type: The efficacy of green cleaning methods varies between hard and soft surfaces. Hard, non-porous surfaces are generally easier to disinfect compared to soft, porous ones.

Pathogen Type: Different pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi, respond differently to green cleaning agents. It’s crucial to understand the specific threats in your environment.

Concentration and Contact Time: Natural disinfectants must be used at the correct concentrations and given sufficient contact time to work effectively. For example, hydrogen peroxide is effective at 3-6% concentration with adequate exposure time.

Environmental Impact: Green cleaning methods aim to minimize environmental harm by reducing chemical runoff, using biodegradable ingredients, and minimizing ecological footprints.

By recognizing the differences between hard and soft surfaces and implementing effective and green disinfection practices for soft surfaces, industrial facilities and offices can ensure a clean and healthy environment. Regular cleaning and disinfection of soft surfaces are vital for reducing pathogen transmission, controlling allergens, eliminating odors, and maintaining long-term durability.