Can fogging kill COVID-19?

We take a closer look at this increasingly popular technique for combatting the spread of coronavirus around your premises.

Man in white protective suit fogging a public bar area

Fogging has gradually gained traction, since the UK lockdown kicked in last March, as organisations battle to eradicate the potentially deadly COVID-19 coronavirus from their premises.

There have even been reports of world leaders erecting tunnels to disinfect visitors en route to meetings.

But does this practice work as a germ-busting method and, if so, is there a right and a wrong way to go about it?

Elliott’s Managing Director, Mark Elliott, explained that the answer to these questions is complicated.

“Our philosophy is to provide our customers with the full range of products that potentially meet their requirements and, where there is mixed scientific evidence as is the case with fogging machines and aerosols, point out the pros and cons so that they can make an informed decision.”

With this in mind, we felt now was a good time to take a closer look at fogging, the range of options available, what the science says, and – for organisations choosing to use it – where it fits into a rounded COVID-secure strategy.

So, does fogging work or doesn’t it?

COVID-19 is a particularly virulent virus which easily spreads in the droplets infected people produce and disperse when they cough, sneeze or even breathe. These droplets can be inhaled by others, infecting them, and can also settle on a range of surfaces, from door handles, entry pads and touch screens to furniture and computer equipment; where it is thought the virus can survive for days at a time. This can infect others when they touch the contaminated item and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth. While the latest news suggests a vaccine breakthrough could be just over the horizon, organisations including care homes, schools, colleges, hospitality venues and shops are under immense pressure to prove they can protect their customers, in order to stay open.

The first and most important step organisations need to take in order to combat COVID-19, is to rigorously clean floors, contact points and other surfaces with certified, antiviral disinfectant chemicals and, ideally, disposable equipment such as cloths and mopheads. To further support this, everyone entering and moving round a building – both staff and visitors – should be encouraged to handwash and/or sanitise regularly.

The use of foggers is increasing as both a back-up measure to ensure all areas within a setting are reached with the necessary chemicals, and as an emergency response in situations where deep cleaning is required in an area where someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, has been. It isn’t a new concept. For example, it has long been used in medical settings to prevent the spread of other illnesses like MRSA. However, given the scale of the risk surrounding COVID-19, organisations are increasingly turning to it to fill certain gaps in their hygiene provisions.

It’s important to note, though, that fogging is not an easier alternative to proper, enhanced manual cleaning, although it can complement the steps you are already taking.

How does fogging work?

Fogging involves using a specially-designed device or aerosol to spray a disinfectant mist into the air, to kill off any infection either in the air or on surfaces in a particular area. Once sprayed, the room must usually be sealed off for several hours to allow the solution to do its work.

Usually, fogging is carried out by specialist hygiene contractors wearing protective chemical suits. However, we can make effective, quicker, solutions available in aerosol form, via our innovative supplier Mirius, whose Hycolin range is ideal for any organisations that wish to take charge of the process themselves.

As well as areas of buildings, you might also want to consider using fogging to help periodically decontaminate equipment such as shared fleet cars, to protect against the spread of the coronavirus and other harmful bugs.

If you do decide to carry out your own fogging, it’s important to wear appropriate protective clothing and follow the product guidelines carefully, to avoid both being infected by the virus you are aiming to eradicate, or breathing in potentially-harmful chemicals. Some helpful advice for protecting yourself and your staff is contained further on in this blog.

Important points to note

  •  If your own employees are taking care of your fogging, you must ensure they wear full PPE accordingly to do so  (see the links below to sites containing helpful guidance on this)
  • Ensure you purchase your fogging sprays and equipment from a reputable and experienced provider, and that they conform to the relevant European standards
  • Use sparingly, when deep cleaning is required, and ensure that you have covered all bases first through traditional good hygiene practices
  • Bear in mind that, while fogging solutions are designed to protect most kinds of surfaces, like most disinfectants, they may damage certain coverings and equipment, such as stainless steel, electronics and some fabrics. Therefore, it is important to choose carefully, and to limit use to urgent circumstances only, or as a reassuring back-up option
  • It’s also important to keep any fogged areas sealed off for the designated period of time after using, to allow the solution time to take effect and ensure staff members aren’t inhaling potentially-harmful droplets
  • The scientific evidence for fogging’s effectiveness remains largely inconclusive and official bodies such as the Centres for Disease Control and World Health Organization do not recommend it as a primary method for combatting the spread of the coronavirus. Therefore, we advise that any organisations choosing to use it, do so as a secondary method of disinfection like those outlined above
  • The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) strongly advises against spraying people in any circumstances, due to the potential to cause harm, particularly for individuals who may be asthmatic or have other underlying health conditions, even where a product might be labelled as non-hazardous. Their specific advice for the use of fogs and sprays reads: “If you choose to use fog, mist or vapour treatments… as a way of cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, discuss your requirements with your manufacturers/suppliers… to help you decide if a product/system meets your needs. The treatment you use will depend on:
  1. The size of the area to be treated, its shape and how easily it can be sealed off if delivering an airborne product
  2. Whether there are hard or soft surfaces. Soft furnishings may act as a ‘sink’ for the airborne chemicals and emit them for some time after treatment (it may be possible to remove items such as sofas before treatment).”

The HSE’s website continues: “If using the fog, mist or vapour method, you will need to ensure the correct concentration of the active chemical is used. This means there is enough for it to work properly, but not so much as to leave a residue which may remain at unsafe levels for some time after treatment ends.

“There are different types of source disinfectants that can be applied as a fog, mist or vapour treatment. Some are liquid disinfectants used to create a fog, mist or vapour, such as hydrogen peroxide, others are generated from gases, for example ozone from air. Seek advice on what is appropriate to the environment that requires treatment.”

The HSE’s website contains a reminder that fogging chemicals are subject to strict Biocidal Products Regulations (BPR), and that chemical usage must reflect the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations.

As always, our dedicated Elliott’s team is always on-hand to offer you the best and most up-to-date advice, to ensure you operate within legal guidelines.

A reminder of our general, golden rules for COVID-security

  • Ensuring and enabling the highest standards of personal and workplace hygiene are the first steps in controlling the spread of both typical bugs like the norovirus or winter vomiting bug, which can also be debilitating and disruptive, and  COVID-19. This includes everything from encouraging staff and users to regularly wash their hands or sanitise using a 70 per cent-alcohol sanitiser, and ensuring they have sufficient facilities to do so
  • Then, you need to supply the kit for regular workstation and touchpoint cleaning, and implement a strategy which will engrain good practices and ensure your employees follow the regime. Central to the message, here, is that cleaning is everyone’s responsibility in the current climate, not just that of your hygiene team
  • Ensuring that your employees and users are adhering strictly to government guidelines by following lockdown rules, wearing masks in designated places and isolating when they have been in contact with a potentially-infectious person, is also vital
  • Be prepared to deep clean any areas which it emerges could have been contaminated by an infected person
  • Take this seriously. As an employer, you have a legal duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, to provide a safe working environment for your employees, as well as the requirements of dedicated COVID-19 restrictions. You’ll find more information about your responsibilities on the HSE website. Or, read our thorough guide to getting COVID-secure

  • Our supplier of the Hycolin foggers, Mirius, also has some useful information about fogging on its website

Our go-to fogging products

After extensive research, we are now offering two antiviral foggers, made by Mirius, which provide convenient and quick disinfection.

These Hycolin Professional antiviral foggers are single-use, fast-acting aerosol sanitisers and are available in two sizes.

They are suitable for sanitising a range of areas, such as hotel bedrooms, offices, cars, vans and public transport, by delivering an anti-microbial mist which kills 99.99% of all germs including viruses on surfaces.

They can be used on both hard and soft surfaces, as well as air conditioning units, and work within 30 minutes – 15 minutes to spray and 15 minutes to ventilate. The sprays come in 200ml and 100ml canisters with the choice of ‘musk’ and ‘fresh linen’ scents. They have been tested to British Standards (BS) EN 1276, EN 1650, EN 16777 and 14476.

If you require help and advice on the use of fogging in your organisation, or on maintaining good hygiene and COVID-security in general, contact our friendly Elliott’s team via 01482 327580 or email us.

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