Friday 31 July 2020

The cost of smokers in the holiday cottage

Our holiday cottage has been closed to guests since March 2020 as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. It's a gap of four months during which there's been no heating running and no other electric machinery or lights. The latest power bill has arrived showing no reduction in cost.

Back at the end of 2019 and through January 2020 we had a pair of guests stay who were heavy smokers who largely ignored the "no smoking" rule inside the cottage. The costs of remediating this are described elsewhere, but during their stay we had three occasions to visit the home during the stay. On each occasion we noticed the heating was on full blast but the windows and the back door was also wide open, even though it was the middle of winter. Their efforts to attempt to hide their smoking inside the cottage have cost us dearly in terms of additional power usage, in effect the equivalent to four month's worth of additional usage. Using the average cost per week of power (£14.77) this amounts to a figure in the region of £250.

Saturday 25 July 2020

Using a UV Lamp for Covid-19 Sterilisation in Self-Catering Holiday Home

We've just placed an order for some Ultraviolet (UV-C) dosimeter labels. It took a lot of research to find the best labels for the job. These labels progressively and consistently change colour according to the amount of Ultraviolet light  (UV-C) exposure. After some dosage calibration using our UV-C meter and lamp we'll be able to easily assess whether the correct dose of ultraviolet light has been given to kill off the Covid-19 virus in the rooms of our holiday cottage.

We'll take a photo of the exposed label after room treatment to record that a suitable dose of UV-C light has been given during the cleaning process. This photo will be incorporated in the formal documentation of the cleaning process. Whilst this label adds slightly to the cost of the process, it will add comfort to guests' concerns about cleaning and will give evidence of good processes in the unlikely event of a dispute.

In our case, testing shows that in terms of effective destruction of virus and bacteria, an exposed light green label (centre of third row in the picture) is a reasonable indicator of 99.99% inactivation/destruction (40 mJ/Sq Cm). Some types of coronavirus take far less exposure to UV-C. Do remember that some computer displays render colours differently. For our purposes we print comparison samples on colour printers using a CMYK colour scheme.

There is also a Health and Safety aspect of limiting the exposure which we discuss here. Using the dosimeter labels can help avoid excessive doses, but good procedures, correct PPE and supporting usage of a UV-C meter is more reliable. Any member of our team not equipped with full PPE will be provided with a UV-C dosimeter badge to wear when the UV-lamp is in operation. In terms of the above labels picture, we regard the second label in the second row as a maximum permitted dose, though in practice we avoid any direct exposure to UV-C.

We can also offer help and advice to other owners of cottages in the locality.

Edit 4th Aug 2020:

Yesterday we found a flyer pushed through the front door of the cottage from a company offering cleaning of premises to give a safe environment. It is the same company who advocate using agricultural biocides for fogging the interior of premises. These chemicals are designated for fumigating barns and cattle sheds.  We don't think we'll be using their services.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Cleaning the Washing Machine in the Self-Catering Cottage

Yet more on preparing to clean our holiday cottage in this era of Covid-19. If you've read our earlier articles you'll see that we've obtained a high pressure steam cleaner and a Ultraviolet (UV-C) lamp, on rental, as required. As part of a a comprehensive cleaning programme between guest stays we'll use a mix of steam, UV-C light and biocide to make our cottage safer for guests. 

In addition to UV-C irradiation of each room we'll be taking some extra precautions in the kitchen. We won't use biocide spray on food preparation surfaces, as we don't want to leave a chemical residue. However for the washing machine we'll sterilise most surfaces and seals with superheated steam. The electrical parts will be cleaned using isopropyl alcohol spray and wipe down. A difficult component to clean in the washing machine is the soap/conditioner dispensing drawer and its housing. Even in non-Covid times these are difficult to clean and often gain a bacterial black mould in difficult to reach areas. 

This is where the high pressure steam cleaner will come into play. Our cleaner steam lance produces a 6 bar blast of steam at 160 C. In our cleaning rehearsals we've discovered the steam cleaner lance is excellent, if somewhat messy, in quickly cleaning out the soap drawer of our cottage washing machine. The heat of the steam kills off any fungal/bacterial residue on treated surfaces. Once all the mould is cleared out, we'll give the interior of washing machine soap dispenser a spray of biocide solution between guest stays. If the black bacterial film returns, we will revisit the machine with the steam cleaner.

Sunday 12 July 2020

The costs of cleaning self catering holiday home for Covid-19

We're discussing with our rental agency (Sykes) what the impact of additional cleaning costs will be when we turnaround our small one bedroom holiday cottage between guest stays. Providing a safe place will inevitably increase the rental charged to guests, when Covid is no longer a concern we can consider removing the extra charges. On the basis of current estimates it is an additional £65 per turnaround.

We've carefully considered the Sykes recommendations for cleaning, ignoring those which are contradicted by the World Health Organisation, to ensure effective but safe procedures for our cleaners. We have decided against the use of fogging devices which leave a residual fine layer of biocide chemicals throughout the premises after application by mist/spray/fog.

To prevent infection passing between sets of guests, and our cleaning staff, we need to undertake extensive and thorough cleaning both inside and outside our cottage. We need to disinfect surfaces that may have become infected. We also need to provide additional disposable protective equipment (PPE) for our cleaning staff.

We already have extensive cleaning procedures in place for our cottage as part of normal rental. These existing procedures have to be completed within a four hour gap between the departure of one set of guests and the arrival of new guests. To complete the additional work for Covid-19 precautions we'll need to extend the turnaround gap by two hours to a six hour period to allow for the additional work. To keep capital costs under control, during the indeterminate period of Covid-19 risk, we have chosen to rent the necessary equipment, for steam cleaning and ultraviolet light sterilisation, on a daily rental rate. The costs of the additional treatment and labour, extra to existing cleaning, is estimated at £43.17 per turnaround.

The cost of additional disposable items, arising from Covid cleaning and safe disposal is estimated at £14.96 for each turnround.

We also need to purchase additional stocks of bedding, linen, towels,  pillows, cushions etc to enable potentially infected materials to be left for a week in sealed bags, allowing any virus to degrade. Our cost estimate for this additional stock is £407.  Spread across the expected lifetime of these goods, that is around £6.98 per week or turnaround.

I've a detailed spreadsheet of all of the cost items. I won't publish here, but it is available for those who might want more information.

Thursday 9 July 2020

Improved cleaning in the holiday cottage

We're planning to reopen the self-catering holiday cottage in September 2020 if the Covid-19 situation permits. We'll need to be able to quickly clean the cottage during turnround between guests. We've already purchased an ultraviolet lamp for general room sterilization, but we also need to have a method to clean surfaces as an integral part of the safety processes.

Those involved in the cleaning work will need to wear protective personal equipment, such as disposable gloves, mask and disposable apron when undertaking the cleaning. So the process we've decided to follow is to first irradiate a room with Ultraviolet-C light for 15 minutes. This will destroy any airborne or surface laying virus particles. We'll then move the UV-C lamp to another room, while  using high pressure superheated steam to clean high touch hard surfaces and soft furnishings in the first room. This sequence will be followed through each room in the cottage.
Dupray steam cleaner
Dupray Steam cleaner

We'll be using a Dupray steam cleaning kit to undertake the superheated steam cleaning, thus avoiding the use of biocide chemicals for sterilization. Our guests will not have to be exposed to residual chemicals during their stay. It also means that staff engaged in the cleaning process are not exposed to breathing in biocide mists from fogging machines or hand sprays. Whilst the biocides are believed to be harmless at proper dilution, the concentrates are harmful and potentially toxic. The World Health Organisation advises against fogging machines in domestic environments owing to the associated health risks from the chemicals.

The superheated steam cleaning method is also effective at cleaning greasy kitchen areas. The Dupray unit produces "dry" steam at a pressure of 4.5 Bar (65 psi) heated to 160 deg C (320 F).  This is additional expensive equipment for cleaning, there is also an increase in the amount of labour needed to undertake the cleaning work. To recover the capital costs and increased labour, it will necessitate increased rental prices (approximately £60 per guest turnaround to meet Sykes requirements) for our guests, but better to be safe than sorry.

The Dupray unit can be run using soft tap water, but to avoid calcium/magnesium deposits in the unit boiler we'll be using deionised water. There is a company called Spotless Water who've set up "filling stations" across the UK to supply window cleaning companies. Apart from your travel costs their water costs around 5p per litre.

We'll be asking guests to strip bedding at the end of their stay and to seal it in large plastic bin bags as part of the hygiene processes. The duvets (comforters) and pillows will be swapped out on a rotational basis at each turnround, allowing at least a week before reuse. During storage we'll treat the duvets with UV-C light irradiation. Mattresses and seat cushions will be treated with UV-C light or steam as appropriate. This process will have the side benefit of destroying any bed mites.

Paper or cardboard items which may have been handled by guests such as books, kitchen towels, will be disposed of, or swapped out as appropriate. Crockery, glassware and cutlery will be soaked in bleach water and rewashed before return to the newly steam sterilised kitchen cupboards/drawers. Saucepans will be heat sterilized. Bins will be emptied and steam sterilised, with any rubbish awaiting collection sealed in new bin bags.

Monday 6 July 2020

Using a UV-C meter during room sterilization

Using UV-C light to sterilize the rooms of the holiday cottage, as part of a cleaning programme between guest stays has its advantages. It doesn't leave a chemical residue and doesn't increase humidity.  The process is quite fast, depending on the power of the ultraviolet lamp deployed. However it is not without risk to the operators of the lamp. There are fairly strict EU and USA regulations relating to the health and safety exposure limits for ultraviolet lamps. During use you need to wear protective clothing and goggles/face shields to avoid exposure to the light. 

Here's one example: Artificial Optical Radiation Directive 2006/25/EC is 30 J/m² at 253.7nm for a daily 8 hour work shift.

At a distance of 5cm, the ultraviolet light intensity of the lamp we use is around 17 milliwatts per square centimetre. This would exceed the daily safe allowance within a minute if exposed directly to the UV-V light output from our lamp. The further you are away from the lamp the intensity starts to decrease quite rapidly. The shape of the lamp reflector affects how the intensity of UV-C is distributed. Reflection from surfaces can also increase the indirect exposure.  As part of the safety procedures the operator should not be in the room when the UV-C lamp is switched on, unless fully protected by UV-C PPE gear. UV-C can be stopped by fairly light protective gear, but you need to keep it away from bare skin and the eyes. The light kills virus/bacteria by damaging the DNA/RNA within the organism. You don't need your own DNA being damaged.

However it is likely that situations will arise when you need to measure the intensity of the UV-C light to make sure you do not exceed the safe limits of exposure. We purchased a specialist UV-C meter to perform these measurement and to also test the safety level of any PPE equipment that we wear. You cannot detect UV-C light by your normal senses. We test UV-C radiation levels before, during and at the end of a sterilisation session. We also document those levels. We also record our tests on PPE equipment. 

We purchased a laboratory quality meter. It is a General Instruments UV512C meter.  We purchased it via Cole Parmer in the UK. The following link will lead to the Philips Lighting  advice on using UV-C for disinfection.

These people  provide dosimeter dots/cards. We are currently checking price and availability.

Why do we not advertise on Google

At the moment, well for the past two years, we do not advertise our businesses on Google. The reason for this is that Google arbitrarily removed our holiday cottage from Google Maps even though it had been validly displayed as a business for three years before that time. This wasted hundreds of pounds of money we'd invested in online facilities. 

While Google are within their rights to choose which businesses are shown on Google Maps, we are also in our rights to withhold advertising income from them. So they miss out on income from advertising our international consultancy. The money we spend on Internet advertising goes to LinkedIn and Facebook.