Coronavirus: Pro cleaning companies busy during COVID-19 pandemic, Hamilton home cleaners struggle

Companies in the cleaning business are seeing varying degrees of success during the COVID-19 pandemic. Don Mitchell / Global News

Public health officials in Canada continue to speak about the importance of cleaning and disinfecting surfaces in order to fight the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials say cleaning homes and workplaces often will help to prevent people from coming into contact with the potentially deadly new coronavirus, which can live for a period of time on commonly used surfaces.

As a result of these public health recommendations, some professional cleaning companies are seeing a bump in business.

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However, not all cleaners are seeing more business due to the pandemic.

Some of Hamilton’s smaller home-cleaning businesses have joined the list of companies that have decided to shut down during the province’s state of emergency.

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Darryl Weaver, who owns Three Little Birds Home Solutions, employs 25 workers to clean residential homes. Weaver says he made the decision to close after a 50 per cent drop in business.

“With clients just nervous about having anyone into their home who [is] not a family member or that they’re not used to having there on a regular basis, they asked us to temporarily put their services on hold,” said Weaver.
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Sam Ibrahim of The Cleaning Room, another small Hamilton business, echoed those sentiments, saying he’s also planning to shut down during the pandemic.

“A lot of people are staying at home so, you know, to have somebody else coming to your home … I think they’re just cleaning their houses themselves,” said Ibrahim.

Ibrahim’s assessment appears to be backed up by the boom in business seen at The Cleaning House on Barton Steet.

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Co-owner Ron Reis says he’s seen a significant increase in residential customers coming into his store.

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“We’re seeing a lot of people we’ve never seen before,” said Reis. “They’re picking up everything from masks, gloves and touch disinfectants.”

Reis says masks are the most requested item in his store and has had trouble keeping them in stock.

“I have no idea when we will be getting any more of those,” he said.

Another item of interest for cleaning businesses is high-efficiency laundry detergent to sanitize work clothes that employees are wearing to their cleaning jobs.

“Microfibre really needs to be cleaned a certain way, otherwise the bacteria and virus may stay trapped in the pockets of the fabric,” said Reis.

Servpro, a larger professional cleaning service with 1,750 franchises — including one in Burlington — and 18,000 employees across North America, says business during the COVID-19 pandemic is still steady.

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“We have gotten a lot of informational calls, just sort of fact-finding to see if we can help if people do have an instance or have someone or an employee that becomes affected by COVID-19,” said spokesperson Kim Brooks.

“We’ve definitely seen a spike in calls and interest in the company,” Brooks said.

Brooks says Servpro does some residential cleaning but specializes in the cleanup of mould and biohazards.

“It’s [COVID-19] very similar to instances where we may have seen the norovirus outbreak or a MRSA outbreak, where we can go in and clean up after that and in that same sort of realm. So we’re very familiar with this work,” Brooks said.

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But for a small cleaner like POSH Home Cleaning, CEO Ryan Stewart says he’s seeing a number of clients pause their service.

“We’ve had a significant downturn,” Stewart said.

However, Stewart says he plans to soldier on with his business and adapt to the more advanced demands some clients have been asking for, particularly the sanitizing of high-touch surfaces like tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs and cabinet handles, as well as kitchen and bathroom surfaces.

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Stewart admits there’s also a little more pressure to keep his 35 workers safe while working around potentially contaminated surfaces.

“We’ve always had infection as part of our protocol, but now we’re ramping that up so we’re doing that as a first step on the job,” said Stewart.

“We’ve taken it upon ourselves to have extra stuff, so we’ve increased our use of PPE [personal protective equipment] and disinfection, and we’ve been retraining the staff.”
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Hamilton Public Health says residents should clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces to avoid coming into contact with the new coronavirus, which can persist on inanimate surfaces like metal, glass and plastic for up to nine days, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Contact is as big an issue,” according to Hamilton Associate Medical Officer of Health Bart Harvey, “And that’s why part of our messaging is, you know, clean down, especially commonly used surfaces as frequently as possible using hydrogen peroxide, diluted bleach, and alcohol products to sanitize those.”

The CDC says although transmission from person to person is a much greater risk, transmission via surfaces can be equally dangerous, and it suggests daily cleaning of surfaces if anyone has entered or exited your home.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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