The Big Clean Up
Drum English|9 July 2020
Whenever a Covid-19 case is confirmed at a shop, they call in the deep-cleaners. We find out exactly how they disinfect stores and supermarkets
Kim Abrahams

Chances are during the pandemic you’ve arrived at your local supermarket to find it “closed for cleaning”. This usually happens when a staff member tests positive for the coronavirus.

But what exactly does deep-cleaning entail? How is a space as large and varied as a supermarket cleared of the virus?

And how confident can you be that when the job’s done you can safely venture back and that the food you buy is safe for consumption?

We got the low-down on supermarket Covid-19 deep-cleaning.

NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES

Zipped up in white suits, wearing blue gloves, protective goggles and respirators, deep-cleaners are the disinfecting superheroes retail giants call on when the invisible enemy strikes.

Deep-cleaning a supermarket or pharmacy after an employee has tested positive for the coronavirus is an intricate job with stringent safety protocols.

All personal and respiratory protective equipment must be SABS-approved and only people with no pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease are trained to perform these services.

“Health and safety will always be our first priority and now, more than ever, there can be absolutely no compromise on this,” says Nathalie Leblond, category manager at Rentokil Initial.

The company has been called in to clean several large grocery stores across the country after they identified positive cases of Covid-19.

“Our technicians are equipped with the most up-to-date and effective equipment,” Leblond says.

Technicians are split into two teams, she explains. There’s a deep-cleaning team that do manual cleaning, usually consisting of three to six people, and a sanitising team consisting of one to four people.

Cleaning is a lengthy process, says Calvin Probert from Pro Cleaning Specialists in Cape Town. His company is called in to clean supermarkets on a weekly basis as a precautionary measure.

“It can take between two to 12 hours, depending on the size of the shop,” Probert says.

Sanitising, which involves two microbial fogging methods, can be done in as little as 30 minutes, depending on the size of the store. But a minimum of four hours is needed for the product to settle and the fog to dissipate. During this time the store should be vacated.

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