Hospital cleaning has become a science

Summer 2013

Originally, the connection between the cleanliness of a hospital environment and patient outcomes was not known and hospital rooms were cleaned primarily for aesthetic purposes. Today, there is science behind the importance of effective cleaning and the impact it has on reducing the spread of infection in a hospital. At London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), we have a department dedicated to keeping the environmental surfaces of patient rooms and patient care spaces safe from these infectious germs.

Only trained cleaning specialists are authorized to clean patient rooms
A dedicated team of environmental service workers (ESWs) are responsible for cleaning patient rooms as well as the neighbouring areas within patient care units at LHSC. ESWs are deployed throughout the hospital on a 24/7 basis. The scope of the ESW role goes beyond that of an average cleaning professional as they are an important partner in infection control, assisting in reducing the spread of harmful germs within our hospitals.

Patient room cleaning is rigorous in the hospital
The cleaning of a typical patient room takes place on a daily basis and involves removing garbage (including any biohazard and medical waste) and cleaning washrooms, floors and high touch point surfaces such as door handles, light switches, bedrails, bedside tables and patient equipment.

ESWs follow an evidence-based set of cleaning principles which include:

  • Assessing safety and mitigating risk for staff, patients, families and visitors – including proper hand hygiene and the use of appropriate personal protective equipment
  • Friction/mechanical action is essential in effective cleaning
  • Work is completed from high areas to low areas
  • Dwell time of specific cleaning chemicals (the amount of time a chemical needs to be applied before wiping to be effective) is observed
  • Mop/cloth changes and replacements are frequent and appropriate to the task
  • Cleaning practices are monitored and audited on a random basis, with over 100 audits completed monthly and reviewed with staff to improve cleaning practices
  • As well, a specialized cleaning team that is dedicated to antibiotic resistant organisms is in place to clean any rooms where the patient has been placed in isolation or is under any other special precautions related to suspected infection. Specific chemicals are used to clean these rooms to best prevent any spread of infection


When patients are discharged from the hospital, a further in-depth clean occurs before a new patient is admitted to the room. On average, these cleans take 45-60 minutes to complete depending on the complexity of the room and equipment. 

As the science of cleaning continues to evolve, LHSC’s environmental support services department is committed to reviewing evidence-based practice, the chemistry of cleaning products and emerging science and technology, all of which improve the ability to work efficiently while providing the best cleaning outcomes.

Patients can expect a greeting from the cleaning staff during their stay
Staying in a hospital can be a stressful and even scary experience. Unfamiliar or unfriendly faces entering and exiting your room without explanation can be a further source of stress and anxiety, so to ensure a more positive experience, patients can expect to receive a warm hello and an introduction from the ESW team member as well as an explanation of what they are there to do.

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Environmental service worker Angie Flynn cleans a patient room at Victoria Hospital