Spray and Pray: The Theatre of Cleaning

In this article we look at the surprising facts about cleaning, Covid and sanitisation.

General, thorough cleaning was standard before the Covid outbreak in hotels, cruise ships, public transport, care homes, pharmacies and any other business venue that has customers coming in physically through the door. It continues to be as important.

In fact, both cleaning and Covid sanitisation are crucial in any hospitality venue but they are not the same thing, according to Professor Fiona Henriquez, of the School of Health and Life Sciences at the University of the West of Scotland.


Good hygiene is paramount for the welfare of guests, staff and visitors and it plays a huge part in maintaining a good reputation for a venue.

Thorough cleaning reduces the risk of the transmission of norovirus, MRSA and other gastro-intestinal and respiratory diseases.

However, cleaning in the usual way is not enough to kill some germs, for example, coronavirus.

Most cleaning personnel do not use cleaning products according to the instructions. Surface sanitisers and disinfectants require a minimum “dwell time” on a clean surface of between 30 seconds to 10 minutes to be effective.

However, Spray and Pray is a common sight in venues. This consists of spraying a cleaning agent on a surface and immediately wiping it clean and dry. Professor Henriquez advises that in those cases, pathogens and microbes are simply being spread around and left alive on the surface. She says:

“Micro-organisms are living creatures. They are covered in membranes just as we are. We can’t just spray something and expect an immediate effect. It needs to seep in so that it can actually kill that micro-organism.”


How to clean and sanitise effectively in two steps:

Step 1

Regular, standard cleaning is the first step. This takes care of crucial hygiene to keep guests safe from the bugs such as norovirus that concerned us before the Covid pandemic.

It also removes the safe haven where stubborn micro-organisms like Covid thrive and provide protection for each other. Professor Henriquez explains that coronavirus microbes:

“…live in unison with other microorganisms and they develop bio-films: invisible (protective) films where we see bacteria, viruses and fungi and other microorganisms all interacting with each other. So, it helps them survive for longer, they don’t dry out and they’re not exposed to the harsh conditions that we think they are (when we spray a cleaning agent).

“So, it’s really important to clean those surfaces, and make sure that film doesn’t build up.”

Step 2

Now that Covid-19, our target organism, is exposed and vulnerable, the next step is to spray or clean with a product appropriate* for eliminating the virus and leave the surface wet for the recommended time (upwards of 30 seconds) – this is the “dwell time”.

*The World Health Organisation specifies that virucidal disinfectants, such as 0.05% sodium hypochlorite (NaClO) and products based on ethanol (at least 70%), should be used.

Theatre of Cleaning

So, if regular spray and wipe cleaning, even with a virucidal disinfectant, is ineffective at eliminating many pathogens, including the Covid virus, why should we continue doing it?

Again, 2 points here:

1.  As above, sanitisers and disinfectants require a clean surface to work effectively. No hiding place leaves the pathogens exposed and vulnerable to a second application, left to work its magic.

2.  The Theatre of Cleaning. Customers, guests and visitors are reassured by the sight of staff spraying and wiping tables, handrails and common touch points. It’s what we’ve come to expect. And so long as the “spray and pray” is followed by a second application of a virucidal sanitiser, it has a role to play.

That’s not all

Keeping customers Covid-safe requires a multi-layer approach. Surface cleaning is the first layer.

Our next article will be about tackling the airborne threat: deadly strategies for Covid that are safe for us.

Free Assessment

To book your free venue assessment with the sanitisation experts at Elytraa Group, contact us on 01786 439839 or info@elytraa.com.