Every industry is being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is perhaps no other segment, other than medical, where advertising honestly is more important than the cleaning industry.
Cleaning and disinfecting companies have to communicate with consumers in a way they probably didn’t have to before – being as detailed as possible regarding their methods and being as honest as possible about their products. As an increasing number of consumers look to deep clean their homes to mitigate the risk of becoming infected, it is paramount that cleaning companies are transparent.
At Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific we understand the need to advertise honestly. It’s woven into our DNA. It’s one of our Eight Standards of Trust. It is a tenant that we ensure all accredited businesses uphold. Why? So, consumers know who to believe when it matters most.
Amid COVID-19, if cleaning and disinfecting companies advertise tactics or methods that are not proven to work, this could be dangerous. Giving customers a false sense of protection allows for lax behavior, which could result in more coronavirus infections.
Within the BBB Northwest territory, we investigated a Boise-based carpet cleaning company advertising “ozone fumigation” as a way to kill the coronavirus. And while fumigation can help rid your air of particles, allergens and bacteria, it is not a proven way to kill the COVID-19 virus.
However, consumers wouldn’t know that just by reading this company’s advertisement. And therein lies the problem.
“No, you can’t just whip out a fogging machine and expect that to work alone,” said John Stavros, president of Camas-based Bio Management Northwest. “The main idea is you need more than one method. We use a three-point system: hit every touch point or surface two times and also fumigate the air.”
When it comes to advertising what will and what won’t kill this novel coronavirus, no guarantees can or should be made. The Center for Disease Control has recommendations based on what has been proven to kill other viruses – such as SARS or MERS – but this does not mean those methods will kill COVID-19. If the CDC can’t guarantee it, neither should any cleaning or disinfecting company.
“Even the big players, like Lysol for instance, only claim their products kill 99.9% of germs,” Stavros said. “No one can claim their method or product kills 100% of viruses all the time. And, for this virus especially, any one-step approach is not likely to work. You need multiple hits to sanitize.”
At Bio Management Northwest, they are seeing positive results with their three-hit method. Not only are they disinfecting all touch points twice in combination with fumigation, but Stavros notes they do not use the same chemicals two times in a row. When the same chemicals are used over and over to combat a virus, this gives the virus an opportunity to mutate and grow stronger – rendering that product or method useless.
So, while he can’t claim it works 100 percent, Stavros is confident that his method does mitigate risks. “We’ve tested four job sites with industrial hygienists where we swab a surface before and after remediation, using our methods, and the tests are coming back negative for the virus after we’re done.”
While this is good news, Stavros still has to be careful about how he markets his services. Just as the cleaning company in Boise should, too.
BBB NW+P does not suggest any company, no matter what they think works, advertise that their method “will kill” COVID-19. For cleaning and disinfecting companies, yes, you should be honest about the results you’re seeing and explain the facts behind it but, again, make no guarantees. Claiming your method is proven to work, while even the CDC still does not have explicit instructions on what is proven to work, could result in false advertising lawsuits.
Above all else, consumers must do their homework when searching for a cleaning company to come into their home. To do that, consumers should always start with trust at bbb.org.