Cleaning and disinfection

The appropriate cleaning and disinfection of all church buildings are important infection prevention and control measures against COVID-19. Congregations should consider what arrangements and resources would be required to clean and disinfect their church buildings before, during and after their church buildings have been used. The following principles should help you prepare for the cleaning and disinfection of your church buildings:

  • Church buildings should be cleaned as normal with a detergent and disinfectant that is active against bacteria and viruses. It is important that the correct dilution rates are used, and contact time is followed as different cleaning chemicals may have different instructions. You should also follow any instructions on the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves, face coverings and/or apron.
  • All areas of the church building that are to be open to members of your congregation and visitors should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before reopening your church buildings each day
  • Congregations may decide to close certain areas of their buildings to reduce the level of cleaning required
  • Particular attention should be given to the all hand touch sites such as door handles, grab-rails, light switches, chairs and tables. These should be cleaned and disinfected regularly whilst the church building is open, and not just when opening and closing the building.
  • Before closing the church building at the end of the day, the areas that have been open should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. However, you may consider closing your church building for 72 hours before cleaning and disinfection as an additional control measure. This would allow any active COVID-19 viruses present on any surfaces to be reduced to a safer level. This would only be suitable if you can be certain that no one will be accessing your church buildings for at least 72 hours. Upon reopening the church building, all areas and surfaces should be cleaned with detergent and disinfectant as normal.
  • Historical articles, fixtures and fittings in your building may require the use of specialist cleaning materials. Please contact the General Trustees for further information.
  • Ideally, disposable cleaning equipment such as cloths should be used. However, if this is not possible, then all cleaning equipment must be cleaned and disinfected after use. Re-usable cloths should be laundered in a washing machine using the warmest setting possible and dried completely before reusing. Ideally, laundered cloths should be steam-ironed and kept in a clean bag before reusing.
  • You may find it beneficial to implement a cleaning schedule for each area of your church building to assist those involved with cleaning.

Congregations should consider the risk of COVID-19 transmission from fabrics and soft furnishings within your church buildings. If members of your congregation and visitors to your church building follow good hand hygiene practices and wear a face covering, then the risk of virus particles transmitting on to fabrics is greatly reduced. Congregations may resume using pew cushions providing that adequate cleaning regimes and mitigations are in place, including ensuring that the advice for fabric chairs below is followed and that the wooden seat underneath the cushions are cleaned and sanitised along with the rest of the pew after each service. Due to the age of many pew cushions, it should be recognised that it is almost impossible to fully clean them. As a result, pew cushions should also be sprayed with an appropriate fabric safe sanitiser solution before each service following the manufacturer's instructions. It is vital that congregations update their risk assessment and the Kirk Session approve it prior to resuming using pew cushions. If your church buildings have fabric chairs, then current evidence suggests that unless these have been visually soiled, you should continue to clean these as you normally would with, for example, a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment. Congregations may also wish to consider steam cleaning fabric chairs every so often as an additional infection prevention and control measure.

Before any church building reopens, the areas of the building that you will reopen to members of your congregation and visitors should be thoroughly cleaned, disinfected and well ventilated. If you do not have access to a water supply within your church building, then you should consider how you can effectively clean and disinfect the building.

The use of fogging devices

A number of congregations have enquired about the use of fogging or misting machines as a means to clean and disinfect their church building. Both the World Health Organisation and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have raised concerns over the use of such technology as they may create a false sense of security regarding cleanliness and safety. Although fogging and misting technology has been used successfully in clinical and non-clinical settings, surfaces must still be cleaned to remove any grease or dirt, which would otherwise render the chemicals used for fogging and misting ineffective. It is up to each congregation to decide what methods of cleaning and disinfection should be used within their church buildings. If the congregation decides to use fogging or misting technology, then they must undertake a full risk assessment and consider the risks of using such chemicals, any PPE that may be required, first-aid requirements, the training of those using the machines and how to deal with any accidents involving the chemicals. We will not be able to offer any further advice or assistance with regards to purchasing or using fogging and misting machines for cleaning and disinfecting church buildings.

Congregations should consider how the additional cleaning required for reopening their church buildings could be undertaken. For example, will you need to employ additional cleaning staff or will you ask volunteers to help with the cleaning of your church buildings? Further advice on employing additional cleaning staff, amending the cleaning contract that you already have in place or working with cleaners and volunteers in the high-risk group can be obtained from the Law Department.