How to Clean Up C. Diff Contamination

Joe MayBio Recovery General, Infectious Disease Cleanup, Infectious Disease Superbug Cleaning

How to clean up c diff blog image

What if you’re sick or recovering from an infection, and your medication puts you at risk of a more serious illness than the one you have? Antibiotics disrupt the natural ecosystem in our gastrointestinal tracts, and for some patients, when Clostridioides difficile gains a foothold over “good” bacteria, the result can be incredibly painful and potentially lethal.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) considers Clostridioides difficile (C. diff) to be a substantial, direct cause of infectious disease-related deaths in the U.S., largely because the bacteria excretes toxins that can cause serious and painful damage to the GI system if left unchecked. Chronic diarrhea, a primary symptom of C. diff infections, leads to dehydration, therefore affecting cognitive and organ function, as well as coordination.

Who is at greatest risk of C. diff complications?

Given that the elderly and those with pre-existing illnesses are at a higher risk of experiencing a Clostridioides difficile infection (CDI) Clostridioides difficile-associated disease (CDAD). C. diff contamination and contagion is a major concern in hospitals, nursing facilities, and in homes where patients are recovering from invasive procedures. Those who are most likely to contract a CDI or CDAD include the following:

  • Persons who have been on antibiotics for an extended period of time, especially the elderly.
  • Patients taking proton pump inhibitors and H2-receptor blockers (H2Bs), prescribed and over-the-counter medications used to relieve stomach ulcers and acid reflux. Stomach acid is believed to help suppress C. diff GI populations.
  • Chemotherapy, implant, and transplant patients.
  • Other individuals with lowered immunity.

According to the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, “Once patients are infected, CDI can be difficult to completely cure, partly because treatment requires more antibiotics. At least 20% of patients who get primary CDI have a recurrent infection within 8 weeks, with the risk being as high as 50% to 60% after three or more infections.”

How is C. diff transmitted?

C. diff spores spread through contact with feces. Poor hand washing discipline, improper cleaning and sanitation of bedding and clothing, and failure to clean and disinfect all contaminated surfaces with appropriate methods and solutions leaves viable spores behind for as many as five months. The following considerations indicate the need for pathogen-specific protocols when cleaning recovery environments at home or in a hospital environment:

  • Weakened patients often use their hands to brace themselves on walls and furniture while walking around the home or facility.
  • Bowel incontinence leads to saturation of carpet, upholstery, decorative finishes, and other hard-to-sanitize surfaces.
  • Bedding and clothing washed without hot water, germicidal bleach, and detergent (washed once to clean, and another cycle to sanitize) often contain viable spores.
  • Contaminated cleaning implements (mops, rags, scrub brushes) spread C. diff spores to surrounding areas, and re-contaminate the affected areas.
  • Tiny droplets of liquid feces (diarrhea) can become airborne, contaminating surfaces outside the typical cleaning area.

Healthy adults aren’t generally at risk, as their gastrointestinal and immune systems are strong enough to keep gut bacteria in balance. But many home caregivers are themselves the elderly partners of the recovering patient, or quite simply physically and/or emotionally exhausted, therefore vulnerable to illness.

What’s the best way to clean up C. diff contamination?

The C Diff Foundation, CDC, and OSHA recommend the following practices and procedures for the thorough cleaning and disinfection of areas where Clostridioides difficile is likely present: 

  • Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) including non-permeable “hazmat” suits, face shields, respirators, and disposable booties and gloves.
  • Clean all visible human feces from surfaces and textiles, including gaps in fixtures, appliances, HVAC systems, decorative molding, switches, and walls.
  • Machine wash bedding, clothes, and other infected textiles twice with hot water, detergent, and antimicrobial bleach.
  • Use professional steam cleaning equipment with antimicrobial upholstery and carpet shampoos; water removal must be thorough.
  • Saturate affected surfaces with either antimicrobial bleach or a non-toxic antimicrobial solution for at least five minutes. (Leave-on products are ideal.)
  • To protect sanitation workers and meet OSHA requirements, biohazard waste should be properly bagged and disposed of at an approved facility.

Before getting started, residents should consider all the surfaces and areas they might not ordinarily think of cleaning, but that are likely to have come in contact with spores: Curtains, vacuum cleaners, vehicles, basements and attics, hobby rooms and work benches, product containers, and kitchenware are only a few. Out of sight shouldn’t be out of mind, especially given the bacteria’s long latency period; Five months is a very long time for contamination to spread, and many C. diff patients shed spores long before they are diagnosed.

Who can I hire to clean up C. diff in my home or facility?

Microbial remediation requires time, diligence, physical exertion and expense. That’s why medical facilities often bring in biohazard cleanup teams for thorough, top-down decontamination of ambulances, patient rooms, lobbies, cafeterias, staff break rooms, and other areas frequently contaminated by fecal material and C. diff bacterial spores.

Families who are worried about contagion but want to feel confident in a clean, safe home environment are surprised to learn that their homeowner’s insurance will cover the cost to enlist a professional biohazard cleaning company: Biological contamination, especially body fluid spills, is property damage, and you’re entitled to coverage.

Bio Recovery cleans up infectious disease contamination, including C. diff, MRSA, and hepatitis, without creating secondary problems common with do-it-yourself biohazard cleanup attempts. We work quickly and efficiently so you can return to your home in confidence, typically within the same day. We’re discreet, and our technicians are compassionate, friendly, and respectful. C. diff is, unfortunately, a very common concern and many of us have loved ones who’ve been through what you’re experiencing now. We’ll protect you and your family the same way we would our own.

Do you need help cleaning up after C. Diff or another biological contamination? Call us today for more information about our home, office, and care facility services.