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Soft Surfaces

Hard surfaces are only half the battle.

Learn about the role of soft surfaces in the spread of infection, and how you can eliminate bacteria from fabrics in your facility.

Soft Surface Quick Facts


Just like hard, nonporous surfaces, bacteria, viruses and fungi can all thrive on soft surfaces for extended periods of time and contribute to the transmission of microrganisms. If left unaddressed, contaminated soft surfaces can pose a risk of infection and can undermine any hard surface disinfection routines your facility may have. Studies have demonstrated that:


  • Bacteria can survive on polyester for 90 days1
  • Bacteria can be transferred to and from fabric cushions to people2
  • More than 50% of hospital isolation-room beds and mattresses have been found to be contaminated with dangerous bacteria3

Download "Hard Facts on Soft Surfaces" Poster


1. Neely, Alice N., and Maley, Matthew P. “Survival of Enterococci and Staphylococci on Hospital Fabrics and Plastic.” Journal of Clinical Microbiology 2000; 38: 724-726.

2. Neely, Alice N. “Persistence of Microorganisms on Common Hospital Surfaces: Strategies to Control Their Dissemination.” Infection Control Resource Vol. 4, No. 4.

3. Sexton T, Clarke P, O’Neill E, Dillane T and Humphreys H. "Environmental Reservoirs of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus in Isolation Rooms: Correlation with Patient Isolates and Implications for Hospital Hygiene." Journal of Hospital Infection 2006; 62: 187-94.

Soft Surface Strategies to Prevent Infections


Because microorganisms can live on soft surfaces, adding a routine to address soft surfaces as part of your facility’s regular infection prevention practices may help reduce the transmission of infections. Steps you can take include:


  • Routine laundering of curtains, linens, employee uniforms and other soft surfaces in your facility
  • Use of an EPA-registered product to kill bacteria on soft surfaces between laundering and on soft surfaces that cannot be laundered
  • Hand hygiene practices by all employees

Soft Surface High-Touch Areas


To ensure that your staff is preventing the spread of pathogens via soft surfaces, make sure your environmental cleaning practices address soft surfaces in these areas:


Work Stations


Soft surfaces in these areas can become contaminated with dangerous pathogens that staff may inadvertently carry from one area to another. To prevent the spread of pathogens via soft surfaces, sanitize these items regularly:


                  • Desk chairs
                  • Rugs
                  • Soft computer equipment
                    (e.g., mouse pads)
                  • Upholstered cubicle walls


Lobbies and Common Areas


These areas are heavily trafficked by visitors and staff and can contribute to cross-contamination if they are not cleaned properly. These items should be sanitized regularly:


                  • Chairs
                  • Couches
                  • Cushions
                  • Rugs
                  • Throw pillows

Soft Surface Education and Studies


Learn about the role soft surfaces can play in infection transmission.


Download Technical Bulletin: The Role of Soft Surfaces in Infection Transmission

Download Poster: Hard Facts on Soft Surfaces

Soft Surface Studies:

The Infection Risks Associated with Clothing and Household Linens in Home and Everyday Life Settings, and the Role of Laundry
Read Paper Summary


Persistence of Microorganisms on Common Hospital Surfaces
Read Article (PDF)


Persistent Contamination of Fabric-Covered Furniture by Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci: Implications for Upholstery Selection in Hospitals
Read Study Summary


Hospital Privacy Curtains Are Frequently and Rapidly Contaminated with Potentially Pathogenic Bacteria
Read Study Summary


Contamination of Hospital Curtains with Healthcare-Associated Pathogens
Read Study


Hospital Privacy Curtains: Cleaning and Changing Policies: Are We Doing Enough?
Read Study


Comparing the Transmission Potential of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus and Multidrug-Resistant Acinetobacter Baumannii Among Inpatients Using Target Environmental Monitoring
Read Study Summary


Evaluation of Bacterial Contamination of Cubical Curtains in Contact Precaution ICU and non-ICU Rooms
Read Study Summary


Survival of Enterococci and Staphylococci on Hospital Fabrics and Plastic
Read Study


A Survey of Gram-Negative Bacteria Survival on Hospital Fabrics and Plastics
Read Study Summary


Fighting Nosocomial Infections with Biocidal Non-Intrusive Hard and Soft Surfaces
Read Study (PDF)


Nursing and Physician Attire as Possible Source of Nosocomial Infections
Read Study Summary


Carbapenem-Resistant Acinetobacter and Role of Curtains in an Outbreak in Intensive Care Units
Read Study Summary