Our comprehensive approach to product maintenance is based on extensive testing by our Materials Lab team. This information is our most current recommendation for how to clean and disinfect your Steelcase products. We’ll continue to update this as we learn more.
Cleaning and Disinfecting Are Not the Same. But Both Are Critical.
Uses soap or detergent and water to physically remove germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
Uses chemicals (such as EPA-registered disinfectants) to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading the infection.
Cleaning products used for soil and stain removal may not be effective disinfectants. And products that disinfect may not be effective for soil and stain removal.
For directions on stain removal, see the Surface Materials Reference Manual.
For directions on removing germs and disinfecting materials, see the guidelines on this page.
Guidelines for Cleaning Your Steelcase Standard Products
Scientific studies indicate “on surface” virus viability and transferability from fabrics are much lower than with nonporous surfaces such as plastic, laminate, glass, and stainless steel. Because of this, the CDC has said standard cleaning protocols should be sufficient for daily cleaning of soft surfaces.
We do not recommend the use of disinfectants on our soft surfaces. Extensive testing in our Materials Labs has found that disinfectants can degrade the appearance of textiles not specifically designed to withstand them. If more in-depth cleaning is necessary, follow the steps below:
- In a spray bottle, mix 16 parts water with 1-part clear dish soap.
- Spray down cushions with soap and water solution until the surface is damp but not saturated. Let sit for 1-2 minutes.
- Vacuum the damp areas of the chair with a wet vac and the appropriate attachment to ensure a suction. Pull as much water and soap from the chair as possible.
- Let the chair air dry completely. (This could take several hours.) If soap residue remains on the cushion surface, spray lightly with clean water and use wet vac to remove the water until soap is gone.
For instructions on cleaning textiles other than Steelcase standard ones, please consult the manufacturer website.
All Steelcase standard hard surfaces (including glass, metal, wood, laminate, paint, plastic) can be cleaned with one of these common quaternary compound-type cleaners:
- Lysol Disinfecting Wipes (EPA registration number 777-114)
- Formula 409 Disinfecting Spray (EPA reg 67619-10)
- Clorox Non-Bleach Disinfecting Wipes (EPA reg 67619-9)
- Lysol All Purpose Spray Cleaner (EPA reg 777-66)
- Fantastik All Purpose Spray Cleaner (EPA reg 4822-530)
For instructions on cleaning hard surfaces other than Steelcase standard ones, please consult the manufacturer website.
Our Stance on Antimicrobials
“Antimicrobial” – A Definition
- Antimicrobials destroy or inhibit the growth of microorganisms and especially pathogenic microorganisms.
- Antimicrobial properties can come from an inherent material attribute or physical structure, or from a chemical additive.
Antimicrobial properties can come from:
- An inherent material attribute or physical structure (e.g., wool and copper are inherently antimicrobial)
- A chemical additive
What’s a microorganism?
There are 6 types: Bacteria, fungi (yeast and mold), virus, archaea, algae and protozoa.
Most antimicrobial products only work against 1 or 2 types of microorganisms. For example, copper has demonstrated effectiveness against a set of 6 bacteria and has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency to make such claims – but only against bacteria!
Are Antimicrobials a Way to Combat COVID-19?
So far the EPA has not approved any antimicrobial product to claim that it’s effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
That may change soon – some manufacturers have submitted test documentation to the EPA. But for now, although we can cite studies that show promising results, we and our dealers do not claim any antimicrobial product is effective against viruses.
If a company does make claims about its product being effective against COVID-19, the wording likely uses a lot of mitigating language like “may help prevent” or “has been shown in some studies” or “has shown promise.” If they make a direct statement such as “XYZ’s antimicrobial product prevents the spread of COVID-19,” they’re on shaky ground. The EPA and FTC (which monitors truth in advertising) is already taking enforcement action against companies making false or misleading claims.
The CDC still says the most effective ways of limiting the spread of coronavirus are to:
- Wash hands thoroughly and often
- Practice social distancing
- Arrange your space to facilitate social distancing
- Wear masks
- Clean surfaces that are touched by multiple people frequently
HOW WE’RE THINKING ABOUT ANTIMICROBIALS
When thinking about whether antiviral or antimicrobial materials make sense to use – and which type to use – we should consider 3 things to help determine risk level and priority:
- How frequently and reliably the surface is going to be cleaned
- The number of people who will use a space
- How frequently users will touch the surface
Scientific research shows that surface transmission of microbes is of the most concern with objects that are high-touch and multi-use. For example, the handles of conference room doors pose greater risk of transmission than, say, chair backs or panel walls.
Steelcase’s PDL teams are beginning to look at antimicrobial materials like copper alloys (which studies have shown to be effective against viruses) for things like door handles. Solutions like these can help augment cleaning protocols and lower the risk of bringing employees back to the office.
But antimicrobials are not a cure all, and such products typically add cost.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any other cleaning products besides the ones you suggest that are OK to use?
We recommend using the cleaning products listed in our Surface Materials Reference Manual. However, if your company uses other cleaning products, we suggest that you reference the EPA number listed, which will detail the active ingredients. If the EPA list has another cleaning product that is similar in composition and concentration with those on our guidelines, it may be safe to use.
How to read the EPA registration numbers: “XXXX-YYY-ZZZZZ”
The first group of numbers (“XXXX”) identifies the manufacturer. The second group of numbers (“YYY”) is the product number. The third group of numbers (“ZZZZZ”) is the distributor ID/brand. The first two groups are what matter: If the first two fields of numbers are identical, then the active ingredient in the cleaners is chemically identical.
Please consult your Facilities person to evaluate the MSDS for material composition similarity confirmation.
Is it OK to use bleach?
Many of our fabrics are safe to use with bleach, but not all. For a list of these materials, see the Finish Library and filter by “bleach cleanable.”
What about my Steelcase partner products?
Steelcase can only provide guidance on products we manufacture. For questions about products manufactured by our partner brands, refer to those manufacturers’ websites.
I don’t have bleach-cleanable materials on my chairs and/or panels. What does Steelcase suggest in order to clean and disinfect them?
Steelcase has identified 5 disinfectants that are safe to use on our standard hard surfaces, and which the EPA has declared effective against the viruses that causes COVID-19. These are quaternary compound-type cleaners, which are milder than bleach yet still effective.
Regarding our standard soft surfaces: We’ve conducted extensive testing in our Materials Labs, and have found that disinfectants can degrade the appearance of textiles not specifically designed to withstand them. As a result, Steelcase has developed a process that can be used to clean all Steelcase standard soft surfaces without negatively impacting their appearance. See the directions on this page, under “Guidelines for Cleaning Your Steelcase Standard Products.”
Studies published in journals such as Applied and Environmental Microbiology and Clinical Infectious Diseases indicate “on surface” virus viability and transferability from fabrics is much lower than with nonporous surfaces such as plastic, laminate, glass and stainless steel. Because of this, the CDC has said standard cleaning protocols should be sufficient for daily cleaning of soft surfaces, even without the added step of using disinfectants.
What about some of the cleaning technologies such as electrostatic chemical sprayers or UV light disinfecting systems? Are those safe and/or effective on Steelcase products?
Electrostatic disinfectant sprayers work by imparting a charge to a disinfectant spray as it leaves the tip of the spray nozzle. The charged droplets repel each other and seek out a surface in the area to attach to, even wrapping around surfaces in hard-to-reach places. This has pros and cons. On the plus side, they let you apply a disinfecting cleaner to a large area quickly and evenly and can be great if the interior is simple, with only a few different kinds of materials. The problem is, Steelcase interiors are rarely simple. A typical Steelcase interior has a wide range of surface materials, mechanisms, electronic and electrical components. So using an electrostatic sprayer means spraying all of these surfaces with the same disinfectant, which could damage some surfaces. Therefore, Steelcase doesn’t recommend using this method to clean interiors that include our products.
UVGI (UltraViolet Germicidal Irradiation) light disinfecting systems have not been broadly used by our customers on Steelcase products, and we consequently don’t have enough information to know how our materials will react to this type of disinfecting. These are some of the tests that our Materials Lab is currently conducting, and we hope to have more info soon. Until we have more data, we recommend using the products and techniques outlined on this page.
Important Notes Regarding These Cleaning Instructions
- For the latest information on potential exposure pathways for COVID-19 infection, including contact with surfaces, please see the CDC website.
- Before using any cleaner, check first to ensure it complies with your company’s EHS (Environmental Health and Safety) requirements.
- Please work with your Facilities and EHS staff to determine how frequently your products should be cleaned.
- Always follow the cleaner manufacturer’s instructions for use, including dilution and dwell time (time that the cleaner remains on surface before being cleaned off).
- Proper personal protection equipment (PPE) such as gloves and eye protection, as directed by the cleaner manufacturer, must be worn.
- Never mix cleaners together, especially bleach and ammonia, as the mixture produces toxic fumes.
- Ensure that proper ventilation is used during cleaning, in accordance with the cleaner manufacturer’s directions.
- To avoid risks of fire or shock, always disconnect electrical power when cleaning products that use or provide electricity.
- Be careful not to allow liquids to enter any openings in electrical products.
- Since these types of cleaners are marketed under a large number of brand names, it isn’t possible to evaluate all cleaners on all surfaces.
- Due to the wide variation in the end use of these cleaning products (including amount of product applied, elapsed time before removal from the surface, physical action used to remove the cleaner, and the number of applications), your results may vary from the test results used to develop this guide.
- If you are unsure about the use of a given cleaner on a surface, please test it first on a small, inconspicuous area before proceeding with a broader cleaning program.
- These guidelines apply only to products manufactured by Steelcase. For guidance on cleaning other products, refer to the manufacturer of those products’ manufacturers.
- For custom materials (COM), contact the material manufacturer for cleaning guidelines.
- For guidelines specific to Designtex fabrics, refer to instructions on their website.
- Steelcase cannot make a determination of the effectiveness of a given disinfectant product in fighting pathogens, such as COVID-19. Please refer to your local public health authority’s guidance on how to stay safe from potential infection.