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By Don McNulty

Clostridium difficile, commonly known as C. diff, is a bacterium that causes colon inflammation and can lead to severe diarrhea and bowel incontinence. Although C. diff infections are commonly associated with healthcare settings, outbreaks can also occur in community settings. It is essential to use proper cleaning and disinfecting strategies in non-medical settings to prevent the spread of this bacterium. This blog post aims to supply information to protect your community from C. diff infections. Most infections happen in a medical facility, but community infections are rising with the growing off-site medical care given today. In the US, there are over 680,000 infections yearly, resulting in almost 100,000 deaths yearly.

C. diff can be hard to heal from. Many victims have recurring battles with C. diff or other prolonged symptoms that can last years.

First, Understand the Risk

C. diff infection spreads through fecal-oral transmission, meaning that spores of the bacterium, which are shed in the stool, can survive on surfaces for months and infect people who encounter them. Non-medical settings, such as gyms, schools, shopping areas, and public transportation, can be ideal for spreading these spores. Knowing the risk factors of C. diff infection can help you take steps to prevent its spread in these settings. I’ve been asked on occasions how infected feces appear on surfaces outside a restroom. C. diff causes bowel incontinence, meaning the bowel pressure is so great at times that the person loses their ability to reach the toilet. Also, even if a person knows they are ill, thorough hand washing isn’t accomplished; thus, the spread of outside the restroom.

Detection and Initial Diagnosis

If you suspect C. diff, the only way to know for sure is to have a sample of fecal material tested. In a public setting, management can call the local Health Department and ask for a sample to be taken.

There are tell signs one can use if one suspects C. diff. In public restrooms, you may see copious amounts of loose stool on the floor, perhaps on the walls of the toilet stall, on the toilet, and down the back and sides. Usually, management believes this may be vandalism, not knowing what bowel incontinence looks like.

C. diff stool has a strong and distinct odor. Most people who experience contact with C. diff will agree — you will never forget the odor once you identify it.

You should only ask your trained housekeeping or janitorial staff to clean the mess if they have training in proper donning and doffing PPE and the bloodborne pathogen rule and are armed with a sporicidal disinfectant. Otherwise, call someone like Crime Scene Cleaners to come and handle the mess.

Effective Cleaning and Disinfecting

Cleaning and disinfecting are essential steps in preventing the spread of C. diff. Cleaning involves removing visible debris from surfaces while disinfecting entails killing pathogens on those surfaces. To ensure the proper cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, follow the instructions on the product label. Using a disinfectant that is effective against C. diff is crucial in non-medical settings. Ensure surfaces are cleaned and disinfected frequently, with extra attention paid to high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, handrails, and phones.

In a public setting, one must assume the infected person was in other areas of whatever establishment. If this is a school, your janitorial staff will perform a deep cleaning and sanitizing of the school like a flu outbreak. The difference being you will use a sporicidal disinfectant.


The number one rule in using disinfectants is ALL disinfectants go neutral against a 5% soil load. In most ambient settings, detecting a 5% soil load with the naked eye would be impossible.

Therefore, one must assume a surface is dirty, even though they cannot see the soiling.

I use an instrument in the field to show whether a surface is sanitary. The instrument is an ATP Meter. They cost around $1100 – $1400, and I will not be going into how they work or how to use them in this article.

Best Practices should always be used in cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. Those rules state to assume the surface is dirty and use an appropriate cleaner approved for the environment you are working in. Be thorough, as you can clean each surface we’ve spoken about. Next, apply the disinfectant separately and thoroughly.

With C. diff, the disinfectant must be sporicidal. I don’t like bleach solutions’ destructive nature, so I recommend a professional-grade disinfectant. You will discover peracetic acid has a strong, pungent, vinegar-like odor, and almost everyone will complain about the product.

I recommend It is a hydrogen peroxide formula that will kill the bacteria in three minutes of contact time. It presents a very low odor and dries to an inert state into a very fine powder you can wipe up easily with a damp cloth.

You must read and follow the product label as the Label is the Law.

Proper Hand Hygiene

Hand hygiene is another crucial aspect of preventing the spread of C. diff. Handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds removes spores from hands. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are ineffective against C. diff spores and should not be used as a substitute for handwashing. Promoting proper hand hygiene in non-medical settings can reduce the risk of C. diff infection.

proper hand cleaning

The scientist wears a yellow decontamination suit and wears blue rubber gloves to protect his skin

Identifying Outbreaks

Early recognition of outbreaks is critical to preventing their spread. Monitoring C. diff infections in your community can help you identify any potential outbreaks. Symptoms of C. diff infection include watery diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite. If you suspect an outbreak in your non-medical setting, report it at once to the relevant health authorities. They can guide how to prevent its spread effectively.

Education and Awareness

Proper education and awareness campaigns can help prevent the spread of C. diff. Raising awareness about the risk factors, symptoms, and prevention strategies of C. diff infection can empower individuals to protect themselves and their community. Educating staff in non-medical settings and encouraging communication and collaboration between staff and patrons can help prevent the spread of C. diff.


In conclusion, proper cleaning and disinfecting strategies, effective hand hygiene, identifying outbreaks, education, and awareness, can go a long way in preventing the spread of C. diff in non-medical settings. You can contribute to keeping your community safe from this dangerous bacterium. Remember, preventing the spread of C. diff is everyone’s responsibility.

Need Help

Suppose you have C. diff in a residence, apartment, or commercial area and need professional cleaning and disinfecting. In that case, you can call Crime Scene Cleaners at 1-800-909-2939.