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How to Clean & Disinfect Elevators [COVID-19 Approved]

Ryan Hussey
Written By: Ryan Hussey
How to Clean & Disinfect Elevators [COVID-19 Approved]

Did you know that the amount of bacteria on a commercial elevator button is nearly 40x higher than on a public toilet seat? We may only be inside an elevator cab for a few seconds at a time, but it only takes one press of a call button to spread illness-causing pathogens and germs. And as we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, cleaning and disinfecting elevators has never been more important.

The key is to clean and disinfect elevators properly and frequently. Read on for instructions and tips for effective cleaning and disinfecting.

Cleaning vs. Disinfecting
How to Clean & Disinfect an Elevator
How to Protect Yourself While Cleaning & Disinfecting
How Often You Should Clean & Disinfect an Elevator
Elevator Cleaning & Disinfecting Tips
Social Distancing in Elevators

Cleaning vs. Disinfecting

First, it’s important to clarify cleaning vs. disinfecting. Here’s how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) differentiate these processes:

Cleaning requires water and either soap or detergent to remove dirt, spots and stains. Just cleaning a surface won’t kill viruses, bacteria or fungi. Instead, it can remove germs from surfaces and lower the risk of spreading.

Disinfecting uses chemicals to kill germs. It won’t necessarily remove spots and impurities, but it is the best way to remove contamination. In order for this process to work, you will need to clean a surface before applying disinfecting spray. The EPA has an extensive list of registered disinfectants that are effective against viruses like COVID-19.

There’s also sanitizing, which lowers the number of germs to a safe level determined by public health standards. Sanitizing is the most common practice for surfaces that come in contact with food. This process can be done without using chemicals, like with a steam cleaner.

How to Disinfect an Elevator

Here’s a look at cleaning and disinfecting processes by the type of surface. When cleaning and disinfecting and while the elevator is drying, you may want to temporarily shut it down to avoid foot traffic.

Hard/Non-Porous Surfaces – Wall Panels, Doors, Handrails

  • Before disinfecting, use soap and water to remove dirt and grime. Use cleaning solvents per the manufacturer’s recommendation and consult your elevator service provider to be sure the products are safe to use — this is especially important for electrical areas.
  • Never pour water on any electrical areas. Instead, use a damp paper towel or cloth.
  • Use a disposable paper towel or a microfiber cloth, and an EPA-registered disinfectant. Opt for a non-abrasive, non-corrosive solution that is compatible with the surface material.


  • Sweep or vacuum the floor or carpet. Carpets can trap dust, germs and dirt, so it’s important to vacuum even if it looks clean.
  1. To deep clean a carpet, use a steam cleaner or an appropriate EPA-registered solution. Non-carpeted flooring can be disinfected with a non-abrasive, non-corrosive solution.

Soft/Porous Items –Rugs, Pads, Mats

  • Clean the items first by removing noticeable debris. You can do this by sweeping or vacuuming.
  • If possible, wash the items in the laundry on the warmest setting.
  1. If you can’t throw an item in the laundry, clean it with soap and water and a cloth. After cleaning, use an appropriate disinfecting solution.

Non-Chemical Disinfectant Options

Chemicals aren’t the only way to disinfect. Purifying and disinfecting products, like the CASPR 200, are designed specifically to kill bacteria, viruses and other germs found in elevators. These small systems are installed in the elevator cab and eliminate air pollution, including illness-causing pathogens.

disinfect elevators

The CASPR 200 has a 99.999% kill rate on surfaces. So if you’re looking for a continuous disinfecting product that doesn’t require chemicals, you should contact us to learn more.

How to Protect Yourself While Cleaning & Disinfecting

The safety of you and your passengers is the most important part of the elevator cleaning and disinfecting process. Here are a few helpful tips:

  1. If necessary, shut down the elevator when you’re cleaning. This will help you avoid interruptions and unnecessary contamination.
  2. Wear disposable gloves and a gown to protect your skin and clothing.
  3. Wash your hands in between elevator cleanings.
  4. Avoid touching your face while cleaning. You don’t want chemicals or germs getting on your skin or in your eyes.

How Often You Should Clean & Disinfect Your Elevators

The frequency will depend on the type of building. If you have dozens of elevators located in a busy, high-traffic office building, you may want to clean and disinfect them on a daily basis. But if you have a single elevator in a small apartment building, a weekly cleaning could suffice.

Medical facilities should obviously take a different approach. Since sick people are constantly coming in and out, elevators in high-traffic areas (like lobbies and emergency areas) should be continuously disinfected throughout the day.

Also consider the season and climate. Your elevators may need more attention during flu season or if another illness is spreading throughout the building. Remember that germs can stick around for longer than we may think. According to the World Health Organization, viruses like COVID-19 can live on surfaces for up to a few hours to several days — the exact time will depend on the type of surface. In this instance, frequent disinfecting is key to prevent the spread of the virus.

Elevator Cleaning & Disinfecting Tips

  • Always clean surfaces before using disinfecting products.
  • Review the elevator manufacturer’s guidelines for cleaning. Some surfaces could become damaged if you use the wrong solution.
  • Also check the directions on any cleaning or disinfecting solution you’re using, as some might not work to the best of their ability if used incorrectly. For example, do you know how to properly use Clorox disinfecting wipes? According to the instructions, Clorox says to “wipe surface, using enough wipes for the treated surface to remain visibly wet for four minutes. Let surface dry.”
  • It’s important to disinfect surfaces that may not be considered high-touch areas. Germs and bacteria can land anywhere in an elevator — doors, floors, wall panels, etc. To ensure that your elevator is as clean as possible, the entire elevator needs to be disinfected.
  • Don’t use sponges when cleaning or disinfecting. They can collect bacteria.
  • Never spray chemicals directly on to an elevator surface. Spray the solution on to a fresh paper towel or a clean microfiber cloth and then wipe down the surface. Spraying chemicals directly onto a surface could cause electrical damage.
  • Make sure that the products you are using haven’t expired.
  • Throw away cleaning gloves, gowns and disposable paper towels immediately after use. Wash reusable cloths right away.
  • Never shake out dirty items before cleaning them (rugs, drapes, etc.). This could spread dirt and bacteria throughout the air.
  • Consider offering alcohol-based hand sanitizer in common areas of your building to encourage healthy hand hygiene.

Social Distancing in Elevators

The CDC recommends practicing social distancing of at least 6 feet. But how do you socially distance yourself in an elevator?

As businesses begin to reopen, Bloomberg Law notes that buildings may need to limit the number of people allowed in an elevator, especially since the virus can linger in the air. While this will inevitably result in long lines and late workers, building owners will need to get creative. We’ll likely see freight elevators open for public use and more leniency for late workers. It’s also an opportune time to ensure that your elevators are covered by an elevator maintenance plan, as downtimes are the last thing anyone needs right now.


If you have questions about disinfecting your elevators or would like to learn more about the CASPR 200 disinfecting system, contact our team today.


Ryan Hussey

As VP of Operations for Stanley Elevator, Ryan oversees the field, construction and modernization teams. His resume includes over 10 years of first-hand experience in elevator field service, project management, surveying, estimating and warehouse operations.

Ryan’s role focuses on incorporating new technologies into Stanley Elevator’s operations, while prioritizing the continuous advancement of their elevator maintenance, repairs, modernization and installation services. He also maintains Stanley Elevator’s certifications and relationships with associations, including the Massachusetts Elevator Safety Association (MESA), the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Elevator Contractors of America (ECA).

Ryan holds a bachelor’s degree in management from Providence College and is working on an MBA at Babson College.