'It's been crazy': COVID-19 giving boost to firms that specialize in commercial disinfecting

It's not yet clear how much economic damage the COVID-19 outbreak will cause, but at least one industry appears to be thriving because of it: companies that specialize in commercial disinfecting.

Companies say they are getting lots of calls and customers want many spaces cleaned

Diane Chevalier, owner of Enviro-Master Services of Halton/Wellington, says business has changed quickly since the COVID-19 outbreak. (Angelina King/CBC)

COVID-19 is expected to cause much economic damage to many businesses, but at least one industry appears to be thriving because of it; companies that specialize in commercial disinfecting say business is booming.

Earlier this week, CBC Toronto spoke to managers and owners of two companies that use special chemicals and techniques that they say kill scores of different kinds of dangerous bacteria and viruses that cause disease, including COVID-19.

"For the last at least 10 days, it's been crazy," Tony Lleshi, project manager for GTA Restoration, said on Tuesday.

"At least 30, 40 calls a day."

Lleshi said his business has tripled in the past couple of weeks, thanks to commercial  customers who want their public spaces made virus-free.

Diane Chevalier, owner of Enviro-Master Services for Halton/Wellington, said it's difficult to quantify how much demand has grown for her company's potent disinfecting, but she said clients have been asking her to clean spaces her company doesn't usually deal with.

Tony Lleshi, senior project manager for GTA Restoration, a company that specializes in disinfecting commercial spaces, says business has tripled in the last couple of weeks. (Grant Linton/CBC)

Chevalier's service has focused on restrooms in commercial settings, she said.

"Now, [customers] are asking us to expand those services to checkout counters, high touch points, employee break rooms, and make sure we're providing a layer of protection and enhancement for the health and safety of of their employees, as well as the health and safety of their customers."

Kyle Hanshaw, Enviro-Master's operations manager, said he uses a variety of hospital-grade disinfectants to treat commercial properties, largely restrooms. 

A technician with GTA Restoration treats a warehouse space in Scarborough on Tuesday with powerful disinfectants. (Grant Linton/CBC)

"This will do 99-point-nine-nine per cent of germs, viruses, coronaviruses, H1N1, Norwalk virus ...," he said.

Lleshi said it's unclear in most cases whether the properties he disinfects really are contaminated with the novel coronavirus. In one instance on Tuesday, his crew was disinfecting an industrial site in Scarborough that had just been acquired by a paper products manufacturer, Highland Trading. 

There's no proof that the new unit had traces of the virus that causes COVID-19, but Highland's oerations manager, Bary Khorui, decided to play it safe since he had heard that the previous occupant of the unit did a lot of international travel.

Bary Khorui, of Highland Trading in Scarborough, had his new warehouse disinfected as a precautionary measure Tuesday. (Grant Linton/CBC)

"I'm just trying to take precautions, as much as we can, to ensure that nothing will happen," he said. "Rather safe than sorry," he said.

But Maureen Taylor, a physician's assistant at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, believes there may be simpler ways for people to stay clean and safe during the outbreak.

"Social distancing is the most important thing: Let's get fewer people touching surfaces in offices in the first place," she said.

"I would invest in cleaning surfaces at least once a day. Get those surfaces that people are touching all the time: the faucets in the bathroom. the light switches...stairwell, handrails.

"I would just go about cleaning things really well with the stuff we already have in our cupboard."