Amid COVID-19, local cleaning company has 'phones ringing off the hook'

David Floyd • Mar 28, 2020 at 9:00 AM

As many businesses struggle to adapt to the uncertain atmosphere created by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), at least one is seeing demand increase for its services.

“Uptick’s not even a good word,” said Jim Wilson, CEO of bioPURE Services, a cleaning company based in Johnson City that operates eight locations, including operations in South Carolina and Ohio. “We’ve seen a drastic step change, phones ringing off the hook in all of our locations.”

Wilson said the company’s customer list has probably doubled since the outbreak of COVID-19 and, in Northeast Tennessee, includes the Washington County Courthouse, the Quillen College of Medicine, Southern Craft BBQ, BrightRidge and Dominion Senior Living.

“I can’t even keep up with all the new customers that we’re getting,” Wilson said.

On a weekly basis, Wilson estimates bioPURE is now treating about 3 million square feet of space across its eight locations.

Wilson said the company’s disinfectant, bioPURE Clean, meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19. On the list of certified products maintained by the agency, Wilson said bioPURE is a sub-registrant to Performacide, a disinfectant that the EPA reports has sodium chlorite as an active ingredient.

The EPA said on its website that, while products on the list have not been tested against SARS-CoV-2, they are expected to be effective based on criteria like their demonstrated efficiency against harder-to-kill viruses or efficiency against human coronaviruses similar to SARS-CoV-2.

Because it’s a new virus, the EPA said pathogens like the novel coronavirus are often unavailable commercially for laboratory testing.

At Appalachian Maid Services, 528 W. Market St., Office Manager Mary Bullen said more elderly customers have canceled services until the outbreak calms down, but at the same time, the company has seen more homeowners and businesses request cleanings.

“We’ve had some cancel, but we’ve had more added on,” she said, “so we’re breaking about even.”

She said Appalachian Maid Services is also giving away electrolysed water, containing hypochlorous acid, every Wednesday at its location on West Market Street. Hypochlorous acid is an active ingredient in several EPA-certified products that meets the agency’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2.

bioPURE Clean, which has chlorine dioxide as an active ingredient, is applied as a fine mist. Particles receive an electrostatic charge as they leave the nozzle, meaning it’s easier for them to cling to multiple surfaces including small cracks. Wilson said the company can totally treat about 10,000 square feet in an hour.

Over the past two weeks, Wilson said the company has heard from about 150 people who have expressed interest in starting franchises in other parts of the country. Wilson said the company is talking to potential franchisees from places like Oregon, Missouri, Louisiana and North Carolina.

“Our main goal is to change the standard of clean by bringing some technology to disinfection,” Wilson said, “and because of COVID-19, the whole world understands that that’s kind of a needed service.”

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