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Cost-effective cleaning

Facilities managers juggling competing demands and constrained resources may be missing a trick. James White, managing director of Denis Rawlins, explains how to manage risk and budgets through cost-effective cleaning

Facilities managers have to juggle competing demands often with their hands tied by tight budgetary strings. 

Wear and tear to décor, furniture and floors; rising energy bills; and yet rising expectations too from building users (be they office workers, customers or visitors) are the most obvious challenges. 

Throw in safety issues and the green and wellbeing agendas, and well, anyone could be excused for taking their eye off the ball. While facility managers may be adept at managing resources, one area where they (or their contract cleaners, who should know better) often slip up is ensuring they deliver cleaning that is cost-effective.

This failure can be at its most stark in toilets and washrooms, where the need for high standards of cleanliness and hygiene is paramount.

Taking the cost element first, we are amazed at the large proportion of floors that are still mopped by hand. When staff costs accounts for the lion’s share of cleaning budgets, laborious mopping is not an effective use of the cleaning team. Yet the best estimate is that up to 70 per cent of floors are still ‘cleaned’ in this way.

A mop and bucket may be cheap, but people can be employed far more productively when they are given the right tools for the job. 

Also, it’s likely that overuse of cleaning chemicals poured into the bucket or on floors further inflate this false economy.

At the other extreme are the cleaning budgets that are distorted by the high costs of maintaining sophisticated cleaning machines. As a firm that has been providing cleaning consultancy as well as equipment for 40 years, we see machines that are over-specified for the application or being used in the wrong way. Poor reliability, machine breakdowns and high servicing costs also erode value for money.

Which brings us to the effectiveness side of the equation. Mopping is far better at spreading soils than removing them. Changing the cleaning solution and microfibre mop head frequently is a step forward from traditional mopping. But it’s still a compromise, as scientific testing shows. 

ATP testing equipment accurately measures the levels of adenosine triphosphate, the universal marker for animal, bacterial and mould cells. ATP tests can be carried out on any surface, anywhere in a building, but results are especially significant where hygiene is critical, such as toilet facilities and food preparation areas.

Washrooms are one of the most challenging arenas for any building cleaning team. Failures to maintain high standards of hygiene and visible cleanliness in washrooms not only tarnish an organisation in the eyes of its customers, visitors or employees – it can even put their health at risk.

This is because a variety of risks converge in toilets and washrooms – from bio-hazardous waste, pathogens left on floors by shoes, germs from users feeling ill, and multiple touch-points. Microbes emanating from here can be spread around the building and its occupants.

This – and the scientific evidence that mopping is ineffective and promotes cross-contamination – lies behind our campaign to ‘Chop the Mop’.

As a company we’re committed to science-based cleaning. We advocate and carry out ATP testing, and we’ve scoured the world of cleaning for the most effective techniques and technologies. We were looking for reliable and cost-effective cleaning systems that eliminate bacteria and other contaminants by capturing and removing the soils in water after cleaning, whether through the use of a squeegee or preferably, wet vacuuming.

Our search led to the US, where cleaning equipment manufacturer Kaivac, takes a similar, science-based approach to cleaning – and to compelling evidence from a series of scientific studies.

Comparative testing shows that Kaivac’s No Touch Cleaning system is between 40 and 60 times more effective at eliminating bacteria than mopping; depending on whether microfibre or traditional mops are used.

What’s more, this far superior performance was achieved in between one third and half the time mopping required. This means that the savings in cleaning team costs can quickly pay back the investment in the equipment.

The No Touch Cleaning system involves spraying a dilute cleaning solution, rinsing with clean water under high pressure, and removing the dirt and contaminants (including the invisible pathogens) by wet vacuuming. 

This more effective and hygienic system can sanitise all washroom surfaces, (including common touch points) from urinals, basins and taps to handles and push plates. Moreover, it removes bacteria and toxins embedded in grout lines, cracks and corners that defy traditional methods.

Kaivac1750No Touch Cleaning is designed for wet rooms, such as toilets, bathrooms and leisure centres, and its hygienic cleaning power and efficiency are proven. Other tests by independent scientists have shown that similar results can be achieved whatever the size or type of building – or cleaning budget – with a lower-cost modular general cleaning system. 

This is a ‘crossover’ system called OmniFlex that allows clients to advance first to more hygienic mopping, and then in stages to a self-contained system with wet vacuuming capability.

These tests used both ATP meters and bacteria plates. They showed that cleaning with OmniFlex reduced bacteria levels by more than 99 per cent, whereas microfibre mopping achieved a reduction of 51 per cent at best. Furthermore, the bacteria plates showed that mopping dragged the E. coli back into clean areas, so the mop’s overall effectiveness dropped to 24 per cent. 

As well as mopping and OmniFlex, the comparative testing this time included a scrubber-dryer machine. Significantly, the Crossover cleaning and scrubber-dryer achieved equivalent results, without re-contaminating cleaned sections of floor. For the scientists, this indicated that the suction action of the equipment was instrumental in eliminating the bacteria and minimising cross-contamination.

But the findings are also significant for cleaning budgets. The OmniFlex uses basic components with few moving parts. So spending on servicing, maintenance and repairs of cleaning machinery can instead be put to more productive use, whether it’s raising cleaning standards further or paying for other building services.

The main lesson is that facilities managers have options for moving to a more professional and comprehensive approach to cleaning that is scientifically proven and cost-effective.

That greater professionalism extends to the cleaning team. Mopping and hand-wiping behind toilet bowls is as demeaning as it is ineffective. Using more productive and efficient no-touch systems raises staff morale, and the value of the service from the perspective of building users.

Most importantly, the manager knows that not only are the building’s facilities looking and smelling clean, but that health risks and the cleaning budget are being managed effectively too.

About Sarah OBeirne

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