Washrooms and toilets may only account for a fraction of a building’s floorspace, but this is often where reputations and cleaning budgets go down the pan, says James White, MD of Denis Rawlins Ltd. And where *Return on Innovation can save a pretty penny.
Facilities managers and contract cleaners know that toilets or washrooms are a special case when it comes to cleaning. Why else spend a pretty penny – up to 80 per cent of the cleaning budget, depending on the nature of the building – here?
Users demand a space that looks and smells clean, or come away with a dim impression. But that’s not the only takeaway.
The risks to health that converge here are significant. From pathogens left on floors by shoes to bio-hazardous waste in and around toilet cubicles, to germs from users feeling ill and multiple touch-points that may harbour microbes – washrooms are one of the most challenging arenas to clean properly. They’re also in a pivotal place when it comes to the health of a building and its users. In short, special measures are called for.
The common response is to spend more. More frequent cleaning. Operatives use more disinfectant, and perhaps more powerful chemicals at that. More deep cleans. More spending.
But there’s another way. One that’s more scientific and hard-headed, but benefits operatives and customers alike.
As a company, our approach is to research the market – and advise clients on cleaning methods – based on results.
We test before and after cleaning to show how effective the process is. Using a hand-held monitor, we measure the level of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – the universal marker for animal, bacterial and mould cells. This form of testing has been more usually carried out on work surfaces, but it’s perfectly practicable and sensible to extend it to floors and common touch points.
Conventional cleaning involves mopping around obstacles, manually scrubbing toilet bowls and wiping down surfaces. The use of microfibre cloths (and mop heads) is an advance. But this is still a difficult and distasteful task, and the results tend to be variable at best.
Even if spraying cleaning solution as you work, there’s the risk of spreading soils with the cloth. This is compounded when using a mop and bucket, which is still the norm for many floors, especially toilet areas.
Even if cleaning solution and mop heads are changed frequently, mopping inevitably returns soil to the floor. Also dirt ingrained in crevices and grout lines will not be shifted.
Independent tests in the US using ATP meters and floor plates contaminated with E Coli revealed that microfibre mopping initially removed up to half of the bacteria. But as cleaning progressed, soil was dragged back into cleaned areas so its effectiveness overall dropped to 24 per cent.
The whole process – of mopping with disinfectant, and then rinsing with ‘clean’ water – is also as laborious and time-consuming as it is ineffective.
As a company committed to science-based cleaning, we sought a method that would capture and remove soils in the used cleaning solution. This could be by squeegee but wet vacuuming is preferable.
Comparative testing in the US has shown that such a method is between 40 and 60 times more effective at eliminating bacteria than traditional or microfibre mopping.
What’s more, this is achieved in between one third and half the time. So savings in cleaning team costs can quickly pay back the investment in the equipment.
The Kaivac No Touch Cleaning system also makes the operative’s job more pleasant and professional as it involves spraying a dilute solution and rinsing with water at high pressure to dislodge the dirt and contaminants (including invisible pathogens) before removing them by wet vacuuming.
Not only a better way of working for the operative, this method is more effective and sanitises all washroom surfaces, from urinals, basins and taps to handles and pushplates. This system is particularly suited to wet rooms, such as toilets, bathrooms and leisure centres.
Moreover, the combination of the calibrated spray of cleaning agent and brushing removes microbes embedded in grout lines, cracks and corners that defy traditional methods.
The technology involved is not sophisticated or expensive. It is robust and reliable, using proven components. It’s also cost-effective, given the savings in labour, avoidance of chemical over-dosing, and hygienic results. When routine cleaning eliminates more than 99 per cent of bacteria, there is no need to schedule deep cleans.
So rather than spending more, managers willing to consider a different approach and measurable results, can achieve more with less. This smarter approach to spending we call return on innovation.
And while washrooms do pose some special challenges, this is not the only application where the new ROI can deliver healthier returns. It pays to measure the results – scientific and financial – of innovative alternatives to established cleaning methods.