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Unleashing the power of scrubbing

Scrubber dryers earn the role of cleaning workhorse by virtue of their versatility alone. But going cordless leads to a raft of further advantages, says Stephen Pinhorne, UK national sales manager of Truvox International

The day is approaching when just about every machine we use may be cordless, given the leaps and bounds being made in battery technology. There are practical gains to be made, not least in convenience, across the board, but in the case of the scrubber dryer, the marriage of flexibility and versatility is especially productive.

Clients in many sectors tell us that their scrubber dryer has become the workhorse of the cleaning team as they wash, scrub and dry in one pass, leaving floors that are both clean and safe to walk on.

The variety of flooring in many buildings makes it harder to maintain consistent standards of cleanliness, particularly if operating a mixed fleet of specialist machines.

An advanced scrubber dryer – such as Truvox International’s Multiwash or Orbis models – can take most floors in their stride: from timber, laminates and composite vinyl to concrete, terrazzo, slate and stone. The Multiwash can even clean escalators, travelators and entrance matting, as well as soft floors and ‘difficult floors’ like rubber-studded flooring.

In an intensively used building, some daytime cleaning is likely to be essential, which only adds to the high standards of professionalism that must be shown in all aspects of the cleaning operation. The shift to daytime cleaning is continuing for financial and other reasons, and the availability of quietly efficient cordless machines is fuelling the trend. This is another dimension in which the scrubber dryer most clearly demonstrates its utility, and all the more so with the advent of modern battery power.

Cordless scrubber dryers are particularly well suited to hospitals, leisure centres, retail outlets, hotels and transport hubs where continual cleaning is required throughout the day, and contact with the public is guaranteed.

High manoeuvrability, ease of control and low noise levels are essential as the cleaning team work around the building – and often around customers.

Clients also recognise the safety benefits of going cordless. Trailing power leads stretching across rooms and corridors pose a tripping hazard for building users and operatives.

That risk shouldn’t be under-estimated. The Health & Safety Executive says slips and trips are the most common cause of major injuries at work. Its information sheet on the importance of floor cleaning puts cables and leads from cleaning equipment top of its list of potential trip hazards.

The more corners, fixtures and narrow spaces, the greater the hazard of snagging cables, and the more valuable a flexible, cordless machine becomes. Productivity also benefits as operatives don’t have to stop continually to unplug, coil the cable and find the next socket. While some in our industry have argued that the time spent recharging and/or swapping batteries can cancel out those productivity gains, the advances made in battery technology in recent years are addressing those concerns.

Short run times held back the adoption of battery power but their developers are making great strides. The rechargeable batteries now on the market operate longer between charges and energy usage is also improving. They are faster to recharge so managing the downtime of a fleet is simplified. Past concerns about the reliability of battery-reliant equipment are also being allayed. Truvox adopted lithium-ion technology for the Multiwash 340/Pump Battery. This makes it lighter and highly manoeuvrable, and scrubbing power is not compromised as its cylindrical brushes counter-rotate at 400rpm.

The initial capital cost of any machine should always be considered in the context of return on investment. As production of batteries and cordless machines rises, the price gap with mains-powered models narrows.

But in most applications of higher productivity, the differential will be more than offset by the productivity gains. The time saved by operators using more flexible machinery can be significant, particularly on larger sites, given that labour costs typically account for two thirds of a cleaning budget.

There are other costs, of course, that need to be factored into the equation. Although modern batteries are becoming more robust, their life cycle, the need to invest in replacement batteries for longer shifts, and constraints on facilities for storage and charging of back-up batteries may tilt the balance towards mains power.

Surprisingly often, however, cleaning regimes are distorted by a more fundamental problem – a partial view of costs, which leads to false economies. Worst of all, the attitude that ‘this is the way we’ve always done things’ may mean that efficiency and cost-effectiveness are not assessed in any meaningful way.

Yet reliance on ageing machinery, under-specified equipment or manual mopping will impose a penalty in the form of inefficiency, higher labour costs, demotivated staff and sub-standard cleanliness.

When it comes to scrubbing hard floors, we find that the traditional methods tend to become ingrained.

The facility or cleaning manager’s understandable problem is that some priorities – like keeping floors looking pristine and minimising cleaning costs – seem to be conflicting. But that’s not necessarily so. Striking the balance is all about efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Whatever the current cleaning routine, even if it’s mopping by hand, start with a few calculations: the size of the area(s) to be cleaned, including different floor types, and a measure of current cleaning costs. That should include cleaning hours, wages and labour on-costs, materials and expenditure on running the equipment used.

For mopping, the purchase cost of equipment may be low, but the consumption of cleaning solution may be arbitrary, and excessive. The cost of mop-heads also adds up over a year, if they’re replaced responsibly. This spending may seem frugal, but the cost of low productivity and low worker esteem is a constant drain on the cleaning budget, not to mention staff turnover and recruitment and training costs.

Hand-mopping is labour-intensive and menial work. With a scrubber dryer, operatives will get the job done quicker (and better), so they’re freed up for other tasks, and the budget can be reduced or may fund additional activities.

The costs of the current cleaning regime need to be compared with (other) mechanised floor cleaning solutions. Managers can then make a more informed decision based on costs and efficiency, not neglecting hidden costs and the machine and method’s effectiveness.

Floors are constantly under attack from grit and soil on people’s footwear and other sources. Apart from the visual impact of dirt and stains, there is the toll of accelerated wear on flooring and also the contamination risk. Crevices and cracks in any floor, and grout lines between tiles, are fertile breeding grounds for bacteria. Mopping is widely used but is the least effective cleaning method, and also the most disruptive to building users and dangerous given the slip risk on damp floors.

By contrast, a scrubber dryer equipped with cylindrical brushes counter-rotating at high speed makes it easy for the operator to apply the pressure needed to scrub down into grout lines and crevices coated with stubborn soil.

multiwash_340_pump_battery_in_use_1The scrubber dryer’s brush action propels the contaminated liquid into a holding tank so only clean solution is applied to the floor. The efficiency of the process reduces the volume of solution required dramatically, so there are valuable savings in chemical consumption too.

And where the scrubber dryer has the added flexibility of cordless operation, it does not come at the expense of productivity.

Around 930m2 per hour can be scrubbed and dried by the Multiwash 340/Pump Battery, which has a 34cm cleaning width. This boasts a continuous run time of 50 minutes, and a quick-change battery system. As well as being ideal for daytime cleaning, the unit has a low height and long-armed hand control for cleaning under desks and furniture.

Cordless scrubber dryers are available in many shapes and sizes for most applications.

The Orbis Battery Scrubber has a 38cm brush/pad diameter and cleaning path with an output of 1100m2 per hour on a battery run time of 80 minutes. Among the most compact, the Orbis MotorScrubber 20 is a 20cm battery scrubbing machine, ideal for more cramped situations ranging from kitchens, stairs and toilets to leisure centres, changing rooms and hospital wards. Lightweight and easy to manoeuvre, using a 75cm telescopic handle, its 12V battery pack provides a four-hour runtime for maximum productivity.

A quick-change battery system allows the machines’ range to be extended easily. Their sealed gel batteries are maintenance-free.

Scrubber dryers also need to be well balanced and ergonomically designed so they are easy to operate and control. Switching brushes or pads, filling and emptying solution and recovery tanks, and cleaning the machine are all straightforward. This makes it easy to train new team members, who can quickly get up to speed.

Brushes are easily interchangeable depending on the cleaning task and the surface. The Multiwash range has colour-coded brushes that prevent cross-contamination between areas such as washrooms and kitchens.

So to sum up, any equipment purchase – or cleaning plan – is best decided on a holistic view of cost-effectiveness and return on investment. When it comes to cleaning hard floors, a scrubber dryer not only offers a competitive advantage in terms of productivity and versatility, but the additional flexibility of battery power. That’s a powerful combination.

About Sarah OBeirne

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