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The Evolution of Robotics

The Evolution of Robotics

2016 was the “coming out” party for floor-cleaning robotic equipment at ISSA Show North America in Chicago. There were a handful of companies that introduced robotics that year. Some say 2016 was an encore year. There were efforts in the mid-1990s to bring robotics to floor care, but back then, they were very expensive, and didn’t catch on. Now, barely three years later, there are robotic units cleaning floors and charming building occupants. Jan Willem Tinge, the vice president of global marketing for Diversey, Inc., was part of the robotics “reveal” in 2016. He says the acceptance has been rapid. “At first, people were asking questions like, ‘Will robots replace people?’ And now they ask, ‘What kind of navigation technology are you using?’ It took just one year to get to the enthusiasm about and acceptance of robots. It’s quite logical. We know there is a labor shortage and staff turnover, and that people don’t aspire to be cleaners. Now, robotic equipment is becoming more affordable, particularly because of big investments from tech companies and organizations pursuing autonomous vehicles,” he said. Robots are becoming more mainstream. Linda Silverman, president of Maintex, reports: “In the last few years that I’ve served as a juror for the ISSA Innovation Awards, we’ve seen more autonomous equipment from all over the world. And we’re seeing more acceptance of these machines.” The “evolution” from cleaning floors by hand, to mops, autoscrubbers, ride-on machines, and now robots, is something that Pamela Voigt specifically talks to her staff about when onboarding robotic floor machines. Voigt, superintendent of custodial services/building operations for the University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver Campus, was in on the robotics movement before most people, when approached by A&K Robotics, a start-up company founded by UBC alumni who asked their alma mater to help them gain insight on the day-to-day work of floor cleaning. When the trial period ended in 2018, UBC officially added robots to their fleet of floor machines.

What leaders are saying about the robot market

The answers vary from five to 30 when people in the know—the robotics champions in their respective manufacturing companies—are asked, “How many companies are currently in the robotic floor machine business?” Tinge said: “There are probably 30 out there with something meaningful in various stages of development, not including those with just concepts at this time.” He believes 12 are beyond the demo and installation stage and are actively selling robotic machines. One thing that experts agree on is that the competition is friendly; manufacturers are pushing each other forward. “The market is big enough for everybody. We encourage everybody from robot companies to jansan companies,” said Phil Duffy, vice president of innovation with Brain Corp., which provides autonomous solutions to transform manually driven products into intelligent machines. Brain Corp.’s equipment is installed on six different machine original equipment manufacturer assembly lines. Holly Borrego, senior director of cleaning services of C&W Services of Chicago, described it from the end-user perspective. “Everybody, from the robotics companies, to the machine companies, to the sensor companies, are working together to improve the concept. It’s nice to see manufacturers play well together and listen to us. I love the camaraderie in the industry. I think it’s been a great change in the industry in which manufacturers are saying, ‘Tell us what you need. And what are your decision parameters?’ I think they’re shaping a new way of understanding what we need. The robotics and technology have forced and propelled manufacturers to listen more closely.”

Is it ‘autonomous’ or ‘robots’?

It’s all so new that the jansan industry has not yet settled on a universal name for these machines. It runs the gamut from the Tennant Company’s “autonomous mobile robots” (AMRs) moniker, to the University of British Columbia’s “robotic autoscrubbers” (“robots” for short). The machines are not really autonomous—yet. Matt Fussy, director of product management with Nilfisk, explained: “There are different levels of autonomy. Right now, they are semi-autonomous, because they require help from operators who have to fill and empty, press the ‘start’ button, and manage the robot during its shift. It kind of mirrors what the car industry is doing, in that there are various levels of autonomy. A fully autonomous machine will eventually move the operator out of the equation, and ideally will navigate from and to, a charging station, fill, dump, and refill. I think the evolution will be more about being smarter and intelligent, rather than expanding into different products.” Within the world of robotic machines, there are several different types: Robots completely built from scratch; new floor machines on which robotic equipment is added on the assembly line; and existing machines retrofitted with robotic equipment. A&K Robotics produces the only known retrofit kit on the market. Matthew Anderson, A&K Robotics CEO and co-founder, said: “Our system is application agnostic. The ‘brain’ we developed can be attached to anything with wheels. It is a kit that goes on existing machines.”

Ideal spaces and locations

Today, robotic floor machines are predominantly used in large office environments, airports, health care, shopping centers, retail, universities, and manufacturing plants. While some experts recommend floor-cleaning robots for big areas, such as a space with more than 80,000 square feet cleaned on a daily basis, and large budgets, others suggest that it’s not just about facility type, population, or square footage. According to Dennis Collins, global product manager–robotics at Tennant Company: “These machines are changing the questions we ask about customer needs. It used to be about square feet. Now it’s, ‘When do you clean? How do you clean? How many people are here? How often do you clean?’ It’s more consultative.” He noted that Tennant talks more about obstacles than square feet. “From a bodega to a warehouse, it’s all about the process that the customer has. What’s best for the customer? And what are their expectations?” Everyone agrees that while a robot is in use, its operator can be doing other tasks. In an airport, it might be spotting carpet in the seating area while the robot runs on the concourse. In a university setting, it’s the detailed cleaning. “Our robot operators gain back one to two hours in a day, which is time that can be shifted to the detailed cleaning which is typically lower on the priority list. In that extra time, our employees dust blinds and bookshelves, clean floor vents, use grout brushes on crevices, and wipe down window ledges,” said Voigt. Borrego emphasized the importance of moving the labor hours saved by the robot to something else. “We’re able to take on some of the work internally that in the past we subcontracted to others. In some cases, we’ve added more things to our portfolio in order to be more competitive, such as high cleaning and dusting, interior window cleaning, carpet and upholstery cleaning, and power washing.”

Empowering and promoting cleaning employees

Robotic floor machines enable people to accomplish tasks at a higher productivity rate, often doing the work that the cleaners don’t want to do. “We’re trying to help create a world in which people come home from their jobs and feel energized and inspired to use more of their potential. When they are meaningfully engaged in the jobs they do, they are happier,” said Anderson. He continued: “When we train new users, we present certificates at the end of the training. People feel empowered. They often say, ‘I’m so happy to be doing this.’ And then they ask for more robotic machines.” Borrego shared that the prospect of working with robotic machines helps with recruitment. “The robot isn’t about replacing or reducing our headcount. It offers opportunities for employees to learn about robotics and other life skills.” Both Borrego and Voigt noted that unions have been receptive to robots. Voigt said: “We have a strong unionized environment, so when we were ready to start our first robotic trial, one of the first things I did was meet with the union. I explained that the robot would be used as a tool and would replace the mundane task of walking behind an autoscrubber and not replace workers.” Borrego says she hasn’t had any union employees come to her with concerns about displacement. “Robotics offer employees higher-skilled positions within an organization, such as robot fleet management. When we promoted one of our employees, she cried and said, ‘Now I can go home and tell my daughter I’m running a robot.’ ”

Interaction between humans and machine

Interaction starts during the demonstration of a robotic floor scrubber. Fussy talked about how prospective customers—globally—react. “Everybody seems to be curious about how the robot works, and if it’s safe. When we do demos, everyone wants to jump out in front of the machine to see if it stops.” Robots create new relationships between custodians and the people in the buildings they serve. On the UBC campus, students ask the custodian questions about the robot. “The student and custodian interaction elevates the custodians. More often than not, the custodian is ‘invisible,’ but when the custodian and the work they do is recognized, it’s a wonderful thing,” Voigt shared. Robots can take on fun identities. According to Tinge: “We offer the opportunity to do custom wraps on the robots, such as cartoon characters and customers’ branding. Our robots are deployed in a children’s hospital in Hawaii, where there are terminally ill kids. A robot there is wrapped as ‘Thomas the Train.’ It cleans, plays music, and the children look forward to seeing it. These little things are fun to do, gives the robot a human touch, and makes it less scary.” He continued: “When you think about it, we are really the first industry that has robots out in the open.” Voigt also said that their wraps are fun and quirky. “We like to make them interesting. For example, we have one that says, ‘I clean floors but I don’t write papers,’ and another wrap says, ‘I interned on the Death Star.’ ” Depending on the facility, some managers don’t like to run robots during daytime traffic because it can slow down the robot and reduce productivity. Conversely, one client asked its BSC if they could run the robot during the day, “So our customers can see that we’re technically innovative.”

New decision-makers

The decision-makers for the robots are different than those who are traditionally in charge of buying an autoscrubber. “Because of the expense, it goes farther up the financial ladder than other equipment purchases,” according to Rod Dummer, executive vice president and co-owner of Dalco Enterprises, Inc. “One lesson learned is to not make a decision for the customer. Show the machine, explain it, but don’t cross anyone off your list. You never know who might adapt it. And another thing to remember is that you cannot sell a robotics machine if the decision is price-driven.” Bryan Smith, senior marketing manager–Americas at Tennant Company, said: “Different people are getting involved in the discussions, such as innovation teams and public relations people. The decision-making about floor cleaning robots is moving higher up in the organizations that have more advanced strategic goals around innovation. Floor cleaning is becoming part of that conversation. There are definitely new audiences and new influencers.”

How do you know a robot is a good idea?

Now that robots have been deployed into real-life situations, people are already seeing a return on their investment. Borrego says their metrics show savings on repair, maintenance, and vacation hours. “Another advantage is, I can see everything about the routes the machine took. That’s very important for the validation of the cleaning process. If there is a slip-and-fall accident, we will be able to see exactly when the machine was in that area,” she said. And then there’s the precision factor, according to Duffy. “In every single test we’ve performed, the robot has outperformed the human. Robots calculate distance precisely, while humans tend to ‘eyeball’ things, especially at three o’clock in the morning when they’re tired. It’s much bigger than just the devices. It’s about accuracy, service, training, and certification.” The best part about having these robots is, according to Voigt, “being a leader in the industry with these innovations in custodial services. We already have cost savings and engagement between staff and students. I wish we would have done it sooner.”  
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Beyond Handwashing

Sanitizing simply reduces the presence and growth of disease-causing microbes, rather than killing them. It is better than cleaning alone, especially in food preparation and consumption areas, but only reduces bacteria and does nothing to destroy viruses and fungi.

To kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi, disinfection must be done on a regular basis. With proper disinfection, resulting in the killing of pathogens, the spread of office illness can be reduced or stopped altogether.

Handwashing is a great start in the effort to control the transmission of microbes in the workplace environment. Workers should be encouraged to thoroughly wash their hands with warm water and soap for at least 15 seconds following every restroom visit, prior to preparing food, and after contact with the public. Hands should be completely dried. This will help to reduce the spread of disease from person to person and from high-touch surfaces, but you need disinfection to take it to the next level.

When bacteria strikes

Microbes land on high-touch surfaces where they can linger for days or months, waiting to infect the next person to touch that area. Bacteria and viruses are opportunistic, seeking a way into their host. Once they have that way in, colonization begins, and the host becomes ill. In the workplace, this reduces productivity and employee morale. Especially during cold and flu season, illness can spread like wildfire in the work environment.

In those who have compromised immune systems, those same pathogens can quickly become dangerous or deadly. Perhaps the microbe has become resistant, a risk even to those with healthy immune systems. This is one of the many reasons that desks, countertops, and other work surfaces should be thoroughly disinfected on a regular basis. More than just keeping surfaces clean and free of infectious microbes, disinfection can literally save lives.

For this reason, it is increasingly important that work stations be wiped down regularly with a proper solution to eliminate contagions. Prepackaged wipes may be used if the label states that they kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Apply the solution liberally to all countertops, tables, and surfaces, paying special attention to the most-used surfaces. Keyboards can be cleaned with a prepackaged wipe or with a cotton swab dipped in a bleach solution to ensure all crevices are disinfected. Telephone handsets, earphones, and earbuds should also get special attention, as they touch the skin of the user and can cause infections.

Technology hurts

Another source of infectious microbes that deserves special attention includes the devices that have become so popular in the modern technological era. In fact, they are said to harbor as many as 25,000 germs per square inch. Our cell phones go everywhere with us and pick up contaminants along the way. Tablets and smartphones now populate conference room tables in meetings and networking events. One sneeze can turn your technology into a carrier for disease. By their very nature these devices require users to touch them, thereby transmitting microbes to the user.

To disinfect technology, such as smart devices, screen-cleaning wipes with isopropyl alcohol should be used to clean screens and other surfaces thoroughly and regularly. This is especially important when they have been exposed to people who exhibit signs of illness, such as coughing, sneezing, or congestion. People touch their faces as much as 600 times daily, on average. Imagine the microbes they could be picked up from a smartphone that hasn’t been disinfected.

Break room woes

The dreaded breakroom can be another source of contagion, especially foodborne pathogens. With so many people using the same food preparation and storage equipment, and the overall lack of routine cleaning of the space, the breakroom is rife with microbes. Takeout leftovers left in the refrigerator to become office experiments, improperly cooked foods, and uncleaned spills, all contribute to the need for breakrooms to be disinfected on a regular schedule.

Workers should be encouraged to eat in the breakroom, because people who eat at their desks are exposed to three times the bacteria of those who do not. The breakroom space should be disinfected frequently to ensure that it remains a safe place for workers to congregate and enjoy downtime.

The communal refrigerator should be emptied and thoroughly wiped down with a disinfecting solution each week. Any items past their expiration date and takeout meals should be disposed of and the trash removed. The microwave should also be wiped down to remove any spills and splatters, and the carousel plate should be washed in hot soapy water. Any other appliances, such as coffeemakers and toasters, should also be wiped down.

Because workers congregate around the breakroom table, it is very important that its surface be disinfected several times a week as well. Identify any surfaces where people are likely to be touching with exposed skin. For instance, if the chairs have arms, those should be disinfected as well.

Time well spent

In the beginning, it may seem like a lot of extra work as neglected spaces are disinfected properly. Over time, as things settle into a routine process of disinfection, they will take less time and become part of the workplace processes. In fact, other workers will be more likely to pitch in as they enjoy the new clean and safe work environment.

The numbers

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that up to 17 million workdays are lost due to flu, leading to about US$7 billion per year in sick days and lost workplace productivity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 23,000 people are killed each year due to just the flu alone. Not only does proper workplace disinfection save productivity and money, it saves the lives of workers by providing them a safe and healthy environment in which to work and thrive.

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Winter Carpet Care Calls for a Plan

Most facilities have one of two types of carpet cleaning plans in place. Some facilities have their carpets cleaned every few months on a set schedule―whether they need it or not―but most facilities seem to clean their carpets only when they look soiled.

Surprisingly, neither of these programs is efficient, as not all carpets experience the same amount of soiling. Carpets on upper floors of a building, for instance, tend to be far less soiled over the same amount of time as carpets on the first floor near building exits, loading docks, industrial areas, etc.

Most carpet care experts agree that the approach of cleaning carpets only when they appear soiled is too late. Carpets hide soiling, and hidden soils can act as abrasives, resulting in premature wear, loss of fiber material, and sometimes even loss of color.

These problems can all come to a head and have a negative impact on carpets during the colder winter months when outdoor soiling tends to increase along with moisture and ice. The use of chemicals such as ice melts, which help prevent slip-and-fall accidents, can also play havoc on carpets. Further, during the wet winter months, there is a greater possibility that mold, mildew, and bacterial growth can develop in carpets.

In order to protect carpets during the winter, facility managers and cleaning professionals need an effective winter carpet care maintenance plan in place to keep carpet clean and protect the entire indoor environment. The following are some of the key steps involved in an effective winter carpet care program.

  • Decide on a plan. While many facilities have a hard-surface floor care plan in place, they often neglect to design a similar strategy for carpets. The key benefit of having a cleaning and maintenance plan in place for both carpets and hard-surface floors is that it helps to ensure the work actually gets done. Some collaboration among facility managers, cleaning professionals, and building users is recommended to create the plan―and it should be formalized in writing.
  • Reevaluate the benefits of matting. Many facilities still view matting as merely a way to prevent slip-and-fall accidents. While that is one of their key benefits, effective matting systems also keep as much as 80 percent of moisture and soil from entering a facility. At least 15 feet of matting—including scraper mats, combination wiper/scrapers, and wiper mats—should be installed at all building entrances.
  • Increase outdoor cleaning frequencies. Many facilities pressure wash outdoor areas—plazas, sidewalks, etc.—on a regular basis. Weather permitting, these areas should be cleaned more frequently during the winter months.
  • Increase vacuuming frequencies. Vacuuming is probably the single most important component of a winter carpet care maintenance program. Cleaning personnel should vacuum all high-traffic areas, entrance mats, and entrance areas―as well as all main walkways―on a daily basis. Busy locations may actually need to be vacuumed several times a day. Also, more attention is needed on the lower floors of a facility during the winter months to help prevent first-floor soiling from making its way upstairs.
  • Pay attention to special vacuuming needs. Certain carpeted areas tend to become more soiled during the winter months, and these will need more cleaning attention. These include inside elevators, carpeted areas directly outside of elevators and around escalators, and transition areas where hard surface floors meet carpeting and between different sections of a facility (especially if one section tends to become more soiled, such as a warehouse or industrial area).
  • Lift the carpet. Raking or grooming carpets has become almost a lost art. Yet this simple step both breaks up soils and contaminants so they can be removed more easily via vacuuming and scrapes off soils that have become attached to carpet fibers. Raking frequencies will vary depending on foot traffic, but cleaning personnel should rake carpets much more frequently during the winter months. Once again, first-floor areas and carpeted areas near building entries generally need more frequent attention during the winter.
  • Apply simple spotting techniques. The best time to clean a spot is immediately after it happens. This is why having a spotting kit readily available is imperative. Cleaning personnel should spot carpets daily and effectively so that spots and stains do not reappear, cause odors, or tarnish the appearance of the carpet. To ensure spotting effectiveness in the winter months, it can be a good idea to follow up spotting by cleaning the area using a hot-water extractor. This removes any remaining spotting chemicals, rinses the area, and helps remove any remnants of the spot from the carpet.
  • Consider using hot-water extraction. Some facility managers put off cleaning carpets during the winter months under the assumption that it is better to wait until winter weather is gone. Nothing could be further from the truth or worse for the health of a facility’s carpeting. Especially in high-traffic, entry, transition, and first-floor areas, carpets should actually be extracted more often during the winter months to help remove deeply embedded soils and ensure that the carpet continues to work effectively, absorbing soils.

    The extraction process works by injecting pressurized, heated, water-based cleaning solution into a carpet. This injected solution pushes soils to the surface of the carpet. The mixture of soils and solution is then removed by a wet vac. Experts strongly recommend using a heated extractor, especially during the winter months. Most floor covering manufacturers recommend (or even require for warranty purposes) the use of hot water extractors. Typically, using heat provides a deeper clean and less chemical residue is left in the carpet after cleaning, which helps prevent rapid resoiling.

All facilities should have a carpet care cleaning and maintenance plan in place both during the winter months and throughout the rest of year. Taking a proactive approach keeps carpets clean and healthy and extends the life of carpets. This can also mean that funds that might be used to replace carpets can be used for other purposes—a good idea during tough financial times.

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Commercial Cleaning Services in Detroit

Thawing Out Ice Melt Confusion

In many parts of North America, building owners and managers are legally required to place ice melt compounds not only on immediate building entries but on nearby walkways and sidewalks as well. Typically, they turn to their jansan distributors and cleaning professionals to select the proper compounds to use and install at their facilities to promote safety and minimize their impact on floors, carpets, and the environment.

Because there are literally dozens of ice-melt compounds available and how they are used and installed can vary, this can prove to be a more difficult task than initially believed. The following is an overview of what these products are, how they work, and how to use them safely and effectively.

Ice-melt compounds are minerals that effectively reduce the freezing point of water. This is why they are used on walking surfaces during cold and adverse weather. They do this by attracting moisture to form brine, a high-salinity solution that generates heat, helping to melt the ice. Once this brine is formed, it spreads out over the surface and also helps break the bond between the ice and the surface, allowing it to be more easily removed.

Product Ingredients

Although there are many types of ice melts made by a variety of manufacturers, the active ingredients in most of these products are typically a combination of the following ingredients along with sand and clay to help promote foot traction:

  • Sodium chloride. Also known as rock salt, this is the most commonly used type of ice melt. However, ironically, it has limited effectiveness in extreme cold below 20°F. It can also be corrosive to steel, certain building materials, and concrete sidewalks, as well as damaging to nearby vegetation.
  • Calcium chloride. Similar to sodium chloride but more effective, calcium chloride removes moisture from the air and can work at extremely low temperatures, down to -25°F. However, it generally is more expensive than sodium chloride and also can damage nearby vegetation.
  • Magnesium chloride. Comparable to calcium chloride, this compound is less corrosive and far safer to nearby vegetation.
  • Potassium chloride. Although many fertilizers contain potassium chloride, when used as an ice melt, it is not necessarily safe for vegetation. The high concentration of potassium chloride makes it harmful to plants but effective at preventing ice buildup on walking surfaces. It is also less corrosive than some of the other ice-melt compounds already mentioned.

Application Best Practices

No matter which product or combination of ingredients is used, ice melts work best if they are applied before snow or ice accumulates so that they are in contact with the surface. This is why city streets are often coated with ice melt before an anticipated storm strikes. However, if applied after snow or ice has accumulated, the products can still be helpful, but will work slower with limited overall effectiveness.

Wearing gloves, apply ice melt thinly over the surface; use a fertilizer spreader for small areas or a walk-behind spreader for large areas. The entire surface does not necessarily need to be covered with ice melt. Further, the use of scoops and shovels to apply the ice melt invariably results in overuse of ice melt compounds, which can be costly and hamper performance. “Less is more” when it comes to using ice melt effectively.

Most manufacturers will list recommended amounts of ice melt to be used based on the area to be covered as well as climate conditions. If very cold weather or a severe storm is expected, manufacturers may suggest adding some water to the product to start the actual melting process more quickly. Typically, if the proper amount has been used and applied, the product will begin working within about 20 minutes.

Cleanup Issues

Although ice-melt compounds can help promote safety and their application might be legally required, they can be damaging to floor surfaces. Sodium chloride, for instance, can leave a white powdery residue if left to sit on floors over an extended period of time. Other types of ice melts can damage floor finishes and even create a surface residue that can become slippery when wet, potentially creating a hazard.

To help prevent this, cleaning professionals can remove ice melt from most floor surfaces by using a specialty product designed to remove the ice melt haze. Cleaning professionals should choose one that is a neutral pH balance cleaner and a certified green product to help protect the environment, themselves, and building occupants. The pH balance is critical; too high or too low of a pH can remove a floor’s finish while typical neutral cleaners are ineffective at thoroughly removing the ice melt haze from the floor.

First, remove any mats and thoroughly sweep or vacuum the floor area to be cleaned. Afterward, dry mop using a microfiber flat mop to remove any remaining ice melt and then apply the specialty ice melt haze remover. If using a quality product, no rinse should be required. Otherwise, the floor will need to be rinsed and rinsed again if any ice-melt residue remains on the surface.

In some cases, building managers and cleaning professionals find ice melts a necessary evil. On the one hand, they keep walkways and surfaces from becoming too slippery for foot traffic. On the other hand, their use can be damaging to structural surfaces, vegetation, and floors. But with proper selection, use, and removal, the benefits of these products can far outweigh their drawbacks.

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Commercial Cleaning Services in Detroit

Ebola: Prevention and Control for the Cleaning Industry

What is Ebola?

Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF) is the severe, life-threatening disease caused by infection with an Ebola virus. Many people who contract EHF die from it. Find ISSA’s official statement and suggested talking points regarding cleaning to reduce risks related to Ebola.

Worker Protection

Workers performing cleaning tasks in areas contaminated by symptomatic individuals with EHF or environments reasonably anticipated to be contaminated with infectious body fluids are at risk of exposure. That is why it is important to follow the worker protection guidelines set forth in the OSHAFact Sheet on Cleaning and Decontamination of Ebola on Surfaces—see below.

Appropriate Disinfectants

Use an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered disinfectant that is effective against a non-enveloped virus to disinfect hard non-porous environmental surfaces. Look for products with a label which claims to be effective against non-enveloped viruses such as norovirus, rotavirus, adenovirus, or the poliovirus.

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Commercial Cleaning Services in Detroit

The Difference Between Sanitizing and Disinfecting

In the cleaning industry, there are many misunderstandings about disinfectants and sanitizers. The terms are frequently interchanged in discussions, as many people believe they have the same meaning. Though they are similar, there are differences between sanitizing and disinfecting.

A disinfectant is a chemical that completely destroys all organisms listed on its label. The organisms it kills are disease-causing bacteria and pathogens, and it may or may not kill viruses and fungi. From a legal standpoint (U.S Environmental Protection Agency guidelines), disinfectants must reduce the level of pathogenic bacteria by 99.999 percent during a time frame greater than 5 minutes but less than 10 minutes.

A sanitizer is a chemical that reduces the number of microorganisms to a safe level. It doesn’t need to eliminate 100 percent of all organisms to be effective. Sanitizers do not kill viruses and fungi, and in a food-service situation, the sanitizer must reduce the bacteria count by 99.999 percent. Sanitizers are required to kill 99.999 percent of the infectious organisms present within 30 seconds.

If you are involved with cleaning food-service areas, then you’ll be interested in sanitizers. If you are involved with cleaning medical facilities, you’ll be more interested in disinfectants. If you provide green cleaning services, you may want to consider which one will have the least harmful enviromnental impact. If you just need to remove soil, you should consider using an all-purpose cleaner rather than a disinfectant or sanitizer.

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Commercial Cleaning Services in Detroit

Ten Tips for Tip-Top Carpet Care

Due to the global economic decline over the past few years, many cleaning contractors have been expanding their service offerings. Contract cleaning is no longer viewed as recession-proof; even so, it can be recession-resistant, and one of the ways to make this possible is to offer more services, including carpet cleaning. But before contacting your jansan distributor and ordering a new portable extractor, there are a few things contractors should recognize about carpet cleaning.

Let’s examine 10 important items contract cleaning professionals should know about carpet cleaning. There are certainly are more that can be added, but being aware of these 10 subjects can give you better insight into carpet cleaning.

No. 1: Training. Might as well as start with this one first. Carpet cleaning is both a science and a skill, and as such it requires contractors to have some quality education under their belts. The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) is probably the leader in these training programs; however some national janitorial supply houses offer excellent training programs. It is important to know that just like refinishing floors, no contractor should learn how to clean carpets on their customers’ carpets. Learn first―then clean.

No. 2: Low moisture. A term you should understand is low-moisture carpet cleaning. The Low Moisture Carpet Cleaners Association defines it as any procedure that allows carpet to dry in approximately two hours taking into account climatic and other conditions. A low-moisture portable extractor is designed to use less water than a conventional extractor and typically has an advanced vacuum system to more effectively extract moisture from the carpet. Together, these features help carpet dry faster with less chance of mold or mildew developing.

No. 3: Hot or cold. Some portables are cold-water machines; others have a heating element that heats the solution to approximately 212 F. Both types of machines can prove very effective; however some technicians find that heat can make the molecules in a cleaning solution work more effectively.

No. 4: Stains and spots—there is a difference. If a carpet has spots in it, you’re in luck. Spots are soils or residue that generally can be removed with extraction or by using the proper spot remover. A stain, on the other hand, actually changes the color of the carpet. While correction is still possible, it can be difficult.

No. 5: The spot test. This term can be misleading. The spot test refers to testing a cleaning solution in a small inconspicuous area to be sure it does not cause damage, discoloration, or bleeding of dyes. This term also is common in upholstery cleaning and rug cleaning as well as other types of cleaning.1

No. 6: Pre-spray. Rarely do carpet cleaning technicians mix cleaning solution and water in the tank of the extractor. Instead they pre-spray it onto the carpet―one section at a time so it does not dry out―and apply more pre-spray to spots. Remember, the pre-spray also needs a few minutes to dwell to work effectively.

No. 7: Avoiding the call-back. It is very important in commercial carpet cleaning to clarify with the client if stains, spots, or soiling in the carpet may remain after cleaning. This helps eliminate what the industry refers to as call-backs―when the customer asks you to come back and clean the carpet again. Time is money in the carpet cleaning business, and avoiding call-backs helps ensure this add-on service is lucrative for your business.

No. 8: Equipment selection. Today there are many portable carpet extractors available. The best advice I can offer is to look for a manufacturer that has been in the business for several years, and possibly even better, has built the same or similar machine for several years. View portable extractors like computer software. Version 1.0 may have problems that are corrected in version 2.0. You want version 2.0 or higher. Also, a system with variable pound per square inch—or psi—allows you to clean more delicate fabrics such as upholstery and partitions.

No. 9: Interim or restoration. Very likely, you already perform interim carpet cleaning. This is the use of a low-speed floor machine to shampoo or bonnet clean carpets. Interim means it is an effective cleaning procedure between carpet extractions. Carpet extraction is restoration cleaning; the goal is to help restore the carpet to its original condition.

No. 10: Pre-vacuuming. This has become a forgotten step in carpet cleaning, and that is a mistake. Carpets should be vacuumed before cleaning. Vacuuming removes dry soils in the carpet. If dry soils are left in the carpet, the moisture from the extractor essentially turns them into mud, making them more difficult to remove. Pre-vacuuming allows the extractor to work more effectively and can improve worker productivity as well.

One additional point to consider is certification. It is a wise idea to not only learn about carpet cleaning but become certified by an organization such as the IICRC. Certification can open many doors for you. In the eyes of your customer, certification tells them you are a trained carpet cleaning technician.

1 Source: Scott Warrington, Director of Technical Support, Bridgepoint Systems
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Commercial Cleaning Services in Troy, MI

Restrooms: Where Are the Germs Really?


According to a study by NSF International, a not-for-profit standards-development, testing, and certification organization, more than 90 percent of restroom users perform some type of “restroom gymnastics” when using a public restroom: using paper towels to touch handles and faucets; shoe bottoms to flush toilets; and elbows to open and close doors, turn on electric hand dryers, or operate manual dispensers.

The study also found that some users crouch precariously above the toilet seat without ever touching it. And in ladies’ restrooms, feminine-hygiene products are often flushed down toilets because women do not care to touch the lids of typical feminine-hygiene dispensers. This can cause serious plumbing problems for a facility, as pipes can be clogged by sanitary napkins.

The study concluded that most restroom users have developed a “Howard Hughes–type” paranoia and will do just about anything to avoid touching restroom surfaces. Unfortunately, some of this paranoia is based on fact. Using a variety of measurement techniques, such as ATP rapid-monitoring systems, we know that many health-threatening germs are present in public restrooms to varying degrees, including Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, E. coli, Shigella bacteria, the Hepatitis A virus, and the common-cold virus.

Here, There, But Not Everywhere

According to a study by Elliott Affiliates, a Baltimore, MD-based consulting firm that works with the facility-management industry, there is not a high degree of connection between how clean a restroom looked and the level of contamination found.

So where are the germs?  We might, according to several studies, be surprised where germs are—and are not. For instance:


  • Toilet seats: Although most public-restroom users consider the toilet seat germ center No. 1, it is, in fact, not a common vehicle for transmitting disease. And even if a toilet seat does become contaminated, a user would have to have a cut or open sore on the buttocks for cross-contamination to occur. Even outdoor portable restrooms, according to a study by University of Arizona microbiologist Dr. Charles Gerba, were found to be cleaner than picnic tables, playground equipment, shopping-cart handles, and escalator handles.
  • Sinks and faucets: Germs do colonize on faucet handles, and a restroom sink may actually be the most germ-ridden surface in a public restroom. One reason for this is that the dampness of the surface helps keep microorganisms alive. Sensor-controlled faucets or the use of paper towels to touch the faucet help alleviate this problem. Rarely, it seems, do users actually touch a restroom sink.
  • Toilet mists: Although the toilet seat may be relatively safe, this is not true of toilet mists. Each time a toilet is flushed, microscopic mists are released from the bowl. These mists contain a host of germs and bacteria and—depending on the type of toilet, water pressure, and age of the fixture—can cover as much as five feet around the toilet.
  • Feminine-hygiene disposal units: Apparently, there are real reasons many women prefer not to touch these dispensers. A study by the American Society of Microbiology stated that “the outside of a sanitary napkin receptacle is one of the most contaminated ‘hot spots’ in the ladies room.” Typical feminine-hygiene dispensers become contaminated as they are used and are often contaminated once again as a result of the toilet mists mentioned above.


Now that we know where the germ-related problems are in public restrooms, we can emphasize more cleaning in those areas where it’s most needed—and determine the best method for cleaning these areas.



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Commercial Cleaning Services in Canton, MI

Welcome to Green Cleaning 3.0


In a sense, we are now beginning Green Cleaning 3.0. Green Cleaning 1.0 began all the way back in the mid-1990s when, after an Executive Order by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton, federal offices and facilities were required to start using environmentally preferable cleaning tools and supplies whenever and wherever possible. Clinton’s order resulted in federal facilities transferring to green cleaning products and, because the federal government is such a huge purchaser of cleaning supplies, sparked manufacturers in the professional cleaning industry to develop green cleaning products more earnestly.

Green Cleaning 2.0 came into its own in the mid-2000s. That is when the demand for environmentally preferable cleaning products moved into private industry. More and more facilities were seeking the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification and could earn LEED points by using green cleaning products. Today, buildings are required to have a green cleaning strategy in place to even be considered for LEED certification. In addition, more types of facilities started transferring to green cleaning, including schools, health care facilities, office buildings, and hotels. The result was substantial growth in the green cleaning market.

Green Cleaning 3.0 began evolving over the past few years. The use of environmentally preferable cleaning products has now become status quo, with more facilities in scores of industries selecting green cleaning products first and only selecting a traditional product if a green one does not exist or is cost or performance prohibitive. However, Green Cleaning 3.0 has brought a number of challenges with it. Among these are the following:

  • Staying current. In general, cleaning contractors and facility managers are now interested in learning about what green cleaning tools, chemicals, and equipment are available today that were not available a few years back. Their goal is to see if newer, better-performing, and more cost-effective products have come on the market since they first transferred to a green cleaning program.
  • Focusing on sustainability. An increasing number of cleaning professionals are looking for ways to reduce waste, recycle, and minimize their use of natural resources. In some cases, they are doing this because they believe it is the morally right thing to do. In other situations, they are required to take sustainability steps in order to do business with large purchasers of their products and services.
  • Eliminating redundancy. Traditionally, contractors and facility managers have selected a variety of green cleaning chemicals and products each designed to perform a specific task. However, they are realizing some of these products (or newly introduced products) can be used for multiple purposes. To reduce costs, reduce waste, minimize training requirements, and streamline ordering, contractors and managers want to minimize the number of products they select and eliminate those that are no longer needed.
  • Cold-water cleaning. End-users are aware that cold-water dilution is often recommended in green cleaning programs, and it also fits in with their goals to become more sustainable and use less energy. However, they need more information about the uses and best practices for these products before they can make educated buying decisions.
  • Eliminating ready-to-use products (RTUs). Although RTUs are convenient, contractors and managers are opting to eliminate ready-to-use cleaning products, preferring to select chemicals in larger, 5-gallon containers instead. While buying in bulk helps promote sustainability, a significant cost savings can be achieved, as well. More concentrated cleaning chemicals in large drums typically last longer.
  • Looking beyond chemicals. Many cleaning professionals are investigating cleaning equipment and procedures that do not require the use of cleaning chemicals―green or traditional. Sometimes referred to as chemical-free cleaning, this involves using equipment or products that perform using engineered water. In certain situations, this may turn out to be the ultimate in green cleaning.


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Commercial Cleaning Services in Taylor, MI

The Difference Between Sanitizing and Disinfecting

In the cleaning industry, there are many misunderstandings about disinfectants and sanitizers. The terms are frequently interchanged in discussions, as many people believe they have the same meaning. Though they are similar, there are differences between sanitizing and disinfecting.

A sanitizer is a chemical that reduces the number of microorganisms to a safe level. It doesn’t need to eliminate 100 percent of all organisms to be effective.Sanitizing a surface makes that surface sanitary or free of visible dirt contaminants that could affect your health. Sanitizing is meant to reduce, not kill, the occurrence and growth of bacteria, viruses and fungi. Disinfecting a surface will “kill” the microscopic organisms as claimed on the label of a particular product.

A disinfectant is a chemical that completely destroys all organisms listed on its label. The organisms it kills are disease-causing bacteria and pathogens, and it may or may not kill viruses and fungi. From a legal standpoint (U.S Environmental Protection Agency guidelines), disinfectants must reduce the level of pathogenic bacteria by 99.999 percent during a time frame greater than 5 minutes but less than 10 minutes.

Practical Example

If we start with 1 million organisms on a surface then a disinfectant must kill 100 percent of them; zero left. A sanitizer only reduces the number of organisms down to 1,000 and does nothing about virus and fungus.

Sanitizers are typically involved with the cleaning of food-service areas. Disinfectants are typically involved with the cleaning of medical facilities.


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