With so many tools promising such great productivity gains, why haven’t all facility cleaning managers made the switch from traditional equipment?

“Probably 80 percent of the industry, if not more, is still using a standard string mop and bucket wringer,” Keller says. “That isn’t efficient anymore. We have better tools now, so why not use them?”

In many cases, it’s a matter of sticker shock. A mop and bucket, trigger sprayer and cleaning cloths may represent an investment of no more than a few hundred dollars, while a single cleaning machine can cost several thousand. Even microfiber represents a larger expense than conventional tools.

What’s being overlooked in that comparison, however, is the long-term savings mechanization can provide. Labor is by far the largest expense in jan/san, which means reducing that expenditure through efficiencies can pay dividends over time — more than enough, experts say, to recoup the cost of a pricey machine (or even a fleet of them).

“If it’s taking you three minutes per fixture to clean now, but a machine could get that down to two minutes or less, you can get more done with the same people,” Schneringer says. “Those are the conversations that need to take place. Once you use it, it’s really straightforward.”

A quick example of the potential return on investment (ROI): Take a building with 10 restrooms and a total of 115 fixtures that are cleaned 200 times per year by custodians paid $12.50 an hour. In that facility, it would take short of three months to pay off a $3,600 spray-and-vac machine in labor savings. After that, the facility would save about $1,500 per month.

Capital expenditures aside, some cleaning executives struggle with upgrading to new technologies because of a “we’ve always done it this way” mentality among workers. If cleaning workers are accustomed to cleaning even very large spaces with a mop and bucket, and feel like they get good results, they may be resistant to even trying something like a combination machine.

How can you overcome a fear of technology or change among your staff?

“The buy-in of the custodians is key to it all,” Allen says.

Involve your staff in the purchasing process as much as possible. Ask for their input about what is and isn’t working well currently, solicit their opinions on the machines you’re considering, and let them get hands-on with the frontrunners during demos and trial periods.

“When it comes to implementing new cleaning equipment in the restrooms — and it’s a change from the standard of mops and rags — it has to be something staff members feel at ease about using and have a desire to use on a daily basis,” Allen says. “Without that, nothing else makes a lick of difference.” 

BECKY MOLLENKAMP is a freelance writer based in St. Louis, Missouri.