Equipment that streamlines cleaning processes, as well as operations budgets


Traditional tools used for restroom cleaning have been known to redistribute soil. Far more effective, Rathey says, are machines that actually remove debris and bacteria.

“It’s the difference between using a damp washcloth to clean your body, versus taking a shower,” Rathey says. “The differences are obvious.”

There are several types of restroom-cleaning machines that apply cleaning solutions to the surface, then use mechanical agitation before sucking up and containing the sources of contamination. One of the most popular is spray-and-vac technology, which pressure washes surfaces in a restroom and then vacuums the floor to recover and remove water and soil. This touch-free system keeps cleaning staff from coming into direct contact with contaminated surfaces.

Some manufacturers claim spray-and-vac machines can reduce cleaning time by up to 50 percent. Much of that depends on user training, of course, but McGarvey says the technology definitely produces a much cleaner and healthier restroom in the same, or less time as regular equipment.

“We’ve traditionally mopped restroom floors, which is basically just fingerpainting with the dirt,” McGarvey says. “With spray-and-vac, we pick up the dirt and remove it from the room, which reduces the possibility of cross-contamination. The goal is to get the dirt out of there so we can fight new dirt tomorrow.”

Anyone who hasn’t looked at spray-and-vac machines in a while may want to re-examine the options, McGarvey says. Original offerings were often met with complaints about their bulky size, loud noise and limited accessories. He says newer versions are smaller, quieter, and come with both squeegees and brushes for agitation.

A similar technology gaining favor by custodial managers looking to streamline is spray-and-squeegee equipment. The restroom is pressured washed in the same manner, but instead of water and contaminants being vacuumed up, they are squeegeed down the floor drain. For restrooms with floor drains, spray-and-squeegee machines offer a less-expensive entry point than spray-and-vac equipment.

The University of Washington published a study showing spray-and-squeegee reduced cleaning times in its restrooms, while increasing efficacy, by 59 percent (measured via ATP monitoring), Spencer says.

“In searching for a means to streamline and simplify restroom cleaning, we have had great success with spray-and-squeegee systems,” he adds. “They agitate and remove dirt, instead of just spreading it around.”

Another option for touch-free cleaning is using steam. With this technology, a boiler heats up water to release a dry steam, which loosens debris. The operator then uses a wiper cloth to remove dirt.

Steam cleaning uses less water than the pressure-washing systems. It also uses no chemicals, which could be a distinct advantage for facilities focused on green cleaning.

“Dry-steam vapor is effective as a microbial control method because high-temperature steam vapor makes short work of germs without adding chemicals to the environment,” Rathey says. “Some dry steam devices have peer-reviewed data showing disinfection in seconds, rather than minutes of contact time.”

Also rising in popularity for streamlined systems are microscrubbers. These compact versions of autoscrubbers lay down cleaning solution and then vacuum it up to remove soil and leave floors dry. Like steam, they use less water than pressure washers, plus they offer a small footprint that’s well suited to small restrooms or those with hard-to-reach spaces.

Finally, for areas where large machinery isn’t feasible, microfiber is a more effective method for capturing and removing dirt than cloth rags or mops, Spencer says. The rags and mop heads can save time and water, reduce cross-contamination, and may reduce or eliminate cleaning chemicals for many applications.

“Microfiber technology, employed in a variety of ways, has proven to provide a much more effective cleaning product and process than anything else it has replaced,” Spencer says.