Part two of this three-part article focuses on the benefits of a color-coded cleaning system.

The renewed interest in color-coding systems has largely been triggered by frequent news stories about illnesses in hospitals, schools, restaurants and the like. Sickness can spread through cross-contamination, when an infected person touches something and then a janitor picks up the virus or bacteria on a cloth or mop and transfers it from area to area while cleaning.

Color-coded wipes and tools dramatically reduce this problem by containing contagions. For example, restrooms may represent only 5 percent of a building’s space, Neufeld says, but they can house 80 percent of the germs.

“Do you want to mop the floor in the patient room where they just used that same tool to mop the bathroom floor?” says Neufeld. “People are supposed to clean their tools and put them away properly, but that doesn’t actually happen in many cases. You need to make sure your people are doing the right thing, and color-coding helps with consistency.”

Although cross-contamination can occur in any facility, it’s of particular concern in the healthcare industry. High-profile incidents of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) have resulted in a big push to use color-coding as one method for controlling the spread of infection through cross-contamination.

The other major reason for the recent popularity of color-coded products is the increase of janitorial workers who speak English as their second language.

“With the diverse workforce we have, it bridges the language barrier,” says Carrizales. “Instead of having to remember 30 or 40 different things, you can just say, ‘This area is red and this area is blue.’”

In addition to simplifying the cleaning process by labeling products by color, there are wall charts for janitorial closets and flip cards for janitorial carts that reinforce the process with simple visual cues. For example, next to a dispenser with four chemicals, a manager might hang a chart with very basic drawings to indicate where each color-coded chemical is used, such as a mirror for the blue cleaner. Then, the janitor’s cart could have illustrated flip cards for how to use each tool and with which chemicals.

“Color-coding creates a universal language that can cross cultures and be understood in a simple clear manner,” says Neufeld.