Part three of this article examines the cost of switching to a color-coded cleaning system.

With such clear benefits, why hasn’t everyone switched to color-coded products?

Cost is a common complaint. Prices for color-coded microfiber cloths and other tools are typically no different than their traditional counterparts. But switching to a truly color-coded system requires buying multiples of every product to have sets in each color, which can represent a large cash outlay at the start.

Although it may cost a bit to start, Neufeld says smart operations can use color-coded products to distinguish between divisions or functional areas.

“That allows for clear resource allocation and budgeting,” he says.

Perhaps the biggest argument for making the switch is guarding against a potentially disastrous (and expensive) public-relations nightmare. The average cost to a healthcare facility for an HAI is $18,000–20,000, and insurance won’t cover those costs, says Carrizales.

“A small investment of several thousands to prevent a cost of tens of thousands per person per incident is a no-brainer,” he says.

A flu outbreak or food-poisoning incident in a healthcare facility, school, restaurant or any other building can have hard costs, such as absenteeism and lost productivity, or intangible costs, such as bad press and a damaged reputation.

“With the social interaction on the Internet today, everyone has something to say,” says Carrizales. “If one person gets sick because of poor cleaning practices, the next thing you know, all of their friends know about it. Damage to name recognition can destroy a business.”

If a facility can’t afford to immediately change out all products to color-coded versions, Hill suggests phasing in the items. It’s often best to get new microfiber first, since those products are the most used and most affordable. Next, it’s smart to prioritize the tools and chemicals and slowly add them to the mix, he says.

Although the benefits of color-coding are becoming better understood, distributors may still need to play the role of educator to get some old-school facility managers to make the leap to color-coding.

“Some people have been doing the same thing for 20 or 30 years and they don’t know what they don’t know,” says Carrizales. “They may think just purchasing different colors will be a magical potion. It’s not. It still comes down to the end user following proper protocol procedure.”

Becky Mollenkamp is a freelance writer based in St. Louis.