There may be a place in the well-stocked janitorial cart for abrasive cleaners when workers have been sufficiently trained in how to use these products safely.  Unfortunately, most custodians do not seem to know the difference between an abrasive product and a safer, less aggressive detergent that can be used in more areas with less concern for permanent damage.  

When we think of abrasives, think powered cleansers with “grit” or other rough additives oftentimes mixed with chlorine and other harsh detergents. Also, steel wool pads, green scrubby pads and pumice stones come to mind. These types of cleaning tools should be limited to restorative work or areas where milder processes have failed to produce the desired results.  

When acquiring an account that has been neglected for some time, it may be necessary to use one or a combination of these items to remove buildup and stains from the inside of toilets and urinals. If used correctly they can do fast work on such buildup but should be limited to porcelain surfaces that can handle such abrasion in lieu of harsh acids.  

It is crucial the custodian knows the construction material of the areas being cleaned. A traditional style toilet or urinal is made of vitreous china (think a tea cup) that is totally different in construction from an enameled sink (think paint on metal). Although these items may be crafted to look the same and have the same color, they have totally different reactions to abrasive cleaners.  

Areas to avoid using abrasive cleaners include Formica and artificial stone sinks, counter tops, chrome fixtures, brass, most metal surfaces (stainless steel and aluminum), many ceramic tiles, painted surfaces, glass (including mirrors), plastics, Plexiglas and any other surfaces that can be permanently damaged by such abrasion. If there is any doubt as to how the surface will react to such abrasion, test a small inconspicuous area or simply try something milder.

Once an abrasive cleaning product is used on the wrong surface, it may be too late to undo the damage that cannot be undone.  Ask your vendor, read manufacturer’s directions and get advice from someone who knows.  After additional consideration, perhaps the well-stocked janitor cart can do without this type product in most cases.  

I hope to hear from you soon.  Until then, keep it clean...


Mickey Crowe has been involved in the industry for over 35 years. He is a trainer, speaker and consultant. You can reach Mickey at 678.314.2171 or