Brooms And Mops Influenced, Improved By Technology
After generations of virtually no changes in their basic shape, broom and mop design improvements have exploded in the past decade.
Preventing user fatigue and injury was probably the original driving force in the development of new materials and shapes that define modern broom and mop technology. Any on-the-job injury scenarios due to poor ergonomics leads to lost productivity, employee turnover and skyrocketing workers’ compensation claims.
Broom and mop manufacturers responded by developing lightweight handles with ergonomic bends in the pole to provide greater user comfort and less fatigue. Thicker, molded, rubberized grips and swivel heads offer better maneuverability and easier long-term operation. The new poles provide a more even distribution of pressure on the floor, eliminating excessive bending while mopping. In the end, workers are more comfortable and floors are cleaned better.
In the search for lightweight, user-friendly mops and brooms, manufacturers and BSCs made a lucky discovery. The same features that developed to prevent injuries also allow staff to clean rooms faster, prevent cross-contamination and are environmentally friendlier.
Lightweight handles, for instance, are often made from recycled material or bamboo, a wood source that grows and renews itself faster than traditional trees. Some brooms also feature parts made of PET, or PolyEthylene Therephthalate, recycled fiber.
The modern, advanced cleaning materials require less water, which means a valuable resource is saved and cleaning staff doesn’t have to lug a heavy pail around a building every night. That translates to substantially lower fatigue and higher productivity.
The Microfiber Revolution
Arguably the greatest development in cleaning technology over the past decade has been the introduction of microfiber for conventional, flat and dust mops. A dense material composed of minute synthetic fibers, microfiber can get into small cracks and crevices, cleaning more thoroughly than other cotton or rayon mops. The positively charged fibers attract dust and can hold up to eight times their weight in dirt and water.
BSCs value the fact that microfiber cleans extremely well with water, so expensive chemicals can be reduced or, in some applications, eliminated. While microfiber mop heads cost more than traditional cotton or rayon heads, they can be safely laundered hundreds of times. The traditional cotton mop head wouldn’t last as long before fraying, unraveling and leaving loose strands that the worker must bend to pick up.
In addition, microfiber is color-coded to help reduce cross-contamination. This feature is particularly important in the healthcare and food service industries.
Bill Warnake, vice president of Cavalier Services Inc. in Fairfax, Va., says that his company has gone “100 percent microfiber,” everywhere they possibly can. The company likes microfiber mop heads because of how long they last and how aggressively they can clean without harming surfaces.
A Versatile System
One advantage of the new microfiber mops is that they come in a variety of sizes, shapes and systems to match the application and the size of the end user.
Some mops are now made with chemical dispensing systems built-in, which can save companies time.
“It’s really a timesaver in bathrooms where quick turnaround is important,” says Jeffrey Ritz, regional director of Cavalier’s North Carolina division. Using less water is critical to patron safety when cleaning floors during a building’s hours of operation.
Using less water is also a plus on certain flooring materials, such as grouted tile or porous stone.
“The low-liquid systems work better on marble because you’re not leaving a lot of water behind that would cloud,” says Ritz.
Not everyone has jumped on the microfiber bandwagon, however. Chris Waldheim, CFO for Glendale, Calif.-based J’s Maintenance, says that they have tried to get into a microfiber program, but have gotten a lot of resistance from staff.
“People have a natural tendency to resist something new, and they’re the ones working with it every night,” he says. “We’ll just have to work through it.”
J’s Maintenance has run into other roadblocks as well.
“We are so geographically spread out, it makes it impossible to collect and launder microfiber rags and mop heads every night,” says Waldheim.
With all of the developments in mop technology, can brooms hope to keep up? Manufacturers are offering brooms in a variety of ergonomic shapes, lightweight handle materials and bristle components. However, the advent of lightweight vacuum systems has reduced the use of brooms in larger commercial programs. Backpack vacuums are particularly popular among larger BSCs.
“We don’t use that many brooms,” reports Ritz. “It’s a green thing. The vacuums we use provide 99.9 percent collection of dust particles. So if it’s indoors, we’re vacuuming.”
Ergonomic and material improvements have made brooms and mops more effective and productive for BSCs, and technology will provide for continuous advances in the field.
Maureen Badding is a freelance writer based in Wauwatosa, Wis.
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