Ben Walker

Have you ever looked at a painting by Claude Monet? In high school, my French teacher shared works of famous French painters with a goal to turn rowdy kids into Francophiles. I'll never forget how she introduced us to the impressionist painters. The first slide she showed was of an ultra zoomed-in composition. The purpose was to show us the detail of brush strokes and mixes of color to understand how much work went into each piece.

That said, when you step back and look at the composition of those elements, that's when you realize the level of Monet's artistic genius. Brushstrokes and a colorful blob can be fun to look at, but when you zoom out, the entire composition of "Impression, Sunrise" is what comes into focus.

How is this relatable to facility cleaning decisions? Don't worry; we'll get there.

The other day, I spoke with a colleague — a researcher with a science background — about the art of daily cleaning. We began our discussion talking about disinfecting grout lines, drain odors, and the nuanced minutiae cleaning conversations tend to drill down upon. It is a standard custom for our weekly check-ins, and I rather enjoy them.

These discussions are a chance for me to look up from my desk, which encompasses the work I do with end users, and gain some perspective on the challenges you face. Our recent conversation started in the normal fashion, but concluded with an odd twist — inactivating and removing viral material that may have found its way into the pores of a stone surface in office kitchenettes; an oddly specific issue.

Keep in mind, no one had contracted a virus from the surface. In fact, since surface disinfection — especially in the current pandemic — is estimated to only account for a small fraction of the overall transmission, I wasn't quite sure why there was a cause for alarm.

Generally speaking — and unless it's in a cleanroom, healthcare, or another type of specialty setting where this level of detail is warranted — daily in-house janitors have a minimal amount of time to cover assigned areas. Experience has taught me that getting into the pores of a surface to kill and remove every single pathogen that could be lurking on every single countertop is, in a word, nuts, in the context of daily cleaning protocols.

I'm confident that following any standard procedure for disinfecting will likely alleviate most of this risk in this particular instance, but that's not the point. I'm not saying this isn't, nor shouldn't be a concern. I'm suggesting zooming out and looking at the bigger picture.

The bigger picture is that daily cleaning encompasses so much more than just killing pathogens. It involves removing trash, dust, allergens, soils that are visible, and even soils that are not. It is an activity that, when performed consistently and adequately, provides tremendous health benefits for janitors and occupants of buildings alike.

If 2020 was the year that put the importance of cleaning in the spotlight, then perhaps 2021 should be the year that we focus on keeping those indoor environments healthy. That goes way beyond disinfecting the iffiness of a surface. It's cleaning for health — and it is a service that we can provide daily.

Ben Walker is COO at ManageMen, Inc., a leading cleaning industry consultancy specializing in training, transitions, auditing and educational materials. In addition to his consulting work, Walker is the author of ISSA's best-selling book: 612 Cleaning Times and Tasks. He can be reached at