How often do communications barriers allow problems to fester, seemingly forever? The chain of communication from manager to manager and finally the person in the field can be irritatingly long. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to eliminate the middleman and talk directly to whomever will eventually fix the problem?

That’s the goal behind “Cleanology” — a 16-step educational program to teach custodians the “whys of cleaning” so they have the knowledge and confidence and are empowered to take matters in their own hands.

Rice University in Houston is initiating a yearlong study to see if “Cleanology” is effective. Out of the 150 employees and 3 million square feet of cleaning space, only 30 employees will use Cleanology methods in roughly a 1-million-square-foot area during the testing process. If successful, all custodians at Rice will become “cleanologists.”

Cleaning class
The Cleanology program teaches custodians the science of cleaning. Custodians learn the difference between an acid and an alkaline as well as the merits of vapor cleaning. With this newfound knowledge comes a feeling of professionalism.

“There are so many people in the field that never have the opportunity to reach their full capabilities,” says George Price, founder of Cleanology and the president and CEO of Cleanology Systems, Onalaska, Texas. “The more you know about the study of cleaning, the better you can set up your operations.”

“Cleanology is not a how to clean. It’s more like a why. Why do we do things the way we do,” adds Eusebio Franko, Jr., manager of custodial and grounds, Rice University.

When custodians become cleanologists they are able to handle their own workspaces without supervisor intervention. By being cleaning savvy, workers develop a better understanding of their job and don’t rely on what the supervisor tells them to do, says Price.

Rice’s study
For about five years, Rice University has been using Cleanology, but only in small pockets around the school. The goal of the current study is to see if the methods can be incorporated into all areas of the campus. Workers will be in charge of every task in a specific area — from cleaning to handling complaints. There will be no supervisors to record progress. That will be up to the cleanologists.

Franco incorporated the Cleanology program because he wants his employees to not only have a better understanding of their work, but also to have a sense of pride and professionalism.

“The ‘how to clean a sink’ or ‘how to buff a floor’ may be training but it is not developing the individual,” he says. “We want our employees to grow and develop themselves, to learn to think for themselves ... to become leaders.”