|LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
The Cleaning Industry Responds:
Are we operating in a vacuum?
The November 2003 issue of Housekeeping Solutions questioned whether or not the industrys various benchmarks, guidelines, certifications and ways of measuring cleanliness are too diverse, confusing and counterproductive. The article implied that perhaps the cleaning industry needs a universal cleaning standard. Some reader feedback:
I have been conducting cleaning seminars for nearly 25 years, and the most critical cleaning issue, in my opinion, is the cleaning standard.
I believe it is appropriate to define the end result without relying on the word clean. For instance, the cleaning standard for a toilet might be no visible soil, no odor, no mineral buildup, fully operational, smooth surfaces, etc. Every surface that is cleaned should have a set of expectations that are achievable, measurable, and affordable.
Several cleaning consultants have compiled a series of quality assurance guidelines. Once these are in place, then one can develop a comprehensive training program, communication expectations to the customer, objectively measure employee performance (both production and productivity) and purchase quality cleaning equipment and supplies. Most custodians enjoy developing quality assurance guidelines we end up with such descriptions as shiny, sparkling, clear, smells good, and my favorite customer does not complain.
Perry S. Shimanoff, president
Management and Communication Consultants, San Carlos, Calif.
There is no doubt in my mind that the custodial industry needs a universal set of cleaning standards. We exist in an environment where standards, if they exist at all, are often unevenly enforced or ignored in the daily rush to simply get the work done.
In our work with custodial departments in a variety of facilities for more than 30 years, we have seen very detailed cleaning standard documents that bear little relation to the departments training or quality assurance programs and seem to have been created solely for the purpose of having something in writing.
Some of the things we see in successful housekeeping operations are training programs and quality assurance that are completely integrated and where managers and supervisors incorporate the actual words and phrases of the training program and performance standards into their daily conversations with employees. One test of true cleaning standards are if the employees, who actually clean, know them and understand what they mean in their daily work.
We must have standards that are not only a living part of individual custodial operations, but are accepted by our customers as meaningful. We as an industry can develop all the cleaning standards we want, but unless our customers can agree, at some basic level, that they achieve what they are meant to achieve, then they become meaningless.
Ralph Rice, president
Housekeeping Systems, Inc.
St. Louis, Mo.
Cleaning is never a static process it is continuous and essential for the ... environment. Standards should be continuously maintained.
In the food industry, perfectly clean is assumed by bacterial count or shine on the overall appearance. So your floors are shiny? Yes, but are they clean by food industry standards? The two standards should be compatible but are not. Clean by food industry standards refuses the use of polishes, deodorants and perfumes, as well as surface dressings. It relies on continuous cleaning. So when a standard is set in this industry it is by bacterial count and the cleaning methods reflect this.
Now look at the definition of clean, away from the food industry. The floors shine because someone has taken a buffer to a dirty floor. It is supposed to be clean because it shines. Is the floor washed? If it is, is there continuous changing of water and detergent solution, and are clean mops used? Is the machinery or the pads or scrubbers ever cleaned?
If cleaning was maintained to the standards of a new building, and it isnt difficult to do, then standards would be easy to keep to. Corners would be cleaned out, scale removed and a clean bright appearance keeps a healthy environment. So more attention has to be taken to the overall cleaning using detergents and very good quality vacuum cleaners and a good deal less use of polishes, waxes and air fresheners and deodorants. Cleaning correctly is using aqueous cleaning methods and being sufficiently interested in the cleaning staff to get a system of continuous cleaning and improvement under way.
Mary de Cobos, co-owner
Newark on Trent, UK
There has been much talk about establishing definitive cleaning standards within our industry, but efforts have met with mixed success. Why? I believe the reason is basic.
A cleaning standard must be defined by a cleaning purpose. If to clean for health is the purpose, the standard will be quite different than to clean for appearance. If to clean within budget or to save time is the purpose, the standard will be defined in less ennobling ways.
Bottom Line: The cleaning industry in its current state of thinking cannot create one unified standard (though it can create specs based on particular customer requirements) because the thinking about cleaning is not unified.
Thus, it is far more important to change the way people think about cleaning starting first with the people within the industry and then embracing people outside the industry.
Since safety and the protection of human health are major standards drivers in other successful fields (from electricians to engineers), one of the industrys major initiatives should be to promote cleaning as an indoor environmental discipline (science) in the public interest.
Moreover, I simply believe that to clean for health is the best foundation for the industry to build a lucrative and dignified future upon (with appearance, surface preservation, etc. as pillars of the structure).
What the cleaning industry needs first and foremost at its core is an ultimate standard of care, a reason for being, the equivalent of do no harm, a philosophical foundation.
Just as it is very important to know why a doctor decided to practice medicine, it is also important that we know why we clean.
Allen P. Rathey, president