All over the country, restrooms are going touch free. From soap and towel dispensers to toilets, faucets and doors, patrons can go in and out of some restrooms without touching a single surface. Now, the same can be said for cleaners.

Restroom cleaning equipment is now touch-free, allowing custodial staffs to clean more efficiently and thoroughly without touching the contaminants lurking in a restroom.

These results are exactly what the Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, natatorium cleaning crew was looking for. With a world-class swimming facility known for hosting prestigious events for thousands, including the NCAA swim meet, the staff knows the challenges ahead of time. To tackle the high-traffic restrooms, the custodial crew has implemented a spray-and-squeegee cleaning machine to get the job done.

Swim Detail

"The key here is the no-touch approach," explains Sheila Sparks, custodial supervisor. "It's an integrated cleaning system. We can get tasks done in a lot less time than using the traditional methods."

The spray-and-squeegee system is a battery-powered, portable, self-contained unit designed to make facility maintenance easier. It features a spray gun with two attachments, on-board charger, storage space, as well as fresh water and recovery tanks.

In addition to many benefits, one problem she said the spray-and-squeegee system prevents is splash back. Employees no longer are concerned with chemicals spraying in their faces and the risks associated with that.

The spray-and-squeegee machine also helps protect the restroom details, such as grouting. If water is released at a high pressure, "it can chip and crack the ceramic tile, as well as take the mortar out of the grout," she explains. With the spray-and-squeegee system, "we can control flow to low or medium," Sparks states. "This is much kinder to our grout."

Custodial staff members begin the cleaning routine by spraying a controlled use of the chemical to the floor, showers, walls and all other restroom surfaces. In cases of tough stains, a scrub brush is used to agitate and loosen the dirt. The chemical sits for 10 minutes to obtain the full dwell time, then all surfaces are rinsed thoroughly and with the squeegee, sunk right down the floor drain. This leaves no germs or microorganisms behind to dry.

"We're not cross-contaminating the floor by mopping one restroom with this mop and then transporting it to another restroom," Sparks explains. "The mops leave germs; they just do."

The night shift cleans all four of the natatorium locker rooms. One machine is devoted just to this large area. Another is used for 14 additional restrooms, which are cleaned throughout the morning shift.

"We strive to provide the first-rate facility Aggies have come to expect," Sparks explains. "We have to do a really good job of keeping the locker rooms clean, sanitary and attractive. We want to leave all visitors with a positive and lasting impression of our center and our school. We found this no-touch squeegee machine was really good for that."

The size of the machine is also a huge benefit for Sparks' staff. She explains that it's compact, which is helpful, and also doesn't have a lot of hoses.

"A small, petite female employee doesn't have to go ask for help to move this around," she notes. "We love the fact that we can get in and out so easily."

These benefits also save time, especially in walking back and forth to fill or empty the machines.

"We can always use that time someplace else," Sparks notes.

With a little more than a year put in using the spray-and-squeegee cleaning machine, the natatorium at Texas A&M is looking like new. Sparks says even though the facility was built in 1995, she hears comments all the time on how well it's maintained, something she and the custodial staff are proud of.

While automated restroom cleaning machines may not completely replace mops and buckets, more cleaning operations are migrating to their use.

Jennifer Bradley is a freelance writer based in East Troy, Wis.