Historically, facility managers have struggled with convincing their staff that switching to new products or processes might actually be a good thing. This resistance to change has forced some managers to dig deep into their box of tricks for successful strategies to implement new products and processes such as cleaning with microfiber.

Luckily for Brandon Baswell, custodial services manager at Michigan State University in East Lansing, his staff maintains an open mind and tricks aren’t necessary.

“We have hired some great, high-quality employees,” he says. “They train well and embrace best practices. We really have a great structure.”

Because of that, Baswell had no trouble when in 2009, the 300-person crew was asked to switch practices and clean with microfiber.

“We had been looking at implementing microfiber for years and done various testing, but we had a hard time identifying how it could fit into the existing cleaning program,” he says. “We were convinced of the advantages of cleaning with microfiber once we looked further into the (OS1) program and realized microfiber mops and cleaning cloths were the best way to clean.”

Microfiber is a synthetic fiber made up of a blend of polyester and polyamide or nylon. When woven together these strands create a surface area covered with millions of spaces between the fibers, which trap large amounts of moisture, dirt and debris (up to 15 times its weight). When those strands rub together, they create a static charge. That charge, as well as the curled ends on the strands, will reach into cracks and crevices, picking up and removing dirt, holding it inside the pad.

Before implementing microfiber into the custodial program, Baswell explained this technology and its advantages to his crew. This open communication, along with an explanation of why the changes were being made, was enough to earn quick approval from the Michigan State staff.

“The staff was excited to clean with microfiber mopping systems because it actually did a better job than the traditional system we had been using,” he says. “We had better control and it was much easier to tackle challenging areas.”

Beating Bacteria When Cleaning With Microfiber

When it comes to better practices, it is hard to look past the benefits that cleaning with microfiber presents. According to product manufacturers, microfiber that is treated with antimicrobial agents that resist microorganisms will remove 99 percent of bacteria from non-porous surfaces without the use of chemicals. That bacteria is trapped in the cloth until laundering, when it is washed away.

Even though microfiber technology helps prevent the spread of bacteria, the Michigan State staff implemented additional preventative measures. At the onset of the microfiber program, Baswell implemented color-coding practices, which further reduced cross-contamination.

Staff was trained to use red microfiber in restrooms, green for general cleaning and yellow for mopping. Blue microfiber products, although not used often, are reserved for specialty cleaning operations.

These colored microfiber mops and cloths corresponds with the colors of buckets, chemicals, job cards and safety data sheets (SDSs, formerly known as MSDS or material safety data sheets) specified for the particular tasks and areas.

“We have found that color-coding is great on many different levels,” says Baswell. “It simplifies training, eliminates confusion and educates workers on what to use where. All the while, we are eliminating cross-contamination and reducing the spread of bacteria.”

Chemical Reduction When Using Microfiber

In addition to reducing bacteria rates throughout campus, Baswell has seen financial benefits to cleaning with microfiber, specifically as it relates to chemical usage.

When the program initially launched, the staff used microfiber effectively in conjunction with cleaning chemicals. But it didn’t take long for them to fully trust in the microfiber technology and subsequently cut back on the chemicals. Whenever possible, the staff now uses microfiber with only minimal amounts of water when cleaning.

“Cleaning with microfiber and water is currently one of the best and most effective methods out there,” says Baswell. “Because of that, our chemical usage and our water costs are way down. We can attribute a 20 percent water reduction to the use of microfiber.”

Successes like this are not unique to Michigan State University. According to manufacturers, incorporating microfiber can reduce a facilities combined water and chemical consumption by up to 90 percent.

Laundering Microfiber

Even though the custodial services staff was quick to accept the addition of microfiber in their cleaning processes, launching the program took some time. According to Baswell, the staff had tested out microfiber numerous times, but the program continued to fail. The reasoning: laundry services would mix the microfiber in with other fabrics for cleaning and the process would destroy the microfiber — an expensive mistake.

“Our laundry services had older equipment that constantly trashed the fabric,” says Baswell. “They have since purchased newer equipment and workers in laundry became knowledgeable on how to clean the microfiber, so damage is no longer an issue.”

Knowing how to clean microfiber is essential, but it isn’t difficult to master. Rule of thumb: stay away from fabric softeners and harsh chemicals, which can clog the space between fibers and destroy the functionality of the microfiber.

“You don’t even need to use detergents when laundering microfiber,” says Baswell. “If we launder microfiber on site, we don’t use any detergents at all, and the laundry facility off site uses minimal detergent in the cleaning process.”

If microfiber is maintained properly, it can withstand more washings than traditional mops and cloths, minimizing replacement costs. In fact, according to manufacturers, most microfiber products are designed to last at least 300 washings, but some are said to endure as many as 600 laundering cycles.

“The only reason we ever have to replace our microfiber is if we used it to clean a rough surface, which can trash it pretty quick,” says Baswell. “Otherwise, we have almost no turnover in products.”

Results like this were enough to convince the Michigan State University custodial services staff early on that microfiber was the right choice.

“Microfiber just does a better job,” says Baswell. “It was an easy switch for our staff. No tricks. We communicated that it would be easier for them to use, and it was.”