For facility managers looking to reduce water usage, charge buckets are a great option. These buckets are the best in reducing the amount of water used, in addition to keeping the cost of chemicals low. The change to charge buckets is also something that can be difficult to adjust to. Long-time custodial staff are very accustomed to having 3 to 4 gallons of water to run the mop head through before each use.

Fortunately, the adjustment to charge buckets can be made easier through training. One lesson that I always keep in mind while the mopping system is new to staff is that my supervision of the new system is also different. I need to change my approach to help them handle the new products. I need to be ready to help them troubleshoot, either with more training or clear expectations for them in what we are now hoping to achieve.

Departments that opt for more mobility are ditching the bucket in favor of microfiber mop handles with a small reservoir of solution. On-board levers can be depressed to add more chemical to the mopping area. This works toward achieving the reduced water use goal very nicely.

The only downside I have seen is that the custodian may not change the mop heads as often as they should. This, of course, could bring about streaking or not as much soil load removal. This issue can also be solved through training, but the focus on the number of heads used during a shift needs to be stressed.

Custodians must know they are not doing more work by using more mop heads. Conversely, staff should be doing less work because the microfiber mop heads are removing more soil than traditional mopping methods.

Ergonomic Benefits

The ergonomic benefits of microfiber mops cannot be overlooked. The repetitive motions of daily mopping will, over time, create health issues for staff. Putting in place a program that not only is environmentally friendly but employee friendly makes the change even more impactful.

Microfiber heads are lighter to swing and there is less wastewater to dump after use. Watch a frontline custodian at the end of the shift bend over to get rid of the wastewater. It is a risk management nightmare.

For example, 1 gallon of liquid in a charge bucket weighs only 8 pounds, making for easy disposal. Meanwhile, traditional buckets that hold 4 gallons of water weigh roughly 33 pounds. Custodians have to get creative in order to empty these buckets. They'll use a foot to flip the bucket into the grass or use one arm and bend at the waist to dump liquid into a floor sink. I told myself as I started the change to microfiber that if I could just get those two practices stopped, the program will be a success.

The goal of the change to microfiber mops needs to be very straight forward: get the tool to fit the employee. Adjustable handles or ergonomic handles should be looked at as the standard for the program. The price point of the handle is far less than the cost of a back or knee injury.

Changing any long-time practices will come with challenges. Fortunately, the transition to microfiber mops is one of those challenges that, if taken on, will pay short-term and long-term benefits for any custodial program. The direct benefit is the long-term health of the employees with a nice secondary benefit of being very sustainable for the environment.

One of the best places to start in creating a sustainable and healthy cleaning program is to change the way facilities are mopped. Having a strong floor care system in place that includes a sustainable cleaning program is so important. It's the last thing cleaned and often the first to get a complaint.

Chris Raines is the Director of Administrative Services at Cosumnes River Community College in Sacramento, California. He has spent the last 20 years in custodial/facilities maintenance, 16 of those in a leadership role. Chris oversees 21 buildings covering over 1 million square feet. In 2016, while at Folsom Lake Community College, Chris launched a department-wide reorder of cleaning methods with green cleaning as the main focus. Folsom Lake College received an honorable mention for the best new program in 2017. Chris is currently putting in place a similar program at Cosumnes River College with the goal of helping the other two colleges inside Los Rios Community College District to adopt sustainable cleaning practices. Chris also serves as a member of Healthy Schools Campaign's Green Clean Schools Steering Committee.

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Transitioning To Microfiber Mops