Pick up that mop. According to some, the days of yellow buckets, recycled mops and paper towels for restroom cleaning are on their way out the door, and taking the germs with them.

Welcome to a new era of technology, cleanliness, sanitation and green cleaning. Custodial departments now have options to choose from when it comes to cleaning the restroom. Each system has unique operational qualities, but ultimately the same benefits: improved restroom sanitation and a no-touch cleaning experience.

Germ Removers

"We're not exterminators, we're removers," says Rex Morrison, CEO and president of Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools, and former facilities management specialist at Washoe County School District in Reno, Nev.

Morrison believes the spray-and-vacuum cleaning system is the future of restroom cleaning and the ideal device for permanently removing germs. With traditional cleaning methods, he says, germs are killed, smeared around and left to dry and die.

"This becomes a feeding ground for more germs," says Morrison. "Eventually you're going to have to remove the source. If you take the food away, nothing can live."

A spray-and-vacuum system is a germ removal device that is simple to use, he says. A self-contained cart, it features a spray gun and vacuum hose, as well as fresh and recovery water tanks. A user sprays the entire restroom with a controlled amount of surfactant, never touching anything, and then rinses it to the floor with clean water.

The vacuum feature allows the user to then suction up the dirty water, removing any unwanted microorganisms from the area. The water is disposed of down a drain and the bacteria and germs are gone for good.

This equipment exhibits efficient and effective cleaning, a goal Morrison is all too familiar with from his days with the school district. In fact, Washoe County boasts 450 custodians that service 100 schools in the city Reno and surrounding areas.

"A machine will save 50 percent of cleaning time," he explains, cutting the standard 2 minutes per porcelain fixture down to 1 minute. "It will also clean a restroom better."

How does he know? Morrison tests the surfaces with an ATP monitoring system. High levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) are a red flag that germs and bacteria are present. By testing surfaces before and after cleaning, Morrison can guarantee workers are meeting the ATP goals.

Before cleaning, says Morrison, a restroom may start with an ATP reading of 1,700. But after being cleaned with a machine, the same surface will register as low as 4 or 5.

"You just can't get those results when cleaning by hand," he says. "You're just not removing enough."

Implementing a machine for cleaning restrooms will save custodial staffs both time and money, not to mention, improve cleanliness. But, restrooms are just one area that can benefit from the use of these machines. The spray-and-vacuum equipment also can be used to hose off stairways, wash waste receptacles, rinse floors after scrubbing or waxing, and more.

This equipment is easy to use and effective at removing germs, without employee exposure. Managers should take the time to examine what processes can be improved using this equipment and say "bye, bye" to buckets.  

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