Pick any two buildings, and chances are, their restroom-cleaning procedures are fairly similar— pick up debris, flush and clean toilets and urinals, replenish supplies and so forth. But the problems faced in different buildings can vary greatly. Here are some cleaning challenges faced by housekeeping managers at a variety of facilities, as well as their solutions — if there are solutions.

Higher Education
Facility: Auburn University Montgomery, Montgomery, Ala.

Type of organization: A public university with nearly 5,000 graduate and undergraduate students on a 500-acre suburban campus.

The problem: Urine odors can mar academic buildings’ images.

The solution: “We meet this challenge by operating with the plumber in drain, wall and restroom sanitation practices,” says Beatrice Karadeema, superintendent of building services. “The plumber uses a digestive enzyme down the drains. We flush the drains at least three times a week with our buckets of mop water, then use the digestive enzyme under urinals.”

Custodians wipe down stall walls at least once a week with a strong disinfectant. The custodial checklist also includes maintenance of vents and intake fans.

To keep the odors from recurring, a special-projects employee uses a restroom-cleaning machine quarterly, and applies a urine-malodor spray around the toilets and urinals. When custodians strip the hallways, they also go into the restrooms and scrub those floors as well. Also, battery-operated fan-style odor control dispensers keep the rooms smelling fresh.

Facility: Distribution Fulfillment Services (DFS)

Type of organization: DFS handles distribution for Eddie Bauer and Spiegel, two retail and catalog companies. DFS runs two facilities in Ohio — in Columbus (approximately 4 million square feet) and Groveport (approximately 2 million square feet).

The problem: The facility in Columbus is 30 years old, and many of its restroom fixtures are original. The talented custodial staff can’t always count on functioning toilets, dispensers and other fixtures.

“In 30-year-old restrooms we are constantly having maintenance issues,” says housekeeping supervisor Jack Stover. “In the past, the custodian would radio maintenance when they needed something fixed. The custodian’s calls were either completely forgotten or put off for months or even years with some issues.”

The solution: A while ago, Stover put together a maintenance request form that creates a paper trail between custodians, supervisors and maintenance technicians. The janitor is responsible for keeping up with the maintenance request, notifying Stover if there hasn’t been any action, so he can follow up with the maintenance manager.

Health Care
Facility: Tazewell [Va.] Community Hospital

Type of organization: A 56-bed hospital specializing in geriatric patients.

Problem #1: Balancing odor control with the need for comfort and dignity.

“A cancer patient’s body puts off a distinct odor, as does their urine and feces,” says Sue Brown, manager of environmental services. “You need to try to keep their room and restroom odor-free without adding a perfume.”

The solution: The hospital has been using a wick-style odor counteractant, sealed in cabinets where the patients can’t see them, because some patients will become offended, Brown says.

Problem #2: Keeping communal shower areas sanitary. Patient rooms are equipped with toilets and sinks, but shower rooms are centralized. After each patient uses the shower, it must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

The solution: Brown must stay on top of the shower room schedule, and use proper disinfecting procedures.
“The walls, the light fixtures — everything needs to be detail-cleaned after each person,” she says. These procedures have cut down dramatically on incidents of staph infections.

Facility: The Jerome, Idaho School District

Type of organization: A 3,000- student K-12 school district in south-central Idaho, with one high school, one middle school, three elementary schools and one special-needs building.

The problem: User activity. Overcrowding and aging infrastructure have compounded vandalism problems at all schools.

“Paper towels and toilet paper is used to plug drains and flood floors,” says maintenance director Richard Ames. “Boys urinate on toilet rolls or on the walls and floors.”

The solution: Staying on top of vandalism can help, but prevention seems to come from education. That’s not always within the scope of the maintenance department’s capabilities, says Ames. Cleaning managers in K-12 environments might try partnering with teachers and other school personnel to get the point across.

Perhaps students in Jerome can learn a lesson from Jonathan Chen, a senior at San Francisco’s Lowell High School. He was so disgusted with the condition of the restrooms in his school, he successfully petitioned the school organization for $3,000 for student-run renovations, including flush meters, murals and bulletin boards. He and co-coordinator Karissa Yee led a crew of 50 students who spent part of their summer re-painting and cleaning.

Months later, the two updated restrooms still are clean, functional and graffiti-free. The key, said Chen in a recent USAToday interview, was found in his own bedroom.

“Each time I clean my room, I don’t want to mess it up,’’ he said. ‘’I thought, ‘That’s the perfect thing for the bathrooms: to make them so perfect, so clean, they’ll respect the bathrooms and won’t want to mess them up.’”