CASE STUDY: Machine Tackles Unique Cleaning Challenges

Contributed by Kaivac.

Here’s an add-on service that many contract cleaners may not have thought about. How about cleaning trains, such as passenger railroad cars, commuter trains, and even subways?

Some organizations are now outsourcing this work to private vendors. But before you call Amtrak or the many locally operated commuter train companies to offer your services, here are a few things you need to know:

• Train cleaning is typically a 9 to 5 job—that’s 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

• Train cleaning is physically demanding work, with lots of bending, kneeling, and working in very tight spaces.

• Expect to find “sticky polka dots” of gum all over the floor, flattened into the floor by hundreds of passengers.

• Typically, only trash and debris pickup and restroom cleaning are performed in passenger cars on a regular basis; train cars are typically deep-cleaned only after so many miles, sometimes as much as 6,000 miles.

• By the time the cars are scheduled for their deep cleaning, they typically are in fairly bad condition, especially the floors, which makes the job all the more physically demanding.

And there are a couple more things to note on cleaning train cars:

• Cleaning times are not flexible, as trains have a schedule to maintain. It can take one cleaning worker eight hours to clean an entire train thoroughly, so time is of the essence.

• Holidays and sporting events wreak havoc on passenger trains.

“Large events or celebrations can be atrocious,” says a cleaning worker for BART, the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit service. “Cleaners find popcorn, confetti, spilled drinks, and the unfortunate evidence of partiers who couldn’t hold their liquor. New Year’s Eve is the worst. And after [Oakland] Raiders games, it’s a cleaning nightmare.”

So now that you know a bit about the challenges in cleaning trains, let’s look at the steps involved for cleaning them.

Usually, cleaning workers load up with mops, brooms, trash bags, and cleaning solutions before starting a hard night’s work. In most cases, cleaning is performed using a top-down approach:

• First, overhead compartments are wiped clean.

• Then, ledges, posts, railings, and handles are cleaned.

• Next, seats are brushed and wiped down.

• In this cleaning process, debris has fallen to the floor, so the final step is to sweep up floor debris and then mop the floors.

The big problem with this cleaning procedure, however, is the mopping of the floors. What often happens is that finding the time to switch to a clean mop head can be an issue due to time constraints, so this is often long delayed or overlooked entirely. This means as each car’s floors are cleaned, soils and contaminants from the previous cars floor are spread to the next cars floor. Plus mopping takes a lot of time, which is something train car cleaning workers just don’t have.

But the Minneapolis–Saint Paul Metro Transit found a much more efficient, faster, and effective way to clean passenger car floors: they turned to Kaivac and its No-Touch Cleaning® system.

According to a transit company spokesperson, the Kaivac system is faster than mopping. The Kaivac system is also used not only to clean the floors “but to get dirt, sand, and other materials off of the floor, a particularly important job during the winter months.”

The No-Touch Cleaning system is fast, thorough, and effective. Instead of mopping floors and just spreading all the filth found throughout the cars, the system applies fresh cleaning solution to the floors. Rinsing the floors provides the agitation necessary to loosen soils, which are then vacuumed up, completely removing them from the car. This is a much more effective and efficient way to keep train cars clean, running on time, and healthy for all passengers.