Reinventing Restroom Cleaning For Better Results
The Restroom Message
The restroom is talking. Whatever the facility size, purpose, age, or usage, the restroom is talking to everyone who enters. It tells a story about the facility's cleanliness, priorities, and attention to detail. It talks about whether the people who clean the space do so with care and professionalism or with rushed disgust. Every restroom, everywhere, talks to the people who use it. When restrooms are reliably clean and safe, they communicate a commitment to excellence, safety, and cleanliness that benefits everyone in the facility.
The Restroom Investment
From the moment they are built, restrooms become an epicenter of cost and concern. For most facilities, restrooms represent the highest construction costs per square foot in a building with expensive surfaces, mirrors, and fixtures. Once built, restrooms gobble up 60% of all supplies in a building and cost more per square foot to clean than other areas. As if that weren't enough, restrooms also bring in the most complaints, making them a veritable sinkhole for energy, time, and resources.
Beyond costs that can be counted, restrooms also impact facility image and occupant wellbeing. In the post-Covid era, customers and occupants pay closer attention to the cleanliness of spaces as an indication of their safety from possible infection. As people slowly populate office buildings again, a clean restroom could make the difference in a successful return the workplace. Maintaining restrooms has always been a challenge, but, in the current climate, the stakes are higher than ever.
The Standard Toolset
Mop and bucket, spray bottle and cloth, toilet brush – facility managers deploy this standard toolset to clean restrooms every day. An unsatisfactory job falls on the shoulders of the cleaning pro, who must do a better job using the same tools or face consequences. It's worth asking, are the standard tools equipped for success? To answer that, let's revisit the goal – what is cleaning? And how do we know a space is clean?
Cleaning & Maintenance Management magazine offers this definition from Dr. Michael Berry, "Cleaning is the removal of visible and invisible soil through mechanical and manual processes." Let's break that down. Soil includes dirt, bodily fluids, bacteria, viruses, biofilm, and even chemical residue. Some of that soil is visible; much of it isn't – especially the harmful ones. The keyword in this definition is the action word – removal. Cleaning requires the removal of unwanted matter both visible and invisible from all restroom surfaces.
Let's take that definition to our standard toolset, starting with a mop and bucket. Is a mop a tool for removal? Can you picture it? Is it removing the visible soils? What about invisible bacteria and pathogens? Now picture a wet vacuum. Can you picture the removal now? Effective restroom cleaning must put removal at the forefront, and the most effective way to do that is with wet vacuum recovery.
Wet Vacuum Recovery
Instead of painting the floor with a mop or relying on the absorbent capacity of a microfiber pad, a wet vacuum takes the capacity for removal into the gallons. Instead of wiping by hand, a spray nozzle allows the worker to keep their distance from contaminated surfaces. First, a cleaning worker sprays down fixtures with clean solution. Then they rinse with water at a higher pressure, dislodging soils and odor-causing bacteria and sending them to the floor. Lastly, they use the vacuum wand to remove the soiled solution from the floor. The KaiVac® 1750 No Touch-Cleaning system captures soiled solution in a 17-gallon tank, separate from the clean solution. The process clearly results in removal, and scientific testing helps validate that.
One laboratory test examined the difference between cleaning with a string mop, a flat mop, and a Kaivac No-Touch Cleaning system. The No-Touch Cleaning system removed 98% of urine residue from tile floors – both from the smooth tile surface and from the grout line. The mops left 12-13 times the amount of urine residue on the tile surface and 30 times more residue in the grout line. Many people believe that microfiber flat mops solve the problems inherent with string mops, but flat mops only performed minimally better than string mops. Not only were both mops less effective at removing unwanted matter, but they deposited soils into the porous grout lines, leaving the floors significantly contaminated after cleaning.
The Worker Perspective
A mop and bucket, spray bottle and cloth, and toilet brush aren't deployed in restrooms alone. They are used by a cleaning worker. What is the worker's experience using those tools? They kneel in front of the toilet to wipe it down, their faces coming very close to contaminated surfaces. They twist their bodies, arms, and wrists to drag a wet mop across the floor. Do they feel safe on the job? Do they feel good in their bodies while using these tools? Beyond the worker's personal sense of wellbeing, do they feel good about the work they've accomplished? Do they believe that they are making a difference?
It may seem obvious that restroom cleaning tasks are unpleasant and unrewarding to do, because this is the way it has always been done. However, the way it has always been done has led to restrooms being a magnet for costs and complaints. What if the job were easier for the worker to do effectively?
"At its worst, cleaning work can chip away at people. When workers are being asked to provide top quality cleaning without receiving the tools and support they need, they can quickly lose passion for what they're doing. Employee empowerment starts with a renewed commitment to do the right thing. When we start by thinking about the worker and what the ask is, and then we support them, train them, and advise them, the sky is the limit. What I have watched an empowered worker accomplish is nothing short of amazing." - Mike Perazzo, Kaivac VP of Business Development, "Turning Frazzled Essential Workers into Empowered Employees"
The Empowered Worker
Here's an alternative scenario: the worker stands upright, away from contaminated surfaces, and blasts soil and bacteria down to the floor with a spray nozzle. The system automatically measures and dilutes the chemical, preventing error or injury during mixing. The worker maneuvers the lightweight wand around partitions and fixtures, capturing the soiled solution. The system is equipped with an onboard training system, so, during any part of the process, the worker can refresh their memory on how to use it for best results. How will this worker feel at the end of the day compared to the worker using the standard tools?
In an industry that often sees high turnover rates and low employee loyalty, the no-touch approach sets a new standard for the professional cleaning experience. It shouldn't be a given that cleaners are uncomfortable and at risk on the job. Not when they could be cleaning comfortably and more effectively at the same time with a different approach.
Reimagining Restroom Cleaning
When it comes to cleaning restrooms, a little imagination goes a long way. First, imagine that maintaining restrooms can be better. The worker can be happier. The space can be cleaner and healthier. The maintenance can be more cost-effective, and the customer can be more satisfied. By discarding the standard toolset and embracing a process centered on removal of soil and respect for the worker, facility managers can reimagine and reinvent their restroom cleaning program.