Relied upon to ensure cleanliness and promote healthy indoor environments, cleaning personnel are being asked to do more than ever to make sure that buildings are legitimately clean. Needless to say, the spotlight is shining brightly on today's cleaning operations.

To help validate their cleaning effectiveness, more building service contractors (BSCs) and in-house service providers (ISPs) are gravitating towards three popular trends — day cleaning, science-based cleaning and third-party certification.

Adopting these "new" trends in cleaning takes considerable amount of time and patience on the part of the end user. And as these trends continue to gain acceptance among cleaning professionals, jan/san distributors are in a unique position to leverage their expertise and properly guide customers down these respective paths.

Day Cleaning

While janitorial work has traditionally been done after business hours, a growing number of today's cleaning operations have been trending towards daytime cleaning.

The driving force behind this switch comes from facility managers who are looking to reduce costs, in particular the money spent on utilities such as electricity. When lights are no longer left on at night for cleaning crews, organizations can save a significant amount of money.

"Most companies who have made the switch from nighttime cleaning to daytime cleaning are lowering their utility expenses anywhere from 25 to 30 percent," says Steve Spencer, who as facilities specialist for Bloomington, Ill.-based State Farm Insurance, has helped convert 37 of the company's larger office buildings across the U.S. to day cleaning.

In fact, State Farm's former Monroe, La. facility, which converted its in-house cleaning operation to day cleaning, was able to reduce energy costs by approximately $100,000 a year. The Monroe facility, like many other commercial buildings who have successfully implemented a day cleaning program, was also able to lower its cleaning expenses due to the fact that they no longer required day porters to maintain the facility during working hours.

Financial savings, however, is not the only reason for the sudden push to clean during the day. Turning off the lights and HVAC also translates to reduced energy usage, a major component of sustainable buildings.

For other contractors, the switch to day cleaning may be their only feasible option. In major cities such as New York and Chicago, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is looking to renegotiate contracts to include more full-time positions. However, traditional nighttime cleaning is not designed for full-time labor, and many BSCs will need to switch to day cleaning to accommodate the new union agreements.

Whatever the reason to switch to day cleaning, distributors should be aware that it's not the same as cleaning at night. It requires different skills, tools and methods.

"Day cleaning is not simply night cleaning done during the day," says Chris Mowen, COO of Daniels Associates Worldwide, a consultant firm based in Phoenix. "If you just go to a day cleaning program with the same personnel, the same training and the same equipment, it's going to fail. It requires a holistic approach."

Noise, odor and safety become serious issues when janitors are working next to building occupants.

"If you are going to clean during the day, you need to take common sense measures that factor in the fact that you are working around other people," says Allen Rathey, president of InstructionLink/JanTrain Inc., Boise, Idaho. "You have to control noise, you need to control what is airborne, and you need to be conscious of usage patterns in the building."

That's where distributors can apply their expertise. Distributors can conduct walkthroughs with customers during business hours to not only determine what products will fit certain facilities, but also what practices are best suited to not disrupt the flow of the day-to-day operations of the facility. For instance, how and when personnel clean, changes when tenants are present.

"The distributor's role becomes all the more critical," says Rathey. "It's a scenario that requires lots of oversight and assistance in helping people get up to speed."

Product selection is critical. With the average noise level in an office environment between 64 and 68 decibels, cleaning personnel need vacuums and other machines with low-decibel ratings to avoid disturbing building occupants. Equipment that is battery-powered improves safety by eliminating cords, which are potential tripping hazards. Machines that use less water reduce slips and falls, as well.

Cleaning crews must be cognizant of indoor air quality (IAQ), too. To avoid stirring up dust, cleaning personnel should not use dust mops or hand-held dusters. Instead, hard-surfaces should be vacuumed or cleaned with microfiber mops or wipes, says Rathey.

Chemical choices also affect IAQ. Microfiber can reduce chemical usage but it is important to go a step further and offer low-odor, low-VOC products, such as neutral cleaners or electrolyzed water cleaners.

Even though it is called day cleaning, a certain percentage of cleaning is done outside the day hours. Special projects such as stripping and refinishing floors should be done before or after the typical 9-to-5 work day or on the weekend, so conventional products are still acceptable.

Science-based Cleaning

Traditionally, cleaning effectiveness was measured by "if it looks and smells clean, it's probably clean." With the public facing growing health concerns related to invisible pathogens such as H1N1, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), norovirus and airborne particulates, these basic methods are no longer adequate. Custodians are responsible for the health of building occupants more than ever before. Because of this, they are turning to scientific measurements to validate their cleaning effectiveness and prove to clients that surfaces are truly clean.

Recognizing the need for scientific measurement adoption in the cleaning industry, several industry groups have introduced cleaning standards for the industry over the last couple of years. In June 2008, the Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI) and ISSA teamed up to form a science-based "Clean Standard" for K-12 schools. The standard provides schools with a cleanliness benchmark and measurement methodologies that allow them to declare a facility is in a sanitary condition that is conducive to the health of students, teachers and administrators. In October 2008, the Integrated Cleaning and Measurement (ICM) system also debuted, which defines clean by scientific measurements. Most recently, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) released a floor safety standard that measures slip-resistance of a walkway in November 2009.

As a major component of science-based cleaning, measurement technologies have become more available, portable, affordable and simple enough for today's custodians to use each cleaning shift. These technologies, which can provide immediate feedback about cleaning products and processes, include Adenosine Triphosphate meters (ATP), particle counters, slip-resistance meters, indoor air quality measures, infrared/moisture-detection systems and other measurement platforms.

Of these technologies, the most utilized in cleaning operations is the ATP meter, says Rathey. ATP meters measure levels of Adenosine Triphosphate — the energy molecule inside all living cells. ATP is found in bacteria, mold and fungus, as well as other matter that can provide a food source for these dangerous pathogens.

These hand-held ATP meters allow custodians to verify how clean surfaces are in as little as 30 seconds, and carry out continuous improvement programs to enhance overall performance.

The majority of custodians are still not equipped to deal with the invisible world of pathogens. Most cleaning crews are armed with antiquated tools that don't effectively remove bacteria or other micro-contaminants.

Distributors can help outfit customers with appropriate infection control products and back up these recommendations with ATP measurements. Live demonstrations are the best way to show the effectiveness of a science-based cleaning program, says Bill McGarvey, training manager for Philip Rosenau Co., Warminster, Pa. Have the customer clean an area with their current tools and equipment and take an ATP reading. Then, clean the same area with new and more effective products and take another measurement to show the improved results. End users can take this same approach in the field, whether it is to validate the use of new products to their frontline workers, or if it's demonstrating cleaning's effectiveness to building owners.

The distributor's main role will be to make sure that everyone in a cleaning operation is testing consistently, says McGarvey. He says when taking a swab of a surface, customers should follow the manufacturer's recommendations as the units can easily lend themselves to operator error.

Organizational Certification

Many contractors and in-house cleaning operations tout quality service and environmental friendliness, but how do their customers know that these claims are actually legitimate? One way is by asking them to provide proof.

With a growing number of third-party certifications and training systems based on procedural and environmental standards now available, more end user companies are investing in and actively pursuing certification for their company and facility.

Starting with an organization's management structure and working it's way down to the cleaning processes and procedures janitors employ on the frontlines, these cleaning industry standards serve as frameworks to help service providers develop customer-centered organizations that focus on delivering consistent, quality service.

Today's major certifying bodies include Green Seal's Environmental Standard for Cleaning Services (GS-42), ISSA's Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS), Managemen's (OS1), and programs offered by the Building Service Contractor Association International (BSCAI) and the International Executive Housekeeping Association (IEHA).

"It is important to have a cleaning program that includes training and written procedures," says Teresa Farmer, green program specialist with Kelsan Inc., a Knoxville, Tenn.-based jan/san distributor who in 2006 helped the University of Tennessee become the first university in the U.S. to achieve GS-42 certification for its in-house cleaning staff. "If everyone is using the same products and knows what their job duties specifically entail, the results are cleaner buildings and savings on products and labor."

Today's facility managers are requesting more information from their cleaning operations than ever before. They want to know what level of training the cleaning staff has received and completed, as well as what products are being used to clean their facilities. Needless to say, cleaning is no longer being looked at as an afterthought.

"Clients are expecting more professionalism from their cleaning contractor, and there is increased awareness of the liabilities associated with doing business with firms that are not well-run and well-managed," says Barbara Whitstone, vice president of operations for Milwaukee-based CleanPower, a BSC who has achieved both GS-42 certification and CIMS-Green Building (CIMS-GB) certification in the last three years.

Achieving certification is not an easy task. Fortunately, distributors can position themselves to help customers go down this lengthy process. Many of these certifications offer separate tracks for distributors. For example, CIMS offers the I.C.E. designation (ISSA Certification Experts) for distributors; similarly GS-42 has GS-42 TAP (Training Accredited Professional). These programs can give distributors the proper information and tools to turn around and help end users achieve their own certifications.

"Once you have become certified, a distributor can play a large role in customers becoming certified themselves," says Keith Schneringer, marketing manager for San Diego-based WAXIE Sanitary Supply, who is CIMS I.C.E. certified. "We are another set of eyes and ears. We really partner with them and are able to assist them and help them with delivering of the training, delivering them the standardization of products, invoicing, all those things are sort of the natural roles that distributors can play in the process."

By earning organization certifications, distributors say it elevates their company in the eye of the customer, especially those seeking to certify their cleaning operations.

"There are some of our customers who have sought us out to help them along the process of certification," says Schneringer. "It would probably be an even fairer statement to say that customers that we're currently doing business with, its been a way to strengthening our business relationship. It's sort of like instead of us just dropping off products at their warehouse, we are able to have conversations to better understand their business and their needs and that way we can try and position our resources in a way that can help their business."

Staying current on the industry trends is crucial for distributors. Staying out in front of the rest of the pack will not only help customers achieve their goals, but at the same time prove to be lucrative for distributors.