Ever heard the saying, “Look but don’t touch?”

When it comes to restroom cleaning, it’s safe to say there are many janitors out there who would prefer to look but not touch floors and fixtures. Unfortunately it is part of the job.

Fortunately for cleaning professionals, however, touchless cleaning machines remove the physical contact that can make the task unpleasant.

“Automated restroom cleaning systems help custodians clean properly behind toilets and under urinals — places that can be pretty nasty,” says Vince Sortino, vice president of sales, Philip Rosenau Co., Inc., Warminster, Pa. “With these systems you can clean the restroom without touching anything.”

Automated restroom-cleaning tools also keep workers from touching harsh chemicals often used to clean restrooms, adds Maureen Brenner, president of MedWaste Solutions, Dallas.

“People do not have to touch the chemicals or the surfaces being cleaned,” she says.

A Machine For Every Purpose

Touchless cleaning machines carry everything that’s needed to clean a restroom on board. They typically have their own water supply, pressure washer, chemical dilution system and more.

Whether of the spray-and-vac or spray-and-squeegee variety, these units enable operators to easily and thoroughly clean around fixtures much faster than when using brushes or mops. The machines flood surfaces with properly diluted cleaning chemicals and water via concentrated directional spray nozzles to loosen and remove debris and contaminants. The end result is hygienically cleaner facilities.

For example, according to the “Cleaning Effectiveness of the Spray-and-Squeegee Touchless Cleaning Systems Vs. Conventional Mopping” report by Advanced Testing Laboratory, restroom cleaning machines reduced the amount of microbial residue on tile by 99.9 percent compared to 81 percent when using a string mop and 82.2 percent when using a flat mop.

Spray-and-vac and spray-and-squeegee machines work slightly differently, but achieve the same results. Both machines spray water and cleaning agents on surfaces at fairly low pressures, generally between 40 to 500 psi, to remove ground-in dirt and grime. The lower the psi, the lower the risk for splash back and damage to tile, grout or other surfaces, says Brenner.

Spray-and-vac cleaning equipment uses vacuums with a single- or triple-stage motor to pick up loosened debris and excess water. Single-stage motors work well, but Mike Griffin, sales manager for San-A-Care Inc., in Waukesha, Wis., says triple-stage motors create more air flow and water lift. Likewise, triple-stage motors offer greater durability than single-stage motors, says Sortino.

“Three-stage motors have more versatility and last longer, but if a customer is going after price, then a single-stage motor might be the better choice,” Sortino explains.

On the other hand, spray-and squeegee machines use squeegees to push excess water into restroom floor drains. Many units feature a low-flow design that uses less water and cleaning solution to eliminate the need for wet/dry vac recovery.

When distributors are helping end users choose a machine, consideration should be given to size and width. Larger units might work well in office buildings but not as well in elementary schools where toilets and stalls are smaller in size. The machine’s size needs to match the size of the area being cleaned.

Distributors should also find out what type of walls their customers’ restrooms have. Machines work well on tile walls, but the water will damage drywall.

Machines are most effective in larger restrooms with more than one fixture.

Restroom cleaning is just the beginning for these machines. Once users familiarize themselves with the proper technique, the sky’s the limit for applications, says Sortino. Units also can be used to hose off stairways, wash waste receptacles, rinse floors after scrubbing or waxing, and more.

“It’s an easy, hands-free way to do these things,” says Sortino.

While automated restroom cleaning machines may not completely replace mops and buckets, more and more cleaning operations are migrating to their use, says Stewart Mandler, president of Good Earth Products, Fort Lee, N.J., who emphasizes there’s a wide marketplace opening up for these machines.

“As sustainability efforts gain a greater foothold in commercial buildings, more facility managers will look at alternative tools and approaches that benefit the user, the environment and society as a whole,” he says.

Ronnie Garrett is a freelance writer based in Fort Atkinson, Wis.