1999 Tech SM

In recognition of the 80th anniversary of Sanitary Maintenance, each issue will explore a different decade and how events during that time shaped the jan/san industry.  


Entering this decade, the general public was focused on combating the AIDS virus and other diseases. As a result, “cleaning for health” was born. This included a focus on battling surface contamination, as well as a push for healthier environments, including indoor air. In fact, 30 percent of buildings at the time were causing tenants to experience nausea, headaches and fatigue. The jan/san industry started focusing on volatile organic compounds, vacuum filtration and odor control, all highlighted in the What’s New coverage. 

Stephen P. Ashkin is named vice president of the new Institutional Division of Rochester Midland Corp., which would emphasize “developing technologies and customer needs for advanced user training, effective budgetary and inventory control and environmental, safety and health considerations.” 


President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order 13101, which defined green cleaning products and directed more than 100,000 federal government buildings to start using them. The products came at a higher price tag compared to traditional counterparts and end users questioned their effectiveness. Distributors relied on education and product demonstrations in their sales efforts. 


Sanitary Maintenance editors participated in the first international “Operation Clean Sweep” with the Greater Chicago Sanitary Supply Association. Approximately 30 sites throughout the U.S. and Canada were cleaned by volunteers from distributor, manufacturer, wholesaler and rep companies. In later years, the editorial team would help clean up in conjunction with its local Southeastern Wisconsin Sanitary Supply Association. 


CleanLink.com enters the industry by featuring articles that appeared in Sanitary Maintenance magazine, as well as its sister publications Facility Cleaning Decisions and Contracting Profits. The site also offered the industry’s most comprehensive online Buyer’s Guide. 

Mergers and acquisitions continued to change the jan/san landscape. Most notable was when paper distributor Unisource Worldwide purchased the largest sanitary supplier of the time, Cincinnati-based National Sanitary Supply Co. What followed was two years of more than 50 acquisitions. By the end of the decade, Unisource would be acquired by Georgia-Pacific.  


Jan/San distributors embraced technology to stay ahead of the competition and survive. This included marketing via new websites, implementing bar codes to help with order picking and adding email, cell phones and automatic voicemail. As distributors took to the Internet, so did mega-online distribution sites such as JanCentral.com and MaintenanceMall.com, threatening to wipe out traditional distributors. Fortunately, by 2000, many of these virtual suppliers would go under.