Increased dedication to high-touch areas and more intense deep cleaning, coupled with overworked and understaffed frontline teams, is forcing end users to make challenging decisions. Most are trying to identify areas of priority, frequency of service and potential labor savings.

Distributors who are interested in helping their customers accomplish these goals should turn end users toward new product and equipment offerings. Demands from the pandemic have prompted many manufacturers to develop new disinfectants with faster kill claims; a trend that could expand to the improvement of floor care products.

“I can see companies designing more resilient floor finishes that hold up to [a] longer exposure to disinfectants,” says Gillette. “I also think we might see more finishes and daily cleaners with inherent antimicrobial properties, making them resistant to potentially harmful bacteria.”

In addition to floor chemicals, new equipment can aid end users in workloading their programs successfully. While staff focuses on increasing the disinfection of high-touch points, regular floor cleaning can go uninterrupted using robotic equipment.

The emergence of robotic machines in the cleaning industry can be a touchy subject for some. Janitors, housekeeping professionals and custodians may claim that the emergence or robots could mean a reduction in the workforce and loss of jobs. But in a COVID-19 economy, distributors have found that robotic machines are often welcomed by workers because of the impact reduced labor workforces have had on cleaning teams.

“We’re seeing an uptick in robotic machines because of labor shortages or because of the fact that people aren’t hiring additional cleaners,” says Huizenga. “When it comes to carpets, you’re also seeing some increase on robotic vacuums, which will continue to grow.”

Huizenga expects there will continue to be change when it comes to robotics. The technology will constantly improve and he believes the equipment won’t just clean floors — cleaning teams will start to look at the robots as co-workers.

“Some custodial unions are concerned about the presence of robotic equipment,” says Huizenga. “But cleaning staff are so overwhelmed with things to do, they’re actually embracing the concept of how robotics can help clean buildings quicker and better.”

Changing Approaches

Budget concerns could affect an end user’s ability to change his or her approach to floor cleaning in the COVID-19 climate, but that doesn’t mean customers have to concede in the challenge to maintain their floors. Distributors are in a unique position to work with their clients on developing more effective methods to keep floors clean.

As buildings continue to reopen and return to their regular levels of activity, here are a few things distributors can discuss with customers:

• Floor Cleaners

“Not all cleaners are created equal, so facilities should compare and test them to their types of surfaces,” says Sawchuk. “Test soil types and loads, equipment, custodial hardware and frequency used to ensure that they’re getting the best, most effective products available.”

• Disinfectants

“Although most research shows that surfaces are not the main way to contract the virus, there will still have to be a shift to deeper floor disinfection on a regular basis,” says Gillette. “This could change many aspects of floor care as we know it today. One significant factor could be the effect of quaternary disinfectants on acrylic floor finishes. Even if you’re using a neutral disinfectant, that quat still has a dulling effect over time compared to a standard neutral cleaner, which could decrease time between top scrubs. If this increase in frequency is significant, it will cost companies more in the long run.”

• Floor Finishes

Distributors should recommend floor finishes that can be scrubbed and recoated. This will minimize the frequency and/or need to strip floors.

One overlooked aspect of cleaning that distributors should make customers aware of is how some processes might impact floor programs in the long run. For example, many end users are adopting disinfecting technologies that add in productivity. Fogging and electrostatic sprayers have grown in popularity for their application advantages, but few are considering how spraying chemicals in a room, versus directly on a surface, might impact floors.

“When you’re constantly fogging or electrostatic spraying disinfectant, there will be fallout that goes onto the floor,” says Huizenga. “That will build up over time, so end users are going to have to clean their floors more than they already are. This will pose a problem when it comes to frequencies, labor, dollars and time spent.”

It’s important that distributors cover every angle with end users. It should be made clear that whatever was done before the pandemic, it’s not enough now.

“If customers were cleaning the floor once a day or once a week before COVID, what are they doing now?” asks Sawchuk. “If the answer is ‘I’m doing the exact same thing,’ they’re being negligent. Distributors should suggest they bump up the efficacy of their products so that they’re cleaning with something with more muscle.” SM

Dave Lubach is a veteran journalist based out of Wisconsin. He is the former associate editor of Facility Maintenance Decisions, a sister publication of Sanitary Maintenance.

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