Currently touchless-cleaning devices represent a small fraction of the total methods used to clean restrooms. The day will come when that number is far greater. However, savvy jan/san distributors should begin pushing these tools now to take advantage of this new market opportunity. 

Selling Points

The biggest selling point for these machines is that they clean more thoroughly than mops, wipes and good-old fashioned elbow grease. Plus, janitors won’t have to come into contact with the dirty surfaces.

“I sell these units on the basis that they remove more soil than you could any other way, and that these machines allow you to clean areas that cannot be cleaned by hand,” says Vince Sortino, vice president of sales, Philip Rosenau Co., Inc., Warminster, Pa.

The automated equipment carries a higher price tag than traditional cleaning tools, but the investment offers an attractive return on investment. The machines can cost anywhere from $1,200 to $6,000 depending on the type of machine and the features it offers. But when used properly, they can save cleaners a significant amount of time.

“You can clean a large restroom in half the time, sometimes even more quickly than that,” says Maureen Brenner, president of MedWaste Solutions, Dallas.

For instance, Stephen Michael, a division manager for Milwaukee-based building service contractor CleanPower, says the units have helped workers reduce cleaning times from 2.5 minutes per fixture to 1.9.

While Sortino calls quicker cleaning “an attractive benefit,” he personally prefers not to sell the machines based on labor savings.

“Unless operators are really good at using the units and use them to clean restrooms every day, the time savings may not be as much as promised,” he says. “If you sell these units on the basis that they’ll clean faster and they don’t, you’ll get complaints.”

Sortino instead promotes the fact that the devices remove more soil than could be accomplished any other way. Grouted floors, for instance, have always presented a challenge in restrooms because dirty grout holds odor. The unit’s low-pressure cleaning stream easily and thoroughly removes this ground-in dirt. According to a study by Advance Testing Laboratory, machines reduce the amount of microbial residue on grout by 98.1 percent compared to 43.1 percent when using a string mop and 56.8 percent when using a flat mop.

“This process gives a more thorough cleaning of the facility than a mop and bucket, which after two passes across the floor is dispersing dirty water,” says Stewart Mandler, president of Good Earth Products, Fort Lee, N.J.

The sales process should also address chemical savings, which can be considerable because on-board metering devices correctly dilute chemicals every time.

“We project there can be as much as a 50 percent chemical cost reduction,” says Mandler. “They also reduce the amount of water required to clean the facility by about 50 percent.”

Touchless units also offer an ergonomic benefit, Mandler adds. The units move on casters and eliminate the need for users to bend and squeeze into tight spaces.

“When you’re dumping a mop bucket that weighs 40 pounds and you’re doing it 15 to 20 times a day, there’s a lot of strain on your back,” he says.

Building Operator Skill

A distributor’s job doesn’t end with the sale of these machines. Distributors must build training on touchless cleaning units into every sale.

“These machines require training, they are not machines you can grab a hold of and run,” says Sortino. “[Operators] need to know how to use these machines to be efficient.”

At Philip Rosenau, customers who buy a restroom-cleaning machine must participate in nearly two hours of training before using the unit on the job.

End user training should cover how to properly hold the spray nozzle as well as how to correctly spray surfaces to avoid applying too much water, adds Brenner. MedWaste Solutions’ training also includes information on wiping down surfaces after cleaning.

“Some companies advertise that you can eliminate wiping,” Brenner says, “but I think if you wipe surfaces things appear cleaner.”

The good news is that by following some simple techniques and with practice, most operators can become very skilled at using these machines.

“That’s why as a distributor we insist on holding in-service training for our customers,” says Mike Griffin, sales manager for San-A-Care Inc., in Waukesha, Wis. “The better they understand how to use the machine, the more value they’ll get from their investment.”

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