Tuesday, November 26, 2019

How to Prepare your floors by Winter

Winters in the Chicagoland area bring ice, snow, and sleet. To keep roads and walkways clear, many of us rely on sand, rock salt and/or ice melt which people then track inside, creating floor care and maintenance issues. To combat these issues, it’s important to look at the amount and type of hard flooring as well as what’s being tracked inside the building in order to determine the best floor care methods.

Evaluate Floor Cleaning Chemicals

First off, we must look at the product(s) used to maintain the outside areas. Sand requires extra sweeping and vacuuming each day. Where salt and calcium chloride are used, we often switch floor-cleaning chemicals in the winter months at locations with high foot traffic. The cleaning product we use neutralizes and counteracts the effects of calcium chloride and removes the whitish residue from floors.

Consider Flooring Materials

Next, let’s consider the type of floor that needs to be cleaned. Vinyl composite tile, also known as VCT, is an inexpensive floor that is used in many facilities. VCT is always waxed to protect the floor and give a glossy finish. Salt and calcium residue as well as water from melting snow can make VCT floors very slippery. For safety reasons as well as easier upkeep, we recommend walk-off mats at each entrance to minimize the amount of moisture that gets onto the floor. (It’s important to note that vacuums can be quickly damaged by moisture so care must be taken when cleaning walk-off mats.) Another popular flooring is quarry tile, which typically is a textured surface. Even though quarry tile is slip-resistant, we suggest placing wet-floor signs in visible areas every time it rains, sleets or snows.

Use the Best Cleaning Process

Finally, the best way to clean a large common area or open floor areas is with an automatic floor scrubber, or autoscrubber, as referred to in the industry.  An autoscrubber is a battery-powered machine that puts down water, cleans with a brush, and then vacuums with squeegee blade. These machines require a financial investment of several thousand dollars but offer labor savings over time. It’s also important to note that autoscrubbers use fewer chemicals than other methods as the machine, not the cleaning chemicals, does most of the work.

Article by Cleaning & Maintenance Management

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Avoiding Cross Contamination in Your Commercial Cleaning Company

When an employee comes to work sick, that illness can quickly make its way around the office. Cleaning crews can be part of the problem or the solution, depending on how well they understand and address cross-contamination.
Cross-contamination is when germs move between people in shared spaces. It most often happens when a sick person touches something and then someone else touches the same contaminated surface. It can also happen unintentionally during the cleaning process, like when a janitor cleans a toilet and then washes a countertop with the same cloth.
If your janitorial crew plays a part in the spread of viruses and bacteria in a building, it can result in real losses for your clients and, potentially, cancelled contracts for your business.
  • In office buildings, illness has costs associated with paid sick days, healthcare, and decreased productivity.
  • In schools and healthcare settings, illness can affect government funding tied to absentee rates or healthcare-associated infections.
  • In food-service settings, a salmonella or e-coli outbreak can seriously damage a company's reputation and bottom line.
Make sure your contract cleaning company is part of the solution by using these best practices to prevent cross-contamination.

Avoid Cross Contamination with Smart Processes

Outline a clear cleaning process for your employees so they don't accidentally spread germs or miss any areas of a room. Cleaning from top to bottom allows gravity to move anything not captured in the cleaning tool to the floor so it is removed in the final step.
Here is an example of a simple process:
  • First, wipe down all surfaces with cleaning solution.
  • Next, use spray disinfectant on high-touch areas, like desks, phones, door knobs and push plates, elevator buttons, counters, railings, and all bathroom surfaces. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for appropriate dwell time before wiping off the product.
  • Finally, clean the floor, mopping or vacuuming from the farthest inside point of the room back out the door, throwing away your gloves as you leave the room.
Don't take the common mistake of cleaning multiple areas with the same tools or supplies. Bacteria and viruses can take up residence on things like cleaning cloths or mop heads, which can then easily spread those things around if they are used again and again.
Train your cleaning crews to segregate equipment—having a set of color-coded microfiber cloths and mops used exclusively in the restroom or lunchroom, etc. Also, store cleaning tools using the same method of separation so a kitchen mop doesn't end up touching a bathroom mop.

Avoid Cross Contamination with Color Coding

You can't always be on-site with your cleaning crews to check that they are properly segregating equipment. Plus, janitorial companies often have employees for whom English isn't their native language. Implementing a color-coding system can address both of these issues.
Choose products that come in several colors (most commonly red, yellow, blue, and green).
Color coding can prevent spreading contaminants by using the wrong tool in the wrong area. Janitors can see at a glance what should be used where, regardless of language barriers.
Color coding can also be applied to cleaning equipment such as mop handles and colored mop buckets. Of course, a system is only as strong as the training behind it. Be sure that everyone on your team knows and understands the color system. In the case of language issues, consider using pictograms in addition to text to explain the colors.

Avoid Cross Contamination by Switching to Microfiber

Ordinary cleaning cloths are often made of large cotton fibers. Microfiber cloths, on the other hand, are typically made from polyester or polyester blends and have fibers that are smaller than a strand of silk.
When a traditional mop or cloth touches a surface, it becomes contaminated. As soon as you put it back into the water or move it around the room, it contaminates the water and the next surface.
The unique construction of microfiber allows it to attract up to 99% of particles—about three times more than cotton. It has a positive charge (like a magnet), which attracts dirt and germs, and is super porous so it holds the particles tightly. In short, microfiber picks up and removes contaminants rather than redistributing them around the room like cotton.
Although it will require a financial investment, switching to microfiber wet and dry mops, cleaning cloths, and dust wands will vastly improve the quality of your work. It will more successfully remove illness-causing pathogens and greatly reduce your cross-contamination risk.

Look at Other Tools

There are other tools that can also help reduce cross-contamination:
  • A flat mop with a built-in tank that squeezes out the water is a better option than a traditional mop with a basic bucket. It holds dirty water, increasing the risk of spreading contaminants around.
  • Spray-and-vac systems provide an alternative to mopping. It dispenses fresh cleaning solution for each application, then sucks up the solution. This eliminates the spread of contaminants via a mop head.
  • HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaners capture 99.9% of particles, far more than traditional vacuums.
  • Choose certified green cleaning products over hazardous chemicals whenever possible to maintain a healthier and safer environment. 

Preach Hand Hygiene

Proper hand hygiene is the simplest and most important way of preventing cross contamination. Teach your staff to wash their hands properly and at the appropriate times (after using the washroom, eating, touching a surface with bare hands, etc.).
What's more, talk to the facility owner or manager about how you can help them promote hand washing among building occupants. Ideas include offering hand hygiene supplies (soap, towels, hand sanitizer) and providing signage that encourages handwashing in every restroom, lunchroom, and breakroom.
The most essential element of a program to prevent cross contamination is training. Make sure everyone knows your processes, tools, and expectations. Ask supervisors to keep a close on workers in the field to be sure best practices are being used on a daily, ongoing basis. Revisit your training on a regular (at least annual) basis to keep the issue top-of-mind.

Article by Cleaning & Maintenance Management.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

3 Technologies to Eliminate Germs from High-Touch Surfaces

Contamination of high-touch surfaces is responsible for the transmission of pathogens in various settings. Its impact is most severe in school and health care facilities and is one reason why health care-associated infections (HAIs) continue to be such a serious problem.
Although the number of HAIs has been steadily decreasing in the United States, "on any given day, about one in 31 hospital patients has at least one health care-associated infection," according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In school environments, contaminated surfaces not only spread disease within classrooms but also can spread infections, such as influenza, within a community.
The professional cleaning industry plays a crucial role in stopping the spread of infection, but before cleaning staff can eliminate pathogens, they must first find them. In the past, laboratory technicians would swab surfaces and use a petri dish culture to confirm the presence of pathogens. The findings would not be available for two to four days, giving the germs opportunity to sicken more people.
Technological advances are providing quicker methods to locate pathogens, enabling the professional cleaning industry to better meet its goal of protecting human health. While these technologies have drawbacks, they do show promise.

Prove Contamination With Paper Stickers

In May 2019, a report in the Journal of the American Society for Microbiology found that paper stickers can be an effective tool to determine if contamination exists on surfaces. For up to seven days, researchers placed stickers on multiple high-touch surfaces in food service locations. After analyzing the stickers, the researchers found they revealed a considerable buildup of contamination on these surfaces.
Paper stickers are an inexpensive, simple, and effective method to locate contamination. However, the analyzation process takes valuable time, and the stickers only pick up pathogens on the area tested, not the surrounding area.

ATP Marks the Spot

Although adenosine triphosphate (ATP) has been in use since the 1930s, it was first introduced to the cleaning industry about a decade ago. ATP monitoring systems detect living cells on a surface. Users simply swab a surface then place the swab inside the ATP unit. Results are usually available in about 20 seconds.
While ATP does not reveal which specific pathogens are on a surface, it serves as a red flag that they may be present. Cleaning professionals use ATP to test a surface before cleaning and again after cleaning to determine cleaning effectiveness. However, like paper stickers, ATP only detects pathogens on the specific areas tested.

Imaging Paints a Wide Picture

The health care industry, one of the first industries to use imaging technology, found it useful to find the growth of cancer and other abnormalities in the human body. In the professional cleaning industry, workers use imaging technologies in schools, food service facilities, and health care settings to take pictures of a wide area. These pictures indicate if pathogens are present based on the color, intensity, and concentration of images shown. 

Taking Responsibility for Infection Control

While the obvious reason for using technologies like the ones mentioned above is to quickly find and remove pathogens, cleaning professionals should be aware that there is something much bigger at play here.
Many germs are developing into superbugs that spread diseases immune to the medications used to treat them. Pharmaceutical companies have set a limited amount of time and money in developing new antimicrobials. This puts greater responsibility on the cleaning industry's shoulders to find and proactively eradicate harmful pathogens. With these technologies and the implementation of effective cleaning methods, we will be up to the challenge.

Article by Cleaning & Maintenance Management.