When used properly, both conventional and green cleaning chemicals are relatively safe. However, these products are not always properly handled and accidents do happen.
This is one reason why the U.S. Department of Labor continues to list cleaning and custodial work as one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, mainly because of the many accidents involving chemicals that occur each year. To cut down on such accidents, Enviro-Solutions encourages cleaning professionals to develop a Cleaning Chemical Safety Program.
Key components of a Cleaning Chemical Safety Program include the following:
• A complete list of all cleaning chemicals used in the facility; this documentation should include details such as how many gallons (and multiple-gallon containers) are stored, where they are stored, and the potential hazards of and necessary precautions for each specific chemical (for instance, whether or not a chemical needs to be kept away from direct sunlight).
• Safety Data Sheets (formerly referred to as Material Safety Data Sheets) for each chemical used or stored.
• Keeping all cleaning chemicals in their original containers and never mixing chemicals, even if they are the same "type" of chemical.
• Storing chemicals in well-ventilated areas away from HVAC intake vents; this helps prevent any fumes from spreading to other areas of the facility.
• Installing safety signage in multiple languages (or, even better, using images and no words) that quickly conveys possible dangers and precautions related to the chemicals. This signage and training must follow new requirements outlined in OSHA's Globally Harmonized System (GHS).
• Making sure all cleaning workers know exactly what the following "signal words" mean:
• Caution: the product should be used carefully but is relatively safe.
• Warning: the product is moderately toxic.
• Danger: the product is highly toxic and may cause permanent damage to skin and eyes.
"Cleaning Chemical Safety Programs should also include getting rid of chemicals that have not been used for a prolonged period of time," says Jennifer Meek, Director of Marketing and Customer Relations for Enviro-Solutions. "A good rule of thumb is to consider disposing of any chemical product that has not been used for six months, and disposing of any product that has not been used for a year."
Using paper towels to dry your hands is far more hygienic than using electric hand dryers which actually increase the amount of bacteria on hands and can spread cross contamination in public washrooms, according to an independent scientific study. The study, conducted by scientists at the University of Westminster, London, measured the number of bacteria on subjects’ hands before washing and after drying them using three different methods —paper towels, a traditional warm air dyer and a new high-speed jet air dryer.
From a hygiene standpoint, paper towels are clearly superior to electric hand dryers, according to Keith Redway, a Senior Academic in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Westminster.
Study results show that drying with paper towels results in a significant decrease in the numbers of bacteria on the hands — a clear advantage compared with the increases observed for both types of electric hand dryers tested in this study — and are far less likely to contaminate other washroom users and the washroom environment.
“Indeed, these findings suggest that if either a warm air dryer or jet air dryer is the only drying method available, in terms of bacterial numbers, a washroom user could be better off not washing and drying their hands at all,” Redway says.
The study, which is available for review at
www.westminster.ac.uk/~redwayk, found that paper towel drying reduced
the average number of bacteria on the finger pads by up to 76 percent
and on the palms by up to 77 percent. By comparison, electric hand
dryers actually caused bacteria counts to increase. The study showed:
• Traditional warm air dryers increased the average number of bacteria by 194 percent on the finger pads and by 254 percent on the palms.
• Jet air dryers increased the average number of bacteria on the finger pads by 42 percent and on the palms by 15 percent.
scientists also carried out tests to establish whether there was the
potential for cross contamination of other washroom users and the
washroom environment as a result of each type of drying method. They
• The jet air dryer, which blows air out of the unit at claimed speeds of 400 mph, was capable of blowing micro-organisms from the hands and the unit and potentially contaminating other washroom users and the washroom environment up to 2 meters away.
• Use of a traditional warm air hand dryer spread micro-organisms up to 0.25 meters from the dryer.
• Paper towels showed no significant spread of micro-organisms.
“The results of all parts of this study suggest that the use of warm air dryers and jet air dryers should be carefully considered in locations where hygiene is of paramount importance, such as hospitals, clinics, schools, nurseries, care homes, kitchens and other food preparation areas,” said Redway. “In addition, paper hand towel use is highly beneficial for improved hygiene in any other facilities open to the public, such as factories, offices, bars and restaurants.”
While consumers, healthcare institutions and businesses such as restaurants are often told that electric hand dryers are the most hygienic way to dry the hands after washing them, science says otherwise. A growing body of research, including this study by the University of Westminster and other studies as far back as 1989, suggest people could even be putting themselves at increased risk of illness by using electric hand dryers
Have you touched an office phone, light switch, keyboard, doorknob or copier today? Depending on how clean they were, you could become sick in a few days or bring bacteria to your co-workers and family.
After 35 years of 'cleaning up' after others, Stephen Collins, founder of Stephco Cleaning & Restoration based in Holbrook, Mass., has learned an important lesson he likes to share: There really is a direct correlation between a clean work environment and improved employee health.
"Winter cleaning may be more important than Spring cleaning," Collins notes. "Commercial buildings are buttoned up tight in the winter, but reduced fresh air flow along and the arrival of the cold and flu season means workplaces are an ideal place for the growth and spread of germs – and a dramatic jump in sick days. Besides a person's health, cleanliness of the work environment has a direct effect on employees' health, mood, productivity and attendance."
He adds that the extensive bacteria found on any given surface can be a primary cause of illness. And depending on the surface, a bacteria's lifespan can vary from just a few hours to several days or even months.
Healthcare experts say that cold and flu germs can live from a few minutes to several days outside the body. They are more likely to stay active on hard surface — such as stainless steel and plastic — than on soft surfaces or fabrics and flu viruses live longer than cold viruses.
Temperature and humidity also have an effect on the life cycle. Bacteria could live on soft surfaces for days in the case of a sponge, weeks on clothing, or months on carpet. Steam cleaning of these softer surfaces kills bacteria quickly.
Regularly sanitizing all surfaces will reduce bacteria, but washing hands regularly is considered the best way to fight against germs.
Factors that lead to an unhealthy work environment:
• Employees are working longer hours, often in space that's teeming with bacteria;
• Reduced office space forces employees to work in closer proximity to colleagues – shorter distances for germs to travel;
• An increasing number of workers eat in their work space;
• People who sneeze, cough or yawn without covering their mouth;
• Workers who leave the restroom without thoroughly washing their hands.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this year’s flu season is shaping up to become the worst the United States has seen in a decade, with levels tipping to “epidemic” proportions. Studies show that the flu costs businesses approximately $7 billion per year due to the nearly 111 million work days lost. Norovirus cases are also on the rise this season, and the CDC reports that foodborne norovirus illness accounts for $2 billion in lost productivity and healthcare costs each year.
This means cleaning professionals who work in office buildings, hotels or other public places need to take precautions to help control the spread of the flu and norovirus in their facilities.
To help prevent the spread of the flu and norovirus in buildings and other public environments, Kim LaFreniere, Ph.D., associate research fellow at the Clorox Professional Products Company, offers cleaning professionals four infection control tips:
1. Choose the right products. Studies show influenza viruses can survive on surfaces for up to eight hours, so it is important to use products that are effective against them. Cleaning with soaps or detergents and water physically removes germs, but does not kill them. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects.
According to the CDC, several types of disinfectants are effective against the flu including chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide, and quaternary ammonium-based cleaners. No matter which product you use, it is important to always read the product label to ensure that it is EPA-registered to kill the influenza A virus and norovirus.
2. Disinfect high-touch surfaces often. Objects and surfaces that are frequently touched such as desks, countertops, doorknobs, keyboards, faucets, and phones need to be disinfected at least once a day. Specific germ-prone areas such as bathrooms should also be given more attention.
3. Clean and disinfect regularly. The flu and norovirus can spread when people touch infected surfaces and then touch their eyes, mouth or nose. Flu viruses are fairly easy to kill when using the appropriate disinfectants as part of the cleaning and disinfecting process. Norovirus however, is tougher to kill as very few particles can cause infections and it is highly contagious. Always remove visible soil from surfaces, followed by targeted disinfecting.
4. Educate cleaning staff and other employees about the flu and norovirus. The CDC recommends that businesses encourage employees to get a seasonal flu vaccine and discourage sick employees from coming to work. In addition, instruct employees to wash their hands regularly with soap and water especially after emptying waste baskets, touching used tissues or using the bathroom.
Cleanlink News 1/22/2013
Housekeeping managers come clean about cleaning and disinfecting techniques that work in the fight against infections in hospitals
Clostridium difficile (C. diff), Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) are just some of the latest infections bugging custodial departments in healthcare facilities and wiping surfaces with hospital-grade disinfectants is not always sufficient to prevent their spread. As viruses like these become more resistant, the right hand tools and proper cleaning procedures are equally important to eradicate outbreaks — and custodians need to be trained accordingly.
"You've got to know your employees, and you've got to make sure they have the tools to do the job," says Doug Green, director of environmental services for Mercy Hospital Springfield in Springfield, Mo. "This is a crucial job, and we need to treat our employees with great respect for the work they do."
Educating employees on the importance of their jobs should go hand in hand with training them on the proper products and procedures to use, according to Darrel Hicks, director of environmental services and patient transportation at St. Luke's Hospital, Chesterfield, Mo.
"They are the one thing that stands between the spread of infection from one patient to another," he says. "You don't want to get sick and you don't want to take [infections] home to your family. Follow the procedures and you'll break that chain of infection."
Custodial departments typically rely on a quaternary-based disinfectant to clean and disinfect patient rooms — regardless of whether or not an outbreak has occurred. However, in the case of C. diff, the bacterial spores are hard to kill and a high-level chlorine disinfectant is necessary. Custodians rely on a product with a kill claim specific to these microorganisms and often follow a two-part cleaning process.
"We use a quaternary disinfectant for all infections except C. diff," says Margie Bruckner, manager of environmental services for Aurora Sheboygan Memorial Medical Center in Sheboygan, Wis. "When we have a C. diff outbreak we use the quaternary disinfectant to remove the bioload, and then we go back over the room with a bleach-based cleaner."
When cleaning isolation rooms, Green's staff cleans the room twice — first with a quaternary cleaner and then with bleach wipes to disinfect all high-touch surfaces.
Similarly, Hicks' environmental services department cleans C. diff isolation rooms twice a day: "We clean with bleach wipes each time," he says. "At discharge, we clean the whole room and then go over it with bleach wipes again as a final step."
Despite the need for bleach-based products to fight infections like C. diff, Hicks frowns upon excessive use of disinfectants in hospitals.
"If we did a better job of cleaning, we wouldn't have to use as much disinfectant," he says. "It's like pouring perfume on cow manure and expecting it to smell better. We're dumping disinfectant on things and thinking we're killing them when we should do a better job of removing them."
In addition to quaternary-based disinfectants, custodial departments rely heavily on microfiber to apply chemicals and remove soils and microorganisms.
"Microfiber cloths will remove almost 98 percent of the soil," says Hicks. "You're also removing the spores and microorganisms so there's not much left on the surface."
In fact, Hicks has used an ATP meter to test the level of microbial contamination in rooms that were cleaned using microfiber and water and found the results comparable to rooms that were cleaned with a regular rag and a cleaner or disinfectant.
But even microfiber cloths must be used correctly to prevent cross-contamination. Managers recommend using multiple cloths, one for each surface of the room to be cleaned. Eric Bates, director of hospitality for Jewish Senior Living in Milwaukee, trains his staff to use three separate microfiber cloths for each room.
"We use one cloth for contact points in the resident room, and then we have a separate cloth for the sink and another for the toilet," he explains. "Then the cloths get bagged up and taken down to our laundry room at the end of the day."
While Bates finds spraying disinfectant on cloths and wiping surfaces down with a microfiber cloth to be most effective, others prefer a "bucket and rag" method or a flip-top dispenser. To avoid contaminating disinfectant in a bucket, Hicks cautions his staff not to dip a dirty microfiber cloth back into the bucket for reuse.
"We give them about 20 microfiber cloths," he says, "and when they're done wiping a surface, that cloth goes into a separate bag." Similarly, dirty microfiber mops are never dipped back into the disinfectant water.
In addition to using clean cloths to avoid contaminating disinfectant, Green's employees do not soak cloths in disinfectant.
"We used to soak our cloths in whatever disinfectant we were using," he says. "But we stopped that based on quat binding."
This phenomenon happens when fabrics have a strong attraction for the active ingredient in quat-based disinfectants, thereby causing the solution's efficacy to decrease. Green is purchasing a titration test kit to verify the disinfectant's active ingredient levels.
When cleaning and disinfecting patient rooms, custodians are trained to pay close attention to high-touch surfaces. Bruckner provides custodians with a list of touch points: Bed rails, over-the-bed tables, light switches, doorknobs, sink faucets, remote controls, toilet handles and call buttons.
Usually disinfecting high-touch surfaces is confined to patient rooms but in some instances may extend to adjoining areas.
"When we've had a C. diff patient, we know people are going into and out of the room, so we'll do the handrails outside the room," says Bruckner. "We'll also do surfaces in a family lounge area."
For Bates, on the other hand, disinfecting handrails outside of patient rooms is done on a daily basis.
"Most people don't think about the rails or the countertops at the nurses' station," he says. "You would not believe the germ count on these."
Countertops are disinfected three times a day while handrails are cleaned on the night shift — a routine that has decreased germ counts significantly.
While custodial departments generally agree on what high-touch surfaces require the most attention, they are often divided about dwell times. Most hospital-grade disinfectants registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have a label contact time of 10 minutes. However, studies have shown the effectiveness of these disinfectants against pathogens with a contact time of at least one minute.
"In the real world we can't wet a surface three times to give it a 10 minute dwell time, because we can't wait around for it to dry," says Hicks.
At St. Luke's Hospital, staff aims for a three minute dwell time and takes care of other tasks while the surfaces are wet.
Similarly, Bates' custodial team will apply disinfectant to contact points in the patient's restroom and bedroom, and then take care of vacuuming and emptying trash.
"You're better off allowing that kill time as long as possible," says Bates. "We use a product with a 99 percent kill for C. diff in all patient rooms and let it sit on that surface for five minutes."
With the pressure to turn rooms around quickly, allowing for appropriate dwell times can be challenging. Proper training can help ensure that staff doesn't sacrifice quality for speed.
"If you train your people to do a good job of soil removal, set your cloths and mops up so you're not cross-contaminating surfaces, and give them enough time in a room so they're not rushed, you should be able to do a very good job and reduce the infection rates in hospitals," Hicks says.
KASSANDRA KANIA is a frequent contributor to Housekeeping Solutions
November 21, 2012
Recent outbreaks of whooping cough in several U.S. states have prompted representatives of Spray Nine to release key tips to ensure proper disinfection to contain the disease's spread.
"Despite the growing use of green cleaning products, there's still the need for traditional disinfectants to further ensure dangerous germs are destroyed during the cleaning process," said Cary Zelich, marketing manager for Spray Nine, an ITW Permatex brand. "Even in cases where legislatures are promoting green cleaning at state-run schools, cleaning professionals should note that most legislation doesn't limit the use or distribution of antimicrobial disinfectants or sanitizers."
Whooping cough, once a deadly disease to U.S. children, became rare with the advent of a vaccine that drove the number of cases down. However, because the disease wasn't fully eradicated the number of cases reported this year has spiked. Washington and Wisconsin have each reported about 3,000 cases — and a higher number of cases are being tracked in New York, Minnesota, Kansas, and Arizona.
Zelich says there are several tips that those involved in cleaning programs need to keep top-of-mind in combating the spread of the disease:
• Know the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning removes visible soil, dirt, stains and other debris from surfaces. Disinfection destroys viruses, bacteria, germs and other harmful microorganisms. It is accomplished by using a chemical designed specifically to kill bacteria. One of the simplest ways to make sure you are disinfecting is to use a reliable name brand disinfectant with all of the proper paperwork to back up its kill-claims.
• Provide on-site training on a continual basis. Disinfectants require accurate dilution, correct application and the proper dwell time. Simply spraying and wiping a disinfectant may not kill harmful bacteria. Some disinfectants require 30-second contact times, while others may require up to 10 minutes. It is important to provide ongoing training to ensure the cleaning staff is trained with the latest cleaning procedures to achieve disinfection.
• Concentrate on disinfecting areas that may normally get overlooked. In addition to high traffic areas in a building, don't overlook the potential for cross-contamination, which occurs on computer keyboards and telephones. Disinfectants should be used on all high-touch surfaces in a facility to eliminate the spread of germs and disease.
Article compliments of www.cleanlink.com
Who knew that programs that increase indoor environmental quality have been proven to reduce absenteeism by 23 percent, or that all public schools in Connecticut will be required to green clean as of July 1, 2011? The facilities management department at Regional School District No. 6 in Litchfield, Conn. is very much aware of both points. In fact, this information is just a taste of the environmental initiatives the department touts on the district website.
At a quick glance, visitors to the district site will see that the facilities management department is proud to communicate a comprehensive recycling program, the use of biodegradable and non-toxic products, and environmentally preferable purchasing of paper, soaps, equipment and various hand tools. As it turns out, these are just a few of the green goals the district has implemented.
To round out the district's green strategies, the department also introduced chemical-free cleaning initiatives in 2009. With training and assistance from their local distributor, the facilities management department now uses a consolidated amount of environmentally preferred products as a way to directly contribute to a cleaner environment, while improving indoor air quality (IAQ), worker safety and a healthier environment for building occupants.
"We are very much ahead of the curve when it comes to green," says Fran Odell, facilities director at Regional School District No. 6. "We do it because of the benefits it provides."
When it comes to benefits of green, Odell can't say enough great things about the chemical-free program and electrically-activated water technology used throughout the district. Not only has the use of this technology saved budget dollars (by purchasing fewer chemicals), but it proved to be very versatile.
"We use [electrically-activated water] in administration and district offices, classrooms and even around plants in the agricultural department," says Odell. "It's proven effective on glass, mirrors, stainless steel, white boards, desks and cafeteria tables. We use it everywhere."
According to Tom Medonis, facility maintenance day supervisor, electrically-activated water technology is used to clean roughly 80 percent of the buildings throughout the district. And to guarantee its effectiveness, the department periodically asks their local distributor to come in and conduct surface tests using ATP measuring devises.
The positive results from the ATP testing, in conjunction with improved appearance and quick and easy cleaning, is enough to convince Odell that this technology is a district-wide must.
"We've seen many positive results from chemical-free cleaning," she says. "It is effective, better for the environment and safer for everyone involved. I am constantly recommending it."
Bruce Richard, facility maintenance professional adds, "I am always hearing positive feedback from students and staff on how clean the facility is and this technology offers quick cleaning turnaround."
Although chemical-free cleaning has proven to be a viable alternative for much of the district, there are areas where chemicals are a necessity. In restrooms, for instance, where sanitizing is required, concentrated Green Seal certified chemicals are used in conjunction with metering and dilution control systems.
The only chemical in the districts arsenal that isn't green is disinfectant, but it's not by choice. Odell comments that she's anxious for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to continue their evaluation of greener disinfectants. Once the EPA suggests greener options, her department will begin incorporating them into their program.
"It's just the right thing to do," says Odell. "There are better options out there than the harsh disinfectants used in many departments today."
"We did it to improve the health and safety of the students and the staff," says Scott Johnson, second-shift facility maintenance professional. "The programs we have in place have proven to help keep all the building occupants healthy."
The district has seen reduced absenteeism following the introduction of chemical-free cleaning, but more importantly, building occupants have also noticed an improvement in their own health since the switch in cleaning initiatives.
"One teacher said that last year was the first time she didn't have an asthma attack at school," said Medonis.
These types of results are exactly why the department switched to chemical-free cleaning. Creating a safe and healthy environment is an overall goal of the district and the facilities maintenance department will continue to do everything they can to achieve that goal.
According to the district website, the vision at Regional School District No. 6 is "to take meaningful steps toward preserving, protecting and enhancing natural resources while providing a healthy learning environment and maximizing fiscal resources. We will never compromise the safety of our staff and students and we will adjust our cleaning practices whenever instructed by local or state health agencies."
This vision is something Odell and her team takes very seriously. As green initiatives continue to evolve, the facilities maintenance department at Regional School District No. 6 will maintain a "practice what you preach" philosophy.
Regional School District No. 6 highlights some of the benefits to their green and chemical-free program
By Corinne Zudonyi, Editor
Schools are typically funded based on attendance, so reducing asthma and related maladies will improve attendance and associated school budgets, making savvy distributors part of a vital proposition: creating healthier schools doesn't cost, it pays.
The causes of asthma are complex and involve factors including genetics, diet, stress and environmental health. While distributors can't impact genetics, diet or the stresses placed on children, they can minimize potential asthma triggers related to cleaning at schools and surrounding environments.
Although triggers that cause an asthma episode vary from person to person, there are several common triggers associated with schools: allergens and irritants.
Allergen triggers include pollen, animal dander, dust mites, cockroaches and molds. Irritants, on the other hand, are disinfectants, pesticides, fragrances or odors from cleaning products, and chalk dust.
There are three main ways to reduce asthma triggers and improve indoor air quality (IAQ). The first, source capture, stops contaminants or pollutants from spreading. Second, ventilation brings fresh air in to dilute pollutants and triggers. Finally, air cleaning removes airborne matter. Of the three, source capture (i.e. prevention) with the right products is the most important and effective method.
Distributors can promote products that truly clean — that is, methods that remove contaminants or pollutants or stop them at the source rather than add them to the environment or redistribute them.
Floor mats provide passive cleaning or source capture; the more matting the better. Mats remove particles (outdoor pesticides, allergens, heavy metals) from shoes before dusts can enter the building and become airborne. Mats should be placed outside and inside — bi-level, scraper-type outside and absorbent, drying-type inside — entranceways, and be changed or cleaned frequently.
However, mats can't do it all. Encourage customers to keep floors clean — both carpet and hard surfaces. Carpet holds dust better than hard floors and does not release it until the fibrous "sink" becomes full. Contrary to popular misconception, when it comes to allergies and asthma, carpet is not the problem. Lack of proper cleaning of carpet is. Help clients schedule carpet vacuuming at regular and frequent intervals, going slow and repeating passes to extract the most dust (more passes equals more dust removed, up to 80 percent).
Choose vacuums that remove and capture the most dust. Both properly-filtered HEPA vacuums and non-HEPA models can be effective because particulate capture has more to do with the way vacuums are designed and filters are configured than with any particular or single filter technology. The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) provides good guidance on vacuums that clean well while keeping dust out of the air.
Choose high quality filters for vacuums. In some cases, OEM filters are better than generics because of enhanced media quality that traps more dust while maintaining airflow longer. If in doubt, ask for test data and look for high efficiencies of removal at small particle sizes (e.g., 99 percent at .3 micron) and sustained airflow rates.
Provide a vacuum maintenance log for customers and encourage frequent filter changes and vacuum inspections. Great vacuums become poor ones if not maintained well. Filters are relatively inexpensive, while lung damage, other health impairments and labor to remove resettled dust are not.
Hard floors need even more frequent cleaning because dust on smooth surfaces becomes airborne more easily; vacuuming with a brush attachment where practical is preferable to dust mopping since it removes more soil.
Both floors need wet cleaning regularly as well; clean flooring attracts, holds and releases less dust. Carpets should be extracted to remove sticky soils and residues. Janitors should use autoscrubbers on hard floors that can accommodate it, since it applies only clean solution, scrubs and removes or vacuums off dirty solution.
Janitors can also use vacuums to remove dust from above-floor surfaces such as cubicle walls. Alternately, recommend microfiber or other retentive technologies (disposable non-microfiber dusters may also provide good retention) to capture and remove particles. Even a damp cotton cloth can be a good choice since it will tend to remove and contain dust rather than stir it.
Also, encourage school staff and students to remove clutter from classrooms and other spaces. Clutter provides more surface area, hiding places and distribution points for dust. Eliminating these surfaces will reduce dusting, cleaning labor and overall airborne dust.
According to K.D. Rosenman, MD, Department of Medicine, Michigan State University, "Cleaning products contain a diverse group of chemicals...Their potential to cause or aggravate asthma has recently been recognized."
It makes sense to limit or target the use of products containing ingredients such as bleach, quaternary ammonium compounds or "quats," phthalates, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Consider appropriate alternatives or non-chemical options.
Bronchitis, shortness of breath, coughing and other respiratory problems are linked to regular use of bleach-based and other "irritating" cleaning products.
Phthalate, a common ingredient in product fragrances, ends up in dust that school children inhale. According to Science News magazine: "...children exposed to...dust with the greatest concentrations of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) were 2.9 times as likely to have asthma as were children exposed to the lowest concentrations of that phthalate."
Use of quats — compounds in floor cleaners and disinfecting products — may also promote asthma. Volatile ingredients in foodservice or kitchen cleaning formulas, furniture polishes and other cleaners can irritate mucous membranes and contribute to respiratory issues.
Avoiding products containing these ingredients makes sense when non-asthma-inducing alternatives are available. Good ventilation is also vital when products containing asthma triggers are used.
Some schools are having success with water-only cleaning, including microfiber cloths and tap water for hard surfaces; autoscrubbers using just tap water or electrically-activated water; electrically-activated water for general-purpose cleaning and sanitizing; and steam vapor units for cleaning and disinfecting.
Conducting IAQ walkthroughs with customers can help identify indoor air quality problems and sources, and open up solution-driven sales opportunities. At a minimum, look in cleaning closets for asthma promoting products and suggest replacements. Check vacuum cleaners and filters for proper equipment selection and maintenance, and provide maintenance logs and reminder systems to promote clean filters and regular cleaning. Offer training on better methods to remove soil and prevent airborne matter; how one cleans is often as important as what one cleans with.Particle counters are useful to assess the number of airborne particles and to check vacuum cleaners for dust retention. As a rule of thumb, the number of very fine particles indoors should be half of the count outdoors. In addition, particle counters can help distributors identify sources of particles and to troubleshoot solutions. Vacuum cleaner exhaust can be measured to determine how many particles and what sizes are being released, which is an indication of the effectiveness of filters and overall dust containment.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) meters are increasingly being used to detect the CO2 exhaled by students in classrooms to assess overall indoor air quality, especially as it relates to the buildup of potential "triggers."
Carbon dioxide is considered a surrogate for other airborne gases and its buildup often indicates poor ventilation and the potential concentration of other airborne contaminants (VOCs, etc.). If distributors choose to measure carbon dioxide with a portable meter, manufacturers of these devices provide training and guidance on interpreting results. Having this information will enable a dialogue with other school maintenance personnel such as those responsible for HVAC systems.
Relative humidity and moisture meters are useful for determining conditions favorable for mold growth. Relative humidity meters measure the moisture content of the air, whereas pad or pin-type moisture meters provide a measurement of moisture within materials. Finding and eliminating unwanted sources of moisture will reduce potential for mold growth, which exposure to can trigger asthmatic episodes.
Helping customers select and maintain the appropriate cleaning products can help improve schools' IAQ and reduce the number of asthma-related absences. After this initial product assessment, follow up with IAQ measurements to ensure proper cleaning continues to take place.
Allen Rathey is president of The Healthy Facilities Institute, a Boise-Idaho based organization established to provide data for creating and maintaining clean, healthy indoor environments
People in developed countries spend almost 90 per cent of their time indoors, most of it working in an office without stepping outside, which makes the modern workplace the new human habitat harbouring many bacteria, a new study has revealed.
The joint research between San Diego State University and the University of Arizona tested 90 offices in three cities and found more than 500 species of bacteria, about the same number found in previous studies of bathrooms and aircraft.
Researchers swabbed five surfaces - chairs, phones, computer mouses, keyboards and desktops, and discovered that the highest concentrations of microbes were on chairs and phones.
The study found that humans were the main source of bacterial abundance in offices, with skin, oral and nasal cavities harbouring trillions of micro-organisms that can shed and accumulate in work spaces. "''Humans were clearly the primary source of office bacterial contamination," Stuff.co.nz quoted the authors as writing.
Many of the most common genera we discovered inhabit human skin, oral or nasal cavities," they wrote.
Not all bacteria are created equal as some of them are hardier than others.
Professor Peter Collignon, infectious diseases specialist at the Australian National University, said that certain microbes die off quickly while those that can reproduce can hang around for years.
Some can live for quite a long period while others are more susceptible to drying," he said.
How long any bacterium lives depends on how dry it gets and how much light it's exposed to.
Essentially bacteria like it to be moist and dark.
You would expect most bacteria on surfaces to die off within hours to days but there will be exceptions to that. Some bacteria have spores which are a bit like seeds. They can keep reproducing for many months if not years," he said.
Streptococcal species, which are responsible for conditions ranging from strep throat to meningitis, are susceptible to drying out and dying fairly quickly.
Enterococcus, which can cause urinary tract infections and diverticulitis, can withstand a wide range of temperatures and last for weeks.
Staphylococcus, which has about 40 different species including golden staph, is another robust bacterium, which is slow to dry out.
Golden staph can cause a range of illnesses from mild skin infections to pneumonia and meningitis.
Clostridium difficile, which can cause severe diarrhoea, forms spores that are resistant to routine cleaning and can live outside the human body for long periods.
It is impossible to remove every bacterium from all surfaces and it is also unwise, Professor Collignon said.
A lot of the bacteria we have in our skin and mouths and nose protect us against the more nasty ones," Collognon said.
We don't want to wipe out all bacteria because it's impossible and it will do more harm than good," he added.
The study has been published online in PLoS ONE.
Cleanlink News 8/3/2012
Cutting vacuuming frequencies will adversely affect the health of building occupants
Reducing vacuum frequencies hurts a carpet’s life and appearance, but these cuts can also adversely impact a facility’s indoor air quality.
Most people are aware that outdoor air pollution can damage their health, but they may not know that indoor air quality can have a similar effect. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) studies of human exposure to air pollutants indicate that indoor air levels of many pollutants may be five times higher than outdoor levels. People spend as much as 80 percent of their time inside; indoor air quality may be a public health risk.
During the past several decades, construction of more tightly sealed buildings, reduced ventilation rates to save energy, the use of synthetic building materials and furnishings, and the use of chemically formulated products have increased the potential for indoor air pollution.
According to the American Lung Association, indoor air quality can cause or contribute to the development of chronic lung diseases such as asthma. It is estimated 40 million individuals in the United States are affected by allergies. Allergies are an overreaction of the immune system to foreign substances. This over reaction weakens the immune system, draining a person’s energy and leaving him/her more susceptible to infectious diseases caused by viruses and bacteria.
Allergic reactions can range from mildly uncomfortable to life threatening, as in a severe asthma attack. Health experts are especially concerned about people with asthma. These individuals have very sensitive airways that can react to various irritants, making breathing difficult. The estimated number of people with asthma has risen more than 59 percent since 1970. The number of asthma-related deaths has also increased.
The largest source of indoor air pollution is from the common dust mite. In 1993, John W. Maunder, Ph.D., director of the Medical Entomology Center at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, published a paper entitled “Carpets, House Dust Mites and Asthma” in which he states, “There is no longer room for serious doubt about the dominant role of the house dust mite in both the initial induction of asthma and in the subsequent triggering of wheezy attacks.”
Asthmatics are not allergic to living mites but to the airborne feces of mites and, to a much lesser extent, to dead mites. Dr. Maunder states that although living mites are difficult to remove from carpet, their feces are readily removed from carpets by proper cleaning.
A recent study concludes that carpets may benefit indoor air quality by acting as a filter for indoor air, trapping and holding dust mites, pollutants, and allergens such as pollen, pet dander and molds, which play an important role in allergic diseases. The key to maintaining good indoor air quality in a school or office building is to clean this filter regularly, i.e., remove these pollutants through vacuuming.
The science shows regular vacuuming is important and necessary, not just to protect and maintain carpets appearance, but for hygienic reasons, as well.
By BJ Mandelstam
Reducing Vacuuming Ruins Carpets
June 1, 2012
When vacuuming frequencies are cut, carpet appearance and lifespan are severely diminished
For some time, building service contractors have been sounding the alarm about their mounting concerns related to reducing cleaning frequencies, sometimes known as skip cleaning. During the recession many companies and schools, in an effort to cut costs, skimped on cleaning, especially vacuuming. As the economy shows signs of rebounding, now is the time to increase vacuuming frequencies back to pre-recession levels, before irreversible damage is done.
Science explains why those who are responsible for the indoor environment — contractors, building managers and occupants — do have something to worry about. As skip-cleaning schedules become more prevalent, especially as proper and consistent vacuuming frequencies are reduced, the indoor environment suffers. Reducing the vacuum frequencies from five days to every other day or less may, on the surface, seem like an easy way to save a dollar and trim a budget. However, the unintended consequence of such a decision lays hidden in the carpet pile. As the frequencies are reduced so are the carpet’s appearance and its life.
Commercial carpet is a textile, similar to pantyhose. The most popular commercial carpet is made of synthetic fibers such as nylon, olefin or polyester. In fact, nylon is most often specified by architects and designers for commercial installations. It is frequently referred to as the durable fiber. Synthetic fibers don’t usually wear out (except on stairs); instead, they “ugly out.”
is when a carpet shows visible signs of graying in traffic areas,
heavily walked-on areas, and pivot points (points where turns are made,
grinding dirt, soil and grit into the carpet). Graying occurs when the
fibers are crushed, matted down or flattened out. The carpet fibers also
may be abraded or scratched.
Fiber has come a long way since nylon was invented in the 1930s. According to the Carpet & Rug Institute, “Today’s carpets are designed to hide dirt and resist soiling and staining. But that’s no excuse to skip regular vacuuming. Soil can damage fibers if it remains in the pile.”
Carpet may be more stain-resistant and resilient than in the past, but it is still susceptible to matting, crushing or flattening. And as carpet flattens out, it can also become more porous, abraded or damaged. All are factors of uglying out brought on by improper maintenance.
like other textiles — for instance, a favorite pair of broken in blue
jeans faded with washings and worn knees — carpet will show wear over
time and without proper maintenance.
A combination of factors will cause premature wear, including embedded
soil in the carpet. Infrequent vacuuming and poor matting are the main
reasons carpets show signs of premature wear. Major traffic lanes need
to be vacuumed daily.
Shoes track in most of the dirt, grit and soil that end up in carpets. Other factors also contributing to soiling include dust, airborne pollutants and food or drink spills.
When vacuuming is skipped, dirt, grit and soil become embedded in the carpet. It will be harder to remove them later. Embedded soil particles are abrasive like sandpaper. Dirt and grit damage the carpet fiber by rubbing, or abrading, the carpet fiber. Imagine repeatedly rubbing sandpaper over glass. Quickly the glass becomes scratched, dull and faded. With repeated abrasion, the scratched glass is weakened. Abrasive soil does the same thing to carpet fiber. The fiber becomes pitted and scratched creating a dull, faded appearance; the carpet looks worn. Regular vacuuming prevents the deep abrasion that ruins carpets.
Dulling is caused by all types of soils and will actually change the original carpet color’s appearance. A light blue carpet can take on a gray-green tint, and rose carpet can appear more taupe. The original color isn’t lost; it’s hidden under a layer of soil. It’s important to note some carpet may actually absorb the soil causing the carpet color to permanently change. Frequently this happens with oily soils. Oily soils can be absorbed and the carpet will take on a yellow cast. Entry mats can trap soil, and combined with routine vacuuming, this problem can be avoided.
pile underneath the carpet fibers will break down if the dirt is left
in. It also creates a breeding ground for dust mites and bacteria.
Frequent vacuuming not only keeps the carpet cleaner, it significantly reduces wear and tear especially in traffic areas.
Reducing frequencies will ultimately cost facilities more money in the future. Janitors will have to make additional passes to remove soil in heavily embedded areas and eventually the carpet will require an expensive deep or restorative cleaning. Or worse, ultimately the carpet pre-maturely wears out and requires replacement.
Reduced frequencies may have met the short-term budget needs of the present, but they shouldn’t compromise the future. It’s easier to skip some tasks over others, but reduced vacuuming isn’t one of them. To ensure longer life and maintain appearance, carpet requires regular vacuuming. Facility managers and building owners should never underestimate the effect frequent vacuuming has on carpet.
By BJ Mandelstam
When the concept of "going green" was first introduced more than a decade ago, industry representatives thought it would quickly dissipate as nothing but a fad. In reality, the green movement has exploded and in-house managers have embraced green cleaning, whether by choice or by law.
At its inception and for many years after, school custodial managers green cleaned as a way to reduce their mark on the environment. It was an ethical choice and an effort to preserve the Earth for future generations. But not all schools joined the bandwagon willingly.
Even after the green cleaning market continued to grow through improved product development, more competitive pricing and third-party approvals and certifications, convincing the masses has been challenging. Although in some respects, green cleaning in schools is still a choice. In others, the government has stepped in and made the decision on behalf of departments.
Reportedly, the first state to mandate green cleaning in K-12 schools was New York in 2005. Since that time, there has been a growing trend within state governments to improve the health within schools and minimize the harmful effects cleaning might have on the environment by requiring green cleaning practices.
In August 2005, then Governor George Pataki signed into law legislation that required the use of "environmentally sensitive cleaning products" in all public and private elementary and secondary schools in the state of New York. At the time, few states had legal requirements for cleaning— certainly not so specific as to require green cleaning or specifically targeting schools — but the initiative would soon become more commonplace.
"As with anything new, change can be difficult at first," says Heather Groll, spokesperson for New York State Office of General Services (OGS). "However, we have been told that our tutorials on how to implement a green cleaning program have been helpful. Additionally, once a program has been in place for a period of time, we often find enthusiasm based on how well the products work and how well the program fits into tight school budgets."
Adjusting to new techniques and often working within budget constraints can be a challenge for custodial managers. To accommodate and make for an easy transition, lawmakers built in a grace period that would become standard for legislation moving forward.
The New York law did not require the immediate switch to green cleaning supplies in 2005. Instead, custodial crews would be required to purchase green certified products only once their existing supply ran out, or by Sept. 1, 2006 — whichever came first.
Elaborating on New York's law, Illinois passed one of the more involved green cleaning legislations to date. Effective in August 2007, the Green Cleaning Schools Act requires all public and non-public elementary and secondary schools with 50 or more students to "establish a green cleaning policy and exclusively purchase and use environmentally sensitive cleaning products."
When the legislation first came into effect, "our distributors really did a fantastic job in helping us make the switch to green," says Lenny Mack, custodial supervisor at Arlington Heights School District 25, Ill. "We made a quick change with our hard floor cleanersand we've benefited from the implementation of microfiber. But, as with anything new, green cleaning is a continuous learning process and our department continues to evolve."
It would be two more years before another state government mandated green cleaning in schools, but since 2009 legislation has increased substantially.
"This isn't a trend that is going away," says Steve Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group, Bloomington, Ind. "These laws are about creating best practices."
In July 2009 the Hawaii Green Cleaning for Schools legislation was enacted. The law requires the Hawaii Department of Education to, in turn, require all public school facilities to "give first preference, where feasible, to the purchase and use of environmentally sensitive cleaning and maintenance products that have been approved by the Green Seal program."
The Hawaii Department of Health is responsible for maintaining a list of products that have been approved by Green Seal for which public schools will use as a first-preference guideline when purchasing and using environmentally sensitive products.
Not far behind Hawaii, Maryland also enacted legislation for schools, effective since October 2009. All green products must be biodegradable, have low toxicity, low volatile organic compound (VOC) content, reduced packaging and low life cycle energy use.
Although state requirements were in place as early as 2007 for green cleaning in government facilities, it wasn't until 2009 that Connecticut legislation was signed requiring the same within schools. Effective in July 2011, all school buildings and facilities must implement green cleaning programs. Comparable to other state requirements, officials comment that adhering to the law will be a smooth transition for facilities.
Even at its inception, "the legislation is perceived as a good thing," says Jim Saisa, director of facilities at Amity Regional School District No. 5 in Woodbridge, Conn. "It's forcing us to use less harsh chemicals, which make for safer schools. We have been green cleaning for over three years, so now it's about streamlining our training and working with our vendors to swap out essential products."
the previously mentioned states have embraced a holistic approach to
green cleaning legislation, that isn't the case nationwide. According to
some industry experts, Nevada fell short when officials were forced to
compromise in an effort to pass green cleaning legislation. Others are
thankful the state is at least making headway. Effective July 2010,
legislation will require the use of environmentally sensitive products,
but only in the cleaning of floor surfaces.
Although the number of states implementing legislation for green cleaning is growing, not all laws are created equal. Some states are slow to adopt the entire green approach and instead, opt for a more gradual push. In fact, they aren't requiring green cleaning at all.
Instead, current legislation in two states (Maine and Missouri) simply "recommend" facility executives adhere to green cleaning practices. The requirements stipulated with these legislations instead fall on the shoulders of state departments.
Since 2007, Maine laws require the State Department of Education to maintain a list of cleaning products that have been certified as meeting "health-based criteria for safety and efficacy" by a third party independent agency such as Green Seal or EcoLogo. A second list of acceptable disinfectants is also mandated.
Although the law does not require schools to implement a green cleaning policy or use green cleaning products, it is the responsibility of the Department to encourage schools to do so.
Similarly, in July 2008, Missouri posted legislation that the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education must establish green cleaning guidelines and specifications for schools. While the law makes it mandatory for the Department to issue the green cleaning guidelines, implementation by Missouri schools is voluntary.
With mandates on the rise, facilities where laws are yet to materialize should take note. Green cleaning might be just beyond the horizon.
According to state reports, green cleaning legislation for schools will be considered in California, Iowa, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin sometime in 2010. Industry experts comment that legislation and cleaning in green schools will continue to grow as more players get involved in the issue.
"Learning from the experiences with New York and Illinois, we have built coalitions that have made passing legislations pretty powerful," says Ashkin. "Those coalitions — such as those through the Healthy Schools Campaign, associations such as ISSA, environmental groups and labor unions that become more involved — have made for a powerful approach that has a high rate of success for passing legislation."
Experts predict that the requirements for green cleaning in schools will continue to grow at a steady clip. Managers yet to jump on the green bandwagon should prepare their departments for future changes. Resistance to the inevitable push for green cleaning will open up departments to the increased threat of outsourcing, as contractors lie in wait to promote green cleaning to school administrators.
It is important also to remember that legislation requiring green cleaning
is only a minimum standard, and facilities meeting just those
requirements will continue to be threatened by contractors who might be
willing to do more. Custodial departments should use these legal requirements as a stepping stone for their evolving green cleaning programs.
Regardless of legislation, Ashkin stresses that green is happening and managers in schools all over the country should take note.
"It isn't a political issue," he says. "It is simple recognition that we have the opportunity to make a difference. We can reduce exposures to kids in classrooms and the potential risk to custodians, while reducing the unnecessary and negative impacts cleaning has on the environment."
By Corinne Zudonyi, Editor
Cintas Corporation issued a list of the top five tips for business owners and operators to “spring clean” their facilities and revitalize the image of their business. From daily cleaning tasks to deep cleaning floors and restrooms, businesses can embrace the new season as an opportunity to refresh facilities and provide a clean and safe environment for building occupants and visitors.
The five essential spring cleaning tips include:
1. Freshen up facility appearance: Dedicate time this spring to focus on small details. Whether patched and caulk lines need to be redone or bulbs and ballasts need to be replaced, addressing the small issues will improve to the overall appearance and operations of the facility.
2. Focus on flooring: Winter weather results in excessive wear and tear and a dulling of the appearance of flooring. Invest in a deep cleaning service to revitalize tile and carpeting. The combination of high-pressure steam, agitation, heat and extraction removes more dry particulate soil than any other method, helping delay expensive replacement costs and revitalizing floors to a like-new condition.
3. Refresh restrooms: There’s no denying that daily cleaning helps facility managers maintain restrooms. However, dirt and bacteria build-up over time. Address dirty restrooms by implementing a deep cleaning service for restrooms that effectively removes built-up soils by sanitizing all restroom surfaces and fixtures using a high-pressure, chemical injection washer.
4. Clean air conditioning units: Most air conditioning (A/C) units remain dormant throughout the winter. To ensure the best indoor air quality (IAQ) for building patrons, facility managers should complete a comprehensive A/C coil cleaning service. A/C units that are not properly cleaned can lead to lingering odors, allergies, premature unit failure and high energy bills. Completing regular A/C coil cleaning removes dirt, grime and built-up sludge from A/C units to improve IAQ, lower energy bills and extend the life of air conditioning units.
5. Go green with spring: According to a recent Harris Interactive survey, 84 percent of U.S. adults prefer to do business with a company that uses environmentally-friendly products and practices. Select products that are Green Seal certified or meet the requirements for the EPA’s Design for the Environment Program (DfE). In addition, businesses can implement green cleaning methods, including dilution control chemical dispensers and reusable mops or wipes to limit environmental impact.
Cleanlink News 3/30/2012
Recognized for portraying an upscale, modern image with their sleek gadgetry, touch-free soap and towel dispensers also help improve hand hygiene by reducing cross-contamination in public restrooms. But increasing public perception and improving hand hygiene isn’t everything these touch-free dispensers do for facilities. These dispensers also take on a tall role of controlling facilities’ spend on soap and paper towels, two commodities that suffer from over consumption and waste in public restrooms.
Being able to control the appropriate dose of soap and the required length of paper toweling per restroom patron, facilities are able to recognize significant savings from touch-free dispensers.
Suitable for use in all types of commercial facilities, touch-free soap dispensers are most commonly found in high-traffic facilities’ restrooms such as in airports, restaurants, office buildings, universities and hospitals. These dispensers, which are sensor-activated, pump and dispense a controlled amount of soap for restroom patrons who place their hands underneath the unit’s nozzle. Touch-free soap dispensers function to conserve the amount of soap while also stemming germ transmission by eliminating a common touch point in the restroom.
Touch-free soap dispensers give facilities the ability to control the amount of soap being dispensed through adjustable dosage settings. Thus, facilities can eliminate excess waste and overuse by restroom patrons who otherwise are allowed to manually take as much soap as needed. Setting dosages enables cost savings through prolonged product life between refills and reduced maintenance visits.
Not all soap is the same, so dosages should be based on the type of cleanser, how concentrated it is and how well it can clean restroom visitors’ hands.
In a facility where occupants have to remove grease and industrial soils from their hands, liquid paste soap is often required. The recommended dosage for this type of soap in a touch-free dispenser should be set for 2 milliliter to provide sufficient skin coverage and distribution of surfactants over the skin surface.
For applications of milder skin soiling, a lower dosage of product would be sufficient for proper cleaning. Liquid soap should be set no lower than 1 milliliter and doesn’t need to be any higher than 1.5 milliliter.
In most public spaces where general hand washing occurs, facilities can benefit from the cost savings of foam cleansers. With the least amount of product required to cleanse hands, a setting of 0.4 milliliter to 0.7 milliliter is adequate for foam soap.
More concentrated formulas such as foam soaps enable a smaller dose size, which in turn enables a refill to last longer before needing changed and yields more hand washes per cartridge.
If facilities are concerned about usage, foam soap has been found to be eight times more spreadable than liquid soap and reduces the quantity of product required for an effective hand wash, according to a recent study. Interestingly, using less product does not equate to less efficacy as a further scientific study shows that there is no significant difference in the cleaning ability between a 0.7 milliliter dosage of foam soap compared to a standard 1.1 milliliter dosage of liquid soap.
Facilities also recognize a savings in water consumption with foam soap use. When using foam soap for hand washing, restroom patrons use 16 percent less water than when using liquid soap. Water consumption can be reduced by up to 45 percent by adopting a foam soap hand washing technique of dispense, lather, rinse and dry. For every 100 people per facility, the use of foam soap for hand washing can equate to an annual water reduction of up to 14,790 gallons of water.
Soap dispensers can also be set to dispense on a timed delay when activated. Most touch-free systems require that a person removes their hands from the actuation zone and then bring them back under again for a second dispense if needed. This design helps reduce the amount of soap being used and reduces the risk of accidental dispensing of the product.
Supply waste is most apparent with paper toweling in high-traffic facilities. As a result, manufacturers have developed touch-free paper towel dispensers that help minimize the amount of paper being used during the hand drying process in public restrooms.
A facility that currently uses c-fold or multi-fold towels can save upwards of 25 to 30 percent on paper usage by implementing a touch-free electronic paper towel dispenser. And with manual dispensers, restroom patrons have the option of cranking a lever, pulling down on an exposed piece of paper, or turn a knob to get as much paper as they so choose.
With touch-free automatic dispensers, however, restroom users are encouraged to only take one sheet of paper toweling that is pre-set to a specified length by the facility.
These lengths vary by manufacturer, but most dispensers allow for facilities to choose a small, medium or large length (8-, 12- and 16-inches long, respectively). Medium-sized length typically is recommended for most facilities because with the short length patrons tend to take too many sheets and with the long length, people are usually programmed to take two sheets anyways.
Access to multiple sheets of paper after the first piece is also pre-set depending on facility type. Typical times vary in two-second intervals, from as low as two seconds up to as high as an eight-second delay.
In a high-traffic restroom such as an airport or an arena where people enter and leave quickly, longer lengths of toweling and longer delay settings are often recommended, since most guests are in a hurry and soon realize that one towel is adequate for drying hands. By utilizing a longer timed delay, it can save a high-traffic facility upwards of 25 percent less paper use.
In an office building or K-12 school, however, occupants may not need as much paper toweling, so the delay can be long. Ideally, appropriate time delays between sensor activations should cut down on product waste.
Touch-free paper towel dispensers also allow facilities to set up their dispensers to dispense a shorter sheet on the second dispense. Known as a paper savings mode, this feature shortens the second sheet length by either 12 percent or 25 percent depending upon what setting the facility has it on.
How it works is after a user requests for the first sheet and then asks for another sheet within three seconds, it will be 12 to 25 percent shorter than the first sheet. The dispenser then goes back into regular mode upon the next dispense, which likely is for a different user. Implementing dispensers with this function is most suitable in facilities where patrons are expected to take more than one sheet.
When reducing consumption is the name of the game in public restrooms, facilities can recognize significant savings by implementing touch-free soap and towel dispensers. The cost of the units themselves have dropped in price, making them an even more attractive purchase for facilities. The return on investment is also often recognized quickly in the declining overuse of soap, paper towels, energy and water consumption.
By Nick Bragg, Deputy Editor
December 8, 2010 ·
Providing a safe and healthy environment for building occupants is a primary goal for in-house cleaning departments. This means eliminating bacteria and the threat of infection, while reducing cross-contamination, especially in areas such as restrooms that receive high traffic from building occupants.
Although products play a large role in cleaning for health, restroom cleaning techniques also must be scrutinized and streamlined. Managers can start by addressing cleaning needs and reevaluating restroom training.
Restrooms are one of the most visible — and therefore one of the most scrutinized — areas of the facility. These rooms also have the potential to harbor more bacteria than any other space. Not only is it imperative to clean frequently to maintain the clean look of the restroom, cleaning is necessary in the prevention of cross-contamination and infection.
“Our restrooms receive a thorough cleaning every night, but we spot clean the public restrooms every two hours throughout the day,” says Paul Steines, building service manager at Marshfield Clinic in Marshfield, Wis. “We want to provide a clean environment at all times.”
“Our cleaning staff goes in to service restrooms two times during our first shift to make sure they are in acceptable order and necessary supplies are stocked,” he says. “They will also empty waste containers as needed and do minor touch-ups if necessary. Then, restrooms are thoroughly cleaned during the second shift.”
Cleaning frequencies in many facilities will depend solely on the traffic and conditions of the particular restroom. As a benchmark, managers are advised to conduct restroom cleaning throughout the day as needed and at least once every evening. Familiarizing themselves with traffic patters throughout the facility will help managers schedule maintenance accordingly.
Visual clues indicating necessary cleaning are excessive trash, shrinking paper and soap stock and the general appearance of cleanliness. An unkempt restroom is a feeding ground for bacteria and can result in vocal complains from building occupants as well.
“Cleaning frequencies at the hospital depend on the specific restroom,” says Margie Bruckner, manager of environmental services at Aurora Sheboygan Memorial Medical Center in Sheboygan, Wis. “Our lobby restroom is cleaned four times a day because of the amount of traffic it receives, but areas that aren’t used as often might receive scheduled cleaning only twice.”
Although restrooms are a hot spot in the fight against bacteria, cleaners who are stretched for time in their day have been known to cut corners when managers are out of sight. This reality can cause problems both with perception of clean and bacteria levels.
To prevent this from happening, custodial managers emphasize the importance of training and strict cleaning requirements. They then follow up with an inspection process to make sure training procedures are followed.
“We spend a good amount of time on training of products, but also the importance of cleaning processes,” says Michele Sutherland, housekeeping supervisor at Madison County Health Care System in Winterset, Iowa. “This way we make sure workers understand why they are cleaning a specific area, as well as what they are cleaning it with.”
Product training is an important first step when it comes to maintaining the restroom. Understandably, cleaners need to know which product to use on which surface, but they also need to know how to use those products properly. Using the correct product incorrectly can have the same results as not cleaning at all.
“Product training is essential to ensure that the correct product is being used for its intended function and in its correct form,” says Edquist.
Understanding a products function and purpose, as well as its proper use, will ensure cleanliness and help control bacteria in the restroom.
Take chemicals, for instance. Sprays are designed to cover a specific amount of area and should be held roughly 6 to 8 inches from the surface. Spray too close and the full surface is not being cleaned. Hold it too far away and much of the chemical might not even hit the surface.
Identifying and adhering to proper chemical dwell times is also important in the fight against bacteria. Chemicals are only effective if used as directed, which means allowing them to sit on surfaces for a predetermined set of time. But, this step is often skipped because cleaners are rushed to complete tasks quickly. To combat this problem, many training programs focus specifically on dwell times.
“The disinfectant we use has, at most, a 10-minute contact time that we follow,” says Sutherland.
This can be a long time for cleaners on the day shift who are often rushed or interrupted by building occupants looking to use the restroom. But, implementing a streamlined restroom cleaning process and conducting proper training can help offset these longer dwell time requirements.
For interim daytime cleaning, train workers to spray down horizontal surfaces and touch points with the cleaning chemical. While waiting for those dwell times, empty trash and refill paper and soap products. This should allow enough contact time for most chemicals after which cleaners can wipe down those sprayed surfaces.
Disinfecting the restroom throughout the day will help reduce bacteria and the threat for cross-contamination and according to ISSA’s Cleaning Times, this level of restroom service should only take 10 to 12 minutes.
At night, dwell times aren’t as much of an issue because restrooms receive more detailed attention from custodial crews.
Cleaners must still spray surfaces with a disinfectant first, but instead of only emptying trash and replenishing supplies during dwell times, workers are also tending to toilets and urinals, partition walls, floors and tile and grout. Allowing for the time it takes to complete these additional tasks guarantees dwell times are met.
When restroom training is first implemented, processes run smoothly and cleaning standards are met. Then, over time, workers cut a corner here and skip a step there. Soon, restroom-cleaning processes are unrecognizable and efficiencies are obsolete, exposing building occupants to harmful bacteria.
To guarantee the work is being done correctly every time, managers stress the importance of frequently scheduled and repeated training. Steines oversees a strict ongoing training program at Marshfield Clinic that has proven to be successful.
“We initially work with employees for three days to show them the products and proper procedures to cleaning restrooms,” he says, “but then we continue following up with them daily on the procedures to make sure they are performing them correctly.”
Bruckner has a similar approach at her medical center where new hires receive one-on-one training for one week. Following that introductory training, the new employee will be placed with other workers within the department for about a month before going out on their own. Even then, every employee is evaluated during weekly inspections.
“We are constantly training our employees and using weekly inspections to evaluate their work,” she says. “If we notice in those inspections that the same problems are coming up time and again, we’ll retrain the employee.”
Many managers implement inspection programs like this to make sure employees abide by cleaning policies. State health officials and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention personnel take that one step further and suggest an additional yearly, in-depth evaluation of each employee and their compliance with the cleaning programs, a recommendation Bruckner takes seriously.
“We do a yearly competency evaluation on each employee to make sure they are competent to do the job,” she says. “The trainer goes with each worker on the job to monitor performance, then signs off on each individual task that the cleaner is responsible for.”
These evaluations are updated regularly and compiled into a binder for easy reference. Not only is it a good practice, but it is also a quick reference for Joint Commission representatives requiring proof of competency and compliance with regulations such as hospital standards, rationales, elements of performance, scoring information and accreditation policies and procedures.
“The Joint Commission was just here and asked us to provide documentation on the competency of our staff,” says Bruckner. “I was able to just hand over the binder.”
Regularly scheduled evaluations of cleaning products, processes and employee performance is a great way to assess training needs within the department, identify the need for updates and maintain a healthy restroom environment.
“You have to have a combination of both product and chemical knowledge to go with the proper cleaning and training technique,” says Edquist. “This will ensure your cleaning is done properly every time.”
by Corrine Zudonyi
The researchers didn’t phrase it that way, but if you take what they found and compare it to hospital hand washing habits, you’ll be asking why we continue to tolerate the mostly preventable health care-associated infections that cause more than 98,000 patient deaths annually, and add hundreds of millions of dollars in costs.
In the latest survey, researchers from Harris Interactive surreptitiously surveyed more than 6,000 adults using restrooms at Atlanta’s Turner Field, Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and Shedd Aquarium, New York’s Pennsylvania Station and Grand Central Station and San Francisco’s Ferry Terminal Farmers Market. The research was sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology and the American Cleaning Institute — the soap manufacturers.
On average, 85 percent of public restroom users in those four cities washed their hands, with Chicago’s science museum recording a sparkling 93 percent wash-up rate. In last place were New York City’s train stations, where only 80 percent of men and women washed up.
But even the worst guys in the worst bathroom — just 65 percent of men at Turner Field washed their hands — represented a stellar record of sterility compared to U.S. hospitals.
According to the literature, medical baseline compliance for hand hygiene was just 26 percent in intensive care units and 36 percent in non-ICUs. A 12-month “feedback intervention” increased compliance to just 37 percent for ICUs and 51 percent for non-ICUs.
A group that accredits hospitals did report they were able to get hand washing to shoot up from flip-of-a-coin range (48 percent) to 82 percent over the course of a year.
In that effort, 27 hospitals participate in the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare. There are some 5,000 acute-care hospitals in the United States. While you’re waiting for transformation to reach your local providers, odds are that you’re safer at the train station.
Writer, consultant and analyst
September 28, 2010 ·
Many people think of soaps and sanitizers as one-in-the-same, but they are not. Soaps are cleansers — they actually clean hands by removing dirt and grime. Sanitizers kill germs. Whenever water is present, soap is the number one recommendation for hand washing.
Experts agree that using soap and water is a tried-and-true method of cleaning hands. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most important thing people can do to keep from getting sick and spreading illness is to clean their hands with soap and water.
September 28, 2010 ·
Americans are sick more than 4 billion days each year, at a cost of $950 billion dollars in direct medical costs. Worse yet, an astounding 160,000 people die each year of infectious diseases as the underlying cause of death. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, colds alone account for 22 million missed work days and 7.9 million doctor visits each year.
Cross contamination is often to blame for these illnesses, so awareness of cross contamination’s harmful effects is at an all-time high. That, combined with facility managers’ desire to control costs, has sparked recent growth in sales of touchless restroom products and technology.
Cross contamination occurs when illness-causing germs are spread surface to surface, surface to person or person to person. In restrooms, this can occur when a person touches soap dispenser levers, toilet handles or paper towel dispensers.
For years, people have tried to avoid touching surfaces with a variety of unique approaches. According to a recent national survey, 61 percent of the respondents admitted that they utilize a variety of unorthodox strategies to avoid touching faucets, toilet handles, towel and soap dispensers, hand dryers or other restroom surfaces. Those sometimes-clumsy techniques include using paper towels to touch faucets and door handles, dispensing towels or soap with elbows or wrists, and flushing toilets using feet to push the handle.
So, it comes as no surprise that nearly nine out of 10 of these people indicated that they prefer restrooms with automatic or touch-free sinks, toilets, and soap and towel dispensers.
Look, No Hands!
Designed to significantly reduce bacteria transmission, touch-free products allow restroom visitors to flush a toilet by simply moving away from it; wash their hands without turning or pushing a knob; dry their hands without pressing a button; and grasp a new paper towel without having to touch the dispenser. There are no buttons or levers to harbor germ colonies on these products. Because they are activated by infrared sensors, they reduce the likelihood of spreading colds, flus, skin infections and intestinal illnesses, which are commonly spread in public restrooms.
A Breath of Fresh Air
Giangreco says the most efficient way of cleaning toilets is with automatic flush units. “We carry products that are attached to a toilet or urinal. When flushed, they will deliver a chemical that cleans and sanitizes and is effective 100 percent of the time. If someone has to manually clean 100 toilets, they’ll swab them quickly, which is an inefficient and labor-intensive way of doing it.”“One thing that’s clear — they are all concerned about the environment, more so in the recent past,” he says. “And we have found that touch-free technology has improved several basic aspects of their business — protection (personal care and hygiene), cost in use, image and productivity.
Touch-free has been around for a while, but Casey’s Wilcox says he has seen more people using the technology in recent years. “In the past two years, entire washrooms have become touch-free. And in the past year we have been seeing hands-free toilet flushing in health-care and Class A office buildings, where traditionally they’ve only been in airports. Now we have clients all over requesting it.
Winning Over the Reluctant
But not every customer is so easily convinced. Cost weighs heavy on customers whose budgets are stretched thin. So how do jan/san distributors sell the concept to wary customers?
Touch-free restrooms have numerous advantages, according to knowledgeable jan/san distributors. They can turn a public facility into a much cleaner, more hygienic environment, says Chris Kelly, Chicago-area facilities supply segment manager for Unisource Worldwide Inc., in Itasca, Ill. “That’s good for both the health of users and for the image of the facility,” he observes.
Additionally, manufacturers are making touch-free products more affordable, and looking at more ways to tout their cost-saving properties. That’s the contention of Paul Giangreco, president and CEO of Hy-Grade Distribution Inc., Tonawanda, N.Y.
“Customers looking at the benefits of these products feel they are cost effective — not prohibitive at all,” says Giangreco.
Kelly agrees. He says the return on a facility’s investment in touch-free products can be realized in six to nine months, give or take a bit. “It will vary from organization to organization because energy, water, and labor costs —along with other aspects — can factor into this,” he explains.
“The main reason for touch-free is to prevent cross contamination, especially in hospitals where there’s a danger of picking up an infection,” says John Marcon, district sales manager of D.P.I. Southwest Distributing Co., Albuquerque, N.M. “It’s a very easy way to prevent the spread of germs. Plus, with automatic towel dispensers you don’t use or dispose of unnecessary paper towels. It discourages people from manually taking and using 10 to 12 towels at a time. You just wave your hand across the sensor, and it dispenses the appropriate amount of towels to dry your hands.”
Automatic towel dispensers limit waste, cutting down on a facility’s paper costs, he adds. “Economically, you save money overall compared to conventional towel dispensers. There could be as much as a 40 percent savings because with the automatic dispenser you can set the amount of towels to be dispensed so no one can go in and grab all those extra towels at one time,” Marcon says.
Touchless also contributes to a quicker restroom exit. “That’s good, too, because most people are in a hurry to get out of a restroom. They can quickly activate the sensor, get the towel, dry their hands, and leave the room.”
Because these products work automatically, the chance of misuse or lack of use is virtually eliminated. Touch-free toilets, for example, flush as soon as the user steps away from them, cutting down on toilet clogs caused by people who won’t touch the toilet handle to flush it. Automatic flushers also help reduce the unpleasant odors that are produced by unflushed toilets and urinals, says John Wilcox, president of Casey Engineered Maintenance Inc., a jan/san distributor in Foxboro, Mass.
“This was demonstrated to me a while ago when a manufacturer told me that by going to a hands-free urinal flush, I’d notice a reduction of odors in 48 hours,” says Wilcox, whose customer base includes health care institutions and Class A office buildings — likely touch-free customers. “He was wrong. I noticed the difference in 24 hours.”
Wilcox initially was concerned that more water usage would occur with the utilization of automatic flushers, “but many of my clients who have actually measured water usage tell me they actually use less water.”
With touch-free sinks, restroom users are unable to waste water or leave faucets running, which brings about another reduction in a facility’s maintenance costs, according to Kelly. They can save labor for a facility because of quicker clean-up time. And they can enhance a facility’s image because of their clean appearance.
Unisource’s Kelly says his distribution company calls on customers in a wide variety of industries: health care, manufacturing, government, and office buildings. All market sectors have one thing in common:
“It almost goes without saying that a toilet that hasn’t been flushed for a day or so can be bad for IAQ. But autoflushers are set to flush regularly at times of inactivity. When toilets are flushed regularly, germs aren’t allowed to build up,” Kelly says.
“In health-care settings, especially, touch-free helps prevent contamination from pathogens, which can cause hepatitis, salmonella and a wide host of other communicable diseases,” he adds.
Touch-free systems also add to the aesthetic appeal of a restroom facility. Image is a huge concern for building managers — tenant satisfaction is key to office building managers, just as patient satisfaction is important to hospital administrators.
“Our salespeople started showing these products about five years ago,” Wilcox says, “and people then thought they were expensive and wondered if they worked properly. Now we’re getting responses from our customers, thanking us for getting them involved. They’re telling us their facilities have become healthier, with noticeably less odor, and cleaner, which helps their image.” Customers also appreciate the fact that it takes less time to clean restrooms, a benefit that justifies the initial expense of the products. “So they’re very happy with the concept.”
“We know facility managers and owners want to do what’s best for their employees and visitors,” says Wilcox. “The key is convincing them that going with touch-free restrooms will produce a savings for them — not additional costs. We tell them that they’ll have a healthier, cleaner restroom at less cost. When they see that, they get pretty excited.”
Kelly says Unisource partners with touch-free vendors who have strong marketing programs in place. “We send introductory mailers, cost in use analyses, and general education pieces. And we train our sales force to communicate the technical aspects and benefits of touch-free to our customers.”
Hy-Grade’s Giangreco emphasizes selling customers on the idea that they need to protect the health of their employees and visitors. He then shows them how touch-free technology creates cleaner, healthier environments for them. “For school system clients we talk about how costly student and faculty absenteeism can be for them. Schools get state funds based on the number kids who are present in classrooms. That’s a huge factor today.”
D.P.I. Southwest’s sales representatives have access to sample touch-free dispensers and use them at sales presentations and trade shows, says Marcon. “They explain to our customers that this is the latest and greatest technology and discuss the features and benefits of preventing cross-contamination.”
Marcon anticipates new touch-free trends and technologies on the horizon. “The beauty of our industry is that things always change. I’m sure someone will come up with a better mousetrap.”
The latest touch-free technology, says Kelly, is more “perceptive” sensing technology to activate touch-free faucets. “Instead of putting your hand under the sink to find and activate the sensor, your hand can be located anywhere: above, below, beside the sink. The sensor will pick up the presence of your hand will activate the faucet,” Kelly says.
Giangreco is encouraged by the touch-free trend, which demonstrates the growing awareness his customers have about the dangers of cross-contamination. “They are always looking for safer and more hygienic ways to clean in a restroom environment. They are coming to know they can do that through touch-free products.”
Jordan Fox is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer.
A basic guiding principle in understanding restroom cleaning is that almost all public restrooms have used designs and been constructed with methods and materials that embody flaws that work against easy removal of microbial contamination. These flaws include: non-mitered wall and floor intersections, walls that are coated with hard-to-clean coatings, grouted tiling on floors and walls, porcelain fixtures with irregular fittings to walls and/or floors, hand operated faucets, and hand operated towel dispensers or hot air hand dryers without high-efficiency or HEPA filters. This list could be extended.
I once worked in a very strikingly modern-looking research building where the research spaces that the building had been built for were not designed nor constructed to be workable for modern scientific research. I had a chance to ask one of the architects of the large firm that was responsible for the building how they designed the research spaces. His answer was that basically they looked at previously built buildings with research spaces and copied the design of those spaces.
It appears that architects of the restrooms in most modern schools and office buildings do the same thing—copy designs that should have been eliminated a long time ago. That’s something that will not change anytime soon and therefore cleaning supervisors and their crews need to understand how best to deal with the problems created by design and construction flaws in restrooms.
Hospital acquired infections (HAIs, also called ‘nosocomial infections’) include almost all clinically evident infections that do not originate from a patient’s original admitting diagnosis. In the United States, the incidence of HAIs is more than 2 million cases per year and result in an additional 26,250 deaths [1, 2]. This is a worldwide phenomenon and in recent years HAIs caused by so-called ‘superbugs’ have seen a rapid increased incidence. In response, hospitals have placed increasing focus on the cleaning procedures used in patients’ rooms.
Unfortunately, what has happened is that some pathogenic microbial species, including superbug species, are no longer confined to hospitals and have spread to the general population. For example, the highly publicized microorganism, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRS), has de