A Closer Look: Why You Need to Treat Restroom Cleaning Like the Sinking of the Titanic

Note: In our “Closer Look” posts, we’ll take a deeper dive into the history of common products and technology used in custodial operations. If there’s a particular topic you’d like us to explore, just let us know!

It wasn’t until 16th century when the plague rocked England seven times in a 200-year span that people started taking a hard look at their cleaning and hygiene habits. The first flushing toilet was invented in 1596 by Sir John Harrington, a wealthy poet and godson to Queen Elizabeth I. Though innovative and not much different from the toilets we know today, royals never took to it because it was a fixed device in a room by itself and they were accustomed to having toilets brought to them. Additionally, the queen felt that having a room dedicated to using the toilet was lewd.

At that time, the type of toilet you used depended on your class. People in lower class societies used communal privies, which often resembled a bridge-like structure and was situated over a river. Individuals in the middle class used chamber pots, which was a basic bowl that allowed for some privacy and was later emptied into the street or river. Royals used fancy velvet-lined stools with a chamber pot situated inside the seat. The stools were brought to them by servants, who would roll them away once they were finished with them.

Several inventors contributed designs that are used in the toilet we all know today. This includes Thomas Crapper, who developed a patent for the flushing apparatus.

And contrary to popular belief that Mr. Crapper’s study of the toilet led to the development of the slang term “crap” as it relates to bodily waste, the term actually comes from Middle English origin and predates any reference to it as bodily waste. At least, that’s what Wikipedia says.

Today, restrooms continue to play a critical role in controlling sanitation and protecting public health. They require more chemicals, custodial products, labor, government regulation awareness and professional cleaning knowledge than any other area in a facility. Restrooms are at the very top of the list of cleaning priorities.

Restrooms are often a top area of complaints, and they also can host the most pathogenic microorganisms, including hepatitis, herpes simplex I and II, along with numerous blood borne pathogens.

We have two primary rules when it comes to managing restroom cleaning:

  1. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. 
  2. You never know how much of a mess will be in a restroom during the hours of operation.

Thoughts on Rule 1: If that first impression is negative, it can mean a lost customer. A survey by Zogby International revealed that 80 percent of consumers would avoid a restaurant with a dirty restroom.

Thoughts on Rule 2: We recommend treating restroom cleaning during operational hours like the sinking of the Titanic. You wouldn’t grab all of your photos and put on your tuxedo before jumping ship—just the essentials for survival. The same goes for cleaning the restroom when it’s open—pick up trash and spot mop visible defects. Make sure all toilets are flushed, dispensers are stocked and all water is wiped from the countertops.

Clean restrooms indicate a commitment to quality. Make it a priority.

What Happens When People Walk Into Your Building and See Dirt

We’ve all been told that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, but what actually goes into that impression? Research has shown us time and time again that appearance is everything—this goes for whether you’re meeting someone for the first time or patronizing a business. In fact, one study found that 99 percent of U.S. adults would find poor cleanliness would negatively impact their perception of a retail store. When it comes to captivating they loyalty of that ever-elusive generation of millennials, another recent survey conducted by the Health Industry Distributors Association found that appearance really matters, at least when it comes to how they choose healthcare providers.

Appearance matters, but as we all know, its importance can often underestimated when budgets are reduced; custodial operations are often one the first cuts that happen. When labor and cleaning frequencies are reduced, dirt increases—and there’s a good chance your customers and prospective customers are taking note.

Whether you have a staff dedicated to cleaning that includes a day porter or utility specialist or other employees who pickup cleaning responsibilities, keep in mind the following high-visibility areas that could be impacting your customers’ perception of your business:

Entryways: Entryways are one of the first areas a customer sees when they arrive at your building, so this is a critical area to maintain. Floors, doorways, glass, light fixtures and all area leading into the building should be kept free of debris and trash. Using a grabber device, dust pan and or broom, remove all trash that appears in entryway areas throughout the day to make sure your facility shines and leaves a positive first impression with guests.

Glass and Doorways: Glass doors and windows around the exterior of a building quickly shows soil from fingerprints and dirt and leave the impression that the building is unattended when not cleaned on a regular basis. Spray and wipe these surfaces frequently with the appropriate window cleaner on a daily basis, and more often if there is high traffic.

Floors: Protect floors inside the building by using entryway mats both inside and outside the front door. These mats are designed to withhold dirt and allergens, but they also need to be regularly vacuumed and maintained to work effectively.

Inside the building, keeping floors clean requires regular dirt and soil removal by vacuuming carpets. For cleaning hard floors, use a dust mop then damp/wet mop and auto scrubber, depending on the condition of the floor.

Furniture: Restore the luster to hard wood surfaces on furniture by using furniture polish and a clean microfiber cloth. Also be sure to clean upholstery on a regular basis to reduce soil buildup and spot clean as necessary. Furniture can easily move throughout the course of a day and should be moved during cleaning, so be sure to move them back to their original location.

Trash cans: Regularly empty overflowing trash cans and spray and wipe the interior with a cleaning solution to eliminate odors and keep cans smelling fresh.

Vents, Blinds and Baseboards: A good rule of thumb when cleaning hard surfaces in a building is to start high and move downward. Use a microfiber cloth or duster to clean hard-to-reach areas like vents and work downward to lower areas to remove dust and keep surfaces spotless.

Getting the Job Done

Secure cleaning products and equipment in a storage area near the entryway of the facility so they are always available. Make sure cleaning carts are always well-stocked with products, cleaning cloths, gloves and any other materials required to complete the task. And most importantly, establish a standardized method and protocol for cleaning the area so there’s a consistent level of cleanliness at all times.

Cleaning plays a critical role in how customers view your brand. You don’t want them to see dirt when they walk into your facility, because it can mean they might not return. Cleaning for health is critical, but cleaning for appearance also matters as organizations look for ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. If you want to keep customers, make sure your building is clean and that first impression is a positive one.

 

The Five P’s of Pathogen Cleaning

As any professional in our industry knows, cleaning isn’t just about removing dirt, but also stopping the spread of bacteria and infection in the buildings we clean. It’s not just about appearance, but also about health—the health of the people in the building and the people cleaning the building.

As we wrap up our safety series for National Safety Month, we’re putting the spotlight on pathogens. More than ever, educating our custodial teams about pathogens—what they are, how they spread and what cleaners can do to protect themselves—has become critical beyond the healthcare world. Cleaners in a variety of public and private settings are regularly exposed to biological hazards that carry risks and responsibilities. Equipping custodial workers with the education they need to effectively clean for health not only empowers them, but will also improve the health of our buildings.

When training custodial teams about pathogens, consider the Five P’s of Pathogens.*

The five P’s include:

  1. Pathogen types: Broadly speaking, a pathogen is basically anything that can cause disease. Different types of pathogens may include:
    • Bacteria: Bacteria are single-celled organisms that can thrive in extreme conditions. They do not require a living host, such as a human being, in order to reproduce. Salmonella, E.coli and MRSA are just a few of the types of bacteria that custodial workers would encounter.
    • Viruses: Generally smaller than bacteria, viruses require a living host to reproduce. Viruses are likely to produce an outbreak of illness, such as influenza or the common cold.
    • Parasites: Parasites live on or inside a living host. They can cause a variety of issues, including nausea and muscle pain. Examples might include headline or tapeworm, depending on the mode of transmission.
    • Fungi: As the name implies, fungi are molds and yeasts that commonly cause respiratory problems in humans.
  2. Pathways: The primary way a pathogen can enter your body is through inhalation, ingestion (in food or water) or through direct contact with bodily fluids or blood. Custodial workers with cuts or abrasions and who do not use protective gloves can be at higher risk of exposure.
  3.  Problems: If a pathogen enters the body, it can result in temporary illness to the custodial worker, such as influenza or a cold, to something more dangerous and deadly, like MRSA. Because custodial teams often touch many surfaces in a building, they also have the potential  or spreading the pathogen unknowingly, which is why proper hand washing is essential.
  4. Places: Pathogens can be present on most hard surfaces, but are commonly found on fomites, or high-touch areas, which include light switches, elevator buttons, telephones and door handles. Kitchen areas and restrooms can also provide hospitable environments to pathogens.
  5. Protection: Wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential based on the potential hazards that may exist. Protective gloves and hand washing between areas can be an effective way to break the chain of infection.

For custodial workers to take pride in what they do, they need to be educated on the importance of their work and recognized for their efforts. We have a quick reference guide to understanding all of the microbiology used in the cleaning industry that you can use in your educational programs. “Microbiology for Cleaning Workers Simplified” offers the basics to help cleaning workers understand the basics of sanitation, vocabulary and the history of cleaning for health. You can check it out here. 

*This is by not intended to serve as a comprehensive resource on pathogen cleaning, but a baseline primer you can use to help educate custodial workers.

Safety Month Continued: The Dangers of Handling Chemicals [INFOGRAPHIC]

We hear the stories too often: someone improperly mixes cleaning chemicals, which leads to a strange odor. Everyone evacuates the building. People are taken to the hospital for precautionary measures, but in a best-case-scenario, there’s no injury.

But in some cases, there are injuries. Like the chemical mixing incident where an Idaho woman drank iced tea mixed with a cleaning solution and nearly died.

The EPA reports that as many as 2.8 million people in the cleaning industry are exposed to potentially dangerous chemicals each day. And if their job requires that they handle chemicals, it’s up to the employer to make sure they know what they’re doing.

OSHA’s revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS 2012) requires organizations to provide training on the following:

  • Methods and observations to detect the presence or release of a hazardous chemical in the work area.
  • Measures employees can take to protect themselves from these hazards.
  • Details of the hazard communication program developed by the employer, including an explanation of the labels received on shipped containers and workplace labeling system, the SDS and how employees can use the appropriate hazard information.

While the new standard requires training when new personnel assigned to work in a specific area or when a new health or physical hazard is in place, employers can further reduce risk of an incident resulting from improper chemical handling by providing ongoing training and making sure key personnel have demonstrated their understanding of key handling protocols.

Handling chemicals can be extremely dangerous when people don’t know what they’re doing. We’ve put together an infographic to share at your next safety meeting so cleaners understand the potential risks and take the time to understand best practices for handling.

Easy Ways You Can Prevent Common Injuries to Custodial Workers [INFOGRAPHIC]

June kicks off National Safety Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness of workplace safety issues. In the custodial services industry, we focus a lot on how we can clean in a way that reduces risks to building occupants. For example, people often ask us the best way to reduce the risk visitors slipping and falling in their facility. We also field a lot of questions about what products and processes people can use to improve their indoor air quality. Each of these questions are important, but they need to happen within a broader conversation about the safety of our custodial operations. 

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When we talk safety, a key focus should be on the safety of the people who clean our buildings. Unfortunately, we’ve found that’s not a focus in enough businesses. According to the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the incidence rates of injuries and illnesses to janitors and cleaners actually increased to 657 cases per 10,000 full-time workers in 2015, up from 434 cases in 2014. The National Safety Council reports that more than 46,000 cleaners and janitors are injured severely enough each year to require one or more days away from work.

Custodial workers are on the front lines of battling dirt, but with the dirt comes bacteria, viruses and too often, physical injury. When a custodial worker is sick or injured, it can present a major setback to both the worker and the employer. Cleaning workers often hold more than one job to support their families, so in addition to the pain and suffering from the injury, they may also experience financial hardships.

Employers incur costs from workers’ compensation claims, replacement labor and other soft costs resulting from issues such as reduced morale and productivity amongst other staff members. For a top injury like musculoskeletal disorders, OSHA estimates it costs employers up to $15 billion to $20 billion annually.

At ManageMen, we believe that every worker has the right to go home safely every day and we’ve worked hard to create a system that promotes worker safety.

So what are three of the most common injuries to custodial workers and how can you help prevent them?

  1. Musculoskeletal disorders: Back injuries (about 46 percent) and shoulder injuries (about 15 percent) were the leading musculoskeletal disorder-causing injuries requiring time off work for janitors and cleaners in 2010, according to BLS. One way to reduce the risk of this type of injury is by promoting a warm up program for your custodial team, as we discussed in this blog post.
  2. Respiratory issues or burns: Improper handling of chemicals—either by mixing the wrong chemicals together or improperly diluting chemicals—can result in respiratory issues or burns. Janitors also face increased risk from exposure to bloodborne pathogens. The BLS reports 15.7 incidents requiring time off from work per 10,000 full-time janitors and cleaners. By educating workers on the proper ways to handle chemicals and limit their exposure, you can substantially reduce their risk. We have a big announcement around this in the next few weeks, so stay tuned! 
  3. Slips and Falls: When your work focuses on cleaning up the spills other people make, slips and falls are an inevitable workplace hazard. The BLS reports 11.3 slip or trip injuries requiring time off from work per 10,000 full-time janitors and cleaners. Help protect your workers by ensuring they have the proper footwear and have adequate time for floor cleaning tasks to reduce the opportunity for injuries from rushing.

By focusing on these top injury areas and reducing risks, you can help improve the safety and well-being of your hard-working custodial staff.

Let’s make June a month where we make custodial worker safety a priority. Tell us, what are you planning for Safety Month?

Experts Warn That a Global Pandemic is Around the Corner, but are Cleaning Departments Ready?

The cover of this week’s Time Magazine will likely to grab your attention.

In the article, “The World is Not Ready for the Next Pandemic,” journalist Bryan Walsh chronicles the latest pandemic percolating across China—a new strain of the bird flu called H7N9. While it “mostly” affects poultry, the virus has jumped to humans, resulting in pneumonia (88 percent) and the death (41 percent) of its approximately 1,500 victims.

Experts say that the virus can only be transmitted from poultry to humans at this point, but that’s likely to change. The potential for the virus to evolve and become transmittable between humans is so great that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranks H7N9 as the flu strain with the greatest potential to cause a pandemic.

The author notes:

And while a mutant bug that moves from chickens in China to humans in cities around the world may seem like something out of a Hollywood script, the danger the world faces from H7N9–and countless other pathogens with the potential to cause enormous harm–isn’t science fiction. Rather, it’s the highly plausible nightmare scenario that should be keeping the President up at night.

Scary stuff. But it’s even scarier for custodial workers who will be on the front lines of the battle, should the virus evolve. While we can’t know exactly how, when or even if it will spread, there’s a good chance that if it’s not H7N9, another virus will come along that will threaten our health and security.

This isn’t the first time that custodial workers have been challenged with the important job of preventing the spread of infection outside of healthcare facilities. It happened in 2009 with the H1N1 (Swine Flu) outbreak, in 2014 with the Ebola outbreak—it happens each year during cold and flu season.

Because many viruses can live on hard surfaces for several hours, it can spread “like crazy” between unknowing building occupants. That’s why effective cleaning and disinfection is an essential step to keep high-touch fomites, such as door handles and light switches, free of these viruses. That’s why planning to systematically address cleaning operations in an emergency situation like a pandemic is essential.

If you’re even peripherally associated with the cleaning responsibilities in your business, now is the time to start asking questions about how cleaning will be handled during an outbreak or pandemic situation. Is the custodial staff in your facility equipped with the right tools and knowledge to clean during an outbreak situation?

To help custodial teams prepare, we’ve identified the essential components of an effective pandemic preparedness plan. Your pandemic preparedness plan should include:

  1. A Playbook. Custodial teams must have a clearly defined action plan for how to respond in an emergency situation. This playbook will offer different scenarios and action plans depending on the virus at hand. In addition to instructions, the playbook should also include emergency contact numbers for key individuals in the building, suppliers and staff.
  2. Ongoing training for custodial workers. Even before an outbreak occurs, cleaning workers need to have a clear understanding of their responsibilities in an emergency situation. Training should include the following:
    1.  A disinfectant overview: The curriculum should include a primer on the specific viruses the disinfectants are designed to kill and the amount of dwell time required for the virus to be effective. You can’t just spray a disinfectant on a surface and immediately wipe it clean—this will make it completely ineffective. Workers need to understand what to use and how to use it.
    2. Steps for protecting workers: When custodial workers know and understand the risks, they will be more likely to take precautionary measures. This includes donning specific personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks or gloves.
    3. Action plans: Custodial personnel should have a clear understanding of their responsibilities during an outbreak situation. Using a systematic approach to cleaning is an essential step in making sure that surfaces are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
  3. Plans for inventory supply shortages. Supply shortages of commonly used items such as PPE, chemicals, tissues and hand sanitizer are likely to occur during an outbreak situation, so make plans for how to address shortages or stockpile items accordingly.
  4. Signage. Effective handwashing is key to eliminating potential pathogen encounters. Place signage around the building to remind building occupants to regularly wash their hands to reduce the opportunity for the virus to spread. Signage can also be used to remind custodial workers of their responsibilities, or  encourage building occupants to assist with cleaning efforts in their personal workspace.

Custodial workers play a key role in protecting the health and safety of building occupants on a daily basis, but even more so in an outbreak situation. Preparing them with the knowledge and tools they need will go a long way in stopping the spread of an infection.

Janitor University: Educating People from Around the Industry and Beyond

Approximately 10 percent of the average custodial budget is dedicated to “stuff” or the products and equipments used to clean the facility—that’s about $20 billion a year, based on our estimates. The other 90 percent of a custodial budget is dedicated to labor, which adds up to approximately $200 billion a year. Outside of a few federal regulatory standards established by agencies like the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), very few standards or systems are in place to regulate how cleaning is performed. As a result, people clean in a variety of different ways, which results in cleaning that looks like this:

and this:

There’s also a large gap in the amount of training resources available to educate facility managers and custodial professionals on how to manage the products and equipment used in their business (10%) and the amount of training to help them manage the labor (90%).

There are several fantastic training programs offered by manufacturers and distributors around topics like disinfection and stain removal, but very few provide insights on how to create a career path for frontline cleaning workers to reduce turnover.

That’s where Janitor University (JU) comes in. JU is a professional development class designed for cleaning executives, facility directors, contractors and anyone else with relationship to a professional cleaning operation. The curriculum, developed by end-users, is updated on an ongoing basis and largely focuses on how to manage that 90 percent of your budget. It teaches attendees how to develop custodial operations that can be managed and tracked on a daily basis.

We’ve recently started to see more people attending JU who aren’t directly responsible for cleaning operations, but, for example, may be designing the rooms and picking the surfaces in a hospital or laboratory that will need to be cleaned and maintained. This tells us that more people are paying attention to cleaning and understanding its impact—a great thing! Last week, we hosted a JU Train the Trainer course that included representatives from one of the leading facilities management companies, industry manufacturers, product designers, professional trainers and an architect!

Our April Train the Trainer session brought together dozens of people, including facility management professionals, designers and architects.

When people come out to JU for the first time, they never know what quite to expect. While we do a lot of classroom style instruction during a JU session supported by real-life scenarios and data we’ve collected, there is also a lot of dialogue and sharing between participants. Attendees to JU will leave with several new contacts, an understanding of how to effectively manage that remaining 90 percent of their budget and have hopefully had some fun!

As anyone who is responsible for cleaning knows, custodial operations have a significant impact on the health of building occupants, the lifespan of a building and the overall cost of a facility’s budget (more than 30 percent!). So it’s exciting to see the different groups of people who want to learn more about what we do. When more people understand how to clean using a systematic and measurable approach, everyone wins.

Four Places You Might Be Generating Waste and Not Even Know It

April is Earth month and Arbor Day is next Friday, April 28, so many people are talking sustainability. How can we help protect the Earth so it’s here for future generations? What can we do to reduce our environmental impact?

A large misconception we find in the cleaning industry is that people often use green cleaning products and think that this makes their operations “sustainable.” But that couldn’t be further from the truth—using green products is just a part of it. As an industry, we have a long way to go when it comes to reducing our environmental impact. There’s a lot of “waste” in our operations that goes well beyond the pollutants we’re working to remove.

First, a few facts. Commercial and institutional buildings in the U.S. annually consume:

The issue comes down to how we approach cleaning. Oftentimes, cleaning professionals are forced to be reactive when it comes to managing their inventory, equipment and other aspects of their operations.

Reports like, “We’re out of floor finish!” or, “This backpack vacuum is broken!” often drive new purchases—and understandably.

Supply shortages lead to downtime, which can lead to complaints, which NO ONE wants. Or they generate mistakes and service lapses when a cleaning worker substitutes products. So we place an order and the problem goes away…

But that floor finish? You weren’t really out. And that backpack vacuum just needed a new filter or carbon brush. When the new product arrives, the old stuff gets stashed into a closet somewhere. That’s the kind of waste that we’re talking about.

A truly “sustainable” cleaning operation will operate on a lean inventory, making the best use out of the products, equipment and people in the operation.

To help you identify potential areas of waste in your operation, we’ve identified a few common problem areas along with a list of questions you can ask to see if your department could be more efficient:

1. INVENTORY: What inventory controls do I have in place? Can cleaners use as much cleaning chemical as they want or are they kitted with the exact amount of product they need to complete the designated area? When they are done cleaning, what happens to the unused chemical? How do I track the amount of chemical used? How do I handle overstock (e.g. is there a system in place to sell or donate unused material?)?

Just one of the many janitorial closets we’ve seen that is stuffed with products no longer being used.

A sustainable cleaning operation not only uses Green Seal certified products, but also outfits workers with the precise amount of chemical they need to clean for the day. Excessive chemical use (often resulting from the “more is better” philosophy) is one of the most common issues in the industry and not only costs you money, but also has an environmental impact, even when the products are green.

2. EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE: How is the cleaning equipment maintained? Is the equipment visibly clean? Are carts free of personal items or unrelated/unwanted materials? Do I have an equipment maintenance program in place that ensures all equipment receives regular checks and replacements?

A sustainable cleaning operation has a preventative maintenance program in place to make sure that equipment is always clean and operational. When equipment reaches the end of its usable life, it is safely and properly disposed of, not tucked away in a cabinet somewhere.

3. LOGISTICS: Are the logistics of the inventory cabinet and waste disposal points optimized with the worker in mind? If they run out of a product, do workers have to go to another floor or area in order to restock?

Logistics refers to the orderly merging of cleaners with their materials and tools to perform the work.

A sustainable cleaning operation will take into consideration the routes of the cleaning workers and utilize drop points to limit the opportunity for stockpiling or hoarding product. Analyzing the logistical setup of cleaning workers’ paths can also help reduce worker injuries from issues like overexertion.

4. TRAINING: Have cleaning workers been thoroughly trained and possess a clear understanding of their responsibilities? Do they have an understanding of the risks associated with the job, such as improper chemical mixing or lifting the wrong way? Are cleaners recognized for their efforts and made to feel like valued contributors to the team?

A sustainable cleaning operation recognizes the critical component that its workers play and provides ongoing recognition. When workers are empowered and understand the importance of their job, they will be more likely to clean properly and effectively.

Albert Einstein is quoted with saying, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

By taking a hard look at your cleaning program and simplifying some of your processes through standardization, you can break things down to it’s easiest—and most simple—form, which will ultimately improve your sustainability.

Provo City Schools Research Part III: The Incredible Results of a Systematic Approach to Cleaning

Note: If you’ve yet to read parts one and two of this series, you’ll want to check them out before reading this post. This series is based upon the research of Dr. Jeffery Campbell as presented in his paper, “Clean Schools Initiative: Provo City School District Case Study.”

Like many other aging academic buildings located throughout the U.S., Dixon Middle School has welcomed several generations of students through its doors. Built in 1931, the school has been renovated over the years to accommodate more students — it is now three times as large as its original structure. But it had issues. Not only was the school the oldest in the Provo City School District in Utah, it was also considered the dirtiest.

Cleaning-related challenges weren’t isolated just to this school, however. The entire school district struggled with uncontrolled cleaning costs, a lack of accountability with custodial staff and schools not getting cleaned.

To address these challenges, the district decided to pilot the (OS1) cleaning system. Previous users of the system had found it helped control costs, improve indoor environmental quality and improve the health of the building occupants, so they were eager to give it a try.

Dixon Middle School: Before

Before implementing the program, a baseline audit was conducted of more than 1,242 janitorial-related items throughout the school. This included a review of janitorial positions, management programs, purchasing processes and training. The purpose of the audit was to offer a reference point to measure progress. Dixon received an initial audit score of six percent.

The auditors found that the school had lacked in most areas related to its cleaning program, including supplies, organization, training and processes used.

Custodian job descriptions were insufficient, cleaning tools were broken and dirty, unmarked cleaning bottles littered janitorial closets, dirty mops revealed the same color as the bathroom tile, pipes in the restrooms showed rust and discoloration from the use of improper cleaning chemicals and custodians were generally apathetic. This last point was evidenced by the “countdown to retirement” calendar located in the head custodian’s office.

Additional issues included:

  • No career track or incentive for advancement in place for janitors.
  • No standardization of products or processes throughout the district—each school operated independently without communication.
  • Hoarding of cleaning tools and supplies.
  • No chain of command or accountability for janitors—the head custodian didn’t know who he reported to.
  • Raises were based on the length of employment rather than performance.
  • Activity was more reactive than proactive, meaning custodians spent more time responding to the complaints of teachers rather than focusing on improving the general cleanliness of the campus.
  • Custodians had no guidelines for purchasing chemicals, other than what suggestions vendors offered.

Dixon Middle School: After

A year following the implementation of (OS1), a standardized cleaning program, Dixon’s audit score improved from six percent to 80 percent. That score has continued to increase in the years since.

The changes have been drastic, including an overall improvement in cleanliness, better morale amongst the teachers and custodial workers, improved health and wellness of building occupants, cost savings and more.

Some of the specific results include:

Better Health: One teacher who suffered severe migraines causing her to have to call off from work noted that she had not had a migraine or blackout incident since the new cleaning program was implemented (she also switched to use of green cleaning chemicals at home). She cited fewer allergy issues as well.

Improved Safety: Where containers of bleach and unlabeled chemical bottles once littered closets throughout the building, the school has transitioned to a new chemical management system. A single locked cabinet holds all the chemicals and supplies used on a daily basis. With thorough training and better controls, this has substantially improved the safety of custodians and students.

A Better School: Improving the cleanliness of the school has led to a domino effect throughout the school. Walls were painted to better reflect the cleanliness of the school, teachers became more organized and tidy and students took more pride in their school. Once a major issue, the amount of graffiti at Dixon has virtually been eliminated.

Awards: In 2011, Dixon Middle School received the “Best New Program Award” in the K-12 Category of the Green Cleaning Award for Schools & Universities, sponsored by American School & University magazine, the Green Cleaning Network and Healthy Schools Campaign.

The Dixon Middle School pilot team is recognized with the Outstanding Cleaning Worker Award.

Each of their pilot team members was honored as an Outstanding Cleaning Worker at the 2011 Cleaning Industry Awards Banquet.

Reducing Costs: While it’s tough to say exactly just how much the change to (OS1) has saved the school (the school didn’t keep purchasing records and funds were drawn from several different budgets), the new system has reduced the average monthly chemical cost to $80.29, making the chemical cost per cleanable square foot $0.00076. When adding in labor and other costs, the estimated cost to clean per square foot is roughly $.77.

This is substantially lower than projected costs from IFMA, which estimate the average   cost per square-foot for cleaning educational facilities to be $1.36.

Improved Morale: The head custodian said the experience changed his life.

“I had been doing [custodial management] for 12-13 years, and it was the first time that someone had approached me and said, “You are important, the job that you do is important. The people that work with you are important and we need to recognize them for that and give them the training, the tools and the equipment that show that your job is really a profession.”

With these incredible results in hand, the Provo City School District made the decision to roll out the program to the rest of its schools. Clean schools are better, higher-performing schools. And when you have data that helps you measure the impact of your cleaning program, including the benefit to teachers, students, administrators and the overall longevity of the building, the decision makes itself.