picture of a mop with the text is there a right way to clean?

Is There a Right Way to Clean?

In 1971, Coke produced the “Hilltop” television commercial. Even if you weren’t alive then, you have likely heard the jingle sung by a group of teenagers singing looking like Julie Andrews in the mountains during Sound of Music. 

“I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony.”

With troops still in Vietnam, the message was of inspiration and hope, intended to unite people everywhere… with a Coke. 

A similar environment exists right now as we start to emerge from the pandemic. Things have been divisive, but one thing that unites us all is that in some form, pretty much everyone cleans. In fact, we’ve cleaned more in the past 12 months than we ever have. And it’s anticipated that this will continue for the foreseeable future. 

But are you cleaning the right way? Is there a “right way” to clean? You just spray and wipe, right? Run the vacuum. If it looks clean, it must be clean, right?

Unless you’re in the cleaning industry, there’s a good chance you don’t know:

  1. You should always clean from top to bottom.
  2. Most disinfectants require the first step of cleaning and an established dwell time in order to work effectively.
  3. You should maintain different cleaning tools for different areas of your home or building.

This might not seem like a big deal, but when you have a bunch of people cleaning and not using cleaning products improperly, we run into issues with indoor air quality, chemical accidents, cross contamination, and more.  

“I’d like to teach the world to clean, in perfect harmony…”

Picture this scenario…

Short on staff, a housekeeping manager asks Jim, who just arrived for his first day on the job, to start cleaning rooms. She shows Jim the supply cart and gives him a list of tasks he needs to complete in each room.  

Jim enters the first room and removes the sheets from the bed. Next, he vacuums the floors and wipes down surfaces throughout the room—the nightstands, desktops, switches and door handles. Spotting a cobweb near the ceiling, he removes it with an extension wand, also dusting the top of the armoire. 

Jim walks into the restroom next and sprays the faucet, toilet and shower with disinfectant spray, immediately wiping them all down with the same cloth used in the main room. After cleaning the toilet, he mops the floors and leaves, repeating the process in the next room.

What’s wrong with this scene?

You’ve got to give Jim some credit. He followed the instructions he was given, but in this scenario, Jim isn’t cleaning. He’s pushing dirt around, and with it, he’s likely moving dirt, bacteria and likely viruses around too. 

As we mentioned earlier, this can cause a host of issues—within a home, a hotel, a hospital—any indoor environment of any size.

Yes, there is a right way to clean. And the better the protocols and systems you have in place—and the training that supports those protocols and systems—the cleaner and healthier your indoor spaces will be.

A moment to pause and reflect…

For most of this, this past year has felt a lot like we’ve been treading water in the middle of a huge lake. But finally, we can see a boat coming toward us to offer a break. As we get a moment to pause, it’s important to reflect on what went right during the pandemic. What can we improve?

COVID-19 has forced us to acknowledge the importance of cleaning in our indoor environments. It’s a pathogen that can be spread through hard surfaces, and it isn’t the last pathogen that will spread this way. In fact, there’s a good chance that we’ll face another pathogen that has even greater transmissibility via fomites in the not-so-distant future. 

Look around your house, your children’s schools, the hotels and stores you visit. Are they being cleaned properly, or are people just pushing dirt around? Have workers received training and do they understand that you should work from top to bottom when cleaning a room? Do they understand that you can’t just spray a disinfectant and wipe it with the same cloth you’ve used to clean the rest of the building?

There’s a science to cleaning, and it’s important we follow that science to keep our indoor environments safe and healthy for everyone. 

“I’d like to teach the world to clean, in perfect harmony.”

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Our Top 10 Most Read Blog Posts of 2020

2020: A year that will go down in the history books. That couldn’t be more true for custodial professionals who suddenly were thrust onto the public stage as a pandemic took hold throughout the world. The same goes for most of us in the cleaning industry—while manufacturers battled unprecedented demands on the supply chain, others scrambled to prepare training and new certifications. Us? Well, we were prepared. Our users were prepared.

Our founder, John Walker, had anticipated the potential for something like this to happen, going so far as to prepare a pandemic playbook. A lot of people called us, wanting to know how to better create systems around their cleaning programs. A lot of people combed our website looking for information.

If this list is any indication, we can rest assured that people will appreciate the value of cleaning—and the people who do the work of cleaning—long after 2020 is over.

10. Cleaning Classrooms Safely – Teacher’s Checklist 

How can teachers make sure surfaces in their classrooms stay clean during  the pandemic?  We put together a checklist to help.

See the post and infographic here: https://managemen.com/cleaning-classrooms-safely-a-teachers-checklist-with-infographic/

9. Top 10 Frustrations of Custodial Professionals

The people who make it in this industry are problem solvers. Every day, they put together a new puzzle — figuring out which piece needs to go where to complete the puzzle of a clean building. It’s not an easy job, so to help others know they aren’t alone, we developed a list of the most commonly overheard challenges of custodial professionals.

Read the full list of complaints here: https://managemen.com/the-top-10-frustrations-of-custodial-professionals/

8. Coronavirus Communication: How to Tell Building Occupants We’ve Got This

To assist (OS1) teams with communicating their plans to key stakeholders and building occupants within their facilities, we developed a sample communication to help them understand that all of the necessary systems were in place for pandemic preparedness.

Read that post here: https://managemen.com/coronavirus-communication-how-to-tell-building-occupants-weve-got-this/

7. Why Cleaning Matters

It doesn’t matter where or what you clean, this is not an easy business. We’ve pulled together a list of four extremely important reasons why cleaning matters, along with a printable to remind yourself and your team just how important your work is.

Read that post here: https://managemen.com/why-cleaning-matters/

6. Applying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to a Cleaning Operation

We can benefit from looking at a cleaning operation from the framework of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. There are certain fundamental needs within a custodial operation that must be met in order for the program to be effective and meet certain higher-level goals. Too often, our conversation about cleaning is just through a specific lens rather than looking at the operation as a whole.

Read more about how you can apply the Hierarchy of Needs to your cleaning operation here: https://managemen.com/applying-maslows-hierarchy-of-needs-to-a-cleaning-operation/

5. How the White Wings Cleaned Up NYC

Lacking any formalized sanitation and refuse system, New York City was drowning in garbage and filth in the late 1800s. Its current mayor, William Strong, called for Colonel George Waring to return and assume the position of sanitation engineer. The job of tackling the city’s overwhelming sanitation issues would be no easy feat, and Waring approached the job as he would approach combat on the battlefield. 

Read more about how George Waring and the White Wings cleaned up New York City here: https://managemen.com/from-the-history-books-how-the-white-wings-cleaned-up-new-york-city/

4. The Case Against Spraying Disinfectant Everywhere: Raise your hand if you’ve seen a picture of a heavily suited worker spraying what’s assumed to be disinfectant on sidewalks and streets in the past four months.

For cleaning professionals, this image might be somewhat alarming. Mostly because it demonstrates what we already know—that the majority of people throughout the world have a limited understanding of the science of cleaning. 

Read more: https://managemen.com/the-case-against-spraying-disinfectant-everywhere/

3. Please Take a Minute to Thank a Cleaner: While we rest, cleaners are lifting heavy trash bags and mop buckets, pushing vacuums and pulling overstocked carts. But this effort doesn’t come without a price. Due to the labor-intensive nature of their work, janitors have one of the highest rates of job-related injuries. Injuries from slips and falls or musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that cause extreme pain in areas such as their backs (46 percent of all custodial-related MSDs), shoulders (15 percent of custodial-related MSDs), necks and legs. 

Read more: https://managemen.com/please-take-a-minute-to-thank-a-cleaner/

2. Think Janitor is a Dirty Word? No, and Here’s Why: If you trace the etymology of the word “janitor,” it doesn’t take much research to find that the term is tied to deity. “Janus” from which “janitor” is derived, was a Roman god of beginnings and ends; metaphorically he represented doors and passages. In images, he’s often depicted with two faces that allow him to look to the future and the past. 

Read why Janitor isn’t a dirty word here: https://managemen.com/think-janitor-is-a-dirty-word-no-and-heres-why/

1. Why Dirty Schools are a Big Problemand What We Can Do to Clean Them Up

The top post of this year looks at some of the most common issues that stem from dirty schools—things like poor performance and reduced morale. But it’s not just the issues—we dig into strategies that could help fix the problem of dirty schools. Spoiler alert: It starts with management.

Read the post here: https://managemen.com/why-dirty-schools-are-a-big-problem-and-what-we-can-do-to-clean-them-up/

silhouette of a person mopping a floor with text Cleaning Conversations: Perspectives from the people who keep our buildings clean James Peel, Texas Tech University

Cleaning Conversations: James Peel, Texas Tech University

Looking for a way to schedule cleaning workers at Texas Tech University (TTU), James Peel reached out to the University of Texas at Austin to learn about (OS1), the System they follow for cleaning processes and measurement. They invited him down to see (OS1) at work and James jumped in the car with a few others on his management team.

It didn’t take long to see what the hype was all about—when James and his team saw UT’s custodians line up to receive their daily supply kits and keys to the areas they were assigned, they were sold on (OS1).

That was in 2019, and despite the challenges of the pandemic, Peel has continued leading the custodial team through the (OS1) transition process. They’ve held socially distanced boot camps, multiple workloading sessions (which, he says are his favorite) and inspired dozens of employees with a renewed passion for cleaning and a commitment to providing healthy buildings for students, faculty and staff. We talk to James about this process and more, during this episode of Cleaning Conversations.

Cleaning Conversations: Jeff Hawkins, Provo City School District

Approximately 70-75 percent of the custodial team at Provo City School District is comprised of students, so when schools closed in the spring, that left Jeff Hawkins and his team with a massive staffing shortage. With all hands on deck, staff from other departments pitched in to learn the (OS1) System and clean schools.

With so much of the current conversation focused around disinfection, Jeff talks about how the (OS1) System has prepared them for executing cleaning during a pandemic situation, so his team has the training, tools and program to keep students, teachers and staff safe.

Cleaning Classrooms Safely: A Teacher’s Checklist [with infographic]

With the topic of reopening schools leading many conversations right now, we’ve had a lot of questions about how teachers and administrators can work with custodial teams to make sure classrooms and common areas to limit the potential for COVID to spread on hard surfaces.* 

Tips for helping teachers keep classrooms clean and safe.

Whether you work in a school or know a student who will be returning to the classroom this fall, these steps can help teachers keep classrooms clean and safe:

  1. Clean, then disinfect. Kids make messes. And with calls for students to eat lunch in the classroom, those messes will only increase. It’s important to know that in order for a disinfectant to work, you must first clean the surface to remove any foreign substances or barriers and then apply the disinfectant.  
  2. Focus on touch points. Little hands are constantly touching, but what are some of the most often touched surfaces within your classroom? Faucet handles, chair backs, keyboards, door handles and desks are all items that should be disinfected throughout the day to limit the opportunity for virus spread.
  3. Follow label instructions. Just like teachers need time after a long day, disinfectants also need time to sit and dwell in order to work effectively. How much time is indicated on the back of the bottle and can range between 2 to 10 minutes. 
  4. Launder cleaning cloths regularly. Disposable wipes are hard to find right now, so a lot of teachers will be using donated disinfectant sprays or spray from the custodial team. If using your own cleaning cloths, make sure to use a fresh cloth each day to avoid cross contamination.
  5. Safely store cleaning chemicals. Make sure curious hands don’t find cleaning chemicals and be sure to lock all disinfectant supplies in a secure area.
  6. Use bleach in a pinch. With wipes and ready-to-use disinfectants in short supply, the CDC recommends using a diluted bleach solution to disinfect appropriate hard surfaces. To make a solution, mix 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of room temperature water OR 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of room temperature water.
  7. Clear desks and tables nightly. Stack books, papers and supplies on desks to keep tables and other surfaces clear for custodial teams to disinfect in the evenings. A lot of custodial teams will be working with limited resources, so every little bit helps.

* As the CDC notes, hard surface transmission is not thought to be the primary way the virus spreads, but recommends several cleaning and disinfection protocols to maintain healthy environments. These tips are designed to supplement regular cleanings performed by custodial teams in a school. Clean schools are critical for learning both now and once the pandemic is over. 

The Case Against Spraying Disinfectant Everywhere

Raise your hand if you’ve seen a picture of a heavily suited worker spraying what’s assumed to be disinfectant on sidewalks and streets in the past four months.

It looks something like this:

For cleaning professionals, this image might be somewhat alarming. Mostly because it demonstrates what we already know—that the majority of people throughout the world have limited understanding of the science of cleaning. 

Yet, when the general public sees images like this, they assume it’s what’s required to protect them from COVID-19. 

This gap in knowledge has led to widespread use (misuse?) of chemical disinfectants. Unnecessary use of cleaning chemicals generates waste, cost and can lead to injury to both the people applying the disinfectants and the individuals in the buildings being cleaned in the wake of the current pandemic. 

In short, spraying disinfectant everywhere—throughout schools, daycare centers, offices, hotels and restaurants—is a bad idea. 

Let us explain. 

A Health & Safety Issue

If it were just a few images circulating that misrepresent what’s truly needed to stop COVID-19 in its tracks, that’d be one thing, but the lack of education around proper disinfection practices is leading to injuries. 

One recent report found that at the Adelanto Detention Facility in California, guards were “rampantly spraying [disinfectants]… every 15-30 minutes around housing units. The sprayed chemicals are coming into contact with individuals’ eyes, noses, mouths, skin, clothing, bedding, food and drinking water, on an ongoing basis.” 

From headaches and nausea too painful blistering of the skin and swollen eyes, noses and throats, detainees housed in these areas experienced a variety of physical reactions from the misuse of the disinfectants. 

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. In April, the CDC reported that calls to poison control hotlines for cases involving cleaners and disinfectants rose significantly over the previous two years. 

Insurance Journal magazine recently reports that in an average business, disinfectant overuse can impact up to 10 percent of people. 

“Asthmatics, migraine sufferers, those with allergies or immune disorders or suppressed immune systems may experience symptoms [resulting from disinfectant exposure] such as memory loss, trouble concentrating, mood swings, irritability, headaches, seizures, nausea and vomiting,” said Dr. Claudia Miller, an immunologist, allergist and co-author of Chemical Exposures: Low Levels and High Stakes.

While there’s cause for concern, it’s important to recognize that disinfecting is important when it’s done properly using tested application methods. In pictures such as that shown above, spraying and fogging technology is used. However, emerging research has shown that these methods may not offer the efficacy of more traditional spray and wipe methods. As such, use of these methods should be reconsidered until additional testing is conducted. 

Citing ineffectiveness and health concerns, the World Health Organization recently recommended against the use of spraying or fogging disinfectants for use against COVID-19. In their guidance document, they wrote:

“In indoor spaces, routine application of disinfectants to environmental surfaces by spraying or fogging (also known as fumigation or misting) is not recommended for COVID-19… spraying disinfectants can result in risks to the eyes, respiratory or skin irritation and the resulting health effects. Spraying or fogging of certain chemicals, such as formaldehyde, chlorine-based agents or quaternary ammonium compounds, is not recommended due to adverse health effects on workers in facilities where these methods have been utilized.”

Similarly, the Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI) has also advocated against fogging and misting, in their recent recommendation, “Guidance for Decontamination of the Built Environment: Cleaning, Disinfection, Worker Protection and Post Cleaning and Remediation Assessment.”

Old Problem, Renewed Awareness

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, we had a chemical handling issue on our hands. This post and infographic from a few years ago offers some important data around chemical accidents and injuries to workers. In pre-pandemic days, cleaning workers were experiencing an estimated 83,000  injuries from cleaning chemicals each year. Cleaning chemicals are a regular culprit in poor indoor air quality findings. 

But as businesses across the country begin the process of reopening, communication and  education around cleaning, cleaning science and cleaning for health is more critical than ever. Science must continue to drive our best practices, which we should regularly benchmark with other organizations and communicate with building owners and occupants. Cleaning workers not only tools to do the job, they need the education, training and personal protective equipment to use those tools effectively.

Here are five important things to remember when disinfecting any space, for COVID-19 or otherwise. Intensive disinfection efforts must be:

1) Conducted only after surfaces have been thoroughly cleaned.

2) Performed by trained staff.

3) Accompanied with the proper personal protective equipment.

4) Conducted in well-ventilated areas. 

5) Coupled with other mitigation strategies, such as social distancing and regular hand washing. 

If you use a systematic, engineered approach to cleaning like (OS1), there won’t be a need to spray disinfectant everywhere. And remember, effective cleaning contributes to a healthy indoor environment; it doesn’t pose additional health risks. 

What an Amazing Time to Be in Our Industry

You know the adage “hindsight is 2020”? I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently. Ultimately, the saying speaks to the fact that it’s easy to see what the right thing to do was after an event happens, but difficult to predict the future. 

When we get to the other side of this pandemic and are five or 10 years in the future, what will the events of 2020 look like? Will the industry effectively have captured its moment, helping the public understand the critical role that cleaning plays in protecting public health? 

When people go back to work, will they start to look at the person cleaning the restroom or mopping their office lobby in the eye and possibly even say “thank you”?

When budgets are cut due to funding shortfalls, will cleaning be one of the last departments to feel the pinch, because there’s an understanding that cleaning is essential to helping stop the spread of deadly viruses?

Forced to show that they’re cleaning and not polluting the indoor environment, will more custodial teams put key performance indicators in place and do a better of measuring their efforts and possibly benchmarking them against other programs as we do in (OS1)?

Will janitors and custodians finally drop off the list of occupations with the most injuries, because there’s greater value for the work they perform and a desire to help people work more safely?

From custodial directors to distributor sales representatives, janitors to equipment salesman—when someone asks what we do for a living, will we proudly recognize our affiliation with the cleaning industry? 

Will hindsight truly be 2020?

From the Frontlines: Michigan State University

Keeping academics, students and faculty safe has always been a priority for Brandon Baswell and the custodial team at Michigan State University, but the coronavirus and COVID-19 have definitely impacted the way they clean, train, staff and budget. Brandon shares some excellent insights on what’s happening now, and how they’re planning for the fall, in our second episode of Cleaning Conversations. 

“You can’t do ANYTHING if you don’t have a clean and healthy environment.”

Brandon Baswell, Michigan State University

From the Frontlines: Los Angeles Habilitation House Talks (OS1) and Cleaning for COVID-19

There’s no shortage of information and news available related to COVID-19 and steps individuals can take to reduce its spread through actions like hand washing, social distancing and wearing masks.

As businesses begin to reopen, we will be talking to the cleaning teams who have been on the frontlines throughout the early weeks of the pandemic. What challenges have they faced and how are they changing their approaches to accommodate both teams and their clients?

Our friends Nancy Albin and Guido Piccarolo from Los Angeles Habilitation House discuss how the (OS1) System prepared them for the current pandemic and the changing perception of the importance of cleaning in maintaining the health of people in a building.

Protecting Custodial Workers: What Every New Cleaning Worker Needs to Know

Long before COVID-19 infected patient zero, a large percentage of the 3.25 million cleaning workers in the U.S. received little job training. In some circles, the assumption is that most people know how to clean, so the absence of training might not seem like a big deal. Individuals in these groups treat it as an inherent skillset that people are either born with or learn at an early age. 

But the thing is, not everyone just “knows” how to clean. As a recent survey showed, the majority of Americans aren’t disinfecting properly. And the processes you would use to clean a building are different than how you would clean your home or apartment.

There are many issues with the lack of occupational training in the cleaning industry, but a primary issues is the increased risk and exposure to workers. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that cleaning workers suffer the second highest rates of job-related injuries of any occupation—injuries heavy lifting, overexertion, chemical exposure and slips and falls are most common.

Reducing Risks to Cleaning Workers Now and After the Pandemic

When it comes to COVID-19, cleaning and disinfection is essential in stopping the spread of the disease. Aside from person-to-person spread, COVID-19 spreads when a person comes into contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. So when businesses slowly begin to open again over the next few months, all eyes will be on cleaning workers. Regular, systematic cleaning and disinfection will be key to controlling the spread of the virus and limiting the additional waves of the pandemic. 

For these individuals to clean—and to not pollute the surfaces and buildings they are meant to protect—they need training. They also need training to protect themselves. 

During this period, we can expect to see a swell of new cleaning service providers. Many people who have been displaced from current jobs in the hospitality or foodservice industries may find themselves working in a position where they’re being asked to clean in a commercial environment for the first time. 

We’ve seen way too many headlines highlighting cleaning workers who are concerned because they don’t understand the routes of transmission or how they could become infected. Too many people who are asked to use new disinfectants and don’t have training to do so. Too many people who aren’t equipped with the right personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect their hands and faces from exposure. 

We need to reverse this trend and make sure ALL cleaning workers have the knowledge and training they need to clean safely and protect themselves.

If you’re new to cleaning, we’ve pulled together a checklist of things you should know before you start working.

This is not meant to replace any existing training programs, but rather serve as a supplement. Our hope is to help provide a resource for those individuals who may not receive any training from their employers. If that’s you, we’re here for you. Please feel free to reach out with any questions about what you can do to protect yourself during this time.