How Cleaning Impacts our lives on a daily basis.

Japanese School Student Cleaning Soji no jikan

Soji no jikan – The Student Cleaning Time For Japanese Schools

Here is a very interesting blog post about the practice of Soji No Jikan in Japanese schools. Translated it means “The Cleaning Time.” In these schools, student cleaning is an important part of the school day. As you can see from the authors comments, the students get a lot more out of their cleaning time than just a clean school. (image via Lifehack.org)

I wonder why this isn’t more widely accepted and if there would be a place for this in the United States? There would be many advantages to having student cleaning incorporated into the educational system. Read more

sell green cleaning products

Don’t Sell Green Cleaning Products

There is a lot of hesitation and anxiety when it comes to selling green cleaning products in the Jan/San Market. The push back from customers at times due to negative perception and is often answered by resorting to a version of the old standards. In an article about green products from Sanitary Maintenance, Ronnie Garrett points out that “Distributors can work around these perceptions by selling a green philosophy.” The green philosophy is fine to have but might be the wrong topic to lead with. A more correct way to convince customers that green cleaning products are the better choice is to use a clean philosophy. But there is one sure way to convert them, Stop Selling Green!

It’s The Results That They Buy

I truly believe that green cleaning products have risen in quality, effectiveness and offer a much greater value than ever before. They are safer, easier to use and save thousands of hours of ridiculously hard work. If this is the case, then why do so many resist using them? Perception.
They have not been shown as a better cleaner, which as a custodian is really all I care about. I want my job to be easier and make my boss, customers, students, teachers and myself feel like I have done a good job. Period.  If you tell a custodian that they need to switch the products I am using to make the world better, there is no payoff for them. No one at the E.P.A. is going to pick up the phone and demand the custodians get a raise because they did “the right thing.”

And oh, by the way, you are going to have to probably change your procedures, routine and learn how to use different tools as well. That sounds like a bunch of wasted time to me.

Breaking The Green Cleaning Product Barrier

First you yourself have to learn the products but more importantly, you have to believe in them. Go on. Get out there and experiment. I am sure your vendors will be happy to provide you with all of the sample product and demo equipment you will need.

Learn what happens when a microfiber mop needs to be changed and see how much cleaner the floor is compared to a rotten cotton mop.

Discover that the window is streaking because of the chemical residue and after cleaning it a couple of times with a green cleaner and microfiber cloth, the film is gone.

Spend an hour in a restroom cleaning grout that although mopped every day with traditional methods, releases a seemingly never ending flow of dirt and bacteria and stench until it is actually clean. Feel the difference in the surface once it is really clean.

Selling Green Cleaning Products 

Now that you have taken the time to see for yourself the results of green cleaning products, roll them out to your customers, but instead of telling them they are green, tell them that you have the answer to their problems. You are about to make their lives a whole lot easier.

Show them the process and result of using a microfiber mop correctly.  Point out that it is a lot less weight to sling around and that their back isn’t taking the same abuse as it always does.

Have them clean the glass twice and then have them slide their fingers against the glass and feel the difference between their results and residue free cleaning. Show them that their floors are affected by this as well.

Volunteer to bring a no-touch cleaning machine into their restrooms and demonstrate the effectiveness for actually removing years of build up from the grout lines. After you’re done, make evident that the floor is no longer slippery. Traction!

It’s not their fault the facility is this way, it’s the fact that they haven’t been exposed to the correct information and supplies. After all, you can’t achieve great results without the proper knowledge and tools

The Green Cleaning Hook

Once they can see for themselves that better results are possible and that it actually makes the tasks at hand easier, they will want to change. It only makes sense right? “You mean I don’t have to deal with sticky restrooms floors anymore? And all it takes is a couple of changes to procedures and routine? Sign me up!” The green cleaning products are wanted, not because they are green, but because they work.

Epilogue  – Going Green

When they call you a few months later in a panic because their boss just requested that they make the switch to green cleaning products, tell them, they are already there.

cleanliness story

Cleanliness Story. Which Version Do You Know?

Have your heard The Cleanliness Story?

There are many versions and they are rarely told in the standard story telling fashion. More often they are told in the impression that is made when they are passed on. It is likely that you encounter The Cleanliness Story everyday, many times and don’t even realize it. Here is one version that stands out for me. I hope it will stand out for you as well.

I saw this entrance mat outside of a rather large private business several months ago. The slogan printed on tells one story but  the large stain, sadly, tells The Cleanliness Story. Read more

nasty school restrooms

Are School Restrooms Really Nasty?

When I was researching what the public at large felt about public restrooms, it opened up eyes to something that I had not really thought about before, how students feel about restrooms in their schools. This, in turn, lead me to go where kids (and adults) all voice their real views one out spoken tweet at a time. I wondered, Are school restrooms really nasty? Read more

backpack vacuums back pain

Backpack Vacuums Not Back Pain Vacuums

Don’t Backpack Vacuums Hurt Your Back?

When asked this question, I always have to laugh and tell my soon to be famous story of the lady that worked for me cleaning offices and her experience with backpack vacuums. She was constantly having back and arm pain. Each day she would groan when she would stand up and say “Oh! My back is killing me!” One day I asked if she had every tried a backpack vacuum. Well you would have thought that I had asked her to move an entire room of file cabinets. She said there was no way that her back would be able to withstand an entire shift with “that thing” on her back. Read more

safe cleaning products

Are Biodegradable Cleaners Safe Cleaning Products?

Biodegradable is, by definition, made of substances that will decay relatively quickly as a result of bacteria breaking them down into elements such as carbon that are naturally recycled. Leaving little impact on the environment as a result. Safe cleaning products require more than just being biodegradable.

The claim “biodegradable” is being associated with environmentally friendly, or green cleaning products. In many cases they can be synonymous, but there are a lot exceptions. Many things that are biodegradable and natural and plant based and earth friendly and “green” are not friendly to our own personal environments. In the world of cleaning and green cleaning, several come to mind.

Not All ‘Natural’ Chemicals Are Safe Cleaning Products

d’Limonene is one of the first I think of. Back when I first started cleaning, we had a product that we called Sewer Sweet. It may have actually been called that but I never knew for sure. It seemed that the label had always eaten off by the product. It had a very strong orange smell. It was really greasy when you got it on your hands. (We rarely used gloves of any kind back then unless it was cold.)

It would cause our skin to tingle and if it was spilled on the ground, it would be slippery and was extremely difficult to wash away.  We poured from a 5 gallon metal container into a drinking cup to then be carried to a stinky storm or floor drain.

If we made it to the drain before the cup dissolved, it would then be poured down the drain, giving the area a fragrance of orange for a few hours until the foul odors returned. I know now it was a completely natural product called d’Limonene, which is oil that is extracted from the peal of citrus fruit.

Safe Cleaning Products and Not So Safe

Although  d’Limonene is a solvent that is much safer than most other chemical solvents and is much less toxic than compounds like mineral spirits but is classified as a skin irritant. It is biodegradable, but due to its low flash point, it must be treated as hazardous waste for disposal. It is also currently regulated by the E.P.A. as a VOC.  d’Limonene is an environmentally preferable product (EPP) when used as is or as part of an EPP formulation but has many precautions to follow when using it.

Using d-limonene can cause polymers to swell. Many plastic materials can be damaged by its use. This includes equipment seals made of rubber or Neoprene, which are the materials used in many types of cleaning equipment and tools. It can also damage many surfaces that are plastic based or polymer coated. (ie: floor finish, sealed stone and poly based fabrics)

It is suggested that when working with d-limonene, solvent-resistant gloves should be worn as well as eye protection. It will deplete the natural oils in your skin and will irritate your skin and can cause sever damage to your eyes if not flushed immediately.

There is no question that biodegradable cleaners in general are a better choice. With the evolution of technology, there are very effective products available that can give you good cleaning results. Be cautious though. Be sure to read the label and safety data sheet before using any chemical product.

Just don’t assume that because something is natural or biodegradable that it is safe. Safety first. Results second. And if those two check out, then the product will almost always comply with green cleaning standards. Green cleaning means not only safe cleaning products, but effective ones as well.

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hand sanitizer caution dangers

Hand Sanitizer Caution

It seems everyone is worried about your health. The local pharmacy is offering donuts to everyone who comes by for their “drive through” flu shot. The facial tissue companies are in full production of ads to remind you to not use your sleeve. The rush is on to stock the shelves with as much hand sanitizer as possible. Are these on your shopping list? If alcohol based hand sanitizer is used, you should use caution.

Hand Sanitizer Risks

Alcohol based hand sanitizer is pretty much everywhere these days. There is a hand sanitizer stand at the gym. There is a hand sanitizer stand at the entrance to the grocery store. It’s installed throughout school buildings. Hand sanitizer does provide a quick fix for bacteria control when soap and water are not available.

Remember though, hand sanitizer needs to be used with some caution. The alcohol can dry out your skin dramatically. Make sure to keep your hands healthy by using hand lotion to keep your skin from drying out.

Hand Sanitizer and Fire

Always be mindful that these products are ethyl alcohol based. The same ethyl alcohol that is used for fuel. Just like with any flammable liquid, cautions need to be taken.

In this quote from the Centers For Disease Control Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Health-Care Settings dated October 2002, the dangers of alcohol hand sanitizer is recognized.

“Alcohols are flammable. Flash points of alcohol-based hand rubs range from 21ºC to 24ºC(69ºF to 75ºF), depending on the type and concentration of alcohol present. As a result, alcohol based hand rubs should be stored away from high temperatures or flames in accordance with National Fire Protection Agency recommendations.

In Europe, where alcohol-based hand rubs have been used extensively for years, the incidence of fires associated with such products has been low. One recent U.S. report described a flash fire that occurred as a result of an unusual series of events, which included a HCW(Health Care Worker) applying an alcohol gel to her hands, immediately removing a polyester isolation gown, and then touching a metal door before the alcohol had evaporated. Removing the polyester gown created a substantial amount of static electricity that generated an audible static spark when the HCW touched the metal door, igniting the evaporated alcohol on her hands. This incident emphasizes the need to rub hands together after application of alcohol-based products until all the alcohol has evaporated.”

In the winter months, humidity levels are much lower which leads to even more static electricity in the air. If you choose alcohol based sanitizers, be aware of where and how you use them.

Alcohol Hand Sanitizer Safety Tips:

  • Keep away from heat sources.
  • Use caution when applying them where static electricity is high.
  • Do not store in unapproved containers.
Cleaning Awareness Starts With You

Cleaning Awareness Starts With You! — Learn Clean

I often get frustrated at the lack of attention paid to cleaning. For all of the money that is spent on labor, supplies and equipment, we should really be getting better results. Has our society just become use to poor results? It seems that cleaning awareness is missing.

Lack of Cleaning Awareness

I took the picture below in a public restroom where I was helping my son use the facilities. Since he could not reach the urinal, I had to hold him up. His feet were on top of my feet and left a sticky residue on my shoes. Also, due to excessive use of cleaning chemicals, the floor was sticky. And as you can see, there was obviously a lack of attention paid in the “Dribble Zone.”

Dirty Restroom Floors are unacceptable. Lack of cleaning awareness.

Wasted Cleaning Effort

My real problem with the situation is that someone was paid to mop this floor, a lot! It was obvious from the sticky chemical is evidence!  They are doing the job. A supervisor should be inspecting the work. It was a busy restroom. Have we just come to accept it. No one seems to notice or care that the floor is not fit for zoo animals? The monkey house is at least hosed out once a day?

Therefore, all the work, time and money put into restroom cleaning would be better spent on a portable toilet just outside that will be sucked out each day and hosed out weekly.

In addition, this restroom exited into a carpeted area. As a result, everything that is on the restroom floor is tracked out on to the carpet. Carpet that parents have no problem allowing their children to crawl around on.

Who’s Fault Is It?

So who is to blame? First of all, the custodian is at the bottom of the list. This person is doing their job with the tools and knowledge they are given. Maybe it should be the supervisor? Is it this person’s fault that they have never been shown what is acceptable or even possible?

I really feel it is the patrons. An industry study has shown that 94% of patrons will not return to a business if the restrooms are not clean, but do they ever tell the business? We can’t just walk away without saying anything. We have to let them know that their idea of clean and ours is not the same.

Unhappy customers equals no customers. Hence, no customers equals no business, jobs, money ect…

Trust me, if you talk, now more than ever, they will listen and act.

cleaning myths

5 Dangerous Cleaning Myths

Cleaning Myths – Unproductive and Dangerous

Cleaning Myths are everywhere. This works better than that. “I sprayed this on and it was clean!” The impact of cleaning affects everyone. From the kitchen and tables in a restaurant, to the restroom in your home, the cleanliness or lack thereof, can influence odors, appearance and most of all health.

Since cleaning is actually a rather complicated science, most of us rely on what we have heard or on the broad explanations supplied by-product manufactures  in commercials or on bottle labels. The reality is that what you currently do  to clean may be the cause of your cleaning problems.

5 Cleaning Myths that explain the results you are getting and how to improve.

#1 – Clean Is A Matter of Opinion Cleaning Myths

“What I call clean and what you call clean are two different things.” This is a statement that moms make every day to their teenage kids when inspecting their rooms and although this may be a good  way to get a kid to improve the tidiness of her room, it is not the case when it comes to cleaning for health.

To clean something means to remove all soils that can attract bacteria and promote its growth.

With methods such as A.T.P. testing and even simple black light inspections, it becomes apparent that a surface that looks clean, is in fact not. Clean is not a guess or  opinion but a fact.

#2 – More Chemicals Equals Less Dirt Cleaning Myths

It is an old statement that many still believe, “A little works good. A lot works better” This couldn’t be farther from the truth for cleaning. The overuse of chemical concentrates can cause  your cleaning efforts to back fire.

When too much chemical is used it will leave a residue on surfaces that attract more dirt. Although these residues can be rinsed with clean water to remove, it adds another step to the cleaning process. Essentially you have to re-clean the surface to clean away the  cleaner. This makes no sense in the case of most cleaners.

To add to the confusion, an old trick that many chemical manufactures still employee is to direct users to use more than really needed. This leads to more product sold and also attracts more dirt so you have to clean it again sooner.

Note: Any product with an E.P.A. registration must be used at the required dilution to effectively provide the kill claims.

#3 – If It Smells Good, It’s Clean Cleaning Myths

Smell is a very powerful sense. It can influence perception in dramatic ways. When it comes to cleaning, we associate clean with an odor, in many cases it is bleach or pine or lemon. This is because these odors have been connected with many popular cleaning chemicals throughout the years. The problem is that most of these chemicals cover up to real issue and rely on a “clean scent.”

The smell of clean is no odor at all. The compounds used for fragrances are in many cases exaggerated to the point of leaving a bio film behind that can attract dirt and bacteria.

For the record, if a restroom smells like stale cherry, it’s dirty. End of story.

#4 – Disinfectant Cleaner Cleaning Myths

“Wow! It says right here on the label ‘Disinfectant  Cleaner!’ That means I only need one product to clean and disinfect!” Yes, but make sure your read the directions on the label. It won’t say it on the front of the bottle or even in the catalog descriptions, but there are always at least 2 steps to the process and the product must be used as if it were at least 2 different chemicals.

The E.P.A. disinfection guidelines all include the statement “On Pre Cleaned, Non Porous surfaces.” This means that you must clean the surface first before moving on to the next step. Very few do this. In fact, I would guess that less that 10% of housekeepers even know about this. The disinfecting step is to apply the product and allow it to remain moist for a prescribed amount of time. Then, in most cases you still have a third step to wipe the surface again to remove residue. This also removes bacteria killed in the disinfection process.

Dead bacteria become a great food source for live bacteria if not removed. If used to clean a floor, the residue can be so bad that your feet will stick to the floor.

#5 – Bleach Is The Answer Cleaning Myths

“Mom always used bleach to clean everything.” She may have but there was very little cleaning going on. Cleaning chemical properties help to loosen and suspend soil in the solution so that they can be removed. Bleach has no such properties. It is a killer of bacteria. That’s all.

If the surface is contaminated with any number of micro-organisms, bleach will kill them if used properly. The problem is that with even a moderate soil load, it is not capable of removing the excess soil and deceased bacteria. Once it has lost is killing ability in a very short time, other bacteria show up is droves to feed on this buffet and the effort put in to cleaning the surface is wasted. Bleach is also dangerous for humans since we are just a larger organism.

The fumes that give us that desired “Bleach Clean” smell are toxic and can contribute to body burden.

Knowing the facts about cleaning can help to improve your overall results and also improve your health. Taking time to find out what is actually happening when you clean can save time, money and give you the peace of mind that if you say it is clean, it is clean!

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green cleaning focus

Green Cleaning Focus On Health

So much has been said about green cleaning. Too often the green cleaning focus is simply grabbing a products with a green claim. If this is what your green cleaning program consists of, you may be making a big mistake.

To understand what it really means to clean green, you must first understand what it means to clean. When we go through the process of cleaning, we are doing more than just removing dirt. Cleaning has 3 main focuses, preventing long term damage, improving the appearance and most importantly, keeping the facility healthy.

Preventing Damage

When you clean a surface, you are stopping the build up of contaminates. If left unchecked, dirt, residues and minerals will deteriorate the surface. Long term damage will occur from not maintaining the cleanliness of a facility.

Green cleaning should look to not only stop the damage to a facility, but to aid in lengthening the life of the materials within a building. Reducing the need to remodel and replace, prevents the use of raw materials to create replacements.

Improving Appearance

It is often said in the cleaning industry that we shouldn’t clean for appearance. While this is true, if it looks dirty, it usually is. Appearance isn’t not something that should be overlooked but used as a measuring tool. It shouldn’t be the only factor used, but it is the one thing we are constantly being graded on. So keeping things looking good should always be important

Green Cleaning Focus on Health

Health should always be the goal of any cleaning program. When we reduce and remove germs from a building, those that work and live there benefit. Because green cleaning focus is on using safer practices and products, everyone wins. Keeping building safe and healthy for everyone should be included in everyone’s mindset. From educating the cleaning staff on the best ways to reduce contaminates, to the build occupants understanding the need to reduce use. Green cleaning focus is what will make the biggest difference when going green!