When it comes to commercial janitorial supplies, no area gets more attention than cleaning chemicals. There seems to be a chemical for everything. Windows, tile, grout, brass, stainless steel. The list goes on an on. But these precious liquids can also be one of the biggest hazards in the janitorial supply closet. This is why it is important to take some time when evaluating your needs.
Streamlining Janitorial Supplies
Janitorial supplies make up a pretty significant portion of any facilities budget but are nowhere near the cost of the labor to use them. Typically about 10% of a total cleaning budget will be janitorial supplies and cleaning chemicals make up about 30% of that. This means that the more efficient your staff can be while using cleaning chemicals, they can cover more area. Time spent streamlining and limiting the number of cleaning chemicals they have at their disposal is time well spent.
Evolution of Cleaning Chemicals
When I first got started, most of our cleaning chemicals came in 55 gallon drums. If I remember correctly, there were 4 different chemicals. A floor cleaner, a degreaser, a window cleaner and a drum of hand soap. We would take gallon jugs and fill them from the drum’s spigot and haphazardly ‘dilute’ them into buckets, bottles and pails. While I am sure there was a measuring cup somewhere, it was never used. In fact, when we cleaned the floor at the end of the day, we would be given 1 gallon jug of cleaner per restroom and pour it on the floor, spray water on it from a hose and scrub it with a brush. Once the floor was scrubbed, we would squeegee it down the floor drain. How crazy was that?
We also had several aerosol cans of cleaners too. Stainless steel cleaner, general purpose cleaner along with several others. Honestly, I can tell you how many cleaning chemicals there were in the storeroom. But I am sure it was easily 10 or more. All with their own purpose… of sorts. This led to a guessing game when a challenge came up.
Sometimes we got lucky and it worked, but all too often it at best led to wasting the product through trial and error. Sometimes though, fixtures got damaged and on more than a few occasions, employees were hurt due to unnecessary exposure.
This was a long time ago, and the good news is that the industry has changed. Safer chemicals that are more effective and much less wasteful. The term ‘General Purpose’, while still too vague in my opinion, usually means that it has a wide range of uses. This is where you should spend most of your time when selecting cleaning chemicals. Over the last decade or so, there has been a trend to produce chemicals that are very effective in more than one type of surface. The same chemical that you use on the floor, is also a good glass and surface cleaner.
Many cleaning chemical manufacturers have been resistant to this because more chemicals equals more money right? Well most are coming to realize that this isn’t really the case. The janitorial supply market is an extremely competitive one, and as more customers request and demand fewer and safer chemicals, they are being heard.
Your ‘Go To’ Cleaning Chemical
Over the years, I have found that having a ‘Go To’ cleaning chemical solves a lot of problems. First, having one takes away the guess-work for the cleaning staff. When there are few or no choices to make, they don’t waste time experimenting. And trust me, there is nothing more dangerous that a janitor experimenting. Beyond that, in most commercial settings, soils aren’t that difficult to remove. Things like cleaning glass, tile floors and even grouted floors for that matter, are fairly easy to keep clean, if addressed on a regular basis. By limiting cleaning chemical options, it quickly becomes apparent when areas are being missed.
The second reason having a ‘Go To’ cleaning chemical works is that is reduces the number of chemicals you have to stock, store and keep track of. I would bet that 90% or more of janitor closets have 10+ different cleaning chemicals. Having this many potentially hazardous chemicals on hand, is obviously dangerous, but can become a nightmare when you have to track inventory and ordering. Not to mention all of the money that you have tied up in product sitting on the shelf.
A third reason for choosing a ‘Go To’ cleaning chemical, is that when you find the right one, you can build your own staff education around it. Let’s face it, retaining staff in the cleaning business is difficult. Constant turnover makes it a challenge to keep everyone on the same page. By having one chemical that does the majority of cleaning, it shortens the training process.
So What Is The Best Cleaning Chemical?
Good news! There are quite a few options out there for cleaning chemicals. The ones that I have used have a single concentrated product that uses a couple of different dilutions for defined tasks. As an example, a lower dilution for light soil areas such as glass and tile floors. And a higher dilution for heavier soiled areas like grout and carpet. While this often puts 2 or more different bottles on the cart, in the end, it is the same chemical and thus one box to stock in the closet.
Cleaning Chemical Summary
Having the right cleaning chemical makes it possible to focus on the way cleaning is done rather than what it is done with. While there will always be situation that another chemical may be needed (ie: an acid bowl cleaner may need to be used periodically for hard water build up) those are actually few and far between when proper cleaning is performed on a regular basis. Simplifying the process of choosing, ordering and using janitorial supplies and cleaning chemicals makes it possible to accomplish more, with less.