Many years ago I had the opportunity of coordinating my work with Pete. Pete was a chemist and I sold industrial chemicals. I am also a non-science person. Pete, however, had this innate ability to explain chemical concepts to the lay person that I was.
One of the first things he taught me was “the best cleaner in the world is water.” He further explained that adding a chemical enhances water’s ability to clean. As it turns out, this amazing property of water also carries with it an ability to transmit all sorts of matter.
The Common Factor
I recently made an unanticipated trip to my dentist’s office. Upon arrival, one of the forms I was asked to review and sign was entitled:
COVID-19 Pandemic Treatment Consent Form
Two of the sentences on this form are:
Dental procedures create water spray which is how the disease is spread. The ultra-fine nature of the spray can linger in the air for minutes to sometime hours which can transmit the COVID-19 virus.
These two sentences brought up a consideration that every business should be asking…What is the biggest source of water spray in my place of business?
The biggest source of water spray in your business is none of the above. It is:
Research into the health impacts of aerosolization is ongoing. Some of the conclusions garnered from this work are:
There is a possibility that a person may acquire an infection from an aerosol produced by a toilet
Microbiological Hazards of Household Toilets: Droplet Production and the Fate of Residual Organisms 1975
Some enteric viruses could persist in the air after toilet flushing and infection may be acquired (by) inhalation and swallowing.
The potential spread of infection caused by aerosol contamination of surfaces after flushing a domestic toilet 2005
Research suggests that toilet plume could play a contributory role in the transmission of infectious diseases. …the significance of the risk…remains largely uncharacterized
Lifting the lid on toilet plume aerosol: A literature review with suggestions for future research 2012
We believe that the potential spread of enteric disease by contact with surfaces in bathrooms harbouring pathogens cannot be ignored and must be regarded as a serious infection risk.
The potential spread of infection caused by aerosol contamination of surfaces after flushing a domestic toilet 2005
Methods for Containment
We know that the aerosolization caused by flushing a toilet carries with it all the properties (including bacteria and viruses) of the elements in the water that is flushed. These elements not only remain in the toilet but are also, through aerosolization, distributed onto all of the surfaces in the restroom (and beyond). So, as a business how do you contain this situation?
The best and first thing that can be done and that you are are now doing is – have our services. Complete and thorough cleaning and sanitizing of all restroom surfaces is essential. Other actions you can take include:
- Examine the level of service you have right now and consider whether it is sufficient for the present environment; should you have more?
- Ensure that ventilation is appropriate; keep exhaust fans operational and locate them in an area close to the source of aerosolization. Air flow should be directed away from the areas where people work/eat.
- Do not use a restroom for storage. Everything that you put in the restroom becomes contaminated. If you want or need to store items in the restroom ensure that they are in a closed cabinet.
- Maintain adequate resources for high personal hygiene, especially hand washing.
- Anything that you have in a restroom should have a surface that can be wiped clean, or, sanitized. Do not have anything in the restroom that is porous.
Remember…you are now entering…
At the conclusion of our service delivery we leave this card with each of our clients. This card looks like it is designed for customer relations; and, it is. However, that is only part of the story.
Some of our customers use it as part of their accounting process. It gets forwarded to a bookkeeper who can compare the invoice to the cards received.
It is a good piece for marketing because it succinctly communicates what our clients can expect as a result of our service call. The words are good, the picture says it all.
The card provides a quick method for communicating any questions, comments, complaints, or commendations regarding the service call just completed.
So, now we are getting close for the real reason for this card: ACCOUNTABILITY.
This card is designed for the worker. When the worker dates and signs this card, it is a testament that they have completed the work according to the high standards established by Washroom Wizard! It is a statement to the customer that the work is completed as promised.
The card is a big part of our service delivery. It’s primary function is accountability; accountability of the worker. It is an action similar to that of signing a piece of art. Our service call may not be a very creative process but this little card creates for the worker, a sense of ownership and a sense of responsibility to the customers they serve.
Just like you would not want the worker to forget to sanitize the door handle or clean the sink, delivery of this card is the last step of our cleaning routine. It is the final part of our quality control process.
Several months ago one of my trained workers injured her foot while playing pickleball. The injury was very disabling so doing any physical work in the near future was not a possibility for her. I found a replacement to do her work and she entered treatment.
Part of her recovery was to find work that matched her physical condition. I received this short note from her today.
Hey Cynthia, Hope you are well! I was just thinking about you & felt I should tell you this.
Ever since working at Washroom Wizard!, I notice sooo many unclean places!! Where I work now, my employer has a 2-person crew that cleans our restrooms every few days.
However, they don’t clean the doors or walls & now that I’m attuned to that stuff (thanks to you!)…I can’t un-notice it. So I go in & spot-clean whenever I can.
Thank you for making me a more thorough & observant cleaner!!
Is this a blessing or a curse? For the personal needs of our service workers, the training is a blessing. However, when they are out in the world, where they experience the results of other cleaning services, it can become a curse. Just as this former worker annotates “I can’t unnotice it…I go in & spot-clean whenever I can.” This is not an uncommon response from the workers that Washroom Wizard! has trained.
Not very many people are eligible, or would ever be selected, for training by Washroom Wizard! Pshhh! What do you mean? Anyone can clean a restroom.
If it was the case that anyone can clean, then why does this former worker see so many places in a restroom that are not getting cleaned by the so called “crew that cleans”?
This is exactly the problem that Washroom Wizard! is designed to solve. When your restrooms are “in fact” clean; your whole business runs smoother. Employee health and wellness is never an issue, morale is up, customers are happy, and businesses with clean restrooms have a stellar image.
However, be warned, anyone who chooses and is selected for work at Washroom Wizard! will continually run into not being able to “unnotice” the lack of cleanliness that other services leave behind.
In 2018 I conducted a survey of our customers. Below are the results!
- Keeps employees happier.
- Easier to maintain
- Helps morale
- If I cleaned it myself, I would forget to do it or do a bad job, and would be (embarrassed) to let a customer use it.
- Restrooms are clean
- Image is important for customers
- Customers are comfortable using restroom because it is clean
- You come when scheduled
- I don’t have to do it.
- Employee hours are not taken up with cleaning.
- Good for customer service to have a fresh smelling restroom
- Keeps the bathroom smelling fresh without me doing anything
- I am very satisfied with the services. You guys do a great job.
- Quality of work is fine.
- You guys do an amazing job and leave it “sparkling”.
- Nice cleaner, thorough job. I appreciate the service.
Every once in a great while I do find a little wisdom on the internet when it comes to cleaning services. Seldom do I ever see anything relative to the attitude of management when it comes to the benefits of hiring cleaning services. The excerpt below is an anomaly because it very succinctly points to the cost savings smart managers can realize. (Regretfully, I did not record the source when I saved it.)
Money and Time Considerations
Some business owners seek cost efficiency by outsourcing to companies providing cleaning services.
They do this because they understand attempting to use in-house resources can take valuable time away from core business needs.
Outsourcing cleaning services allows in-house resources to continually support the primary business rather than dedicating them to cleaning and maintenance issues.
I wish that more business owners and managers were this savvy. I have seen this type of benefit, over and over again, with my clients. They have more of a payback as a result of the professional cleaning services we provide than the cost of those services to the business.
This benefit comes in the form of high employee morale resulting in increased productivity, happy customers that share their experiences with others, and the lifting of stress from managers because they no longer spend their time and energy disciplining employees for not cleaning.
There is, however, an underlying attitude regarding the use of employees for cleaning that has been left out. The statement focuses on the result businesses can attain with a professional cleaning service; it does not delve into the attitudes people have about cleaning that make it seem reasonable to have employees do the cleaning.
There is a common erroneous presumption that anyone can clean. This is like saying that anyone can dance, anyone can do math, anyone can be an artist or an accountant or a chemist.
When I started my business, I naively presumed that I could teach anyone to clean. Boy, was I wrong. I found that some people just don’t see dirt. I learned that the level of perceptual detail to even identify places that need to be cleaned cannot be taught. I also found that some people can’t move their bodies in a fashion that would allow them to complete the work efficiently.
- Why go to the bakery? After all anyone can decorate a cake.
- Why hire a seamstress? Anyone can sew.
- Why hire a bookkeeper? Anyone can add and subtract.
- Why hire a window cleaner? Anyone can produce a streak-free window
We all have different skills. Yet, when it comes to cleaning, it seems that the mantra “any dummy can clean” is a hard one to dispel. When a business thinks that their employees can do the cleaning it is with this erroneous presumption. Don’t be a dummy with your business.
Not everyone can clean
Some businesses rotate the task of cleaning the restroom among employees. This makes sense if you want morale to quickly deteriorate. Using a protocol such as this makes every one feel like they are cleaning up after everyone else; great for your reputation as an employer.
Other businesses use a competition as a way for employees to avoid being assigned restroom cleaning tasks. The employee who ranks at the bottom on a particular measure has the privilege of cleaning up everyone else’s shit (literally). This has the effect of being a method for punishing and/or embarrassing employees.
Another way of assigning restroom cleaning duties is to assign the task to the newest hire. When the new hire applied for work, this information was left out of the job description. When the applicant was interviewed, this aspect of their position was never mentioned. The new hire hears about it on their first day of work. That would certainly make anyone feel like a valued addition to the staff.
The undercurrent of attitude in all of these ways of operating is the fallacious assumption that everyone can clean. It is this erroneous assumption that results in so many dirty and filthy restrooms which leads us to the next “thing”.
Just because a place “looks” clean does not mean that it “is” clean
Some of the filthiest business restrooms I have ever seen were actually pretty. Unless you knew what you were looking for, you would never suspect that there were multiple layers of filth everywhere. Yes, there was a flower arrangement, and nice pictures on the wall, and pretty containers for soap and paper products; a mirror that shined, fragrance in the air, and attractive lighting. But, beware, the level of bacteria was so high on most surfaces that you should have been wearing gloves and a respirator to be in the room.
Over the last couple of years we have experienced a cleaning problem which is becoming more prevalent. It is an irrational behavior among people who are mysophobic (germophobic). This particular behavior does nothing to minimize the spread of germs (it actually worsens the situation); yet, it creates a very frustrating experience for the person who has to clean it up.
The hand soap is spread in a thin layer all over the sink and in may cases the counter tops in the restroom hand wash area. This layer dries and becomes invisible; that is, until you try to clean it.
The Resulting Cleaning Problem
When you put soap on your hands and add a little water, it get sudsy. This is exactly what happens when the cleaner begins to wipe down this restroom surface. It creates the following frustrations for cleaning personnel.
- The first frustration is that you cannot see the film of soap; so, when you proceed to clean, with what you think will be a simple one wipe situation, you are presented with the opposite.
- The second frustration is that the more water you add, the soapier and sudsier the situation becomes. As your cleaning cloth becomes saturated with soap and suds the third frustration arises.
- You must repeatedly rinse your cloth as it becomes saturated with suds. Doing this over and over again and again takes an inordinate amount of time; especially, compared to the single wipe that it takes when there is NO soap on the sink or counter top.
- Lastly, as cleaning professionals we cannot ignore spending all of the time that it takes to remove the soap residue because the surface cannot be sanitized unless the surface is clean and all of the soap has been removed.
A Suggested Solution
Firstly, I urge all mental health professionals, who have clients with this type of malady, to get very specific with defining behaviors their clients participate in that are of this nature.
Secondly, I would suggest that you recommend to your clients that they carry sanitizing wipes. Instead of spreading soap all over the restroom surfaces, suggest that your client wipe down the sink and counter top with the sanitizing wipe. This action would in fact have the benefit that the person desires and not create havoc for cleaning service personnel.
Business owners do not like to spend money unnecessarily. Unfortunately, the perception of spending money for cleaning is many times viewed as unnecessary. Unlike paying for a product that you then resell at a higher price; cleaning services are viewed as a line item that offers no return for the money spent. It is an outflow of cash that offers no return on the investment.
Now comes the therefore. Therefore, it doesn’t make any difference what service you hire; so, hire the cheapest. It is a necessary evil. Here is what you get with a cheap cleaning service.
- Disgruntled employees, low employee morale
- Sick employees, more sick days
- Higher employee turnover
- Lower business image
- Customer complaints
- Customers who never return
- The need for more frequent facility repairs
So, really, is there no return on your investment when you hire a quality cleaning service?
Below is a chart from a survey of Facilities Managers (the people responsible for hiring the cleaning services used by their companies) regarding cleaning services. The chart depicts the results of the question “What would validate paying a higher price for cleaning?”
As you can see the highest number of respondents (84%) claimed that the delivery of “good, consistent service with a minimal complaints” would warrant them paying a higher price for cleaning. This means 8 out of 10 decision makers stated that they are willing to pay a premium price for their cleaning services. This is a LIE.
My experience is that less than 1 out of 10 businesses really understand that paying a premium price for quality cleaning services actually saves them money AND are willing to pay that premium. All the others end up using price level as a primary criteria when making decisions about which cleaning service company to select.
Why do people say this when they know that when it comes time to make the decision, other criteria will carry the day? I don’t know.