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No rest for restroom techs

September 19, 2010
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Building service contractors (BSCs) and in-house facility managers know that a restroom should be a place building occupants and patrons can visit in comfort, instead of a disgusting place to avoid.

A recent survey conducted by Impulse Research Corp. backs that notion up, finding that nearly 30 percent of 1,001 Americans said they avoided going into a restroom because of a fear of germs.

Due to the nature of the restroom environment, bacteria can feed off of organic material, such as urine, and multiply quickly, creating repulsive odors that can linger throughout the day.

Poor ventilation and excessive moisture, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), can also create mold, adding odors that can make restrooms unhealthy and sometimes dangerous.

Facility managers and cleaning staff are tasked with working together to create an inviting, functional restroom environment free of odors and bacteria that makes restrooms safer and more enjoyable to use.

Banish bacteria
Bacteria are highly prevalent in rest-rooms, and their presence must be combated to ensure a healthy environment.

To lessen the amount of bacteria and stop its growth in restrooms, cleaning professionals should consider the following:

Color-coding technology — This helps prevent cross contamination by eliminating the use of cleaning tools in areas where they are not intended. A red cloth or tool might be designated for the restroom, while green could be used for the kitchen. This helps to reduce the redistribution of soil and harmful bacteria.

Be tool-specific — Floors, counter tops, toilets and urinals should be cleaned with different tools and toilet brushes should never be used on a toilet’s exterior.

Dual-compartment buckets — Separating clean water and cleaning solution from dirty rinse water can help prevent the spread of bacteria. After cleaning, take care to rinse and clean tools and equipment before storing them.

Microfiber mops and cloths — Microfiber cloths have been proven to reduce bacteria by up to 96 percent with their enhanced ability to capture and retain material. To ensure the right cloth is used for the appropriate task, look for microfiber cloths that are categorized accordingly by a grading system.

Consider alternative cleaning systems — In certain situations — especially larger commercial settings with large numbers of units — no-touch cleaning technology or steam vapor cleaning are options that reduce/eliminate bacteria with minimal or no contact between the worker and contaminated surfaces.

The planning process
The most important step in restroom cleaning is to create a plan of attack.

Facility managers and cleaning staff should meet with building administration to develop a cleaning schedule that best fits the building’s needs.

Two points to address are when the restroom will be cleaned and how.

It is also important to research how the restroom is used throughout the day, including how much traffic it experiences during peak hours.

If possible, facility managers should interview building occupants and ask them how they feel about the restroom, so they know how best to clean it.

One option for a successful cleaning plan is to clean during the day so that cross-contamination prevention and odor control occur at regular intervals.

Another suggestion is to assign a cleaning worker to refill dispensers, maintain counter tops and sweep floors throughout the day. This person can also make sure the restroom smells fresh.

Larger tasks, such as cleaning toilets, urinals and floors, can be done before and after peak hours to avoid disrupting building patrons.

Before the new cleaning plan begins, cleaning staff should be trained on how to clean the restroom to effectively eliminate bacteria.

Training pays off
Thorough restroom cleaning involves efficient and effective staff training. The staff should be trained on how to eliminate odors through diligent cleaning and understand cross-contamination prevention procedures.

To teach cleaning staff which tools should be used and the order each task should be performed, facility managers can use charts or instructional DVDs.

These training tools offer step-by-step instructions and feature detailed visuals to help in overcoming any language barriers.

Charts that come directly from the product manufacturers also list which products should be used for each task to avoid the spread of germs.

Ousting odors
To remove odors, cleaning staff must do more than simply clean and disinfect restroom hardware such as toilets, urinals and sinks.

Cleaning solutions with deodorizers can be used to scrub the floor, walls, pipes and chrome surrounding the unit, and clean under each unit as well.

Allowing the cleaning solution to dwell for at least 10 minutes helps it absorb odor-causing bacteria.

Odors can also develop around trash bins, sinks and floors.

Trash cans should be emptied regularly and sinks should be wiped down with a disinfectant daily to remove standing water that could lead to mold.

Also, floors should be swept and mopped everyday to remove any liquids that could emit an odor if left too long.

In larger settings, no-touch cleaning technology or steam vapor cleaning may be advantageous in solving restroom odor problems.

With a smart plan, regular training and the right products, building patrons can breathe easy and visit the restroom in comfort once again.

Bruno Niklaus is vice president for research and development for Unger Enterprises. For more information, please visit

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