Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Controlling Dust And Odor With Less

September 19, 2010

During the recent recession, the U.S. workforce was asked to do more with fewer employees and resources and, often, minimal training.

However, in the cleaning industry, something interesting happened along the way.

Over the last several months, veteran industry experts remained optimistic.

"This is a correction of practices and a realization that we can be more efficient," remarked one industry insider.

"We''re cutting the waste out of the system," said another.

When asked if the economy was pulling out of a recession for a Cleaning & Maintenance Management® magazine article in late 2009, one expert explained, "Some parts of the country are seeing some improvement, but overall, any major improvement comes from people adjusting and getting [familiar with] doing business a different way."

What is different?

In addition to manufacturers offering smarter product technologies and distributors offering more value-added services, cleaning strategy thinking also shifted a bit.

Skip cleaning, a strategy in which some areas are "passed over" during routine daily cleaning, became popular among facilities looking to get more out of the cleaning department without necessarily investing more.

For instance, in an office setting, desks can be dusted just once per week and carpets can be vacuumed twice per week — instead of every day.

Another trend that continues to evolve is green cleaning, which some have defined as using fewer, less harsh chemicals and minimizing cleaning frequencies.

However, this industry''s cleaners still provide an appearance-based service.

In fact, in a recent Cleaning & Maintenance Management magazine survey, 37 percent — the majority — of building service contractors (BSCs) noted that dust is the source of most customer complaints.

For some customers, appearance is more important than price; but, for most customers, price and appearance are numbers 1 and 1a — in no particular order.

Dust control in the modern cleaning environment

Some cleaning tasks simply cannot be skipped or left unattended — even for a few days.

Emptying trash cans and recycling bins in common areas of an office is one example.

Restroom cleaning and replacing paper goods as needed is another example.

But, where does odor and dust control fit?

Yes, this is an appearance-based industry, but does enough dust accumulate in a typical office, health care, food service or hospitality establishment to warrant daily attention?

The key contributor to dust control in a reduced frequency program is the vacuuming of soft or hard floors using a lightweight backpack system — which can enhance productivity — with good filtration and high vacuum lift.

However, the type of method used will determine whether or not your cleaning frequency will satisfy requirements.

When looking to reduce cleaning frequency, make sure you are mindful of the type of surface and unique needs — dust cleaning a floor in a high-traffic entranceway will require different protocols compared to dusting a piece of furniture or a picture frame.

In order words, be realistic and be sure to include these variables into your cleaning specifications or department responsibilities.

In general, there are some benefits to utilizing skip cleaning when dusting.

We recently discussed this topic with Pat Fragomeni, regional director for Janitronics Facility Services, and he shared the following success story.

Fragomeni''s company cleans a facility that is 180,000 square feet with an occupant density of 73:1.

"[This facility uses] a lot of paper, which increases the dust levels. Our current dusting requirement is [once] weekly. Earlier this fall, we experienced problems relative to dusting. We sent a team into this account to retune and determine what is driving the higher dust levels. We discovered the dusting was being performed per the specifications using a treated dust cloth. The problem related to vacuuming and, more specifically, detail vacuuming. [At the time,] employees were not properly vacuuming, which increased the building''s dust level."

"Today, we are back following our prescribed systems and the weekly dusting is more than sufficient. I do want to note that if the building [had] a hard floor and not carpet, we would have a different issue. Carpet actually captures and retains some dust [while] a hard floor does not. Therefore, if this same building had a tile floor, the weekly dusting would not be sufficient."

When looking to reduce certain cleaning tasks such as dusting, be realistic and use trial and error until a satisfactory solution is reached.

Strategic odor control

Train staff to be realistic when it comes to odor control as well.

Smart shopping — such as obtaining odor neutralizing products where needed to kill airborne bacteria rather than a masking fragrance — can reduce odor issues in the long-term.

Know the causes of odor, such as improper cleaning, facility aging, improper occupant use of restrooms, clogged toilets in restrooms, soils tracked in from outside and overfilled garbage bags.

Malodor is usually the result of bacteria buildup and cleaners should pay special attention to the source of bad odors while cleaning.

Open ventilation is important in controlling odors and is usually cost effective on nice days.

If the past few years have taught us anything, it is that we as an industry are resilient and can adapt to change using smarter procedures and realistic thinking.