Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Developing A Cleaning Standard For Your Operation: Part Two

September 19, 2010

Last month, I introduced the notion that the only thing possessing standardization merit is the result or outcome of the cleaning effort.

A cleaning standard must be something that can be judged, evaluated and even measured when there is a need to do so.

That thought continues below.


Certain substances can be defined as cleaning indicators.

Their easily detectable presence on any surface would show there is a need for their removal from that surface — very basic logic.

Anyone can set up a list of the common indicators.

List first those that are unbonded, meaning they can be removed with minimal effort because they do not adhere to the surface and are free to move:

  • Dust — light, airborne particles
  • Grit — heavy particles such as sand
  • Lint — fibrous materials such as hair or loose carpet fibers
  • Litter — carelessly discarded scraps and objects
  • Wet spillage — the coffee and soda droppings from unsteady hands.

Next, list the bonded blemishes, or those requiring a release step before their removal:

  • Streaks and spots — note that stains are color changes not affected by cleaning
  • Grime — buildup from touching and handling
  • Film — thin, evenly deposited material such as mineral coating in toilet bowls
  • Adhesives — materials with strong bonds to the surface such as tape or chewing gum.

The reason for standardizing the usual types of soiling or blemishes should be obvious.

To start, not all surface contamination types are treated the same way.

Bonded substances must first be loosened from the surface before they can be removed.

This requires two or more steps and adds to the time spent.

Loose or unbonded substances may be removed by one operation — usually mechanical — involving no chemicals at all.

Cleaners who cannot identify the substances they have to remove will waste time spraying and wiping to remove dust when a simple wipe with a treated cloth would have done the job in half the time.

Failure to identify the blemish may even result in damage to the surface.

Acid toilet bowl cleaner applied to chrome for loosening dust is a bad choice.

The cleaner needs to be trained to detect and identify what is unwanted and shown how to safely and effectively remove those substances.

The inspector of the cleaning will have the same identification skills and will conduct a fair appraisal of the work performed.

This is the value of standardization.

All involved are looking at things from the same viewpoint and the result of the work can be judged by anyone knowledgeable of the standard.

How Does This Supplement CIMS?

Many are using ISSA''s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) to improve their operations; but, while this standard specifies that you must have a quality plan, it doesn''t give you one.

You can develop an effective quality plan based on the guidelines for writing one provided below.

Remember not to make this too complicated.

  1. Define quality cleaning — freedom from unwanted substances in areas under your control

  2. List such detectable substances — cleanable surface blemishes described above

  3. Train employees in blemish detection, identification and proper removal

  4. Provide adequate equipment and supplies for the tasks

  5. Provide frequent skills assessments by supervising cleaning efforts

  6. Provide supervisory correction of missed and incomplete cleaning through retraining

  7. Provide all of the above without customer reminders or intervention, eliminating the involvement in cleaning management that they sought to avoid by hiring you.

Your clean surface standard does what a standard is supposed to do: It defines the substances that will consistently be identified and removed from assigned surfaces so the work can be done in a repeatable way.

Success or failure can be agreed upon by applying the "Universal Clean Surface Criterion."

This approach simplifies the cleaning operation.

Once dust is defined as an unwanted substance, there is no need to list the thousands of surfaces on which dust can be found.

The cleaner understands the concept of there being no visible dust on anything in their area of responsibility.

Now, you can understand that there is no true contradiction in what we have done.

Simple does not automatically mean clearly defined or precisely specified, nor does it preclude doing that.

A uniform clean surface standard can go much further — especially with related definitions such as re-soiling rate, risk assignment and accretion or buildup tolerance — but the basics outlined here are a start from which anyone can benefit.

Lynn E. Krafft is an ICAN/ATEX editor and a cleaning service operator. Krafft, who has written numerous industry-related articles, is a supporting member of ISSA and the Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI).