Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Does Your Restroom 'Feel' Clean?

September 19, 2010

For the past 150 years, we have been cleaning the epicenter of biowaste transfer — the restroom — to a standard we can smell, touch and see.

If it looks, smells or feels clean, then it must be clean, at least to the perception of a single individual.

Another person''s perception, however, may be completely different.

Gauging Success

Cleaning a restroom for the aesthetic appeal of the users of the facility is ambiguous at best and often a moving target.

What "feels" clean to one person, may in fact seem just the opposite to you.

In assessing cleanliness in restrooms, we need to educate building occupants that germs are invisible.

This means that places that look clean can, in fact, be very risky.

When a proper cleaning regime is not followed, cleaning can actually spread illness-causing germs in a facility, even though the facility may smell or look clean.

Therefore, as building service contractors (BSCs) and in-house staffs, how do we gauge the success of our cleaning program?

This is not an easy question and one that has led to many contracts being lost because cleaning results did not meet the right person''s perception.

Pleasing The Senses

In recent years, we have seen the development of many innovative restroom cleaning techniques — some that actually include the use of scientific measurement to prove a surface is clean.

What does that mean and how important is it to the people using the facilities?

The fact is that we have come farther in restroom cleaning capability than in almost any other area in the cleaning of commercial facilities.

Some technologies, such as spray and vac systems, represent the pinnacle of performance that are at the top of the list for performance and quality.

In restrooms, these innovations can effectively clean germ hot spots, such as floors, sinks and sink taps through proper disinfection.

Today''s systems can kill germs on the spot and contain or remove them without cross contaminating other surfaces via cleaning tools such as mops and cloth rags.

User Hesitation

Some BSCs and in-house cleaning departments either do not understand today''s technology, feel threatened by it or do not perceive the value proposition of increased efficiency.

If BSCs and in-house staffs don''t grasp the effectiveness of today''s innovative restroom care systems, then it is likely the end users of the service won''t understand the concept or purpose behind these types of products.

BSCs lack effective research and testing capabilities and today''s budgets are not conducive to buying technology just to try it out.

Technology is not always cheap and, for those trying to cut costs, spending a few thousand dollars on a machine in a tough economic climate may not seem to make sense.

With new cleaning technologies, however, enlightenment comes when you are able to use it and try it.

Many workers who use modern equipment say they will never go back to spray bottles, rags and string mops.

With efficiency rates that are three times that of traditional restroom cleaning methods and cleaning effectiveness that can be proven to meet standards for food contact surfaces, the rewards are numerous and today''s technology quickly pays for itself.

Contractors and in-house staffs must have a clear understanding of their equipment to be able to effectively educate their customers.

Ensure A Positive Feeling

Still, there are many people who think cleaning down to the microbial level is great, but if it does not "feel" clean in their perception, you will not be successful in gaining their full acceptance.

Therefore, there must be a balance between cleaning for health and cleaning for aesthetics — BSCs must be able to provide both.

For example, after cleaning a restroom to your satisfaction and measuring the results with scientific tools, you may be able to prove how clean the surfaces are to customers.

You know your customers are safer and healthier based on your cleaning system.

Imagine, when you sing the praises of how healthy you have made the restroom to your contact person and they respond, "It just doesn''t smell clean, there is really no smell at all."

For some people, presuppositions about cleanliness are so ingrained that they require olfactory evidence that something is clean, with a smell indicating a cleaning agent perfume.

However, when it comes to restroom odors, it is important to point out that a truly clean restroom equates with no smell at all because using proper cleaning procedures and tools helps to attack odors at the source and eliminate them, rather than mask them.

Often, no matter how much you explain that a hygienically clean restroom has a neutral odor indicating the lack of odor-causing bacteria, you probably will not be able to change everyone''s beliefs.

You will have to be able to meet both hygienic and aesthetic factors and that means understanding your customers'' needs and perceptions while protecting their health.

Ultimately, health risk reduction should be the goal you are after to reduce health risks in the biowaste transfer station.

Nevertheless, if you are creating a healthy environment and it is not specifically pleasing to the user of your services, it is likely you will not be serving them long.

You must provide a degree of education to your customers to help them understand how and why a proper cleaning regimen should be followed — and then you have to sit back and listen to their ideas and needs.

Even if you understand the benefits of your equipment and procedures, you must be able to communicate it.

Thankfully, you are not alone.

Manufacturers are there to help with a myriad of support material, white papers and in-depth scientific studies.

There is sufficient material in the marketplace to assist you in presenting a clear and compelling message.

Manufacturers and distributors are available to provide demonstrations and help educate you on technology that can save you time, money and, more importantly, provide a better, healthier indoor environment for your customers.

Learn, explain and listen to your customers.


Peter J. Sheldon Sr., CBSE, is vice president of operations for Coverall Health-Based Cleaning SystemSM. Sheldon is among the elite group of building service professionals to qualify for the Certified Building Services Executive designation.

Dr. Charles Gerba is a spokesman for Coverall Health-Based Cleaning SystemSM and the recent launch of a campaign to spread awareness about infection control. Dr. Gerba received his B.S. from Arizona State University and his Ph.D. from the University of Miami, both in microbiology.