Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Hands Down

January 11, 2012

A number of studies have drawn a clear relationship between cleanliness and occupant health, absenteeism and productivity.

Much of the findings point to "touch points," those things touched by your hands.

The primary spread of contamination is by hand contact with building surfaces.

I guess it goes without saying that our restrooms are a natural top priority when thinking about controlling the spread of germs.

We use special care, special cloths, separate water, mops and often different equipment.

We have a sharp focus on any restroom fixture or surface we might touch.

But, are we really controlling the spread of germs because of our myopic attention to restroom cleaning?

Well, I think not.

The issue is not simply about sanitized restroom fixtures and surfaces; what about all the other building items and surfaces that we touch?

Indeed, there are the "dirty dozen" areas that represent the highest levels of touch point contamination.

1. Restrooms

Restrooms are a big source of nasty germs, bacteria and more — no surprise.

And, it''s the reason why so much attention has been directed to the cleaning of these spaces.

2. Dining rooms

Where we find food, we find a natural breading ground for germs of all kinds.

Outbreaks of Salmonella, Escherichia coli (E. coli) and other digestive risks are always present.

Sanitizing tables, chairs and other touch points is often an unrecognized priority in dinning areas.

3. Break rooms

Like dining rooms, break rooms are a great breading area for bacterial growth.

There are food residue levels, even on "cleaned" tables, a natural platform for contamination.

4. Copy areas

Think about all the surfaces we touch when making copies.

And, think about the number of other people who have also come in contact with those surfaces.

5. Conference rooms

Meetings, meetings, meetings — all at the same table, using the same chairs, light switches and doors.

We touch all these surfaces, and they become a reservoir for the growth of contaminants that can affect everyone.

6. Water coolers

As we stand around this community communications devise, we touch everything: The wall, the cooler handle, the bottle and each other.

Yes, touching is the way to spread bacteria, and the water cooler is an unsuspecting hot spot.

7. ATM

Like the water cooler, we touch a lot of surfaces on and around the ATM machine.

8. Lobby and reception areas

Perhaps the first thing we touch when entering a building is the door, and it seems like some other folks had the same idea.

Then, we may walk up to the security/reception desk and touch the counter, the sign-in pen and, perhaps, the phone.

9. Elevators

There''s not much to touch on an elevator, just two buttons.

And, everyone will touch those buttons, unless we can get someone to do it for us.

10. Escalators

Lucky us, there''s only one surface to touch.

Like everyone else, though, we hold onto the moving hand rail.

If we''re lucky, we''ll miss the exact spot that all those other folks touched — or, maybe not.

11. Doors and light switches

Any room with a door and light switch is a potential contamination surface.

12. Stair railings

Stair railings are a contamination issue, even in our buildings.

The answer to reducing the contamination risk from the dirty dozen areas lies in the way we police and spot clean our buildings.

Night shift, day shift and the policing staff can focus on reducing contamination levels by ongoing sanitizing in these areas.

Vincent F. Elliott is the founder, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Elliott Affiliates Ltd. of Hunt Valley, Maryland. For more information, visit He is widely recognized as the leading authority in the design and utilization of best practice, performance-driven techniques for janitorial outsourcing and ongoing management. Elliott is also the founder of the Chemical Free Cleaning Network (CFCN). More information about that initiative can be found at