Updates on chemical safety and cleaning products that will help you!

View All News
Archived Articles
Proper Floor Care Starts With the Right Floor PadTuesday, September 11, 2018
Category: News
Proper Floor Care Starts With the Right Floor Pad

By Mike Englund

Having the right combination of equipment, chemicals, and floor pads is important to keeping floors looking their best in the most cost-effective manner possible. The correct floor pad for the situation gets the job done right the first time and saves time and money, while selecting the wrong pad can result in permanent surface damage and costly repairs.

Pad Types
Floor pads should be used according to the task at hand such as stripping, cleaning, scrubbing, buffing, polishing, or burnishing. Industry standards in floor pad colors for low-speed floor machines (175 to 350 rpm) help define the correct pad for the appropriate use and provide the best results. The general rule of thumb is the darker the pad, the more aggressive it is.

Floor pad color coding is best summarized as follows:

  • Polishing pads (white) are the lightest in color and are used for polishing clean, dry floors.
  • Buffing pads (red) are used for light cleaning and spray buffing and will remove light scuff marks.
  • Cleaning or light scrubbing pads (blue) remove dirt, scuff marks, and soiled top layers of floor finish.
  • Heavy-duty scrubbing pads (green) are great for removing heavy dirt and scuff marks as well as for light stripping.
  • More aggressive stripping pads (black, heavy-duty black and burgundy) remove wax, dirt, and old floor finish.

While an industry standard does not exist for color coding high-speed burnishing pads, these pads should be selected based on the condition of the floor in relation to the level of shine to be achieved without removing the floor finish. The type of finish—soft, medium, or hard—that needs to be burnished also should be taken into account.

Go Green
Floor pads are available in synthetic, blended, and natural fibers as well as microfiber. Synthetic pads are best used on low-speed jobs such as scrubbing or stripping with wet solutions, while blended or natural fiber pads are excellent for ultra-high-speed burnishing. Microfiber pads have become popular for daily cleaning and burnishing, and there are many specialty pads for nonchemical cleaning as well as marble, stone, and concrete floor care.

It’s no secret that many facilities are requesting green cleaning materials for their cleaning programs. With the availability of both synthetic floor pads made of 100-percent-recycled materials and natural fiber pads, it is easy to meet this requirement. And while microfiber pads are not green, they can reduce the use of harsh chemicals and are easily cleaned and reused.

Quality Pays
When preparing to start a floor care program, always use the highest quality floor pad available. They will last longer, perform better, and improve worker productivity, ultimately leading to cost savings. Studies have shown that a higher-quality stripping pad was able to cover upwards of 50,000 square feet, while a less costly, lower quality pad had to be replaced after 10,000 square feet of use. Floor care is a labor intensive process, and the majority of its cost (90 to 95 percent) is related to labor. Using the wrong, cheap, or inferior pad can add additional cost to the job.

Getting the Most Out of Your Pads
To get the most use out of your floor pads and maximize the return on your purchase, be sure to use both sides of the pad on double-sided pads. Floor pads are also made to be reused. Washing pads in a janitor’s sink, brushing gently during rinsing, or cleaning with high-pressure jets at a car wash and allowing them to air dry can allow you to use the same pad multiple times. Pads should also be removed from floor machines when not in use. Cleaning your floor pads after each use and using both sides of the pad can result in significant cost savings.

As you can see, many elements go into choosing the right floor pad. Taking some time to consider these factors before you start a job can help you save both time and money in the long run.

Carpets, Health, and Air QualityTuesday, September 11, 2018
Category: News
Carpets, Health, and Air Quality

By Robert Kravitz 

There have been a number of surprising studies throughout the years regarding the amount of germs and bacteria that can be found on office desks, cell phones, and the sponges we use to wipe down counters and wash dishes. However, one study that has gotten relatively little notice relates to carpets and concerns about indoor air quality (IAQ).

In that study, which was conducted by the University of Arizona several years ago, researchers asked a group of people to wear brand-new shoes for two weeks. They were to wear the shoes everywhere—to school, to work, shopping, etc. After two weeks, the shoes were returned to be tested for contaminants that might have collected on the shoe bottoms. What researchers discovered surpassed their expectations:

  • The shoes collected more than 420,000 units of bacteria, and all the shoes had varying amounts of bacteria on them.
  • Potentially hazardous levels of E. coli were present on about one-third of the shoes.
  • Greywater, food, drinks, grease, tar, and dust were found on all of the shoes to varying degrees.

These kinds of contaminants and bacteria all have the potential to negatively impact indoor air quality when they are walked into a facility on users’ shoes. However, in most cases, carpets act as an environmental filter, trapping soils, bacteria, and contaminants and stopping them from becoming airborne, which means healthier IAQ for everyone.

But the effectiveness of carpeting as an environmental filter is dependent on maintenance. Carpets must be properly cleaned and maintained at regular intervals in order to protect IAQ. And this typically begins with the creation of an effective and sustainable carpet maintenance program.1

Creating a Carpet Maintenance Program
According to Doug Heiferman, a textile specialist and trainer with The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification (IICRC), the first step toward creating an effective, sustainable carpet maintenance program should be training and certifying the technicians in charge of carpet cleaning. “Certification cannot be stressed enough,” notes Heiferman. “(Cleaners and technicians) must possess the knowledge to properly maintain carpets as a first line of defense to foster good IAQ.”

Another step that must be taken before creating an effective carpet maintenance program is to study the amount of foot traffic and the number of people who generally use each carpeted area. This information will help determine the “soil rating” of the facility, which is the measure of the intensity of the soil load that can accumulate in the carpets. These ratings are designated as light, normal, moderate, heavy, or extreme. Soil ratings help determine the frequency of tasks such as vacuuming, interim carpet cleaning, and hot-water carpet extraction.

For instance, a facility with a moderate soil rating should be vacuumed two to four times per week to remove dust, contaminants, and particulates from carpets. Additionally:

  • Spotting should be performed daily or as soon as spots are noticed.
  • Heavy traffic areas should be cleaned using either interim or restorative carpet cleaning methods every six months.
  • All carpets should be cleaned using hot-water carpet extraction at least once per year.

Unfortunately, determining the soil rating of a facility and how frequently carpet cleaning tasks should be performed to help protect IAQ can be determined only on a case-by-case basis. “Facilities vary in traffic, soiling rates, and usage,” explains Heiferman. “Additionally, climate and the desired appearance level of the carpet are considerations that must be evaluated in order to build an effective maintenance program.”

Controlling Soil Ratings
While the soil ratings for a facility must be determined on an individual basis, there are steps all facilities can take to help control their soil levels—and it all begins outside the facility. Parking lots and walkways should be cleaned and maintained regularly to help prevent dust and contaminants from entering the facility and damaging IAQ.

According to JoAnne Boston of Crown Mats and Matting, high-performance matting systems play a crucial role in keeping indoor facilities and their air healthy. Far beyond a simple welcome mat on which visitors can wipe their feet, a true matting system involves three different types of mats, all performing specific duties:

  • Five feet of scraper matting placed outside the building entry. This is designed to scrape larger particulates and soils off the bottoms of shoes.
  • Five feet of scraper/wiper matting placed directly inside the doorway. This removes remaining larger soils and collects and traps moisture from shoe bottoms.
  • Finally, five feet of wiper matting placed inside the facility. “This is referred to as the final line of defense,” says Boston. “The wiper matting is designed to capture any remaining soil and moisture, preventing it from entering the facility.”

The Importance of Carpet Extraction in Protecting IAQ

Earlier we referenced the role of “interim” cleaning methods as part of an overall carpet maintenance program. Typically this refers to carpet cleaning methods that remove soils found on the top surfaces of the carpet. These include vacuuming as well as shampooing and bonnet cleaning methods. According to Mark Baxter, an engineer with U.S. Products, while these methods can be effective, the key thing to remember is that they are, as the name implies, only interim or short-term measures.

“Interim methods can only do so much. In order for carpets to serve as a filter and protect IAQ, they must be thoroughly cleaned using restorative methods.”

Baxter takes this a step further, advising that carpets should be cleaned using hot-water carpet extractors that heat the water or cleaning solution to more than 200°F. “[Heat] improves the effectiveness of cleaning chemicals so that less chemical may be necessary. This makes the entire carpet cleaning [process] greener and more sustainable and helps protect IAQ,” says Baxter.

The Mold Issue
The presence of moisture in carpets can foster microbial growth such as mold and mildew, which can have a definite negative impact on IAQ. Even conditions such as high humidity and stagnant air can create a welcome environment for mold growth in carpets. Fortunately, an effective carpet maintenance program can minimize or even eliminate this problem. To help prevent the growth of mold and mildew, cleaning programs should include regular inspections for water intrusion that can lead to mold growth.

Along with hot-water extractors, low-moisture extractors can help prevent the growth of mold resulting from restorative carpet cleaning. Low-moisture extractors typically release less water into carpets and have more powerful vacuum systems to extract moisture. The goal of low-moisture carpet cleaning is for the carpet to dry within approximately two hours (instead of the six or more hours it can take after using a conventional carpet extractor). This reduced drying time means that low-moisture extractor systems can significantly reduce the possibility of mold growth.

Unfortunately, many facilities both large and small do not have a carpet maintenance program in place. Yet having such a program is so important that many cleaning consultants recommend this information be put in writing to formalize it and ensure that all steps are implemented as scheduled.

“A program that addresses all of these cleaning and maintenance issues, beginning with the proper training of cleaning technicians, promotes sustainability and protects IAQ and the health of all building users,” says Baxter. “It also ensures that soils and contaminants are removed from carpets, which not only enhances their appearance but increases their longevity as well.”

Clean Restroom DesignTuesday, September 11, 2018
Category: News
Clean Restroom Design

By Robert Kravitz 

Several years ago, developers teamed up to open a bank in downtown San Francisco, CA. Hoping the new structure would soon be recognized as one of the most important in the city, they hired a well-known local architect to design the building.

Indeed, when the bank opened, the look and design of the building were met with widespread applause by just about everyone—except the contract cleaning company hired to maintain the facility.

One of the first problems the company encountered involved the lighting. The cleaning contractors had been charged with replacing ceiling light bulbs as they burned out. Unfortunately, the ceiling was almost three stories high. That meant without scaffolding, and because of the way the bulbs were angled in their fixtures, it was extremely difficult to remove them. In time, building owners had to replace all of the light fixtures—at considerable cost—to allow for more accessible bulb changing.

Restroom Issues
One major area where design/maintenance issues arose was the restrooms. Instead of more conventional sinks and counters, the restrooms had freestanding pedestal sinks. The soap dispensers were mounted on the wall next to each pedestal, and the paper towel dispensers were built into the mirror frame placed over each pedestal.

This resulted in a few significant cleaning and maintenance problems almost from the start:

  • The soap dispensers had a tendency to drip soap on the floor after each use. In addition, when they were opened to be refilled, soap would invariably overflow onto the floor. In a relatively short time the floor beneath each dispenser, a light-colored stone floor, was dark from soap stains.
  • Because the dispensers had no marking, restroom users had to “feel” their way for the paper towel dispensers built into the mirror frames. Often with wet hands, they would touch under the mirrors grasping for the dispenser and soiling the mirrors, the frames, and the wall tiles at the same time—not to mention possibly contaminating their freshly washed hands.
  • Because the paper towel dispensers were designed specifically to fit into the frame of the mirrors, the number of paper towels each dispenser could hold was considerably less than what a conventional wall dispenser would hold. Thus, dispensers often ran out of paper two or more times per day.

“Situations like this are actually not that uncommon,” says Richard Sanchez, a building services contractor in Northern California. “Architects and their clients, especially those out to make a ‘statement’ with a new property, often show little concern about how the facility will be cleaned and maintained once it is built and put into use.”

Fortunately, it does not have to be this way. And many designers today do pay considerably more attention to how a facility they design will be cleaned, maintained, and cared for once it is completed and put into use. A lot of this growing attention is due to the impact of “green” cleaning and the desire by many building owners to have their properties certified under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design—or LEED Green Buildings Rating System. As a result, building operations, including cleaning, are being given more consideration. Additionally, because of the economy, concerns about overall building operations, and related costs are now a top priority for building owners and managers.

Image vs. Functionality
The core problem with the bank restrooms discussed earlier was that the designers and their clients put more emphasis on the image they were trying to present in the restrooms than on functionality.

Restroom Basics
While a restroom designed for ease of cleaning does not have to be “plain Jane” by any means, it would help cleaning professionals if functionality and certain design basics were followed. Below are some of these suggested basics.

Touch-free fixtures. Today’s restroom users do not like to touch anything in restrooms. Of benefit to cleaning workers, touch-free faucets also help reduce the frequency that these fixtures must be cleaned and maintained. Plus they can have additional benefits, such as helping to promote hygiene, enhance public comfort with restrooms, decrease vandalism, and reduce water consumption. Further, according to some studies, sensor-controlled, touch-free faucets use about 10 percent to 20 percent less water than conventional faucets.

Fixture placement. Standing fixtures, such as sink faucets, placed too close to the wall or backsplash to allow sponges, microfiber cloths, or other cleaning tools to fit can create a breeding ground for dirt and germs.

Countertops. Whatever material is selected, light-colored countertops tend to better camouflage soiling and water stains, whereas splashes and stains on darker-colored countertops tend to be more noticeable and require more maintenance. “Water-impervious surfaces and fixtures are also helpful because they enable complete, rapid spray down and removal of contaminants,” says Allen Rathey, president of The Healthy Facilities Institute®. “Also, smooth or less-porous surfaces help guard against the penetration of soils.”

Hand dryers. Hand dryers cost more than paper towel dispensers initially but can be a cost-effective alternative that makes restrooms easier to maintain as well. While some users do not like them, it cannot be denied that hand dryers help reduce cleaning time and labor expense along with the costs for ordering, storing, replenishing, and disposing of paper towels. Also, many systems are now touch-free, further reducing cleaning needs. Planners should weigh these benefits along with user preference when deciding which system fits best in a facility.

Paper towel dispensers. If paper towel dispensers are selected, Rathey advises the installation of no-touch towel dispensers that “automatically dispense a prescribed amount of towel without the need to pull and tear-off pieces that contribute to floor litter.”

Toilet paper dispensers. Installing jumbo toilet tissue dispensers that hold larger rolls and more of them is an easy way to make the cleaning professional’s job less taxing and reduce trips for restocking, which also translates into labor cost savings.

Trash receptacles. Near the exit door is the best place for trash receptacles especially if the restroom has a handled door to enable users to open the door using a paper towel and throw the used towel in the receptacle instead of on the floor.

Floors. The first consideration is always safety, so a nonslip floor should be installed. Beyond this, some engineers are encouraging the use of seamless floors (i.e., no grout areas) or homogenous tile floors. Homogenous tiles are a form of ceramic tile composed of fine porcelain clays that are fired at much higher temperatures than ceramic tile. This process makes the tiles harder and less porous than ceramic tiles so that they are less prone to moisture and stain absorption. This can help make the floor easier to clean and maintain.

Walls. With walls as well as floors, homogenous tiles are getting more consideration. And wall coverings, such as natural stone (well-sealed) and glass block are getting attention as well because in addition to adding an “air of elegance” to a restroom, they can prove easier to clean and maintain compared to more conventional materials, such as tile and grout.

Toilets. “Toilets with lids that can close helps prevent the dissemination of microbes during flushing,” microbes that are unhealthy and must be removed by cleaning personnel, suggests Rathey.

Partitions. Some functional and easier-to-maintain restroom stall partition materials include low-maintenance enameled-steel, stainless steel, and aluminum panels treated with surface texture that show fewer fingerprints as well as marble slabs are another solution. These products tend to also stand up against abuse, including graffiti and vandalism. Also, sometimes a seemingly small change, such as using ceiling- or wall-mounted toilet partitions, can simplify cleaning. This allows janitorial staff to quickly clean floors without needing to work around the partitions.It also eliminates unsightly build-up of dirt in corners around the partition anchors.

Miscellaneous. Some other items suggested by Rathey include the installation of UV-C lighting (for use only after-hours and in unoccupied restrooms), which kills germs using light; multiple floor drains to enable washing, rinsing, and draining of floors; and high or ceiling-mounted electrical outlets to prevent moisture infiltration and to keep cords off floors when powered equipped is used.

A Commonsense Approach
When it comes to the design and construction of public restrooms, designers are encouraged to add some flare and individuality as long as it is mixed with functionality and some plain old common sense. One of the best ways to determine which products and fixtures should be installed is to first consider traffic volume and anticipate the cleaning challenges that might occur. Take into account also people with special needs and those who will be using the facilities most frequently.

Additionally, decision-makers should be wary of proprietary systems, such as the built-in dispensers in the bank restroom that, while aesthetically appealing, can lock you into products that are not only difficult to maintain themselves, but can also create additional restroom problems.

With a little planning, a restroom can be both aesthetically pleasing—and easier to maintain.


A former building service contractor, Robert Kravitz is president of AlturaSolutions Communications, a Chicago, IL-based firm that provides corporate communication services to organizations in the jansan and building maintenance industries. He can be reached at

Get Serious About Chemical SafetyTuesday, September 11, 2018
Category: News

Because most jansan industry professionals work with cleaning chemicals every day, both at work with customers and at home, some have developed a nonchalant attitude toward them. Plus, the general adoption of green cleaning has exacerbated this attitude in some cases because many cleaning professionals have the mistaken belief that green chemicals are always safe to use.

It is true that when used properly, both conventional and green cleaning chemicals are relatively safe. However, these products are not always properly handled, and accidents can and do happen.

The U.S. Department of Labor continues to classify cleaning and custodial work as high-risk jobs, mainly because of the many accidents involving chemicals that occur each year. It is estimated that six out of every 100 custodians in the United States experience a job-related injury each year caused by exposure to cleaning chemicals. These often include eye injuries, many of which are irreversible. Other injuries are typically skin related (e.g., burns) or are the result of inhaling chemical fumes.

Ironically, green chemicals are sometimes even more dangerous than conventional chemicals because they are delivered in such highly concentrated forms. While being packaged in higher concentrations makes green chemicals more sustainable due to the inherent reduction in fuel, transportation, and packaging needs, it also makes them very powerful and therefore potentially dangerous. Custodial workers should remember that most green and conventional chemicals must be diluted before use, typically one-half to one ounce per gallon of water to six ounces per gallon of water in order to be used properly and safely.

For this reason, facility managers and cleaning organizations are encouraged to work with their jansan distributors to develop a cleaning-chemical safety program. Such a program can help minimize the potential for injuries to cleaning workers and all building occupants. Once established, the program should be formalized and put in writing. This way, it can be readily available to anyone who uses, moves, stores, or handles cleaning chemicals at a location and can help all parties become familiar with the safety program.

Components of a Cleaning-Chemical Safety Program
When devising your cleaning-chemical safety program, be sure to keep these essential components in mind:

  • Have a complete record of all cleaning chemicals used in the facility, including how many gallons (and multiple gallon containers) are stored, where they are stored, and the potential hazards of and precautions necessary for each specific chemical (e.g., whether it needs to be kept away from direct sunlight). The program also should document proper cleanup and disposal steps in case of spills.
  • Maintain material safety data sheets—or MSDS—for each chemical used. These should be held with the chemical inventory documentation listed above.
  • Keep all chemicals in their original containers and never mix chemicals, even if they are the same type of chemical.
  • Store chemicals in well-ventilated areas away from HVAC intake vents. This will prevent chemical fumes from spreading to other areas in a facility.
  • Clearly display safety signage in multiple languages (or, even better, signs that use images) that quickly conveys possible dangers and precautions related to the chemicals.

Closet Decluttering and Other Considerations

Cleaning-chemical safety programs also should include the proper disposal of chemicals that have not been used for a prolonged period of time. A good guideline is to consider disposing of any chemical products that have not been used for six months and to properly dispose of any product that has not been used in a year.

Most chemicals should be stored at moderate room temperature away from direct sunlight. Temperatures above 85°F or below 60°F not only increase safety hazards but also can reduce the effectiveness of some products such as bio-enzymatic cleaners.

Finally, administrators should realize that chemical safety is an ongoing concern. Once the cleaning-chemical safety program has been established, managers should hold regular chemical safety meetings with custodial workers and others who handle chemicals to ensure proper chemical use. When it comes to the safe handling and use of cleaning chemicals, ongoing education is a must.

Mike Sawchuk has been involved with the jansan industry for more than 15 years. He is vice president and general manager of Enviro-Solutions Ltd., a leading manufacturer of "green" cleaning chemicals, based in Ontario, 
How to Avoid the Flu in the WorkplaceTuesday, September 11, 2018
Category: News

he U.S. Department of Health estimates that 5 to 20 percent of Americans will contract the flu each year, with more than 200,000 hospitalized for flu-related complications. By identifying the main areas where viruses and bacteria thrive, facility managers can focus disinfection efforts and keep building occupants safe and healthy throughout the flu season.

Here are five tips for targeting germ hotspots in the workplace:

  1. Disinfect high-touch surfaces. The Journal of Medical Virology estimates that viruses and bacteria can remain on hard surfaces for up to 18 hours. To reduce illness, ensure that high-touch surfaces such as door handles, desks, keyboards, and phones are disinfected regularly. Use a combination of antimicrobial cleaners and disinfectants to remove and kill pathogenic microorganisms that thrive in these areas. Increase cleaning frequencies of high-touch surfaces during the flu season to protect guests and staff against infection.
  2. Deep clean restrooms. The buildup of harmful germs in restrooms can easily transfer to guests’ hands and cause illness. To thoroughly sanitize restroom surfaces, implement a deep cleaning system that reaches all corners and sanitizes grout lines, walls, sinks, faucets, and commodes.
  3. Be mindful of matting. While matting can be an effective method to trap and contain germs, soiled floor mats can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and microbes. In fact, research has shown that about 96 percent of footwear contains traces of fecal matter and other dangerous bacteria. To ensure that illness-causing bacteria do not transfer back onto shoes or into air, keep matting in top condition.
  4. Don’t forget flooring. Flooring can contain more than 2 million bacteria per square inch, making it one of the top germ hotspots. To reduce overall bacteria levels throughout the facility, use clean mops and tools specifically designed to prevent cross-contamination by separating dirty water from clean water.
  5. Promote handwashing. With more than 50,000 bacteria per square inch, hands are an area where germs commonly thrive. Encouraging frequent handwashing is the single most effective method for reducing the spread of illness among guests and employees. Provide antimicrobial hand soap at sinks throughout the facility. In areas without sinks, consider installing hand sanitizer dispensers or disinfecting wipe stations. Remind employees and guests about the importance of handwashing and how it contributes to infection-prevention programs.

“The flu season is a great time to revamp cleaning and disinfection policies,” Mesko said. “By increasing cleaning frequencies and promoting handwashing, facility managers can do their part in preventing the spread of the flu.”

Iowa Web design & development by Visionary Services