CLEANING A PRINCIPLED APPROACH Washrooms are the greatest drain on cleaning budgets and yet the principal source of

complaints and infections. To remedy this perverse situation, Rawlins’ James White urges FMs to go back to first principles.

From office blocks to public buildings, there’s a particular space that clients and facilities managers tell us causes more angst than any other. Washroom or toilet areas seem to embody the cleaning industry’s own perverse version of the Pareto Principle.

This states that roughly 80% of effects tend to come from around 20% of causes – and it has been shown to be true for everything from people’s share of wealth, companies’ customer sales, and software problems from bugs.

In cleaning, the same principle could be said to apply to customer complaints, staff time and cleaning budgets – though the most widely accepted average for the proportion of spend swallowed up by toilet upkeep is around 70%.

And the principle probably holds true for actual bugs too. Washrooms bring together germs and bio-hazardous waste, multiple touch points and infectious individuals in confined spaces. So special measures are warranted to protect people’s health and present a positive image to building users.

However, in our experience, often this extra attention is wasted and money is going down the drain. Putting this right comes down to a different set of basic principles – pristine cleans, proof of performance, productivity and professionalism.

Even in washrooms that are not visibly soiled, there can be high levels of harmful micro-organisms. Bacteria and toxins ensconced in crevices contribute to bad odours too.

Traditional cleaning methods such as hand mopping are not effective and compound the problem. Not only is used solution returned from bucket to floor, spreading contamination, but also mop-heads cannot dislodge embedded soils from grout lines or hard-to-reach areas in and around cubicles.

Liberal use of disinfectants may kill bacteria (and mask bad smells) but does not necessarily remove them. Dead bacteria left behind serve as a smorgasbord for the next wave. Given this ready-made food source, microbes can more easily multiply. And as they acquire immunity, they proliferate and disinfectants become increasingly less effective.

Also, common threats such as E coli, salmonella, listeria and campylobacter can produce biofilms that help shield them from cleaning solutions.

So we advocate cleaning methods that thoroughly remove soils as well as eliminating contamination, backed up scientific testing to prove the effectiveness of cleaning.

A hand-held ATP monitor for adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – the universal marker for animal, bacterial and mould cells – can easily test floors and touch points.


Independent testing in the US showed that even microfibre mopping, at best, cut bacteria levels by 51%, and effectiveness overall dropped to 24% as E. coli on test plates was dragged back into clean areas. Equipment that removed spoils and applied fresh solution while cleaning – such as a scrubber-dryer or a low-cost automatic alternative – eliminated 99% of bacteria.

Mopping and other manual methods are also wasteful of labour. There is a far superior method that produces hygienic cleaning results in a third of the time.

Using a low-pressure fan spray, an operator can apply a dilute cleaning solution over floor and fixtures, rinsing with always-clean water under high pressure to flush out embedded toxins, before vacuuming away soils and solution. This no-touch cleaning system leaves washroom surfaces soil-free and virtually dry.

It’s also 60 times more effective than mops at removing bacteria from grout lines. So another significant advantage is that deep (and expensive) cleans are no longer needed to make up for inadequate daily cleaning.

No-touch cleaning not only makes for a more professional cleaning service. It can raise the status of the cleaning operative, who is no longer expected to scrub around foul-smelling sanitary ware on bended knee. Properly equipped for the job, cleaners are more productive, motivated and can project a more professional image for our industry.

Hygiene, efficiency and professionalism are principles that we should all sign up to and put into practice.

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