Best practice in cleaning is one of those terms which is so frequently and often, improperly used that over recent times it has lost definition and meaning to the point that the question “What is best practice?” often elicits little more than a blank expression in return.
When delivering training modules on this subject we tend to define best practice as a technique or method that, through experience and research, has proven to consistently deliver superior results to those achieved by other means. Or in other words the best way to do it.
It is our opinion that when applying this to the field of commercial cleaning, best practice revolves around two key areas of a service provider’s operation:
- Cleaning methodology – i.e. the way in which cleaning operatives carry out cleaning processes
- Equipment management – i.e. what provisions are in place to ensure all cleaning equipment functions properly and is maintained to a hygienic standard
Where cleaning methodology is concerned there are too many separate factors for consideration to be mentioned here however, a few elements of core significance are as follows:
- Cleaning to maintain safe levels of bacteria
Bacteria are almost omnipresent and therefore removing them completely from an environment is not only extremely difficult but in many cases unnecessary. Bacteria receive a bad press and many people think of them as universally ‘bad’ however they are in fact essential to the preservation of life and assist us in all manner of ways from digesting food to producing vitamins to assisting with the biodegrading process.
Where best practice in cleaning is concerned it is the pathogenic or ‘harmful’ bacteria that we are interested in removing and/or reducing in number as it is this type of bacteria that, if allowed to colonise unchecked, have the potential to impact on human health. This is particularly apt in environments such as toilets and washrooms which are more prone to being contaminated by pathogenic strains of bacteria.
We would encourage our end user customers to consider the use of the right type of microfibre cleaning systems which when used correctly, are arguably the most effective way of removing a wide variety of different surface soil types or dirt. It is these soil types that provide a food source for the bacteria and in removing them we are removing a vital element they require in order to survive.
Similarly, if we consider drying surfaces after cleaning, thereby removing moisture (another key survival element) and using a quality proprietary bactericide we are yet further impacting on bacteria and improving standards of cleanliness within a given environment.
- Working to prevent cross contamination
Cross contamination is the transfer of dirt, dust and bacteria from dirty surfaces onto cleaner ones through poor cleaning procedures. For obvious reasons it is important that this type of activity is stopped from occurring. The two most commonly used practices for preventing cross contamination are colour coding and cleaning from clean to dirty (where appropriate). Colour coding is about assigning specific colours to the equipment used to clean in different areas of a premises in order for example, a cloth used to clean a toilet is never used to clean a desk or worst still, food surface. Cleaning from clean to dirty ensures that the cleaning operative is not transferring soil and bacteria from dirty surfaces onto cleaner ones but rather that they are effectively closing in on those areas which are likely to be most contaminated. Within the average toilet cubicle for example, this would involve working towards the toilet seat / upper part of the toilet bowl.
- Changing cleaning solutions when soiled
A particular pet hate when out and about is to see cleaning operatives attempting to ‘clean’ with buckets of murky, dirty cleaning solution. All detergent based cleaning solutions have a saturation point, a point beyond which they become incapable of breaking down, lifting and suspending any more soil.
If the cleaning solution is not disposed of and replaced once this saturation point is reached, any cleaning ceases and is replaced by an activity best described as spreading dirt around. Similarly, soil will begin to fall out of suspension in the solution and the bucket will become coated with an odorous sludge.
- Using equipment effectively
Using cleaning equipment in such a way as makes the most of its capabilities and the investment made in its purchase is clearly important. In order to achieve this, we would always advise such practices as folding cleaning cloths into a minimum of four and refolding when one side becomes soiled rather than randomly scrunching them up. This provides eight cleaning sides to each cloth and ensures that the maximum use is being made of its entire surface area.
When mopping is being undertaken, regardless of what type of mopping system is being employed, it is considered best practice to ‘cut in’ first – that is to say to clean around the edges of the floor, immediately adjacent to the skirting first with a clean mop before then cleaning the main body of the floor. This ensures that dirt from the main area of the floor is not accidentally transferred onto skirting boards etc.
- Ensure all equipment is clean
It is impossible to clean using dirty equipment and therefore it is vital that best practice is exercised around cleaning equipment immediately after it has been used. All cloths and mops should be used once and disposed of or laundered, buckets should be emptied, rinsed and dried and machines such as scrubber dryers should be emptied, rinsed and propped open to air dry. Bacteria double in number every 20 minutes. Therefore, if a cloth, mop, bucket or machine is left dirty and wet and left overnight in a warm cleaning cupboard it will be crawling with bacteria the next time it is used to ‘clean’.
- Conduct thorough regular safety checks
Cleaning operatives should take responsibility for checking over the machinery they use on a daily basis to ensure that it is safe and in a fit condition to do the job for which it is required. Additionally, we would always encourage those purchasing machinery over a certain size and value, to look seriously into signing up for a service contract. This will safeguard the investment made in the machinery, ensure it functions correctly throughout its expected lifetime and also typically validate any warranty on the machine.
- Store equipment safely and securely
Best practice where storage of equipment is concerned is multi-layered but includes such key factors as the following:
- Storing colour coded items of equipment separately in order to further prevent cross contamination.
- Avoid storing chemicals above head height to prevent exposure to the eyes or face in the event of a spillage / container split.
- Ensure all chemicals are accurately labelled so anyone entering the storage area can identify them quickly and easily.
- Store machinery away from water sources so they don’t accidentally become wet and damaged.
In summary best practice is entirely achievable but the single thing that underpins it all is training. A cleaning operative cannot possibly hope to know all of the aforementioned points and many more besides, without a significant degree of training input. It is our experience that those service providers who really believe in best practice and are prepared to invest in it are also those keen to have a structured training programme for all of their cleaning operatives.