Aslett puts the profession of cleaning into new perspective and discusses it as a career to take pride in, one of great responsibility which requires strong people skills.
Every once in a while it’s exciting to stumble across a book which changes how you view the world, especially the part of the world which consumes most of your waking hours. From a professional perspective, for me Don Aslett’s The Professional Cleaner’s Personal Handbook was one of those books.
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Don Aslett, also known as America’s #1 Cleaning Expert, is the author of 40 published books, which in total have sold over 4 million copies, and is a veteran of over 6,000 media interviews. His expertise comes from over 40 years in the cleaning industry as owner and founder of Varsity Contractors, a $250 million a year professional cleaning company. He revolutionized both the home and the workplace with his popular books and cleaning products.
First published in 1994, the same year Castle Keepers opened, The Professional Cleaner’s Personal Handbook is written in Mr. Aslett’s trademark humorous and highly readable style. The content is basic and timeless; every time I pick it up I find something new to consider, especially as a trainer of cleaning technicians and supervisors. I found it a refreshing change from other books that consisted primarily of household tips often based on cleaning folklore, or which were not suitable for cleaning on a professional level.
The Handbook is presents its guidance in two ways. In what makes this book special, Aslett begins by putting the profession of cleaning into new perspective and discusses it as a career to take pride in, one of great responsibility which requires strong people skills. Arguable, he is the first to identify cleaning – be it homes, offices, or large facilities – as a profession with a body of knowledge and a purpose in empowering a positive living and working experience. The Handbook contains important background information all people new to the workforce or an entry level position need – knowledge we often take for granted people already have when they start a frontline service job, but often lack. His topics cover what is expected of you as an employee and/or supervisor and range from ethics, uniforms, and personal hygiene to safety and security.
The second section “How To Do It: A Pro Cleaner’s Digest of Basic Cleaning Techniques You Must Know To Be a Pro” digs into the nuts and bolts for the operations manager and cleaning technician. He discusses how to set cleaning standards and scopes of work so the client and the cleaners have the same expectations, including quality control and organizing a cleaning crew to get the job done in the most efficient and cost-effective way. Aslett reviews proper dilutions and the pH scale and how it affects cleaning a surface, something I saw in very few places when I first entered the residential cleaning field. He also has “How To Do It” sections for specific cleaning tasks such as stain removal, spray buffing (burnishing), scrubbing, dust mopping, vacuuming and window cleaning, among many others.
My personal edition of The Professional Cleaner’s Personal Handbook is 19 years old, and while perusing it for this review, I was struck by how forward-thinking Aslett was 20 years ago writing this handbook. A common thread that runs through the book is how and why we should take pride in our work as professional cleaners. He anticipated speed in cleaning with the quote, “Clean with your head, not just your hands – in cleaning you can always do better,” and by including diagrams of the most efficient cleaning routes through different types of rooms. He also was ahead of the sustainability movement by telling his readers, “A good cleaner is energy and environment conscious.”
Throughout the book Aslett emphasizes how cleaners can grow in their profession through education (both by acquiring it and sharing it) and the act of seeking out knowledge which can lead to specialization and promotion in the industry. His company Varsity Contractors holds several nationally-recognized certifications from ISSA, Carpet and Rug Institute, and BSCAI, among others.
Over the years I have used my dog-eared copy as a go-to reference for developing training modules for staff, something Aslett encourages at the conclusion of his preface. This book is a must for any serious cleaning company’s resource library.
Click this link to purchase the book on Amazon: The Professional Cleaner’s Personal Handbook
Janice Stewart is owner of Castle Keepers of Charleston and the driving force behind the development of the Modern Cleaning approach, Janice brings her scientific and healthcare background to inform the development of effective, safe, and healthy cleaning methods.