Ensure that the client understands that the overall appearance of the facility will not change when cleaning for health, but that there are surfaces where shine matters and there are surfaces where kill is the ultimate goal.

The concepts of cleaning for health and cleaning for appearance are not mutually exclusive. You can get things both clean and healthy!  However, through media marketing campaigns, we have become a population that believes “If it’s shiny, it must be clean (and free of germs)!” 


Truthfully speaking, the shinier the floor of a building, the more confidence we automatically have in the cleanliness of the facility.  That said, with the constant media bombardment about the newest strain of Influenza, the new MERS-CoV virus circulating in the Middle East and the most recent outbreak in North America associated with Measles, Whooping Cough, MRSA or Norovirus, we are also beginning to better understand the ramifications of the environment we live and work in and how it contributes to our health… or lack thereof.


Question: If you were a cleaning business owner or an everyday cleaning technician in a home or office building, what would you tell your clients about how cleaning specifically for health (with proper procedures and equipment) has a bigger impact on their well-being than cleaning just to make things look good?


Part of the conversation with a current or potential customer that can help them to understand the importance of cleaning for health has to do with employee absenteeism.  Last-minute absenteeism blamed on illness can cost employers in direct payroll losses, lost productivity, and staff morale.  A survey I read some time ago found that while the rate of unscheduled absenteeism barely budged year over year, the average per-employee cost has risen to $660 per employee.  For a large company, this can amount to upwards of $1 million dollars or more in direct expenses.  To a small company, this can mean having a significant number of staff absent at any given time, which means the owner or manager struggles with re-scheduling clients, which in turn directly impedes the bottom line.


From an appearance perspective, certainly there are surfaces where shine matters.  The concept of cleaning for health should not imply having a dull, unappealing facility.   Ensure that the client understands that the overall appearance of the facility will not change when cleaning for health, but that there are surfaces where shine matters and there are surfaces where kill is the ultimate goal.  If we need the surface to be both free of pathogens and shiny, we have to work the necessary steps into the cleaning procedure, such as a buffing with a dry cloth or wiping with a clean damp cloth. 


The notion that cleaning staff play an integral role in infection prevention is readily demonstrated in scientific research, but that information rarely makes the rounds of the public. For the cleaning industry, this means thinking about how to empower the cleaning technicians through training, tools and products to do their jobs effectively. If you own a cleaning company or run a facility with a cleaning staff, meeting the challenge of cleaning for health and infection prevention requires more than just hiring great people. It takes training these employees and their trainers through certified courses.  An added value service to your client could be offering seminars, pamphlets or other education materials that provide basic infection prevention information with respect to how germs are spread or the importance of hand hygiene.


Lastly, developing a “cleaning for health program” involves finding products that work in the real world, where cleaning professionals must often do their jobs quickly. Disinfectants based on hydrogen peroxide with shorter contact times are an example of the types of innovations now readily available. While most products used by the cleaning technician may be concentrates that are diluted prior to use, there are a number of ready-to-use liquids or pre-moistened wipe products that can be easily and safely used by an employee in the workplace without the need for personal protective equipment.  Offering a program that includes facility employees’ access to pre-moistened wipes gives them the opportunity to clean their workspace. This can directly improve health and ultimately benefits the facility.


In the end, as a cleaning business owner or cleaning technician, you have an invested interested in the health and wellbeing of your clients, your employees and their customers. After all, healthy employees are happy employees, healthy employees are productive employees and productive employees make the money that pays the bills. If we properly equip our professional technicians to effectively address the challenges they face and educate our clients on how in working together, we can prevent the spread of disease; both the public and the cleaning industry will benefit.


Nicole Kenny is the responsible for infection control education relating to chemical disinfection in her role as the Director of Professional & Technical Services for Virox Technologies, Inc. She has developed programs to educate hundreds of people across North America on chemical disinfection in various settings.