Monday, March 31, 2014

Choosing The Right Cleaning Equipment

This article was originally published in Clean Link.

When we think of equipment, we often shop by cost rather than ROI (Return on Investment) and this can be a serious mistake. Many different estimators and time standards can document the true cost of a piece of equipment is its ROI, not its initial cost.

One example that comes to mind is the upright vacuum cleaner, which has not really changed that much in the last 50 years. Most have beater brushers/bars, belts that can wear and break, bags that usually fill from the top down, handles and wheels for mobility. A 12-inch unit is about right for most closed in office cleaning whereas a thirty two inch or wider unit can be used for long, open hallways. The key factor in determining which piece to use is productivity and of course, practicality. A thirty two inch unit will not work in tight spaces even though its productivity rating is higher.

An inexpensive (to purchase) upright vacuum cleaner can be very expensive in the wrong environment since it is not rated as very productive and has other issues related to maintenance including belt and brush replacement. The key focus is on labor expended for results. One productivity standard rates the typical upright at 26.8 minutes/1000 SF which equals 2,239 SF/Hour. Compare this to a twelve inch back pack vacuum cleaner which is rated at 8.25 Min/ 1000 SF or 7,273 SF/Hour which is more than double the productivity. Also note that there are no belts/brushes to service and well maintained back packs can actually improve IAQ (indoor air quality) so long as the bags and filters are maintained.

The cost of a piece of equipment should always include its maintenance and service life costs as well as it initial price.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tips For Maintaining VCT Floors

This article was originally published in Clean Link.

Walk into virtually any commercial facility today and odds are pretty good the floor under your feet is vinyl composition tile (VCT). VCT has proven to be a highly popular flooring choice because of its durability and ease of maintenance. But in order to sustain its durability and be reasonably scratch resistant, VCT needs to be cleaned regularly and maintained properly. Additionally, VCT requires protection, and a polyacrylate floor finish creates a “renewable, repairable, restorable” wear layer that can be used to maintain the beauty and clean, shiny appearance that people want to see in a floor.

Thus, a primary goal for maintenance professionals is keeping VCT floors clean and looking their best, which helps extend the life of the floor. However, accomplishing this goal is fraught with challenges, such as constraints on time, budget and personnel.

Cleaning professionals increasingly find themselves having to do more with less. In the 2009 “Cleaning in a Down Economy” industry survey conducted by Procter & Gamble Professional, 85 percent of cleaning professionals indicated that they have adopted a “doing more with less” approach, placing greater emphasis on staff productivity and cleaning efficiency. Choosing the right cleaning products can help deliver the better floor appearance, less labor, and potentially lower costs.

Simply put, sticking to a regular maintenance schedule and using the right cleaning products are the best way to maintain the look of any VCT floor. Below are tips for maintaining VCT.

  • Proper matting: Use walk-off mats at all entryways to help keep floors clean and dry longer; however, it is vital that these mats be cleaned regularly.
  • Daily cleaning regimen: Involves sweeping and dust mopping dirt and soil off VCT surfaces, a crucial step to prevent damage to the tile finish. Then, damp mop or auto-scrub floors using a neutral-impact cleaner to remove particulate left behind. Once clean, the entire floor should be rinsed with clean water and then allowed to dry thoroughly.
  • Recoating: Depending on VCT maintenance or the amount of foot traffic at a particular facility, it is good practice to periodically recoat the finish. Following a deep scrub of the VCT to remove soil build-up, reapply a high-quality commercial floor polish. Failing to ensure that there are three-to-five layers of protective finish means risking potential damage to the tiles from embedded soil that can eventually result in poor appearance, and ultimately the need to replace the flooring. 
  • Routine maintenance: It is important to routinely strip off the wax that has built-up from repeated maintenance in order to apply a fresh finish. The VCT should be scrubbed with an effective stripping agent, but note that most flooring manufacturers recommend not using an aggressive stripper on VCT that is less than two years old, as it may weaken the adhesive bond. After the stripping solution has been applied, it should be carefully removed with a wet vac or auto-scrubber vac. Then, the floor should be rinsed with clean water and allowed to dry before three-to-five coats of floor polish are applied to complete the process. However, this step can be skipped if a no-rinse stripping solution is used, offering added savings in time and effort.
  • Scrubbing pads: It is important to use the appropriate scrubbing pad for regular VCT maintenance. Use a red pad for light scrubbing, and blue or green pads for deeper scrubbing. Brown or black pads are more abrasive and not typically recommended as they may cause damage to the VCT surface. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Understanding CRI Certification

A CRI Seal of Approval on an extractor or a vacuum indicates the machine meets specific standards for operation and performance. 

Equipment manufacturers voluntarily submit their carpet care models for CRI''s independent testing. An independent board of scientists reviews the test results and recommends whether or not to certify the machine.

The CRI testing program certifies machine performance in three areas, in addition to an appearance assessment:
  • Soil removal: The combination of foot traffic and dust settlement leads to a large amount of soil buildup in carpet. To gain certification, a vacuum must make four passes over a piece of test carpet that contains one-tenth of a gram of soil per square inch of carpet. Extractors must be able to remove 55 to 70 percent of soil to receive bronze certification, 70 to 80 percent earns silver distinction and more than 80 percent achieves gold certification.
  • Dust containment: This protocol evaluates the total amount of dust released into the air during the act of vacuuming, requiring that the vacuum release no more than 100 micrograms of dust particles per cubic meter into the surrounding air.
  • Water containment: Since moisture residue in carpet can cause any number of problems, from mold to fostering bacteria growth, it is important that no excess water remain after the extractor finishes cleaning an area. To test an extractor, the machine is allowed four passes over a carpet sample that contains a set quantity of water to remove as much water as possible. To receive certification, the machine can leave no more than eight ounces of water behind per square yard of carpet.
  • Carpet appearance retention: Over time, dust accumulation can wear down carpet fibers and diminish the appearance of carpet. This test is designed to assess the impact of a particular machine on carpet appearance. A cut-pile carpet is subjected to one year of simulated use, including vacuuming or extracting and walking. Researchers compare before-and-after photographs to determine the amount of wear incurred using a technique called Spectrographic analysis. The vacuum or extractor receives a passing grade if the degree of wear is judged to be equal to or less than one year of standard use.

Results from all three tests are peer reviewed by experts in the field of maintenance and indoor air quality (IAQ) to assure their validity.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Evolution Of Autoscrubbers - Future Trends

This article was originally published in Cleaning & Maintenance Management.

Another key improvement among automatic scrubbers in recent years (as well as among other types of floor machines, such as burnishers), is reduced size. Along with improved cleaning performance, the key reasons for this are enhanced worker productivity and safety.

Another trend that is already here for many manufacturers is battery-operated machines. These systems improve the operator’s ability to clean larger spaces without stopping and eliminate the safety hazard posed by a cord dragging behind the machine.

However, battery technology is changing, and more machines are now powered by maintenance-free batteries. While they may be more expensive initially, most cleaning technicians find that they require less maintenance overall and have a greater life cycle, so they are proving to be very cost effective.

Other trends on the horizon in automatic scrubber technology include micro-machines that are even smaller than those available today; "greener" machines; safer machines; more effective machines that improve worker productivity by reducing the number of passes necessary to clean heavily soiled floors; and quieter machines.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Evolution Of Autoscrubbers - Key Features

This article was originally published in Cleaning & Maintenance Management.

Today's automatic scrubbers offer a variety of features and benefits to satisfy diverse cleaning applications, including:

  • Greener: This applies to the types of chemicals used, as well as chemical and water usage. Today’s machines use less water and chemical, especially cylindrical brush systems.
  • Safer: These machines are now safer for both the operator and others in the facility in which the machine is being used. Some of today’s automatic scrubbers have easy-access digital controls and greater visibility than older models, allowing users of varying heights to operate them. More machines are also fitted with solenoid technology to control water flow. In the past, water could continue to flow from these machines even when turned off, which was wasteful and increased the chances of a slip-and-fall accident. Now, water flows only when the machine is in use.
  • Easier to service: A key advance in some floor machines is that they are now easier to service; operators can even handle many minor repair issues themselves.
  • Manufactured with fewer parts: Some machines have fewer mechanical parts now and that reducing the number of parts has also reduced the overall cost of ownership of some automatic scrubbers.
Check back next week for Part III in this series to learn about future trends of automatic scrubbers.