Cleaning Restrooms

For most property managers, the number-one complaint from building users is the condition of restrooms. In a park and recreation center, the bathrooms also become the one area that takes the most time to clean and maintain. 

The professional cleaning industry is well aware of this conundrum, and over the years various products, systems, and cleaning methods have been introduced to address the problem. While some of these products and methods have proven more effective than others, it has become clear that there is an additional piece to the puzzle—having an effective process for cleaning restrooms. 

Enter Process Cleaning

What is now referred to as “process cleaning” was introduced several years ago in a school district in the Reno, Nev., area. Rex Morrison, a former custodian and administrator for the WashoeCountySchool District, was looking for not only a more efficient way to clean but also a way to make it more consistent. Why were there fewer cleaning complaints from one custodial worker than from another, when both were trained in the same cleaning methods and essentially following the same cleaning procedures? 

To address this problem, Morrison developed the following process: All cleaning tasks are to be performed in a specific, predetermined order. According to Morrison, “The best way to clean is with a system in which tasks are structured like a row of dominos, so [that] one step logically falls toward the next.” 

Specialized cleaning projects are to be performed on a set schedule; high and low dusting, for instance, is not delayed until building users complain but performed at specific times to prevent those complaints from ever being made. And cleaning is to be started at the entrance of a room, working inward. 

Morrison also insisted that a worker lock the door while he or she is cleaning a room. While this may help with any security issues, the main reason is that the cleaning becomes more focused: disruptions are eliminated. When a worker is interrupted while cleaning, invariably the work is not completed as effectively as it should be, and sometimes the worker may have to start all over. This takes up precious time, and when it comes to cleaning, time is money. 

Applying The “Process” To Restrooms

After developing his initial cleaning process for most areas of a facility, Morrison took a longer time to develop a process to clean restrooms because of their special needs. For instance, he saw immediately that starting the cleaning process at the door entry and working inward does not work for restrooms. Instead, what eventually evolved as the best process was a “top-down” approach—start by cleaning high areas, including ceilings as needed, and then proceed to the walls, doors, high-touch areas like switches and window ledges, mirrors, and then counters, fixtures, and floors. 

Another part of the process included designating certain areas in restrooms that needed to be cleaned but not necessarily every time, and then devising a map with an assigned color for the frequency of the cleaning task. For instance, blue would indicate areas to be cleaned every Monday, green might designate areas to be cleaned every Wednesday, etc. 

Morrison’s process started to make restroom cleaning more uniform, hygienic, and efficient. However, a problem area remained: the floors. Originally, the system specified using mops and buckets, which was the traditional way to clean the floors. Later, Morrison and his nonprofit organization, Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools (PC4HS), acknowledged the shortcomings of the mop-and-bucket system. While the company does not recommend a specific alternative product, brand, or equipment, it does report that using spray-and-vac cleaning systems, commonly known as “no-touch” systems, proves to be more effective than mops and buckets, and more hygienic as well.* 

These machines automate the cleaning process. With some, metered amounts of a chemical are applied to all surfaces, which are then power-rinsed clean, and the built-in vacuum (found on some units but not all) removes moisture and contaminants. While different cleaning manufacturers now make variations of these machines, park and rec administrators considering such a system are advised to investigate the options in order to select the system that best meets their needs. 

More Cleaning Goals Realized

According to Morrison, there is another benefit to process cleaning that was not immediately realized—the impact it would have on worker morale. Many cleaning workers get stuck in performing their tasks, sometimes lacking any energy for their work, but teaching them a new system has added a new enthusiasm for the job … as well as the end results.

*Studies conducted by Dr. Jay Glasel, formerly with the University of Maryland and now with Global Scientific Consulting (LLC), indicate that using spray-and-vac cleaning systems reduces the amount of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) on surfaces, in many cases significantly. While ATP does not indicate specific contaminants are present on a surface, the higher the ATP reading, the greater the concern that they are present. 

Robert Kravitz is a frequent writer for the professional cleaning industry. Reach him at rkravitz@rcn.com.