Ergo Sum

Campus facilities management is no exception to the age-old rule: Time is money. Custodial workers must not only be thorough, but fast. Streamlining the cleaning process gives workers the extra time to stay ahead of the curve with stringent sanitation standards, while reducing risk of injury and repetitive stress issues. Ergonomic cleaning systems address these concerns and yield savings down the line in return.

Saving Minutes, Money, and Maintenance Staff

Ergonomic restroom cleaning equipment serves to eliminate or minimize time-eating activities. California’s UC Davis experienced savings when switching from single compartment mop buckets to ergonomic dual-compartment buckets, according to a case study published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Prior to implementing the new buckets, cleaning solution had to be dumped and replenished every third room. The dual-compartment bucket separates the dirty water from the clean solution, reducing trips to change solution along with the cross-contamination from redistributing dirty water onto the floor. The University saved 20 percent in worker hours in the first 12 months of using this system — a $7,665 savings.

Lightweight microfiber mops are also ergonomically designed to maximize worker productivity. In an independent study conducted by Matrix Integrated Facility Management, switching to a lightweight microfiber flathead mop increased worker productivity by 18 percent. Cleaning times were reduced, both because the 1.3-lb. mop is faster to maneuver than a cumbersome cotton-loop mop and because the flexibility of a telescoping handle allowed workers to use the mop on tile walls and bathroom partitions.

Green Cleaning Saves Greenbacks

The dual-compartment bucket and microfiber mop are not only more economic and ergonomic, but also eco-friendly as they reduce water and chemical usage. Adding in sustainability factors in the cleaning routine is becoming critical, especially on forward-thinking college campuses. Sizeable savings in water and chemical costs are the bonus for maintenance crews.

UC Davis used more than a gallon of water per room cleaned with cotton-loop mops. With microfiber mops and dual-compartment buckets, 22 rooms are cleaned on one gallon of water. The University also reported a 46 percent reduction in the amount of quaternary ammonium chloride they purchased for cleaning solution — a difference of 230 gal. — from 1999 to 2000.

Microfiber is a fabric that was invented to attract dirt and retain moisture. In a November 2002 release, the EPA describes the characteristics of microfiber: “Microfibers are densely constructed polyester and polyamide (nylon) fibers that are approximately 1/16th the thickness of a human hair.” A fiber so small is able to penetrate the pores of tile or linoleum flooring, sanitizing deeply.

The density of microfiber enables it to trap six times its weight in water. Also, the fibers are positively charged. They attract dust, which is negatively charged. Microfiber’s high-absorbency allows for fewer trips to wring out the mop, saving time, water, and solution. 

Factoring in Replacements and Repairs

Many ROI calculations fail to factor in the manufacturer’s lifespan for an item. Manufacturers often underestimate the usable lifetime of their products, but the figures still offer a valuable guide in comparing long-term value. Cotton rags seem a bargain at $0.50 each, but manufacturers only recommend use for 50 washings. For many facilities, this means hundreds of rags are being replaced every week.

If rags are not replaced, pilling and shredding can leave streaks or lint on bathroom surfaces.

Microfiber cleaning cloths cost about $3.50 each, or even less when supplied along with a full ergonomic cleaning kit, but they continue to remove 99 percent of surface bacteria for 1,000 washings. After factoring in three to six months of replacement costs — including the added cost of laundering microfiber after every use — microfiber easily surpasses cotton, not only in sanitation, but also in value.

Matrix Integrated Facility Management discovered that the switch to longer-lasting microfiber mop-heads cut replacements from 12 cotton-loop mop-heads per week to one microfiber mop head every seven weeks. Though the microfiber mop-head retails for three times the cost of a cotton mop-head, Matrix estimated a three-year savings of over $5,600.

Little Things, Big Difference

It’s the little things that matter. Seemingly insignificant tasks, such as an extra trip to the custodial closet for a ladder or to switch to another cleaning tool, can cost thousands of dollars in labor. In order to maximize your investment in any cleaning system, the process must be closely scrutinized to find every possible unnecessary outlay of time or money.

Ergonomic cleaning systems are designed so that workers sweep an area without missing a square inch of bacteria, dust, or grime. While using ergonomic tools, workers dramatically reduce the risk for repetitive stress injuries, which cost millions of dollars in Workers’ Compensation claims every year.

When considering an investment in a cleaning system, every factor must be taken into account. Savings in labor, employee injury, and employee turnover from ergonomic systems can revitalize the effectiveness of any campus custodial team. Whatever the system, if it is ergonomic, it should be designed with the individual in mind, and helping him or her to do the best possible work in the fastest possible time. 

Kelly Robinson is a freelance writer based in Boise, ID, and a PR specialist for Unger and the commercial cleaning industry.

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