Wash. Your. Hands.

Autumn is quickly approaching and with it comes cold and flu season. Add in a super-contagious Delta variant, and we have the making of a very sick season. Whether you are concerned about COVID-19, the flu, or germs in general, hand washing is one of the best defenses we have against the spread of illness. However, many American adults aren’t doing it right!

The numbers around Americans and hand washing can be a little concerning. A recent survey performed by Puronics* indicates that:

  • American adults wash their hands approximately nine times per day
  • 71% do not always wash their hands after sneezing, blowing their nose, or coughing
  • 62% say that you should always wash your hands after being out in public, but only 46% actually do that
  • 51% do not use hand soap every time they wash their hands
  • 38% wash their hands for 15 seconds or less

With such staggering statistics, it feels like an appropriate time to remind everyone about proper hand washing techniques. Here is a printable handwashing poster that you can use as you see fit. The most important takeaways are:

  • The whole hand washing process should take 40-60 seconds
  • Use soap—and use enough to adequately cover all parts of your hands
  • Rubbing your hands together vigorously and in between your fingers and by your nails help to ensure you are getting rid of as many germs as possible
  • Paper towels help complete the hand washing process and help keep washers from re-contaminating their hands

Encourage healthy hands in your facility by keeping your dispensers in your restrooms fully stocked and in working order. You can also print the linked poster from above and laminate it so you can post in your restrooms to show people how to properly wash their hands. It’s one of our best defenses against the spread of illness.

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Not convinced that hand washing is all that important? Check out our video where we use an ATP meter to measure the microorganism count on our training manager’s hands before and after hand washing:

*Puronics performed a hand washing survey of 1,531 self-reporting Americans from April 27 to May 3, 2021. 52% were female and 48% were male with an average age of 38. You can see the full survey results here.

Preparing your facility for the Delta variant

The Delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading throughout the country and everyone is beginning to scramble to make sure their facilities are ready for what comes next. With so much uncertainty of what to expect come fall time, it is crucial that companies are doing all they can to make their buildings as safe as possible. As the person responsible for your facility’s cleanliness, you have the opportunity to create a healthy space where both COVID-19 and its Delta variant will be less likely to spread. Here’s what to look at:

Air quality– COVID-19 is an airborne illness and the Delta variant is no different. The biggest issue is how much more contagious this new strain is—which makes air quality that much more important. This video from Good Morning America is a great overview of the benefits of a solid air purifying program. While they specifically discuss schools, the science checks out for all public spaces.

Cleaning and disinfecting– The pandemic has renewed the public’s interest in commercial cleaning practices. As facilities work to remain open, they can help ease employees and guests’ minds by implementing a regular cleaning schedule that includes a disinfection regimen. Making sure to use the right cleaning chemicals and disinfectants for your surfaces and to follow all instructions related to dilutions and dwell times to ensure that you are maximizing your cleaning power.

Safety first– Keeping products like hand sanitizer and face masks on hand will make guests in your facility feel more secure. If you are not sure of where to strategically place these items, keep them in entryways, common areas, and places with high-touch points.

Staying stocked– The ongoing global labor and transportation crises have created supply chain issues on every level. Maintain plenty of stock in your janitor’s closet so you don’t run out of the supplies you need to keep your building running safely and smoothly.  You’ll want to adjust your par levels to be ready for two-months at a time, wherever possible. If you have questions about stock levels, what’s available, and how to best manage your inventory, reach out to your vendor partners for support.

As always, the cleaning industry is doing important work to make the world safer for all. We are so proud to do what we can to support you and your work. If you have any questions at all, please reach out to me at katie@pennvalley.com. We are here to help you keep your business clean!

What happened to Just-in-Time ordering?

Remember February 2020? Life was so different for those in the cleaning industry. There were more than enough opportunities because most buildings were full of employees, work was steady but often times flew under the general public’s radar, and when a cleaning contractor started a new site—they could call their trusty local supply company and get start-up supplies the next morning. So many things are different for cleaners now that we are almost a year and half into a global pandemic. One of the biggest pain points, however, is the shift from just-in-time ordering to what’s required now.

Over the last couple decades, most industries have moved to JIT for their inventory management and up until recently, it had been wildly successful. However, COVID-19 has changed things on every level of the supply chain. Over 4.2 million people have passed away from COVID-19 which has impacted the labor force. Additional circumstances have also thinned the labor pool in recent months. This has led to worker-related challenges in many industries, including manufacturing and transportation. The whole supply chain is running on what feels like a skeleton crew.

With shortages of select raw materials, slower output from manufacturers, and delayed shipping times, what was once a well-oiled machine is now facing many new challenges. Add in the bottle-necking we’ve seen in the supply chain because of the push to reopen, and it is a distribution crisis. JIT is not designed for crisis mode. What does this mean for contract cleaners who are responsible for one of the main tasks related to keeping COVID-19 under control? It means that there needs to be a shift in how they manage their supplies.

Cleaners cannot afford to run out of the chemicals, tools, and equipment they use to keep our facilities clean, disinfected, and safe. Here are some tips of what cleaners can do to better prepare for the coming months while the supply chain continues to be unstable and the world reopens:

  • On-hand inventory– maintain your own on-hand inventory and keep at least 4- 6 weeks’ worth of supplies on site.
  • Commit to controlled systems– controlled chemical and paper systems reduce waste and help cleaners better plan, use, and reorder their refills and supplies.
  • Utilize equipment and technology– there have been many advancements in the cleaning industry; make sure you’re taking advantage of them! From workloading software to floor machines, there are a lot of tools at your disposal to help maintain your inventory, tighten up your cleaning process, reduce waste, and make your cleaning team more productive with less people.
  • Engage in the conversation– manufacturers and distributors are on the cleaners’ side! Open communication from all parties helps ensure that all levels are aware of the needs and realities of the industry and its supply chain.

If you’re a professional cleaner and are concerned about your supplies and how to best move forward with ordering, reach out to your distributor contact so they can help you make a plan today.  We’re all in this together!

Indoor air quality matters

While the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance or indoor air quality, the recent extreme weather and disasters across the US have further emphasized it. As the person responsible for your facility’s cleanliness and overall wellness, it may be up to you to put some extra practices into place to ensure that the indoor air quality is up to snuff (no pun intended).

Install an air purification program- Air purification units have become a hot topic because of COVID-19, but they do so much more beyond removing viruses and bacteria from the air. Did you know that air purifiers—

  • Prevent mold and mildew. Mold and mildew thrive in environments with moisture and air flow problems. Installing an air purification system increases air flow which prevents their growth while also ridding the air of their harmful spores.
  • Eliminate odors. Foul odors in your workplace are a turn-off for both employees and guests. Air purifiers stop their spread and get those smoky, chemically, stinky odors at the source.
  • Provide allergy relief. Allergies affect over 50 million Americans and can be a major factor in chronic illness. Commercial grade air purifiers capture common allergens like dust mites and pollen so that they aren’t floating around in the air.
  • And more! Couple all of these benefits with an air purifier’s ability to knock out dangerous viruses and bacteria, and you have a winning solution for your facility. Not only will people feel safer and healthier on site—but you will also see productivity improve. Clean air makes people healthier and feel more energized!

HEPA filtration on cleaning equipment- Carpets, matting, and other soft surfaces in your building can be a holding place for many common allergens. Using cleaning equipment with HEPA filtration lets you deep clean without releasing these miniscule pests back into the air.

Green chemical use- It may seem silly to worry about the chemicals you are using to clean your surfaces when talking about air quality. However, opting for green cleaning chemicals for your program helps reduce indoor air pollution by minimizing the use of solvents, harmful reagents, and other components that may negatively impact your indoor breathing space.

Make masks available- Above all else, keeping masks on hand and readily available encourages employees and guests to take responsibility for their own health. These disposable barriers help keep germs at bay and reduce the spread of everything from colds to the flu to COVID-19.

A quality cleaning program includes air care and purification. This is your chance to ensure your facility is as healthy as possible! If you have any questions about what you can be doing to improve your site’s air quality, you can always email me at katie@pennvalley.com.

From Strip to Finish

From Strip to Finish

From strip to finish

Do you feel how nice it is outside?!! Milder weather can mean only one thing in our industry—floor stripping and finishing season is upon us, friends!

If you are looking for information on the basics of floor stripping and finishing, I hope this post will help you.  I am including step by step instructions and procedural charts to outline  what you will need to complete these facility maintenance tasks. This will be particularly helpful for training or supplemental educational purposes. As always, if you have any questions at all, please email me at Katie@pennvalley.com and I will be happy to help you.

Steps to Floor Stripping:  

  1. Prepare the area for floor stripping by dry mopping the floor to pick up debris, taping off doorways and edges and putting out wet floor signs to warn others of your project.
  2. Put on protective wear to keep your eyes and skin safe.
  3. Mix the stripping solution with cool water at the proper ratio.
  4. Spray the baseboards with stripper and scrub clean with a pad and then rinse.
  5. When needed, scrub the edges and corners of your floor with Doodlebug pads to remove floor stripper.
  6. Apply stripping solution liberally to the floor and let it dwell for 10-15 minutes.
  7. Scrub the floor with black or hi-pro pads on your floor machine. Make sure the pads you are using are clean and flip or change as needed.
  8. Use a wet/dry vacuum to clean up the leftover stripping solution.
  9. Using a wet mop and clean water, mop up the floor. Change the water frequently to ensure you are not spreading left over stripping chemical around the floor.

Here is a procedural chart that you can print and hang in your janitors’ closets or hand out to your employees for reference: Floor Maintenance Procedures- Floor Stripping

Steps to Floor Finishing:

  1. Prepare the area for floor finishing and properly mark entrance ways with wet floor signs so nobody slips on the floor or walks through your work zone.
  2. Put on protective wear to keep your eyes and skin safe.
  3. Rinse your finish mop in cool, clean water.
  4. Line your bucket with a trash liner to protect the floor finish from whatever chemical residue may be in your bucket from previous projects. Pour your floor finish in the bucket.
  5. Once you have finish in your mop, wring out the bottom half of your mop until it stops dripping.
  6. Outline the area you are finishing. Fill the outlined area with finish from your mop, making figure-8s.
  7. Flip your mop as needed to get as much finish as possible from your mop.
  8. After 10 minutes, you may use a fan to help speed up the drying process. Make sure the fan is set up to blow above the finish and not directly on your drying finish.
  9. When the floor is dry to the touch, you may apply your second coat of finish. This may take 30-45 minutes or more, depending on the weather, humidity, ventilation and product involved.

Here is a procedural chart that you can print and hang in your janitors’ closets or hand out to your employees for reference: Floor Maintenance Procedures- Floor Finishing

 

Proper planning is necessary for a successful summer floor care season

Proper planning is necessary for a successful summer floor care season

A good plan saves the executor time, energy, money and manpower when completing a large task. Summer floor care is a task where a good plan is not just a nice idea, but a necessity. Between employee summer schedules/ vacations, buildings with limited accessibility, and the humidity in the air, a thousand things can go wrong if a site manager or custodial supervisor has not taken the time to create an action plan.

Here are things to keep in mind when making your summer floor care plan:

Survey the floors. Walk through the facility and make note of what types of floors you have, and what kind of square footage each kind of floor covers. Whether they are rubber, hardwood, carpet, marble, terrazzo or vinyl, these floors each require a unique cleaning and care plan.

Determine what needs to be done where. Some floors may need to be stripped and refinished. Others may only need a good top scrub and recoat. Calculate how many square feet of your facility needs which tasks and what kind of floor is in that location so you can start getting supply lists and employee hours organized for your summer floor care program.

Consider your workforce and plan employee hours. Keep in mind which employees have training in which kinds of floor care and make sure you have these individuals scheduled strategically to maximize your floor care program.

Evaluate your equipment. Look over your machines. Are repairs or PMs needed? Do you need additional parts on hand? Is it time to replace some of your equipment for newer, more efficient models? Keeping stock of your equipment like you would do for your other supplies will help keep everything running smoothly.

Planning for your summer floor care program will help your team avoid major issues and will save you time, money and energy. How do you keep your plans for your summer floor care program organized and moving forward? Feel free to keep the conversation going by commenting below or emailing me at Katie@pennvalley.com.

5 things your competitors can teach you about sustainability

5 things your competitors can teach you about sustainability

Sustainability is broadly defined as the ability to meet current needs in a way that will allow us to meet the same needs in the future.

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As a BSC, the goal is to create a program that looks well planned out and organized, saves your customers’ money and resources, and helps you create a more profitable bottom line. By making a sustainable program, you meet all of these requirements for a successful package AND help propel your business, local environment and our community towards a more viable future.

Have you looked at how your competitors are handling the sustainability of their programs? Here are five ways your competitors can easily out-sustain you if you aren’t working to stay ahead of the curve.

  1. Properly educate and train employees. Have you seen the chemicals and tools we work with?! If someone doesn’t know what they are doing with a 23% acid bowl cleaner or mishandles a swing machine, the effects could be disastrous. Don’t let your team fall victim to a preventable injury. Proper training goes a long way.
  2. Save resources like electricity and water. Day cleaning programs, though harder to sell, help cut electricity use drastically since your team is working when your customers are working. Also, to pull off a successful day program, you must use quiet, energy efficient vacuums and machines as to not interrupt their business. This forces you to use eco-friendly equipment that doesn’t waste resources. There are also many great machines on the market that use less or no water, or recycle water. They will make a great addition to your fleet when you are trying to sell your sustainable program to your customer.
  3. Use green cleaning chemicals and supplies. Green cleaning products are better for the environment and human health. Third party certifiers like Green Seal make this easy for you to find these products. They do the testing—you just need to find which chemicals and products they recommend. Most approved products will have their logos right on the packaging for easy identification.
  4. Go paperless (or use as little paper as possible). Offer your customers paperless invoicing and statements. You can also set up your sites with tablets where they can find procedural charts, training videos, SDS and any other documents they need. This looks more professional and is more organized than trying to manage an overflowing binder of paperwork.  It also gives them access to more in-depth information so you are supporting your team’s right to understand, and fostering a safer, more sustainable work environment.  They can also place supply orders for the site virtually, so they aren’t wasting time and paper with faxing or hand-writing their orders. There are also apps that are specially designed for our industry.  Have you checked out CleanBid? No more keeping track of usage charts and paper quotes, you can easily organize your information and calculate your bids on your phone.
  5. Plan for the future. With every decision you make for your business, you should be thinking about the future impact it will have. If I keep using this chemical, will my very loyal, hardworking employee still be able to work for me in 10 years if he wants?  When I choose to use this brand of equipment, am I going to be replacing it in two years or is it made to hold up? If I am overly-generous in serving this company now, will this help build my reputation for future prospects? Strategic, sustainable planning makes for a successful business and a competitive edge that can’t be met.

We could all make a little more effort to be sustainability-minded in our work.  Take a look at your program and look for places where you’ve done things the same way for more than five years.  These things are the key to your sustainability program. If it is working well and has been keeping your program safe, effective and profitable, then it is a sustainable practice and you should continue using it.  However, if it has become outdated and is no longer the best solution to whatever problem, do some research and find a greener, more successful way of performing that task.

Winter floor care matters

Try as I may to block the last couple of winters out (I am so not a snow and ice fan), it left a lasting impression. And I believe it did the same for many of our facilities managers and BSCs.  We couldn’t keep the sidewalks and entrance ways clean enough. Our lobbies looked like hot messes. And regular maintenance projects? Who had time for those between shoveling, scattering ice melt and shoveling some more?!

I remember one of my customers called in a panic because people were slipping and falling in her lobby, hallways on the first floor and even some rooms on the second floor. “The floors are dry, I don’t know what is going on,” I remember her saying. The problem was debris from ice melters and rock salt. Even dried, once it is ground into the floor, it makes a slippery mess.  She needed a solution and she needed it fast.

We’ve got plenty of info on matting and what they can do to protect your floors here.  I highly suggest you check it out if you have less than 30’ of matting in your entrance ways. However, mats can only do so much, especially once we get in the groove of winter where we get one storm after another.

To care for your floors through the winter, you need to be vacuuming regularly. This means that if you are able to, you should be vacuuming entrance ways during business hours.  Vacuum whenever you get a chance.   Obviously, this isn’t always feasible, so if you have to wait until business is closed for the day, vacuum as soon as you can start.

After your floors are vacuumed, you should neutralize the floor. You can do this with an auto scrubber or a mop.  Once that is done, flood the floor with cold water and dry.  Be sure to check the floor with a microfiber rag for residue. If your rag is clean, you have done an awesome job of saving your floor for another day.  If residue remains, your floor needs to be neutralized again.  Repeat the process until all of the residue is removed.

Here is a chart and reference page for you to print about how to properly remove salt residue from floors: FLOOR CARE salt residue cleaning

If you have any questions about neutralizers or how to best serve your facility’s floors this winter, please feel free to email me at katie@pennvalley.com or comment below.

Healthy hands are happy hands

Healthy hands are happy hands

Wash your hands. It sounds simple enough, right? In actuality, only one in three American adults washes his hands properly and frequently enough. Are you the one in three? Or are you one of the other two who will hopefully be converted after reading this blog?

There are tons of gross statistics I could bore you with (seriously, Google “gross facts about hand washing” and you will never want to shake hands with anyone again), but I prefer the proactive approach. The best thing you can do for your facility to ensure people are washing their hands is actually two-fold.  First, make sure you keep paper towel and soap dispensers filled. If you have hand dryers, please seriously consider changing them out for towels. Studies have been done that show people are less likely to wash their hands because they don’t care for hand dryers AND that hand dryers can actually spread germs by blowing them off the one person’s hands and into the air. Secondly, just posting a reminder about hand washing can increase the number of people who hand wash at your facility by almost 45%. If you are looking for a chart to laminate and post, you may want to download this one: How_To_HandWash_Poster.

As a facilities manager, you want your team, your customer’s employees and your site’s guests to be washing their hands regularly. Why? Because when illness spreads, as it so often does at this time of year, you and your team will be the ones doing damage control. If a viral outbreak occurs at your site, you will need to stop your regular cleaning and switch gears to disinfection and possibly work on putting a quarantine plan into effect on site. No one wants compound their already full schedules with extra work, especially around the holidays. And then what if someone on your team gets sick from cleaning a disinfected area? This will put added stress on your team.

London researchers estimate the one million deaths could be prevented annually if everyone washed their hands properly several times throughout the day. Doesn’t taking the time to stock dispensers and hang a few placards sound like a more than fair exchange for healthier hands and ultimately, lives?

Matting 101

Matting 101

Time for a pop quiz, friends.

How many feet of proper matting does the average facility need in order to effectively wipe out virtually 100% of the moisture and debris from incoming foot traffic?

The answer is 30 feet. 30 feet of the proper matting will scrape away ice melt fragments and other debris and wipe away that winter slushy wetness from your employee and guests’ feet. 30 feet of the proper matting will save you hours of labor and gallons of cleaning chemicals. 30 feet of the proper matting will help reduce your chance of having a slip and fall accident on site by over 50%.

In the perfect world, your facility will have 30’ of a combination of outdoor scraper matting, indoor scraper/ wiper matting, indoor wiper matting. These three mats work together to clean off debris and moisture from foot traffic to not only keep people safe while walking indoors but also to protect your facility’s floors. We track in some pretty harsh stuff on our feet and floors can need a total overhaul by the end of winter if a facilities management team doesn’t properly care for the floors all along.

Remember last winter? How much inside care was your team providing when they were busy shoveling and salting and trying to make the outdoors safe for employees and guests? They probably had time to refill dispensers, do some spot cleaning and maybe swab some toilets. They weren’t focused on floor maintenance because there just were not enough hours in the day. And that is totally understandable. Matting is a solid investment that helps reduce the need of a daily floor maintenance routine in the midst of everything Old Man Winter throws at us.

If your facility doesn’t lend itself to 30’ of matting or if a three-mat system is not in your budget, having something is better than nothing. A small outdoor mat and indoor mat will still help alleviate the damage done to floors and protect your employees and guests. Don’t let a tight budget or space get you in to a heap of trouble later this winter.

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Here is some more info about the three types of mats:

An outdoor scraper mat is usually made of a synthetic material like PVC, vinyl or polyethylene and has little blades to help clean off the larger chunks of debris. A good scraper mat will hold pounds of dirt per square foot.

A wiper/scraper mat has a deeply-grooved design that helps retain moisture and dirt. It is designed to scrape the dirt from shoes and hold it below shoe level while wiping water away.

A wiper mat is designed to do just that– wipe the moisture off shoes. When reviewing your options, you may want to consider an olefin mat because it can dry up to three times faster than nylon and polyester.