Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Ethical Behavior for Cleaning Professionals

Do we need training in ethical behavior? According to an unscientific, informal survey, cleaning professionals and restorers agree good ethics makes for good business. However, there are those who don’t practice what they preach...

In a time of competitive marketplace demands, as well as an increasing level of customer service and product quality, ethical decision-making has become critical for small service businesses such as ours.

As defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica, “Ethics is the discipline concerned with what is morally good and bad, right and wrong.” However, note this additional definition: “The term is also applied to any system or theory of moral values or principles.” This definition contains the explanation of the problem we struggle with when we tackle “Ethics Training.”

Note that the Britannica definition stated that the term could be applied to “any system or theory of moral values.” In other words, what you feel is ethical probably won’t be thought of as ethical by someone else! This is where the problem surfaces and why the need for training in “Ethical Behaviors for Cleaning Professionals” is needed in our industry. It should be easy to define business ethics in our industry, (or so I thought until I started to research this article).

Every cleaning professional I spoke with agreed that good ethics make for good business. However, there are those who agree and support the good ethics concept while their business behaviors say something else. I find this to be disturbingly true in the carpet cleaning and restoration segments of our industry. What is even worse, in my opinion, is that double standards really do commonly exist!

There’s a serious ethics gap in the professional cleaning industry, and the ethics gap as I observe it is: What we personally know/feel is right or wrong vs. what we think it takes to be successful in our businesses.

Here are some common examples that I notice on a regular basis: 1. Rudeness & Vulgarity. As I browse the various bulletin boards on the Internet that serve the cleaning professional, rudeness and deplorable conduct are an all too common factor that serious bulletin board participants endure. This obviously discourages all but the tough-skinned to ask questions and share ideas. 2. Use and display of IICRC logo to indicate that “standards” are observed, but does not:

  • Pre-vacuum (claims they can’t afford it or customer won’t pay for it or tells customer to pre-vacuum)
  • Sends untrained or minimally trained technicians when customer assumes they are certified and competent.
3. Misleading information in advertising (IICRC):
  • Advertises certification in categories where no employees are certified.
  • Owner or manager becomes certified and uses technicians who are not certified and never will be.
4. Misleading information in advertising (Yellow Pages):
  • States that products are environmentally safe (a highly questionable statement)
  • States “No Soap or Detergents used” (probably no soap, but detergents are used)
  • States “Leaves no residue” (totally inaccurate)
  • States “No Chemicals” (perhaps magic is used?).
5. Environmentally expedient:
  • Waste water is often dumped illegally, especially at night, when performing small commercial jobs
  • Solvents are disposed of in sanitary sewer systems.
6. Misleading processes. The term “dry cleaning” seems to lead to some of these examples:
  • “Drycleaning” Draperies (sold as “drapery cleaning on-location”)
  • Operator only dry vacuums the draperies and sprays them with a quick drying solvent-based deodorizer.

Our industry is paying a price because of the unethical choices of usually well-meaning cleaning services. Solving this problem is not an easy task. In the next “Training Corner,” we’ll examine why these problems continue and what associations and IICRC schools might do to help.

This particular subject should prompt some responses on the bulletin board, so check it regularly at and express how you feel about training in “Ethical Behavior for Cleaning Professionals.”

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