Hard Surface Floor Cleaning, Standards and Procedures

April 17, 2003
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Is there a standard for cleaning hard surface floors? What is cleaning and how do we define it? What is your standard of clean and do you have a procedural manual describing the steps needed to obtain that standard?

Unfortunately, building service contractors (BSCs), facility managers, head custodians and floor care technicians often have different definitions of clean. This can cause confusion and discontentment between business owners and employees, in-house facility managers and custodians. It is important that everyone in your company strive for the same level or standard of clean. Likewise, it is important that you have clear understanding between you and your customer of that standard in order to meet their expectations and prevent disappointment.

Manufacturers of cleaning products and equipment, associations, industry experts and others have written standards, procedures, guidelines, recommendations, work loading information and time studies to help develop procedures and standards. When developing procedural manuals and standards, take advantage of this information; it will make your job a lot easier. Regardless of where you get your information, procedures and standard should start with and evolve around the definition of clean.

What is Cleaning?
In order to develop a standard and/or procedural manual you need to first understand what cleaning is. The definition of cleaning is often left up to the cleaner, and is based on the person’s industry knowledge, skill level and experience, desired appearance, manpower, budget and the specific needs of the floor. However, there is a technical definition of cleaning:

The traditional activity of removing contaminates, pollutants and undesired substances from an environment or surface to reduce damage or harm to human health or valuable materials. Cleaning is the process of locating, identifying, containing, removing and properly disposing of unwanted substances from an environment or material.

The objective of a cleaning standard is to insure a certain level of cleanliness. When establishing a standard and a procedural manual, this definition is a good place to start. Your standard’s objectives should reflect the definition of clean. Review industry standards and procedures to compare them to what you are presently doing or are about to do. Also, keep accurate records of your cleaning operations and perform time studies based on equipment, supplies, manpower usage and the specific needs of the floor(s). In doing so, you will paint a picture of your operation. Ultimately, you want a clear understanding of how long it takes to clean a floor under certain conditions.

There are many factors that affect floor cleaning production rates, including:

  • The density of the environment. (light, medium and heavy)
  • The type of floor.
  • The type and amount of soil.
  • The type and amount of traffic.
  • The type of cleaning equipment used.
  • The type and amount of products used.
  • The skill level of the technicians.

    Once you have a clear understanding of the definition of cleaning and the factors that affect production, you can begin to develop your procedural manual.

    What is a Procedural Manual?
    A procedural manual is the established methods of various procedures. It is the “how to” manual of your business and usually describes specific step-by-step, how-to-clean information. It’s used to train new employees and is a reference manual to existing employees. It can be used to hold technicians accountable, insure consistency and quality of work.

    Within the procedural manual is the standard you want to achieve. Policies, on the other hand, usually refer to management or administrative functions. For example, a policy manual might list accepted behavior such as reporting to work on time, what to do if you are going to be late, disciplinary actions and grounds for dismissal. It may also include guidelines for things like jury duty, sick days, pay schedules, vacations and other company benefits.

    A typical procedural manual describes all the cleaning procedures your company performs. Here is an excerpt from a procedural manual describing the dust mopping procedure for cleaning vinyl composition tile (VCT):

    Dry Soil Removal Procedures:

  • Dust Mopping
  • Set safety perimeter.
  • Sweep corners, edges and hard to reach areas with an angle broom. Sweep dust and debris into the open area.
  • Dust mop the open areas with a treated dust mop. When operating a dust mop keep it on the floor at all times. Turn by making U-turns, do not lift the dust mop off the floor unless unloading the mop. Unload every 800 to 1000 square feet, depending on soil conditions. Unload by lifting the dust mop 6 to 8 inches off the floor and shake gently. Unload in a safe place out off traffic lanes or anywhere the pile of debris will not cause a slip/fall accident.
  • Pick up piles of dust and debris with a dustpan and deposit in a trash receptacle.
  • Brush out the dust mop after each use and store off the ground with the fibers facing out.
  • Retreat dust mop approximately every 15,000 to 25,000 and launder as needed.

    What Is a Standard?
    A standard is an established rule or measurement capable of satisfying certain conditions established by a competent authority, modeled by public opinion and general consent that is agreed upon, accepted and has passed the test of time.

    Hard surface floor cleaning standards are often written specifically for the entity in which it is intended. For example, hospitals, municipalities, large corporations, and individual companies all have some sort of standard or guide they use to determine the end result. They are developed by the individual company and customized to meet the needs of their facility or are a combination of their own customized standard and industry standards from one or more resources.

    The standard will list an objective followed by the criteria needed to accept or reach the objective. How these objectives are accomplished should be described in the procedural manual. The standard should list the objective and when the objective is acceptable. Therefore, the development of a standard should go hand-in-hand with the development of a procedural manual.

    A standard for VCT floor cleaning might look like this:
    Objective: Clean VCT floors.
    Objective achieved when:

  • The floor is free from dry loose soil, dust, grit/gravel and litter.
  • The floor is free from black marks, scuffs and scratches.
  • The floor is free from watermarks, spot, spills and any detergent residues.
  • The floor is free from hazards (identified and removed immediately).
  • Corners, edges and hard to reach areas are free from all of the above.
  • Traffic lanes are free from obstructions.
  • Soil that remains after dust mopping is removed by wet cleaning.
  • The floor film is polished to desired appearance, restored and recoated as needed.
  • Restorative procedures are performed when daily and routine cleaning no longer giving you the desired results.
  • All appropriate safety perimeters and/or equipment is used.

    No Universal Standard
    Although there is plenty of valuable information available to us, there is no universal industry standard for hard surface floor care that has been accepted and adopted by all cleaning professionals. Basically, cleaners gather information available to them and develop their own standard, or they adopt someone else’s standard and use it as their own. Either way, the development of standards and procedures are usually the result of the person developing it, their industry knowledge, skill level and experience, desired appearance, manpower, budget and the specific needs of the floor. Therefore, a person or company’s level of knowledge has a direct impact on the ability to develop a standard and procedural manual.

    Learning the latest and greatest about the industry is important. Start by getting involved; review industry statistics, read articles, surf the net, attend conventions, network with your peers, and become a member of an association. By doing so, you will learn how to best develop and manage your hard floor care program(s). Trained owner/operators, managers, supervisors and technicians know the best products, equipment and procedures to use for the specific needs of their environment. Without understanding, chaos cannot be far behind.

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