Interest in commercial cleaning is at an all-time high as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Facilities managers are now tasked with determining what the best cleaning protocols are in order to create a safe and healthy environment. However, some products can create other health concerns that will need to be addressed in the future.

At the recent National Facilities Management and Technology Conference and Expo (NFMT) held in Orlando, Florida, Stephen Ashkin, President of The Ashkin Group, shed more light on how facilities managers can reach the goal of cleaning to disinfect while keeping employees safe in his presentation A Deep Dive into Healthy Cleaning Protocols: Why FMs Should Care.

Facility managers must make routine cleaning a priority

The science is clear that indoor environmental quality can directly affect health and occupants’ performance. Research also indicates that occupants expect their buildings to be clean. Furthermore, cleaning is one of the largest costs from an operational perspective and thus it is essential that routine cleaning be a priority and is appropriately managed to generate the best return on investment.

Dangers that surround failing to implement cleaning protocols

From a management perspective, without being too dramatic, but the reality is that if we fail to follow proper cleaning protocols with the appropriate commitment of resources, occupants’ lives are literally at risk of harm and potentially death. This is especially true in high-risk facilities such as healthcare, long-term care, food production, food service, pharmaceutical manufacturing, prisons and other building types. This is also important within other building types if they have restaurants, breakrooms, nurse’s offices (e.g., in schools) and other areas where pathogens and other contaminants can be passed amongst occupants. Beyond the health issue, cleaning is often required by law or code and even routine cleaning is one of the areas that, if done poorly, will lead to substantial dissatisfaction and complaints to facility managers from occupants.

Cleaning strategies changed since the start of the COVID-19

There are a number of lessons learned from COVID-19:

  • The pandemic reminded us how important cleaning is AND we must remember that airborne contaminants such as the SARSCoV-2 virus is just one of the contaminants of concern. However, we cannot simply forget our concerns about mold, lead dust, E. coli, staph, salmonella and other contaminants. These other contaminants remain a concern in addition to airborne pathogens.
  • Product selection such as for disinfectant products is important. We have numerous options including those products that are “green” – safer for human health and the environment.
  • Cleaning and disinfection should focus on high-touch surfaces which are those that are frequently touched by multiple people throughout the day (e.g., a door knob or light switch is only considered a high-touch surface if multiple people touch it throughout the day).
  • Concentrated disinfectants and other products must be diluted properly AND dilution control devices should be checked for accurate performance.
  • Cleaning performance should be measured AND we have technology (e.g., ATP meters) that can be used to objectively measure performance.
  • Workers must be properly trained as cleaning is primarily a labourrelated issue AND training is incredibly important as we should anticipate labour shortages over the short term.
  • Occupants are concerned about their health and facility managers should provide them with information explaining what the facility is doing to protect their health. What is the environmental impact of cleaning products and what should we keep in mind when choosing products? The professional cleaning industry consumes:
  • 2.72 million tonnes of chemicals each year, many of which are hazardous to human health and the environment. They are also made from non-renewable natural resources.
  • 2 million tonnes of sanitary paper products (e.g., toilet tissue and paper hand towels) which are frequently made from virgin tree fibre requiring the cutting of some 27 million trees directly affecting our forest ecosystems and contributing to climate change.
  • 35 billion trash bags are used each year which is 95 million bags per day! Most are made from virgin plastic resins that are made from natural gas a non-renewable natural resource.

Today, facility managers have numerous options that are third-party certified to reduce adverse impacts on both health and the environment, which perform well, and are cost-competitive when compared to conventional products.

Ashkin, quite often thought of as the “Father of Green Cleaning” serves as President of The Ashkin Group, Executive Director of the Green Cleaning Network, co-founder of Green Cleaning University and CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, LLC – all of which play important roles in his efforts to move the global cleaning industry from green to sustainable. For more information, visit: