Don’t Sacrifice Restroom Cleaning Speed and Effectiveness When Mold is a Concern


Mold can be a serious problem in all types of facilities and in Florida, due to the fact that many parts of the state are so humid, it can be a greater concern than in other areas of the country. This can create a dilemma for distributors working with their contract cleaning customers as well as in-house cleaning staff, especially at schools.  Pressured to address and improve restroom cleaning, many cleaning workers would like to transfer from traditional restroom cleaning methods – mops, buckets, sprayers, and cleaning cloths – to no-touch, or what ISSA calls spray-and-vac, cleaning systems.


The reasons they want this equipment are two-fold:  

-Speed. ISSA reports that these systems are about two-thirds faster than traditional cleaning methods.

-Effectiveness. In every study performed since their introduction in the late 1990s, no-touch systems have been found to be more effective than traditional cleaning methods at reducing or eliminating germs and bacteria from surfaces.


The big concern, at least in humid Florida, is how these systems might affect the potential for mold growth as compared to traditional methods. In restroom cleaning applications, there is concern that water might seep through cracks in grout or tiles or under tiles and wall coverings into building walls, opening the door to mold growth.

 
No-touch systems can use more water than the traditional mop and bucket approach; however, mopping tends to leave the floor damp if not wet after use whereas properly maintained no-touch systems leave the floor dry.


So, the central issue for cleaning professionals wanting to use no-touch cleaning systems on well-constructed flooring (without loose tiles and cracks) is this: no-touch systems are fast and effective, but is there a potential risk of mold growth due to the additional water these systems may use.


Mold 101
Before exploring this issue further, we should have a quick refresher on mold and the problems it can cause.  Molds are a type of fungi that grow in the natural environment. They are literally found everywhere but they tend to build colonies and grow significantly when they find damp, humid areas they can cling to.  The big problem with molds is that they produce microscopic cells called “spores” that can become airborne and spread easily. Inhaled, they can and do become a health hazard plus mold growth can damage floors, carpets, wood, as well as many types of building materials. 

 
When found in commercial or residential buildings, mold is typically a result of such things as:
-Floods outside the building
-Water damage inside the building (overflowing sinks, tubs, air conditioner drain pans)
-Water leaks within the structure of the building
-Poor venting in a food service or restroom area
-Humidifiers that are not properly drained
-Liquid spills left on floor surfaces


According to the Florida Health Department, the most effective way to prevent the growth of mold is by minimizing the use of water.  “Without it [water], mold growth cannot start, much less multiply or spread.”  

Addressing the Issue
This pretty much brings us back to where we started.  How can distributors help their cleaning customers transfer to no-touch cleaning methods without the possibility of mold becoming a concern in the facilities that they clean?  The first thing we have to ask is if there really is an issue.

 
Because mold can be such a serious health issue, virtually all communities have building codes, rules and regulations to help prevent its growth.  Further, according to a 2013 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guide on mold issues, “moisture control does not require everything be kept completely dry. Moisture control is adequate as long as vulnerable materials [and areas] are kept dry enough to avoid problems. That means the building must be designed, constructed and operated so that vulnerable materials do not get wet. It also means that when materials do get wet, the building needs to be managed in such a way that the damp materials dry out quickly.”


Essentially, this means that if the facility has been designed and constructed properly, meeting local codes and requirements, the water used in the no-touch cleaning process should not seep under tiles and wall coverings and into the building materials underneath.  However, just to help alleviate any concerns and allow restrooms to dry out quickly after cleaning with a no-touch cleaning system, distributors should advise their clients of the following:


-Leave doors open during and after cleaning to facilitate air movement.
-Ensure that the restroom has proper and efficient ventilation.
-If wall or floor tiles are cracked or have loosened, do not use the machine until these have been repaired.
-Before cleaning, pick up items from the floor such as containers, sanitary napkin waste bins, etc.   This   

  ensures moisture does not become trapped under them which could lead to mold growth.
-Make sure the restroom floor drain is working properly.
-Properly train your clients on the use of these systems; no-touch systems are designed to “flow” through

  the restroom, not to be used sporadically here and there or for long periods on one surface or area.  A 

  properly trained user will be able to operate the machine using less water and using it more efficiently.
-Select no-touch cleaning systems that have built-in vacuums; the reason for the vacuum system is to  

  collect moisture and leave the restroom dry at the end of cleaning.
-At the end of cleaning, use cleaning cloths or squeegees to wipe down counters, partition tops, and high or

  low areas that might need to be wiped dry.
-Inspect the restroom at the end of cleaning; it should be completely dry before the cleaning worker moves

  on to his or her next cleaning task.


This last point should apply to traditional floor cleaning methods such as mopping.  All too often custodial workers apply too much water when mopping floors.  Not only does this have the potential of causing mold and fungi growth and seeping into tiles and grout, it creates a slip and fall accident just waiting to happen.


If the facility is properly constructed and cleaning professionals use the equipment properly, the use of spray-and-vac cleaning systems should not cause mold growth or be a concern for mold growth.  While Florida cleaning professionals may need to take extra steps to address humidity issues in their state, fortunately the use of no-touch cleaning equipment is not one of them.


Andrew Robinson is vice president of sales for NexDoorCleaners, a contract cleaning company in Ohio that cleans all types of facilities. He can be reached via NexDoorCleaners.com


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