Monday, December 22, 2014

Nilfisk-Advance Comes Together to Adopt a Family

Nilfisk-Advance employees are joining together this holiday season to do their part in supporting the surrounding community. Working together with Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners (IOCP), we found a well-deserving family—with seven kids under the age of 14—who just needed a little extra help to make their holiday wishes come true. Each child requested a specific gift that Nilfisk-Advance employees then had the opportunity to purchase or contribute towards. The gifts poured in quickly—but one gift request in particular led to an even bigger opportunity.
One child had requested a bicycle, and Nilfisk-Advance employee Dave Wood had an idea. As founder and member of the Board of Directors of Free Bikes for Kids (FB4K)—a non-profit organization that refurbishes bikes and donates them to other non-profits in Minneapolis—Dave was able to lead a group of volunteers to spend time cleaning and repairing some bikes to donate to the adopted family.

Dave was quoted as saying, “How cool is it that a bike from an organization that I helped start will be going to IOPC, which in turn will be given to the family that the company I work for is adopting.” And one previous FB4K volunteer reported, “There was this little 4 year old sweetheart who got her first bike and looked up at me with big brown eyes and asked, ‘Are you an angel?’ (…) And that's why I love being a FB4K volunteer.”

The initiative was a fun and exciting time for Nilfisk-Advance employees and is shaping up to be a wonderful blessing for a family who very much deserved something special this holiday season.

Happy holidays to everyone in the Nilfisk-Advance network, and may you have a happy new year!


Friday, December 19, 2014

Nilfisk-Advance Charity Book Drive Was a Major Success

In the spirit of holiday generosity and inspired by National Family Literacy Month, Nilfisk-Advance has partnered with Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners (IOCP) to donate gently used books to underprivileged families in the Hennepin County community. This simple yet fun “challenge” has been underway for a month and our employees have really stepped up to the plate. With three book-collecting stations located around our Plymouth, MN headquarters, donated books have been pouring in left and right.

From well-loved best-selling novels to children’s classics, the book drive amassed hundreds of books in the month leading up to the holidays. Upon completion of the book drive, the donated materials will be given to IOCP for distribution to families in need. Nilfisk-Advance is proud to participate in this wonderful initiative to share the gift of reading with our local community this holiday season.

Happy holidays to everyone in the Nilfisk-Advance network, and may you have a happy new year!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cork Flooring Care and Maintenance

As many facilities turn to sustainable materials, cleaning professionals are starting to see something new on their customers’ floors. Cork has become an increasingly popular flooring choice due to its durability, green properties and unique health characteristics.

A naturally renewable material, cork is made from the bark of the cork oak tree, which grows back after being harvested. Cork flooring remains at a stable temperature year-round and is naturally repellent to bugs, mold and mildew.
Click to learn more about the benefits of cork flooring.

Extremely durable, cork flooring can last for decades when properly maintained. Keep cork floors clean and beautiful with these simple tips:

Vacuum Frequently

Regular vacuuming is one of the most important factors to maintaining the integrity of a cork floor. Consider using a backpack vaccum to remove dirt, dust and debris that can scratch the floor surface. Not only are backpack vacuums highly effective and easy to maneuver, but they are also shown to increase productivity.

Wash Gently
Every one to two weeks, or as needed, wash cork floors using a damp mop or autoscrubber. Avoid leaving standing water on the floor and choose a machine with soft brushes to gently clean floors without damaging the finish.

Strategically Place Floor Mats
Placing floor mats at store entrances helps to significantly reduce damage to the floor by soaking up moisture and trapping debris from shoes. Opt for breathable mats. Rubber and other non-porous backing can trap moisture and mar the finish. Keep mats clean with frequent vacuuming and use a carpet extractor to remove excess moisture as needed. 

Wipe Spills Immediately

Heavy moisture can damage floor finish. Do not allow liquid to sit on cork floors. 

Opt for Green Cleaning Products

Avoid cleaning products with abrasive ingredients, since they can destroy your floor’s finish. Green-certified cleaning solutions effectively clean floors, protect the finish and have less impact on indoor air quality.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Keep Stores Clean and Shoppers Happy this Holiday Season

Cleanliness affects the shopping process and can ultimately impact sales.

Your retail business may have great merchandise, but if your store is dirty customers may take their money elsewhere. Ninety-nine percent of U.S. customers report that factors such as unpleasant odors and dirty restrooms and fitting rooms can negatively affect their shopping experience. In a competitive market, retailers can’t afford to have a dirty shop.

Shoppers will always prefer a clean retail store over a dirty one. An establishment that’s not clean can make customers uncomfortable and cause them to cut their shopping experience short. However, if a retail store has been properly cleaned and maintained, visitors are more inclined to continue browsing. And the longer customers spend browsing in a store, the more likely they are to make a purchase.

So keep your store tidy and clean to create an inviting environment that is welcoming to guests and stimulates the shopping process. With increased store traffic around the holidays, focus on these key areas to create a more positive shopping experience:


Establish the right tone the moment customers walk in the door. Ensure entrances are clean and inviting. Trap moisture and dirt from shoes with strategically placed floor mats at entrances. Mats also improve safety for guests by helping prevent slippery puddles from rain and melted snow. Be sure to clean entrance areas at least daily, if not several times throughout the day, to ensure a great first impression.


Simply sweeping or quickly vacuuming aisles is usually not enough to keep your product aisles fresh and spotless during the holiday season. Turn to Clarke’s line of compact auto scrubbers, vacuums, and carpet extractors to efficiently and effectively clean floors in a single pass.

Fitting rooms

Eighty percent of a customer’s buying decision happens in the fitting room—a great incentive to keep them spotless. Don’t make your guests dodge fitting room dust bunnies while trying on clothes. Vacuum fitting room floors regularly and keep mirrors free of dust and fingerprints.


Restroom cleanliness can strongly influence customers’ overall perceptions of your store and products. Create a cleaning schedule among employees to ensure that bathroom floors, stalls, sinks and trash receptacle areas are frequently checked and kept sparkly clean.


Does your store "smell clean?” Shoppers can make an assumption about whether a store is clean based on what they smell. Turn to green cleaning solutions to create a fresh aroma without the harsh odor of chemicals.

Shopping can be stressful, especially around the holidays. Focus on keeping these key areas spotless to create an inviting environment for shoppers this holiday season.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The New Clarke: Tough Just Got Easier to Afford

Clarke is redefining the price of pure cleaning power with some affordable new additions: Clarke Pro products. Clarke Pro cleaning equipment gives Clarke customers more options for basic, reliable machines at a fraction of the cost. For cleaning staff with small budgets and little time to train on equipment, the new extended Clarke portfolio has all the answers. 

Of course, Clarke's scrubbers, extractors, sweepers, vacuums, burnishers, polishers and wet/dry equipment still deliver top-quality performance and efficiency for professional cleaners and contractors. The rugged durability of every Clarke machine is well known throughout the industry and carries on the nearly century old tradition of Clarke products being the best built, best-backed commercial floor equipment available.
But it's only worth building a machine that lasts if it features the kind of impressive performance that's worth keeping around. That’s why Clarke pioneered BOOST® orbital scrubbing, which can save up to 70% in solution, extend pad life by 40% and cut labor times in half. With that kind of cleaning power and efficiency, Clarke customers will appreciate just how long their machines last as well.
From high schools and hospitals, to office buildings and retail space, for virtually any budget and every floor cleaning need, the new Clarke has a winning cleaning solution for everybody.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Facilities Manager Survey Reveals Biggest Cleaning Complaints

This article was originally published in CleanLink.

In an industry such as building service contracting, the work that is performed speaks for itself. When people walk into a business, the condition of the building often serves as the first impression. 

“I think if we as BSCs work hard to partner with FMs in the day-to-day operations that alone builds value,” Flug says. “Taking the time to be the best in customer service wins in the end.” 

It’s important that BSCs understand the pivotal role they play in building management, Hewett says. 

“The biggest issues FMs are dealing with is customer satisfaction,” he explains. “A couple of the biggest issues are hot or cold buildings, and janitorial issues. Twenty years ago it was, ‘Are the trash cans getting picked up or not?’ Now, [facility managers] want to know they have someone they can trust, someone who is responsible and can understand their needs in the marketplace.”

Read the full article here to learn more about the biggest cleaning complaints.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Marketing Your Cleaning Business on Social Media

For many cleaning business owners, both veterans and newcomers alike, marketing is not likely to be your primary focus or background. And why should it be? Running a cleaning operation at maximum efficiency and productivity is already difficult enough so adding something like marketing on to your list of responsibilities (and costs!) might sound impossible. Fear not. In just an hour or two, you can make a huge difference in your company’s digital presence.

Identify your channels

The first step to setting up your business’ social media presence is to identify what channels your current and potential customers are using the most. One way to achieve this is to simply ask your current customers, but if that’s not possible, perhaps try looking for your competitors online and work from there. Facebook, Google+ and Linkedin are great places to start. Twitter is also a very common outreach tool, but may not be ideal for a company that is easing into digital marketing as it requires more upkeep and attention. You can always register, save the best user name to represent your company, and then come back to it later.
If you’re not familiar with using these social media platforms, consider signing up for your own personal page to try them out and get comfortable with the interface. They’re all free and very powerful for networking purposes, and you’ll need an account for yourself before you can build one for your company or brand anyway.

Set up your pages

Once you have identified the channels you wish to start with, create company pages on each of them. Here are links on how to do so for each platform:  

There are many other platforms out there that may interest you as well, such as YouTube to show product demos or Pinterest to advertise via product photography. Keep exploring and see what works best for you.
Once you have your first platforms created, you’ll want to upload your logo and any other photography that is relevant to your business in order to populate areas such as your cover photo (the big photo at the top of most social media pages) and the profile photo (the smaller photo that should best represent your company—this is typically your logo). Be sure to also populate important fields such as your address, website and contact information as these are the most likely to improve your sales leads and conversions.

Create & share

Once your page is optimized and you’re comfortable with what your visitors are going to see, start creating and sharing content that is relevant to your business. Whether it’s news about your business, or articles that you think your customers/audience might appreciate—just about anything on the internet is fair game for sharing so long as it represents your brand and has the proper attribution of the original creator.

Build your audience

Once you’ve established what social media channels are “working” for you, advertise them to your customers through traditional means. Add a link to your social pages in your email signature, post the URLs in your storefront, add them to your voicemail system by informing people what social channels you’re on. You may even consider trying to run promotions through your social channels to build your audience (people who are “following” what you share).

Don’t stop!

Once you’ve established good practices for your business’ social media presence (sharing new and interesting content regularly, engaging your customers, providing customer service through social media, etc.) then keep the momentum going! Find out where else your customers are online and build on those channels as well. The best way to get noticed on the web is to create content that people are interested in, but they may need a lot of touch points to find you before they can engage with your brand or company online.

Finally, if all of this sounds like it’s too much work or is too confusing, you can always resort to hiring somebody else to manage your brand’s digital presence. While social media may seem like just another expense that your business can’t afford, the reality is that your business can’t afford not to leverage the power of social media—especially when your competitors already are!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Recruiting is Easier Online, Especially on Social Networks

This article was originally published in ContractingProfits.

Spreading your employee recruiting message is now significantly easier because you can use social networking tools to connect to a more desirable and broader labor pool.

According to the Pew Research Center, 65 percent of adult Internet users are members of, and regularly visit, social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. These sites open your doors to higher quality applicants because your social network connections are the people who know your company best: your existing employees, customers and vendors. When they rebroadcast your job openings, they are implicitly recommending you as an employer. By building your social networking presence, you can collect a large following of “virtual recruiters.”

Read the full article here to learn more about recruiting employees online.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

How Clarke Delivers: Five Trends Impacting the Cleaning Industry

In response to an article written last year for CleanLink News discussing their top five niche trends for the cleaning industry, we've adapted each category specifically for the cleaning equipment industry. Here is how Clarke delivers in each category, ordered the same as the original article:

1. Performance

As the article referenced above points out, “Products which combine their efficiency with innovative features have an advantage in this marketplace.” While this is true for a majority of industries, it is especially so for industries that are as intensely competitive as the cleaning industry.

That’s why, in 2008, Clarke pioneered the first orbital scrubbing technology in the industry: BOOST®. By rotating a rectangular pad in a quarter-inch circular motion at 2,250 RPM, BOOST uses Orbital Scrubbing Technology to clean more efficiently. Beyond the benefit of having a squared off cleaning pad that matches the square shape of most any building space’s walls, BOOST also improves cleaning power thanks to its ability to hit dirt and grime from every angle, rather than hitting it from the same angle repeatedly like most disc-based autoscrubbers do.

2. Cost effectiveness

To meet the industry need for cost-effective equipment, Clarke is excited to introduce a number of new cleaning machines at the more affordable end of the pricing spectrum as of 2014. These new products will deliver the same high level Clarke cleaning power at a price point that is more competitive than ever.

3. Ease of use

In addition to these new 2014 Clarke products being more affordable, readers should take note that they are also among some of the simplest, most intuitive cleaning machines on the market. When Clarke facilitates equipment training schools for industry newcomers, “students” with little or no background in cleaning machine operation are encouraged to test each machine out for themselves. Those students often find the equipment extremely intuitive—from the user interface and handling to general storage and maintenance.

4. Environmental awareness

Clarke technologies like BOOST aren’t just in it for the powerful cleaning—they’re developed with an eco-friendly mindset. In the case of BOOST, operators can actually leverage it to remove floor finish without the use of costly, caustic floor chemicals. The Orbital Scrubbing motion removes floor finish with just a small amount of water applied to the floor, saving companies time and money while saving the environment from more waste.

5. Fragrances, aesthetics and packaging

While packaging may be less of a concern for most commercial cleaning equipment, Clarke does pay plenty of attention to aesthetics and smell.

For example, with the sleek, modern designs of Clarke equipment in their janitors’ closets, companies are better equipped to clean while conveying a sense of professionalism and high-tech efficiency. Sometimes replacing a mop and bucket of dirty water with a brand new Clarke autoscrubber is just the kind of face-lift a company needs to boost their professional appearance at every level of their operations.

Likewise, Clarke understands that cleaning can be a smelly, dirty job when cleaners are forced to use a conventional mop and bucket to complete the job. Even automated cleaning equipment can cause unruly smells (and unsightly appearances) if it’s not properly maintained. Fortunately, every Clarke machine is uniquely designed to optimize access to tanks, filters and other components that are prone to getting dirty, making them simple to clean and easier to keep smell free.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Deferred Maintenance: Turning Crisis Into Strategy

This article was originally published in Facilities Maintenance Decisions.

Maintenance and engineering managers know all too well that deferred maintenance never went anywhere. In the last five years, many people inside and outside of institutional and commercial facilities were understandably preoccupied with fallout from the nation’s financial crisis.

While all that was occurring, managers were continuing to address the mounting backlog of maintenance needs many facilities have faced for decades. So while the issue of deferred maintenance might seem like it has only recently become a problem again, managers know that it never really stopped.

Read the full article here to learn more about the costs of deferred maintenance.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Missing Link: Are You Skipping a Step in Your Recoats?

This article was originally published in Hardwood Floors.

Recoating wood floors is a great option for finishes going through a midlife crisis. Quick and clean, it is still gaining in popularity and acceptance with homeowners. Those of us who have been in the industry for awhile have seen a noticeable spike in interest since a couple of manufacturers of waterborne finishes started promoting it, as they saw an expanding recoating market and started putting products out there to support it. These products include liquid cleaners, synthetic pads, test kits for acrylic waxes, auto scrubbers and bonding agents needed to prep an old finish and promote adhesion. The process has evolved dramatically over the last 10 years.

However, recoating has an identity problem that needs to be faced. Contractors, decorators, real estate agents, designers, etc., don’t talk about “recoating” a wood floor. They talk about “screen and recoat.” The term “screen” refers to using a screen-backed disc (worn, in most cases) to prep the floor prior to applying a fresh coat of finish. That’s an option if the finish is new. However, if the finish has years of use and layers of dirt and grime, just screening old finish without cleaning it first will increase the potential for problems and even failure. In essence, if all you’re doing is screening a floor without a deep cleaning prior to recoating, your chances for failure skyrocket.

Read the full article here to learn more about recoating wood floors. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Tips to Speed Carpet Drying

This article was originally published in ICS.

The carpet cleaning season has finally arrived. And as most carpet cleaning technicians know, one of the most frequently asked questions about carpet cleaning right after it’s done is "How long will it take for the carpets to dry?"

Suggestions to help reduce carpet drying times include:
  • Technicians should carry an assortment of air movers with them, including blowers, down draft systems, "whole room" dryers, stackable dryers, "kickstand" dryers, and angle adjustable fans.
  • Proper wand technique is imperative - perform extra dry passes while "wanding," and be sure to overlap just-cleaned areas.
  • Pull the wand back an extra few inches after closing off the solution flow; this will pick up any excess water left at the end of the wand stroke.
  • Install air movers in each room as it is completed; move and add fans to each room as they are cleaned.
  • Activate ceiling fans if present in the facility.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Clarke CarpetMaster® 100 Series Upright Vacuum

CarpetMaster® 12 inch and 15 inch single-motor upright vacuums deliver affordable quality along with a high level of cleaning performance with its exceptional dirt pick-up and filtration. A full complement of tools and user-friendly design features makes the CarpetMaster easy to use and maintain.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How to Select a Backpack Vacuum Cleaner

This article was originally published in ISSA.

If you’re considering a backpack machine, the following guidelines about what to look for might come in handy:

  • Cost. Backpack vacuums will range in price from under US$300 to as much as $1,000. Just as when purchasing other equipment, buyers should not base their decision solely on price or think that a less expensive machine cannot perform as sufficiently as a more expensive machine. Instead, closely examine each machine’s features and benefits in various cost categories. Make note of some of the key features you are most interested in, such as comfort, effectiveness, and air filtration characteristics—all of which we will discuss next—and then see which machine meets your requirements and is most cost effective.
  • Comfort. Wear the machine and even use it at a job location if that is possible. A more comfortable backpack is typically one that is relatively light, weighing about 10 pounds. It should also feature a padded harness, contoured shoulder straps and waist belts to better distribute the machine’s weight and make it more comfortable to wear, and noise suppression for quiet operation.
  • Air filtration. Backpack vacuum cleaners have led the way when it comes to improved air filtration systems. Many had HEPA filtration systems as standard equipment long before many uprights. With multiple air filtration systems, along with HEPA filters over the exhaust, a backpack should be able to capture and hold up to 99.97 percent of allergens and impurities, preventing them from becoming airborne.
  • Ease of use. Comfort and ease of use go hand-in-hand. If a machine is bulky, too large, or poorly designed, it can be uncomfortable to use, especially for a user of small stature and regardless of the ergonomic or comfort features incorporated in the backpack. Two options are to continue looking for the right machine or consider selecting a smaller backpack, such as a six-quart machine.
Cleaning professionals have many options when it comes to selecting a vacuum cleaning system. And many backpack manufacturers also offer other types of vacuum cleaners, including canisters and uprights. However, those in the market for a new machine owe it to themselves to take a fresh look at modern backpack systems. Very likely, they will be in for a surprise.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Are Backpack Vacuums More Thorough?

This article was originally published in ISSA.

While few people question that backpacks can speed up vacuuming, many cleaning contractors wonder if this advancement comes at the expense of effectiveness. This issue was evaluated several years ago in an older study that is still considered credible and of value today. In fact, because so many backpack systems have been improved since the study was conducted in 1997, it is possible the results today might even be better.*

The researchers at QUEST (Quality Environmental Services & Technologies) sprinkled 100 grams of soil onto a 36-square-foot commercial-grade carpet. The soil was worked into the carpet using a carpet rake. The areas were then vacuumed using a two-motor upright and a backpack. After vacuuming, QUEST researchers calculated the percentage of soil removed from the carpets by weighing the filter bags. The results were:
  • The upright removed between 87.9 and 94.9 percent
  • The backpack removed between 91.3 and 96.1 percent.
While not a dramatic difference, the test proved that contrary to prevailing opinion at the time—and possibly still today for some people—the backpack provided more thorough cleaning. A more effective vacuum cleaner not only helps protect the health of a facility, but it can also help improve worker productivity. This level of thoroughness means cleaning professionals do not have to re-vacuum areas in order to get them thoroughly clean.

Check back next week to learn how to select the ideal backpack vacuum for your application.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Are Backpack Vacuums Back in the Limelight?

This article was originally published in ISSA.

Commercial backpack vacuum cleaners were first made available in 1987. Since then, they have certainly had their supporters and enthusiasts. However, backpack vacuums still have a much smaller market share of the overall professional vacuum cleaner market than upright models. This is most true in the United States, where uprights are by far the most frequently selected vacuuming system in residential and commercial settings.

However, there are some indicators that interest in backpacks is increasing, such as:
  • The technology has been refined and significantly improved over the years
  • Today’s systems are much more ergonomic and comfortable to wear and use compared to earlier models
  • The enhanced worker productivity that results from using a backpack is now undisputed.
Regarding the first two points, cleaning professionals in the market for a new vacuum are first encouraged to test drive a backpack. Invariably, buyers―especially new customers or ones who have not shopped for a new machine recently―will be surprised at many of the new and sometimes standard features available on some backpack models. Most manufacturers are now offering third- or fourth-generation backpacks, building on the proven advancements made over the decades.

As to the last point, ISSA published the first worker productivity studies in 1999 (now known as the 540 Cleaning Times) comparing a backpack vacuum cleaner to an upright machine. Those studies compared a 14-inch, two-motor upright vacuum cleaner with a 14-inch (floor tool) backpack vacuum. These were the results:
  • The upright machine was able to clean 3,240 square feet per hour
  • The backpack was able to clean 7,407 square feet per hour.
Other studies have been conducted since these initial reports and while the actual square footage may vary, in all studies, the backpack machine comes out ahead. This is important to know for cleaning contractors and other cleaning professionals. Many contractors are charging about the same per square foot as they were a decade ago and yet, virtually all of their costs have increased. The only way they can compete—or survive—is to find new ways to speed up worker productivity.

Check back next week to learn whether or not backpack vacuums are more thorough than alternative cleaning methods. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

CarpetMaster 200 Series Upright Vacuums

Clarke's best vacuum ever! The CarpetMaster 200 Series Dual Motor Uprights are available in three sizes, 12, 15, and 18 inches. Designed with the operator in mind, we focused on ergonomics, durability, and reliability. The new CarpetMaster vacuums features a powerful motor, on-board crevice and upholstery tools, quiet operation, HEPA filtration, bag indicator light, and a light handle weight! The motor is also conveniently located at the base of the machine which results in a lighter handle weight.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Floor Finish Solids

This article was originally published in The Cleanest Image.

Floor finish solids are an extremely important part of any floor finish. In fact, the solids are really all that is used after floor finish is applied.

The solids are the plastic or polymer molecules that are left on the floor when you apply finish and can have a big impact on the performance of the finish. The size and make up of these polymer molecules can very from brand to brand and can require different types of maintenance. Chemical liquids such as water, emulsifiers, wetting and leveling agents make up the remainder of the floor finish content. But in the end though, the solids are what make up to protective coating that you rely on. 

If you take types of polymers and the liquids out of the equation and focus on the floor finish solids numbers, the percentage of solids is the usable product left after drying. If you think of it like a glass of water and sand, the sand would represent the solids. So if you take a gallon of 18% floor finish, the solids would represent 23oz of the total 128oz in a gallon. The more solids, the more usable product per gallon.

Common sense would say that higher floor finish solids would always be the better purchase, but this is not always true. Just like any mixture of liquid and solids, the more solids, the thicker it gets. If you have ever worked with a high solids (22% or higher) it will usually be quite a bit thicker. Once the solids content goes above 25% the finish does not want to spread out and level very fast. Since most finishes are designed to dry quickly, they begin to harden before they have spread out smooth. This can result in uneven gloss, mop swirls and cause very thick patches of finish that take a long time to dry. All of this is because the drying takes longer. Floor finish dries from the top down. As the liquid evaporates, a film is left on the surface which traps moisture and keeps the solids from setting up properly. When the liquid is thinner, it spreads out as it is applied and with the additional liquid, it takes longer to dry.

These properties are constantly being tweaked by the floor finish manufactures so more solids can be used, while delaying the drying process until after the product has been applied. With new technologies in polymer science, the higher solids floor finishes are becoming more effective and easier to use.

When you are trying to choose a floor finish, it becomes a matter of performance vs. the amount and type of maintenance. Higher solids finishes are more durable but can be difficult to apply and repair with maintenance. Since the polymer density is higher, they can also be more difficult to remove with traditional chemical stripping. This is all variant on the specific finish that is being used. The best suggestion is to compare finishes yourself and talk to others who have used them. Every application and environment is different as well as the make up of the finish. Choosing the correct percentage of floor finish solids is not as important as proper application and maintenance. The way a product is used is always what determines its success.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Clarke ComfortPak Backpack Vacuum

The newest member of Clarke's soft floor line is the ComfortPak back pack vacuum. It features an ergonomic frame that was designed by backpackers for support and stability, lightweight, easy to maneuver, with an easy mess-free bag change. Experience the difference with ComfortPak from Clarke.

The ComfortPak series has earned the Carpet & Rug Institute's Seal of Approval.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Chemically Sensitive Rugs: Dangers

This article was originally published in Cleanfax.

There are four main concerns with cleaning technicians attempting to deal with chemically washed rugs.

1. Color fade and change from sun or spot removers

These rugs fibers, especially the luster and antique washed ones, are damaged fibers. Those more aggressively-treated rugs become much more sensitive to sun fade and also more prone to color change with use of some spotting solutions.

Avoid drying these rugs in direct sunlight. Always test spot removers in small areas before attempting any larger use.

2. Pile distortion and fiber breaking

High sheen wool rugs have fibers that can easily get distorted and break from the use of extractors, brushes or other tools. They also can be damaged from foot traffic in a way that creates shadowing that may not be correctable with washing.

Avoid heavy scrubbing on high sheen wool rugs. Make sure that your extraction strokes are with the pile direction, not against it. Wands with a Teflon head will help prevent fiber breaking. Use softer brushes for grooming, and a gentle hand with tools going with the grain. Never rake the field of these rugs with a carpet groomer.

3. More susceptible to staining

With luster and antique washed rugs, the protection of their wool cuticles has been compromised, and this makes them more susceptible to permanent staining. Be aware of this before you promise a client that spots/spills are “no problem.” They may be a problem on a chemically washed rug.

With tea washed rugs, it is not unusual to have a spot remover remove the brown dye treatment and create a bright white area on the rug. Remember, these applications are not permanent, so stay gentle in your cleaning solution choices.

4. Odor and sensitivities

Some chemically washed rugs have residue of their treatments absorbed inside the rug’s cotton foundation fibers. I have had several consumers contact me regarding having chemical sensitivities to “tea washed” rugs from India after flood incidents. These rugs tend to have thicker foundation wefts that may not release the solutions as easily as thinner fibers would.

If a rug is woven (you can see the knots on the back side of the rug), most odors can be removed through fully washing the rug and using the appropriate solutions targeting the type of contaminant causing the odor.

Inspection is the best protection. When a rug is covered up in soil, it can be a surprise when cleaning uncovers “problems” like pile damage, dye damage or discolorations due to past chemical wash treatments. The more time you spend inspecting a rug, the less time you will spend trying to correct problems that are not your fault.

Determine if a rug has been chemically washed, and then discuss those issues with the client before the wash. When you address the issues beforehand, you are educating the client, and also protecting yourself in the process.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Chemically Sensitive Rugs: Washing Treatments

This article was originally published in Cleanfax.

Last week, we discussed how rugs are cleaned with chemical solutions. This week, we will look at common chemical washing treatments.

Luster wash

The purpose of the “luster wash” is to make a rug have more sheen to it, and to soften the feel of the wool pile. The solution helps to dissolve some of the outer cuticle layers of the wool fibers to help them to reflect more light and have a softer touch. A light luster wash is given to most rugs before they go off to be sold. However, some countries give aggressive luster wash treatments in order to make the wool look almost silk-like in the way that it shines. Rugs woven in China and Pakistan can have a strong light/dark direction to them, which is maximized by these chemical treatments. Rug owners sometimes mistakenly believe their wool rug is silk due to this sheen.

How to identify luster washed rugs

Wool rugs that look like silk are a sign of a heavy “luster wash” processing. There is a very strong light and dark direction. When you grin open the fibers, you will see that the base of the fibers are darker than at the tips. It is almost as if they have been “frosted” at the tips like highlights in hair.

Antique wash

Sometimes the chemical treatments are not meant to make a rug shine more brightly, but are meant to “age” the rug to make it appear to be older than it is. “Antique wash” is a more aggressive treatment to not just eat away at the wool cuticle layers, but also to help fade/mute the colors substantially. True antique rugs have a certain patina and mellowing of the colors that comes from age and use. In an attempt to try to attain that same result in a new rug, there is aggressive degradation of the rug that can lead to an almost disappearing of the colors as well as wearing down of the fibers. As with hair that has been too aggressively treated with bleaches or peroxides, the strand can break, become more brittle and can lose the ability to hold color. Wool is no different.

Poorly executed chemical processing can make a rug’s original colors disappear. It can also create a rough and brittle texture to the rug. In some new rugs where this chemical antique wash work has been too aggressive, the rugs are sometimes dipped in ink to try to create something decorative from a rug that has essentially been burned of its wool content.

How to identify antique washed rugs

Wool rugs that have been given an “antique wash” will have a strong color change from the back of the rug to the front. In some contemporary rugs with this processing, both sides are processed, so grin the rug fibers open to see the original color in the middle of the fibers. If that original color is very strong, then you will know this rug has been chemically treated.

Tea wash

Other rugs today are “mellowed” by covering them up in an over-dyeing process referred to as “tea wash” or “herbal wash” treatments. In some countries, rugs are packed in tea leaves to help give this type of gold/brown hue naturally to help soften the rug’s colors. In most cases today, the rug is “tea washed” using solutions that can range from natural dyestuffs to chemical solutions such as potassium permanganate. The quality of this chemical treatment varies as much as with the other treatments. You have low-end applications, which are essentially sprayed on one side of the rug only, and higher-end applications that have the rug dipped in the solution to try to attain an even result.

How to identify tea washed rugs

Wool rugs that have been “tea washed” have an overall gold or brown tone to them. The fringes will be beige instead of white, and this can wash away with fringe cleaning solutions, so be careful. If you grin open the rug fibers, they will be darker at the tips instead of lighter.

Check back next week as we wrap up this series on chemically sensitive rugs, where we will discuss the dangers from chemically washed rugs.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Chemically Sensitive Rugs

This article was originally published in Cleanfax.

Wool organizations have worked at identifying chemical solutions that are safe for use on wool rugs by rug cleaners. There has, however, been little or no attention to the chemical solutions used on rugs before they are sold and the harm they cause to the wool rugs before they even reach rug cleaners.

Most rugs are given a light chemical wash after being woven. Although each country has its own “special sauce” for this purpose, many use a low percentage chlorine bleach solution. They do the wash in order to help wash away impurities, rinse away excess dye and help soften the colors a bit by dissolving the outer wool cuticle layers.

Wool is a hair fiber, and this type of treatment is not unlike what is done when someone wants to add to their own hair some highlights, more sheen or even more dramatic color results — if they are so inclined.

Most wool treatments are considered fairly harmless to wool fibers. There are, however, some treatments that are more extreme in an effort to create a “wow” initial result with a rug, but with consequences that occur later in the rug’s life.

And sometimes those “consequences” pop up during the cleaning process by an unsuspecting rug cleaner.

Check back next week to learn about common chemical washing treatments, what they are, how to identify them and the dangers they may pose to rug cleaners.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Green Cleaning: Cleaning With Water

This article was originally published in American School & University.

The green cleaning movement has accomplished a lot over the past 20 years. This is especially true relative to the chemicals used for cleaning schools and universities. Today, third-party certifications from Green Seal, EcoLogo/UL and U.S. EPA’s Design for the Environment Program have made it easy to identify high-performing and cost-competitive “green” cleaning chemicals.

Schools and universities have significantly reduced the use of oldfashioned “butyl,” ammoniated and chlorinated cleaners. Gone are the petroleum distillate and chlorinated solvent-based degreasers. Gone are the detergents and antibacterial agents that mimic hormones or, like formaldehyde, are known to cause cancer. Reducing the use of cleaning products based on these ingredients have reduced the risk of harm to cleaning personnel, as well as students and staff.

In addition, schools and universities have replaced aerosols and ready-to-use products with concentrates that can be diluted accurately on site, which have reduced the number of plastic bottles, metal cans and cardboard shipping cartons, and the environmental impacts associated with the manufacture, disposal and recycling of these packaging components.

So what’s next?

Thanks to the success of the green cleaning movement and the maturation of demand for greener products, manufacturers have invested heavily into greener technologies. In addition to chemical manufacturers, equipment manufacturers also have entered the market, as well as manufacturers from other industries such as food processing, water and waste treatment.

Among the most interesting new technologies are devices that electrolyze, ionize, ozonate or super-heat (steam) water, creating an effective cleaning solution. Some have product solutions that are effective as sanitizers and disinfectants.

Although current technologies appear to be limited at this time for cleaning light and medium soils found in daily cleaning requirements, it is predicted that it won’t be long before the technologies can be used on an even greater number of soils. Plus, the rapid advancement of these technologies and the competition among manufacturers have resulted in the cost of these devices falling rapidly.

The major benefit of these devices appears to be less focused on reducing the risk of harm to worker and occupant health; rather, the main benefit appears to be the reduced impacts on the environment.

A large university or school district can eliminate hundreds, if not thousands of plastic bottles and metal cans. These packaging items are relatively easy to recycle, but new technologies significantly reduce the environmental impacts from extracting the petroleum or natural gas used to make the plastic bottles and mining used to make metal cans. The devices significantly reduce the energy, water and waste from the manufacturers who turn the raw materials into basic ingredients, along with those who turn the ingredients into a properly formulated cleaning product.

Collectively, schools and universities along with other institutional and commercial buildings could eliminate an estimated 25 to 50 million plastic bottles, pails and drums; metal cans and cardboard shipping cartons.

It appears clear that this is the future for cleaning chemicals. Both the Healthy Schools Campaign in its Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools and the U.S. Green Building Council in its LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (LEED-EBOM) recognize the benefits of these new devices.

Thus in 2014, schools and universities are encouraged to test these devices. Keep in mind that there are a number of technologies to explore, and it is important to find ones that work most efficiently with current cleaning procedures. In the end, they will help maintain a clean, safe and healthful building while reducing impacts on the environment and saving money.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Boosting Cleaning Efficiencies: Where To Start

This article was originally published in Facility Cleaning Decisions.

Before making any changes, environmental services (EVS) managers must revisit and rethink the spaces they clean and separate them into clinical and nonclinical environments.

In the clinical space, everything cleaners do must be entirely centered on serving patients and keeping the environment safe for infection prevention and environmental hygiene. Here, the speed in which these spaces are readied for care is also a concern.

When budgets get tight and boosting efficiencies builds in importance, EVS directors must look to nonclinical environments as places to increase efficiency. Take floor care, for example, which can be broken into routine, periodical or restorative cleaning. Are there areas that would not be affected if floor care were reduced?

But in offices and support areas, is it necessary to maintain floors as often as one does in clinical areas? Office cleaning is a frequency you can easily adjust. In some places, offices are cleaned five days a week, but could you go to cleaning them three or once a week instead?

What about adding a communal receptacle and asking occupants to dump their own trash, eliminating the need for cleaners to enter each office? Project work might be reduced, as well — maybe floor refinishing can be done biannually instead of quarterly.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Causes Of Flooring Failures: Part III

This article was originally published in Cleaning & Maintenance Management.

There are a variety of ways cleaning professionals can help prevent flooring failures. One of the first steps is to know what types of materials — adhesives, concrete, etc. — were used to install the floor. While this may not always be possible, a lot can be determined by the age of the floor.

If it is a new floor or a floor installed within the past few years, cleaning professionals can assume a low-VOC adhesive was used if for no other reason than their use has grown considerably in recent years. With this information, they can select chemicals that are still effective but more protective of the materials likely used to secure the floor.

Another preventive technique involves the type of floorcare equipment used to maintain the floor. Because we know that moisture and some chemicals can be damaging to some flooring adhesives, selecting equipment that uses less water and chemical can prove beneficial. Typically, an alternative to conventional rotary floor care equipment is a cylindrical brush machine. Because the brushes on these machines perform much of the actual cleaning, studies indicate these machines perform effectively with considerably less water and chemical.

Finally, cleaning professionals should encourage facility managers to apply a sealant or finish to floors. The primary purpose of a sealant/finish is not to put a shine on the floor — although that is the result after several coats are applied — but to protect the floor. In this case, the sealant/finish is helping to keep moisture and contaminants from seeping down under the floor surface. While some managers may want to avoid refinishing floors for cost reasons, in the long run not refinishing can, as we have already discussed, be a costly mistake. In addition to preventing flooring failures, finished floors are typically much easier to maintain, which can prove to contribute to cost savings over time.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Causes Of Flooring Failures: Part II

This article was originally published in Cleaning & Maintenance Management.

While a number of problems can cause flooring failures, one of the key culprits is the actual chemicals used to clean and maintain floors. Many floorcare chemicals today are effective at cleaning floors, but they may contain ingredients that, over time, can reach their way below the surface, and this is when flooring failures begin. 

As mentioned earlier, many installers are now using low-VOC adhesives. However, these adhesives can become brittle and easily broken down when they come into contact with certain chemicals and chemical compounds.

Citrus-based cleaners: While they may work well and may have less adverse impact on the user and the environment, they may contain d-limonene.

In some cases, if it seeps down below the floor, d-limonene can, over time, break down low-VOC adhesives as well as some concrete-type adhesives used for floor installations.

Additionally, some citrus cleaners can leave a sticky residue on floors, which results in rapid resoiling, requiring the floor to be cleaned more frequently.

Acidic cleaners: With moisture, if these cleaners flow through spaces in the floor surface, they can cause concrete and materials used to secure the floor to “powder.”

As this happens, it can cause the floor to lift, resulting in a flooring failure.

High-pH strippers: Often used for excessively soiled floors, high-pH stripping chemicals can seep under the floor surface, again breaking down adhesives.

This is especially true if strippers contain high amounts of potassium and sodium phosphates.

Soiled water: Cleaning professionals are always advised if mopping floors to use clean water and change water and solution frequently.

Soiled water, especially if used when mopping tiled restroom floors, can seep down grout areas resulting in mold growth.

As mold grows, it can cause adhesive breakdown and flooring failure.

Check back next week to read part three in this series on how to prevent flooring failure.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Causes Of Flooring Failures

This article was originally published in Cleaning & Maintenance Management.

Flooring, whether it is hard surface or carpeting, is typically one of the most costly capital investments a building owner makes in a facility, and when something goes wrong, it can be another costly investment to repair it. A good example of this is when individual floor tiles or entire parts of a floor start to loosen from the floor backing (or substrate) or begin to buckle.

When this kind of flooring failure occurs, it is often blamed on poor installation. However—and unfortunately—the methods used to clean and maintain the floor can also play a role. And as floor installers turn to more environmentally friendly adhesives, which typically produce fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than more conventional adhesives, these problems may actually increase.

Often, moisture, soil, contaminants, oils, salts, acids, small particulates and floorcare chemicals and chemical residues make their way down cracks, pores and grout areas, eventually reaching the bottom of the floor. As these build up under the surface, they can cause either the concrete or the adhesives securing the floor to break down. When this happens, tiles loosen and flooring failure problems begin.

A lot of this can be prevented by ensuring there is proper protection—a sealant along with adequate coats of finish—applied to the surface of the floor when it is first installed. However, this protection must be maintained because over time it typically wears away. And today, because many facility managers are choosing not to apply finish to floors, whether for cost or environmental reasons, flooring failures can be the result.

Check back next week to learn about various causes of flooring failures.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Five Cleaning Activities That Impact Health And Safety

This article was originally published in Clean Link.

Improving the health and safety of the public is one of the primary missions in custodial operations. This recent article on Clean Link identifies the top five activities cleaning workers can do to impact health and safety of the public. 

1. Train and re-train Hygiene Specialists (custodial workers) that their role is not cleaning for appearance sake, but for health’s sake. Workers should be trained on the science of cleaning and disinfecting.

They should understand that the custodial department performs both the clinical function of removing and inactivating/killing pathogens that could cause a preventable HAI (Healthcare Associated Infection). Workers also must understand the practical function of cleaning (no dust, no spots, no smudges, no smells all equals clean).

2. The cost of not performing their job as directed could cost the employer millions of dollars by way of lawsuits. Our patients enter our facilities worried about germs and about getting an infection. We can impact patient satisfaction by allaying those fears while communicating, “While I am here today, I am going to disinfect all the high touch surfaces in your room and then disinfect your restroom before I leave.”

The Hygiene Specialist can also impact HAI rates by doing a good job of providing a safe, clean and disinfected facility that could save their employer millions.

3. Train those who clean that there is a pattern for cleaning. That is, clean the room from top to bottom, and from the cleanest part of the room to the dirtiest, leaving the restroom for last. When cleaning the “patient zone” (the 3-foot area around the patient’s bed, including the bed rails), use a new, clean cloth. When done performing that task, ask the patient, “Is there anything I missed?”

4. Never double dip a cleaning cloth. Set up a clean bucket of properly diluted disinfectant at the beginning of the shift and then add 10 to 15 microfiber cloths to the solution. When it comes time to disinfect hard surfaces, merely reach into the bucket for a clean, disinfectant-charged cloth. Fold the cloth in half and then half again. As a surface is cleaned, unfold the cloth to the next unused portion. Keep doing this systematically until all eight sides have been used. A good microfiber will “catch micro-soils, but not release them."

Never return (double-dip) a soiled cloth into the clean solution because the disinfectant will become contaminated and less effective as time goes on. By utilizing this method, the same properly diluted disinfectant could last an entire 8-hour shift without having to be changed.

5. Using a quaternary ammonium disinfectant with retired cotton cleaning cloths (such as surgical towels, terry cloth towels and washcloths, T-shirt material) and cotton, string mops is counter-productive and dangerous. Unfortunately, this quat and cotton combination is used in most hospitals and hotels.

Cotton inactivates quat disinfectants by binding the active ingredients to the cotton rather than releasing them to the surface. This happens within 5 minutes of introducing cotton wipers or mops to the bucket of properly diluted quat disinfectant. In fact, you might as well be using water after 5 minutes because the ppm (parts per million) of active ingredients in the quat disinfectant is out of specification and in violation of US federal law.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Clarke Vantage 14 Scrubber [Video]

Combining innovation, reliability and performance, the Clarke Vantage 14 marks a breakthrough in daily scrubbing for small area cleaning. Never skip those hard-to-reach areas again. The Vantage 14's integrated rotating deck enables complete scrubbing in both forward and backward directions, allowing operators to easily clean under and around obstacles. Simply push the machine forward; then when needed, easily flip the machine up to allow the deck to quickly rotate for reverse scrubbing operation.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Hard Floor Cleaning Practices to Consider: Minimizing Building Disruptions

Equipment noise level is important. Regardless of the facility, using low-noise equipment enhances operator safety without disturbing building occupants.

Finding equipment that operates with low noise is preferable in many settings, especially in schools, hospitals, religious facilities and other noise-sensitive and high-traffic areas.

By utilizing such equipment, facility managers can thoroughly clean floors during business hours. This ability increases safety, since puddles, soil, spills and other potential hazards can be cleaned without disturbing building occupants.

Going Beyond Appearance

Given the cleaning industry’s technological advances, changing safety regulations and increased facility management standards, today’s maintenance practices go beyond improving a facility’s appearance.

By selecting the proper equipment, facility managers can ensure that modern hard floor cleaning values — promoting long-term floor life and meeting the immediate requirements of providing a healthy, safe environment — are being met.

Green chemical solutions, working to prevent accidents and minimizing facility disruptions are practical ways to exercise those values.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Hard Floor Cleaning Practices to Consider: Slip And Fall Prevention

Some automated cleaning equipment utilizes vacuum technology that cleans a floor with water or chemical solutions and then immediately dries the floor surface.

This prevents water and solution from seeping into a floor’s base materials, which can lead to long-term damage.

It also improves safety as reducing slip and fall incidents has become a serious concern.

As it has been reported, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), has even revised itsWalking and Working Surfaces regulations, requiring that facilities have an effective cleaning process and incorporate more stringent oversight.

To help ensure that the proper precautions are taken, the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) — one of several groups that help identify key criteria that should be considered when selecting cleaning chemicals, equipment and procedures — offers independent product testing for equipment and product manufacturers.

One of NFSI’s tests evaluates products’ slip resistance, and incorporating the slip resistance test results with the product makes purchasing decisions easier for end users.

With the aid of such information, facility managers can select the proper equipment and ensure that the most stringent safety measures and guidelines are met.

Check back next week to read about minimizing building disruptions.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Hard Floor Cleaning Practices to Consider: Green Chemical Options

To reduce chemical waste and excessive water use, some floor cleaning machines include an onboard detergent dispensing system, eliminating the need for manual pre-mixing of detergent and water.

Equipment with onboard chemical mixing systems can provide multiple mixing options ranging from chemical-free, water-only cleaning to detergent solutions that meet the high standards of industries such as healthcare and education.

Typically, floor scrubbers dilute chemicals at a ratio of 128 parts water to 1 part detergent, which is appropriate for heavily soiled floors. However, facilities that are cleaned on a routine basis often do not require the use of these strong detergent ratios. Some floor scrubbers have an ultra-low mode that reduces detergent usage significantly to meet regular cleaning needs.

Proper chemical mixing not only promotes environmental and individual health, but it also prevents long-term floor damage and helps maintain floor appearance. This also minimizes operator exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.

Another equipment innovation, random orbital scrubbing, excels at both daily routine scrubbing and deep scrubbing that is capable of removing floor finish with water only, rather than using stripping chemicals.

These chemicals are some of the most caustic solutions that cleaning professionals use. The orbital scrubbing provides two simultaneous pad motions, a macro scrubbing motion and an orbital micro scrubbing, to accomplish streak-free clean using less detergent and water and fewer chemicals. This option reduces potential slip-and-fall injuries, chemical exposure and environmental impact.

Check back next week to read about slip and fall prevention. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Hard Floor Cleaning Practices to Consider

Though there are many types of hard floors and a variety of building environments and sizes, there are a few common elements when it comes to modern hard floor cleaning.

The keys to current maintenance practices are promoting long-term floor life while meeting the immediate requirements of providing a healthy, safe environment.

To meet these principles, common practices include using green chemical solutions, minimizing wet surfaces for slip and fall prevention and minimizing any facility disruptions during cleaning processes or restorative maintenance.

To incorporate these values, facility managers must consider multiple variables when developing a contemporary maintenance plan, including staff experience and training, specific facility needs and equipment.

Enhancing Floor Appearance

Stripping and refinishing, among other project-based maintenance activities, are understood to preserve and enhance hard floor appearance, quality and durability.

However, current hard floor cleaning practices incorporate regular, routine maintenance to sustain long-term floor quality.

Although a mop can be useful for cleaning up isolated spills or for maintaining small areas, it can be difficult to meet the increasing health and safety standards using this traditional tool.

Thus, more advanced or automated equipment may be worth considering.

There are specific considerations that should be analyzed when selecting any piece of equipment that is intended to help meet modern cleaning practices.

Check back next week to read about green chemical options.