Friday, April 18, 2014

Getting From Norovirus to No Virus

Why do I need to wash my hands? The answer is obvious, but over and over people walk out of restrooms and other areas without doing so. The result? An increase in sickness. Here's a quick blurb about this years norovirus outbreak and the high priority that needs to be set on hand washing.

Norovirus still wreaking havoc

April 18, 2014

LATHAM, NY — Norovirus numbers appear to be particularly strong this spring, as recent CM e-News Daily reportage reveals.
Over the past two weeks, we've run half a dozen stories on new norovirus outbreaks around the U.S.
A wide array of facilities reported new outbreaks, including:
As these cases all indicate, the importance of hand hygiene and proper disinfection techniques is paramount.
So important, in fact, that Cleaning & Maintenance Management regularly generates editorial content that shares best practices for battling this pesky virus.
Our recent Infection Control Webcast and our February Infection Control Spotlight issue both include suggestions for preventing illness outbreaks and making your facilities safer.
Also, we would like to learn if you've encountered any challenging infection control issues this year in your operation.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Avoid A Petri Dish Environment

Over and over again the importance of restroom cleanliness is highlighted not only in magazines, online and by manufacturers, but also by those who frequent these areas. Once again a press release from Ohio is emphasizing the importance of restroom cleaning. A short checklist is also provided to help keep these potential petri dish environments from becoming a health hazard. Read on.


HAMILTON, OH — While new cleaning methods have been developed to make general cleaning more efficient and thorough, much of this progress has not applied to restroom cleaning methodologies.
This is a significant oversight because cleaning restrooms is typically very involved and time-consuming. Further, it is invariably performed by one person, so any opportunity for collaborative cleaning to make the process easier and faster has been eliminated.

"Often what happens during the course of a work shift, the cleaning worker looks for ways to speed up cleaning," says Matt Morrison, communications manager for Kaivac, developers of the No-Touch and OmniFlex cleaning systems. "This can impact how well the restroom is cleaned. However, it often can be avoided with a restroom cleaning checklist, ensuring all areas of the restroom are cleaned as needed, when needed."

According to Morrison, the key elements of a restroom cleaning checklist include the following:

Develop a plan. Develop a plan that outlines cleaning tasks and frequencies.

Train your workers. All custodial workers must understand how the plan works, what areas are to be cleaned, when, what tools are to be used, and just as important, what tools should not be used.

Know when to spot and when to deep clean. Spot cleaning is typically performed during the workday and helps ensure messes are attended to promptly. Deep cleaning usually takes place after hours and includes all restroom surfaces and fixtures.

Select your tools. The best way to reduce cleaning times is by using automated cleaning systems. According to ISSA studies, some no-touch systems, for instance, can reduce restroom fixture cleaning by two-thirds.

Clean high to low. Clean high areas first and work down. Start with the tops of partitions, wall areas, mirrors, and so on, and then move on to fixtures, countertops, and floors.
Test and evaluate. Custodial workers should regularly evaluate cleaning effectiveness using ATP rapid monitoring systems.

"Put the restroom cleaning checklist in writing," adds Morrison. "While changes can be made as necessary, having it in writing helps ensure it is properly implemented."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Another One Leaves the Dust

Retirement comes quicker than you think. Each year in our district several retire. This year is no exception.

This brief article from Channel 13 WHAM in New York shows how some can make a huge impact on those around them. Click on the link to watch the short video and see how the kids loved their custodian at Kendall Elementary.

Kendall, N.Y. – After 36 years a custodian at Kendall Elementary is retiring.
Bruce Marshall was given a rock star sendoff in honor of his hero, Bruce Springsteen.
Kids lined the halls, throwing confetti, giving gifts, asking for autographs, all while “The Boss” was playing over the loudspeakers.
“Kendall Elementary is the greatest place in the world for me,” says Marshall. “The kids make it. It’s been like a second home. Can’t be any better than this.”
Marshall has fifty years under his belt at the school. That’s if you don’t count his years there as a student.

Post #269 - Today is the Day

On this date exactly six years ago I posted my first post on this blog. It answered the question, "What Is A Custodian?" Since then I've shared and received comments on several blogs dealing with everything from building issues and cleaning to humorous human interest stories. I've received positive comments and interesting additional information to enhance topics or posts on this blog. I always enjoy seeing where the comments originate from and who is reading and enjoying the content.

I enjoy sharing this information and will continue to provide thoughts and articles on topics that relate or are closely related to cleaning and custodial work. Thanks for reading and I always welcome your thoughts and input.

Next stop: Post #270!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bacteriophages Invade E. coli Cells Until They Explode!

E. coli before and after attacks by bacteriophages
"Spaceship-like phages dock onto the receptor sites of a host bacterium cell and deploy a syringe-like device that penetrates the cell wall. They inject their own DNA into the host cell, transforming it into a phage-making factory. The cell assembles phages until it contains so many it explodes, releasing the next generation of phages to find new hosts." (The 

That was a description of what happens to E. coli when a cocktail of scientifically created bacteriophages invade the nuclei of E. coli. The destruction rate is over 99% which could be a breakthrough in the destruction of this potentially deadly bacteria. That, of course, was all done in a lab. Much more study needs to be done to see how this process will work in the real world. But if it does, E. coli could be on its way out.

(Read here for details, technical aspects and discussion of this new scientific discovery.)

Always Use Caution When Using High Lifts

Safety is always of number one concern on any job. The reason for this is highlighted in this link about a custodian working in a high lift doing some cleaning when it tipped over and he later died. This is a sad accident and helps to emphasize safety and caution whenever we are working. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Thank You!

I just wanted to say "thank you" to the school District for negotiating with our Union many years ago to give classified employees the Friday of Spring Break off!  It's a beautiful day and great to get three days off to enjoy with family and friends in the sunshine.  Thanks District Administrators and Board Members for this perk!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Is Antibacterial Soap Actually Unhealthy?

For a long time the benefits of using antibacterial soap instead of plain soap and water has been debated. Does antibacterial soap really clean better? Is it really necessary to kill bacteria with a specialized soap? Is it harmful in the long run?

Now it seems that these questions might be legitimate in view of new research that suggests that the chemical Triclosan used in antibacterial soaps to kill bacteria may actually be allowing dangerous bacteria like staph to build up in the nose and also to increase the risks of infection when other procedures are performed on a person.

Read the entire study here for more technical aspects to this concern and see what manufacturers of products containing Triclosan are doing or plan on doing in the months and years ahead.

The Value of Pre-spraying Before You Clean Carpets

A typical backpack pump up sprayer
During breaks at the High School we always do some carpet cleaning. During the summer we clean all the carpets. One of the biggest factors in good carpet cleaning is pre-spraying the carpets. This helps to break down the soiling and uses less chemicals. Proper dwell time also must be observed to allow the product to work correctly.

This press release from Mukilteo, WA provides further comments and insight into carpet pre-sprays.


MUKILTEO, WA — With more facility service providers now including carpet cleaning among their tasks, it is important to learn how to properly prespray a carpet.
Typically, carpets are first presprayed and then rinsed clean using a hot-water extractor. There are several reasons for this.
Prespraying the carpet tends to use less chemical, which is a cost savings. Pre-spraying also allows the chemical to dwell on the carpet, breaking down and dissolving soils so that they can be more effectively removed by the extractor.
"Presprays are typically comprised of surfactants and solvents," says Doyle Bloss, a recognized leader in the carpet cleaning industry and marketing director for U.S. Products. [Further] more advanced formulations contain an integrated blend of specialized polymers that together get carpets cleaned faster, resist future soiling, and keep carpets cleaner longer."
As to properly using presprays, Bloss has the following advice:
Select the Right Products. Select a prespray based on carpet soiling conditions and the type of carpet; pre-sprays are formulated for either lighter or heavier soiling, different types of conditions (a restaurant vs. an office, for example), and to work more specifically on different types of carpet (wool vs. nylon, etc.).
Apply Properly. Apply the prespray using an in-line injection sprayer, pump-up sprayer, or electric/battery-powered sprayer.
Observe the Proper Dwell Time.Prespraying before cleaning an area allows the chemicals to dwell. However, be sure not to spray so far in advance that the chemical has time to dry. If it does dry, do not reapply the chemical; instead, use the extractor wand to re-wet the area.
Provide Agitation. Agitating presprayed areas can help cleaning chemicals work more effectively; consider using a carpet grooming rake or cylindrical brush machine for this task.
Use Hot-Water Extraction.Extract the carpet using a hot-water carpet extractor; consider adding a compatible detergent or neutralizing rinse to the rinse water to help insure proper removal of soils and chemical residue from the carpet.
"Presprays are the work horse of carpet cleaning," says Bloss. "Used properly, they dislodge, emulsify, and suspend carpet soils, leaving carpets clean and healthy after hot-water extraction."

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Itsy-Bitsy Spider Crawled Up What?

This has something to do with cleaning. Even though it's a fuel line in a car, it's still cleaning. Plus the fact that the story is kind of funny. What do you think?

Gas-Loving Spiders Cause Mazda Car Recall

For the second time in three years, Mazda Motor Corp has issued a recall for Mazda6 sedans in North America because of a spider that likes the smell of gasoline and weaves a web that blocks a vent in the engine.
Mazda told U.S. regulators that it is recalling 42,000 sedans with 2.5-liter engines from model years 2010 to 2012 in the United States. Mazda officials were not immediately available to report recalls outside of the United States.
Three years ago, Mazda recalled about 65,000 Mazda6 sedans in North America from model years 2009 and 2010, also because of spider webs blocking evaporative canister vent lines. The same issue is the cause of the most recent recall, Mazda told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
A spider that loves the smell of gas has caused Mazda to recall a slew of vehicles.
A spider that loves the smell of gas has caused Mazda to recall a slew of vehicles.
The web weaved by a spider can lead to a restriction of fuel flow, which in turn can reduce fuel tank pressure when the emission control system purges vapors from the evaporative canister. This can put stress on the fuel tank, which may crack and leak fuel, increasing the risk of a fire, a report filed with NHTSA says.
Mazda said it is not aware of any fires because of this risk.
Mazda will inform owners in the recall campaign to bring cars to dealers, where the evaporative canister vent line will be checked and cleared if necessary. Also, the dealerships will reprogram software.
The blockage is not present on other models made by Mazda and occurs only in cars made a plant in Flat Rock, Michigan, at which Mazda once produced cars jointly with Ford Motor Co. Mazda stopped production of cars at Flat Rock in August 2012.
-- Reuters

Legionnaires' Disease - Concerns and Solutions

Legionnaires’ disease has been around for almost 40 years. It is a water-based organism that causes infection when inhaled in an aerosol form. It thrives in stagnant water that is found in many places including water cooling towers, piping systems and sink basins.

Legionnaires' disease can be minimized or reduced by cleaning and maintenance of systems wherein the bacteria causing the disease may reside. The article I've linked below goes into more detail on this disease and steps that can be taken to reduce its appearance.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The First Place to Start to Stop Sickness

Over the years I have posted several articles or links to articles about the importance of restrooms cleanliness. Once again a discussion by cleaning professionals has brought this issue to the fore. The importance of dwell time, proper disinfecting products, daily cleaning and more is highlighted in the article.

Restroom cleaning is more technical than meets the eye. To help avoid cross-contamination and the spread of disease, the restroom is the first place to start when desiring to stop sickness. The article from below addresses these concerns.

Preventing Dangerous Restroom Conditions

Cleaning steps professionals can take to make these trouble areas safe for occupants.

The restroom is usually not the most glamorous room in most facilities, and it is certainly not the easiest to maintain.
It is also the biggest problem area in facilities, a source of many customer complaints and a room where many guests and property owners judge the cleanliness of the facility.
Therefore, it deserves every facility manager’s attention.
With this in mind, Clorox Professional Products Company brought leading cleaning industry experts together in a roundtable during the 2013 ISSA/INTERCLEAN conference to discuss the state of the public restroom and learn more about what made it such a tough cleaning job.
The discussion centered on two key trends for 2014 — bioburden and cleaning for health in restrooms — which facility managers and cleaning industry professionals should keep in mind as they think about and improve upon their facilities. 
Bioburden In The Restroom
Restrooms can accumulate a lot of grime, debris and odor causing bacteria because of their function and constant use.
Everything from urine and fecal matter to other bodily fluids and dirt contribute to a restroom’s cleaning challenges.
Not to mention, every time a toilet is flushed, it releases a plume of aerosolized droplets that can carry bacteria to other restroom surfaces like floors, walls and handles.1
All these things contribute to a restroom’s “bioburden” or the amount of bacteria present on a surface before it is cleaned and disinfected.
Cross contamination is a major culprit in increasing the impact of this bioburden.
With all the soils and bacteria present on restroom floors and other surfaces, it becomes very easy for cleaning professionals to further spread these contaminants throughout the restroom by using dirtied tools such as sponges, mops and cloths.
Soils can become trapped in mop fibers and then bacteria is redistributed to nearby areas during the cleaning process.2
Consumers can also contribute to its spread via bags and items they bring into the restroom and even their hands.   
Dealing with bioburden build up is not a pretty subject.
In fact, a survey of U.S. consumers found that three out of four people are disgusted by urine stains and odors in public restrooms and more than one-third would leave a place of business because the restroom smelled like urine.3
Likewise, another survey of cleaning industry decision makers found that removing urine odors (52 percent) and stains (47 percent) is their number one priority.4
Despite being a top priority, reducing bioburden in the restroom is a tough job in an already challenging environment, but the best approach is to focus on simple daily cleaning efforts.
This includes selecting the right process and products that are easy to use and engineered to deal with problems like stains and odors at their source, rather than masking them.
Try some of these simple daily cleaning suggestions in your facility:
  • Pre-clean surfaces first to remove bodily soils such as urine, feces and vomit and then use a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered product to disinfect surfaces and kill any odor causing bacteria that may have been left behind.
    - Remember to choose disinfectants with label claims to kill germs of the highest concern, such as influenza and norovirus, in order to reduce the risk of outbreaks.
  • Eliminate restroom odors by breaking them down at their source.
    - Choose products that include stable active ingredients, such as hydrogen peroxide, which will fight urine odors and stains effectively whether they are used before or after other cleaning products.
    - In comparison, dilutable general bathroom cleaners (GBCs) typically contain less than 0.5 percent of their active ingredient after dilution and enzymatic cleaners are formulated at a neutral pH which do not treat stains well and can be deactivated when used in conjunction with other antibacterial or high/low pH products.
  • Floorcare is also important. A study published in the journal PLoS One found that restroom floors are the “germiest” places in restrooms with about 230 bacterial species, compared to 150 species in other locations.5
    - Remove grime and scuff marks on restroom floors with a multi-surface cleaner and consider using a disinfectant, as well, to minimize cross contamination. 
  • Clean mirrors and glass to keep them shining by removing water marks, soils and streaks with a general glass and surface cleaner.
  • Scrub away soap scum on sinks, counter tops and more with products specifically formulated to break it down.
Cleaning To Stop The Spread
While cleaning for appearance and to remove bioburden is well understood and a priority for the industry, disinfecting to prevent the spread of illness-causing germs on restroom surfaces is not always as top of mind as it should be.
With flu season in full swing, cleaning to stop the spread of infections is especially important now, as the flu virus and other illness-causing germs can survive on surfaces for extended periods of time and can spread when people touch infected surfaces and then touch their eyes, mouth or nose.
The issue of cross contamination is also something to consider when cleaning in order to prevent the spread of infections.
Cross contamination occurs when bacteria and viruses are transferred from one surface to another.
For example, when a woman’s purse is placed on restroom floor and then placed on a sink counter, the germs and bacteria can hitch a ride.
One study even found that 20 percent of handbags contained more germs than the average toilet flush and could potentially cross-contaminate other surfaces.6
Good hand hygiene practices in conjunction with efficient cleaning and disinfecting are crucial to preventing the spread of germs and reducing cross-contamination concerns.
Keeping people healthy can also go a long way to show the return on investment (ROI) for a clean restroom, as illness-causing germs can contribute to employee absenteeism or presenteeism.
In fact, a study published in the Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine reported that health-related “lost productive time” costs employers $225.8 billion per year, or $1,685 per employee per year.7
The ISSA roundtable panel discussed how cleaning professionals and frontline workers should be educated and reminded often of how important their job is to preventing illnesses and how much it impacts their business’ bottom line.
Here are some tips facility managers can share with their staff to help educate them on the importance of cleaning to stop the spread of infections:
  • Frequently touched restroom surfaces and objects such as faucet handles, countertops, doorknobs and dispensers need to be disinfected at least once a day with an EPA-registered disinfectant that has kill claims for some of the most contagious and hard-to-kill viruses such as influenza and norovirus.  
  • Always refer to the product label and follow manufacturer’s instructions for use and contact time, or the length of time the disinfectant needs to remain wet on the surface to properly kill pathogens. Different products have different contact times for killing certain pathogens.
  • To prevent the spread of infections, employees should wash their hands regularly with soap and warm water, especially after emptying waste baskets, touching used tissues or using the bathroom.
As the industry thinks about these trends, another one to keep in mind that may eventually help facility managers better understand the impact of bioburden and cleaning for health in the restroom is the emergence of science-based cleaning research.
In the past year, there has been urgency in the cleaning industry to push for more science-based research to inform practices and procedures and validate ROI and results.
When research-based benchmarks are in place, cleaning industry professionals will need to start considering how results will impact the products and processes they use on a daily basis.
1Barker J, Jones MV. “The potential spread of infection caused by aerosol contamination of surfaces after flushing a domestic toilet.” Journal of Applied Microbiology. 99 (2005): 339–347.
2“Gerba: Sometimes It’s Better Not to Clean.” CleanLink News. (April 4, 2008). Web. Retrieved from:
3Clorox Professional Products Company and Opinion Research Corporation. (March 2013). Restroom Pet Peeves Omnibus Survey. (Survey of 1,005 U.S. adults).
4Clorox Professional Products Company and ClearVoice Research. (February 2012). Online Survey of Professional Cleaning Service Industry Decision Makers. (Survey of 933 cleaning industry decision makers across various industries).
5Flores, G.E., Bates, S.T., Knights, D., Lauber, C.L., Stombaugh, J., Knight, R. and Fierer, N. “Microbial Biogeography of Public Restroom Surfaces.” PLoS One. 6.11 (2011): e28132. Web. Retrieved from:
6Castillo, M. “Handbags may contain more germs than average toilet flush.” CBS News. (May 20, 2013). Web. Retrieved from:
7Stewart, W. R. Lost productive work time costs from health conditions in the United States: results from the American Productivity Audit. Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine. 45.12 (2003).

Dane Dickson is the R&D director at The Clorox Company. He develops science-based product solutions for Clorox Professional Product Company, and he has 27 years of experience in product development. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from UC Davis. For more information on Clorox Professional Product Company’s products to help achieve a complete clean in restrooms, such as Clorox Urine Remover and Clorox Hydrogen Peroxide Disinfecting Spray, visit


There's always a simple, logical way to use peer pressure in a positive way. In this instance it is in regard to health-care providers and hand-washing hygiene. An interesting study has emerged from Canada which highlights this. It's a good way to slow the spread of disease and keep people healthy. Read on.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Custodian = Thread

Are You Like Thread?
Our recent poll asked what people thought a custodian's job is like. 100% answered "hard".

Having worked in the cleaning field for over 30 years and having been a custodian for 15, I can attest to that answer. I'm not saying it is overwhelmingly difficult and demanding like some jobs, but it is very physical and at times challenging. A custodian may be called upon to carry ladders, heavy mop buckets, machines, tables, boxes and other large items which can test their physical strength. Plus, dealing with people within the building, whether the public, staff, students or others, can definitely be a challenge when situations arise that require finesse and diplomacy in solving certain situations.

A custodian may wear multiple hats too. Cleaner, painter, maintenance worker, chemical engineer, building technician, HVAC personnel, administrator, delegater, facility coordinator, banquet/meeting organizer, delivery person and more. And when it comes to jobs that no one else seems to know what to do with, guess who it is relegated to? The custodians!

Being a custodian can be satisfying though. Realizing that you keep things running behind the scenes and make things work without most people knowing about it can be exciting and pleasing. You're the one who makes it all come together. I guess you could say a custodian is the thread that holds all the pieces together and makes for a pleasant whole for others to appreciate. Hard? Yes. Satisfying? Yes.

To all you custodians out there I say "Thank You!" and keep up the hard work.

Retired and Building Thrones

The following article from the Huffington Post online ( tells the tale of a retired Indian man who is using his masonry skills to build toilets for those in need. In his home country many people don't have access to clean water or sanitation. He is doing what he can to help. The short article that follows highlights some of his achievements in conjunction with World Water Day which was on March 22.

Kathirvel is a 65-year-old man from India who is determined to make a difference in his golden years.
Instead of spending retirement with his feet up, he uses his expertise in masonry to build toilets, according to Over the last year, he's built more than 200 toilets for the needy in his country.
In India, roughly 21 percent of communicable diseases are water-related, according to the World Bank. Kathirvel's work provides a sanitary solution to waste disposal, aiming to lower that rate.
Kathirvel is part of's WaterCredit program -- an initiative that allows financial institutions to provide small loans to households in developing nations. Funds are used to develop modernized systems for residents to access clean water, enhancing sanitation and personal hygiene.
Access to clean water is the culprit of health crises in underdeveloped regions around the globe. As Chelsea Clinton pointed out at the South by Southwest festival earlier this month, more than 750,000 children die every year from severe dehydration due to diarrhea -- a direct result of a lack of clean water. Worldwide, 768 million people -- that's nearly 2.5 times the population of the U.S. -- lack access to safe drinking water, and 2.5 billion people lack access to proper sanitation according to the U.N.'s World Water Development report.

Article found here

Friday, March 28, 2014

"I'll Take A Side of Bacteria Please"

Who would think that a restaurant menu could have more germs on them than a toilet seat! But, according to studies, they often do; up to 185,000 bacteria counts per square centimeter! Not only menus but lemons, Ketchup bottles and seats. I've included the article from below for your perusal. You might want to wash your hands after you read it!


HAMILTON, OH — Restaurant menus may harbor more germs and bacteria than any other surface in foodservice locations. According to studies, menus can have bacteria counts as high as 185,000 per square centimeter-far more than a toilet seat.

The reason: Scores of people touch restaurant menus and yet they are rarely cleaned.
Of course, people don't get sick every time they touch a menu. But if the infectious dose is high enough, or the person touching the menu is a young child or has a compromised immune system, the likelihood can be significant.
According to Matt Morrison, communications director for Kaivac (developers of the No-Touch® and OmniFlex® cleaning systems), restaurant patrons should "wash their hands or use a hand sanitizer after handling the menu."
The following are other so-called germ-centers in restaurants, along with suggestions on how to lessen the health threat they present.
Seats: Seats are one of the germiest spots in a restaurant. "They are rarely cleaned, and when they are, they are often quickly wiped down using a soiled towel," says Morrison.

Solution: Use a hand sanitizer or wash your hands before eating.
Ketchup bottles: Scores of people touch these, and they are rarely wiped down with an antibiotic cleaner.

Solution: Hold the bottle with a napkin when using.
Lemon slices: A study by Passaic County Community College found that nearly 70 percent of the lemon slices placed in drinks or on dishes in restaurants carried potentially harmful microorganisms, typically because they are often not washed or properly washed before they are cut.

Solution: Using a napkin, squeeze the juice out of the lemon, but put the rind on the side.
Floors: We have as many as 50 direct and indirect contacts with floors every day. In a restaurant, floors can get heavily soiled and become the source of cross contamination.
Solution: While a "quick clean" of floors may be necessary with mops and buckets, they can contribute to the problem if used too frequently. "Restaurant managers should select healthier dispense-and-vac or spary-and-vac cleaning methods," says Morrison.
*Sources: Dr. Aileen Marty, Department of Infectious Disease at Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine; Dr. Kelly Reynolds, Associate Professor, University of Arizona College of Public Health, Tucson.
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