Hygienically Speaking

Because the funds are not there, most park and recreation facilities managers concerned about healthy, hygienic conditions will have to reevaluate their current cleaning systems, look for areas of improvement, and investigate other options. A good place to start is for managers to identify their most contaminated areas. Then, based on these findings, they should implement cleaning procedures that have been scientifically proven to be more effective, while not increasing time and costs. In fact, some of these new strategies may actually reduce cleaning times.

Where The Germs Are

In 2003, New York-based writer Nicolas Bakalar wrote a book titled Where the Germs Are: A Scientific Safari (published by John Wiley & Sons). The book, which became surprisingly popular, pinpoints areas of the average home where germs and contaminants are most likely to grow.

Unfortunately, no such book exists for public buildings or park and recreation facilities. “However, pinpointing where the germs are is the first step in cleaning more effectively,” says Angelo Poneris, customer service supervisor for Valley Janitorial in Hamilton, Ohio. “The cleaning professional can then focus his or her time and attention on the areas where they are needed most. This is not only more effective cleaning, but it is cost-effective cleaning as well.”

Poneris suggests that park and recreation facilities investigate current scientific-cleaning measurement tools, such as ATP monitors. ATP–adenosine triphosphate–is an energy molecule found in all animal, plant, bacterial, yeast and mold cells. Its presence on a surface can be a warning that disease-causing microbial spores and other diseases may be present. By using these monitors on a regular basis, custodial workers can determine which areas of a facility, especially restroom areas, tend to be the most contaminated and thus where the greatest cleaning effort should be concentrated.

Cleaning Procedures

Through organizations such as the Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI), a nonprofit research group formed to expand scientific research into professional cleaning, we now know that many traditional cleaning systems may not only be ineffective at removing contaminants and promoting hygienic cleaning, but actually may be a culprit in spreading disease.

For instance, “as a conventional cleaning cloth is used, it collects soils, germs and other impurities,” explains Poneris. “Essentially what is happening is the towel has become the conduit, spreading disease and contamination.”

Studies going back to 1970 find that the mop in a traditional mop-and-bucket cleaning method typically becomes contaminated as soon as it touches the floor. And as the mop is used, contamination is spread to other areas of the facility.

These older cleaning systems are slowly being phased out and replaced with industry innovations, such as microfiber cloths and spray-and-vac cleaning technology.

According to Poneris, one manufacturer now produces microfiber-cleaning cloths that can be folded into quadrants, allowing for the selection of a fresh cleaning surface. And there are color-coded microfiber cloths available, in which the user can designate a specific color to be used for each particular task.

Spray-and-vac cleaning uses specially designed cleaning equipment that applies chemicals to the areas to be cleaned. These areas are then rinsed, loosening soils and contaminants that are then vacuumed using the machine’s built-in wet/dry system.

CIRI reports that these systems, compared to conventional cleaning methods, are more effective at eliminating C. diff, MRSA and other germs and bacteria that may be found in public restrooms and locker rooms. “Further, cleaning work can be performed two-thirds faster than with conventional cleaning methods,” adds Poneris.

Park and recreation facilities obviously don’t require a hospital’s level of cleaning. But because of MRSA and other infections, astute park managers must stay vigilant to keep their facilities as hygienically clean as possible. “After all, the goal of park and recreation facilities is leisure, fun, sports and promoting health,” says Poneris. “No manager wants anybody to get sick using his or her facility.”

Susan Moore is a writer for the professional cleaning, building, healthcare and medical industries. She may be reached at info@alturasolutions.com.

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