Gone are the days when we stripped and refinished our floors every summer, suffered through back pain associated with poorly designed vacuum cleaners or when we associated a clean floor with a strong scent. There have been some huge changes in the past decade that have changed the cleaning industry for the better, but the way we care for our floors may be the most changed.
From robots to Instagram, here are the trends we’re watching and what they mean for the way we care for floors:
A brighter spotlight on our industry
The cleaning industry now is under the microscope more than it ever has been before. Between the ever-present customer complaint system available on social media, an increase in slip-and-fall litigation and the buzz of employee wellness, our work is noticed and publicized, whether we like it or not. It’s great if we are doing our jobs well, but it does mean the pressure is on. As we know, floors are the major first impression our buildings give to the world. Adhering to a comprehensive floor care program that is often revisited, well-documented and constantly improving will be absolutely imperative if we want to keep up with the increased scrutiny. Floor care has never been a procedure that can be performed here and there. The most successful cleaning companies and departments treat floor care as a comprehensive and continuous system.
Increased transparency when it comes to ingredients
Now more than ever, the end user is looking for safer, more sustainable products that are not only good for the planet but also for the workforce. It wasn’t too long ago that the industry was using some nasty raw ingredients, and workers accepted that occupational hazards like asthma and headaches were just part of the job. Today, we know better. That means there’s more demand for safer items. Luckily for us, we have more ingredient transparency than ever before so that we are able to make educated purchasing decisions, knowing what is going into the cleaning products we choose. In the U.S., new laws in California and New York will make sure that all manufacturers make a complete list of raw ingredients transparent, which indicates a shift in this direction for all states in the future. If you aren’t paying attention to what’s in the cleaning products you’re purchasing now, it’s time you discover a third-party certification system like ECOLOGO, Green Seal or the U.S. EPA’s Safer Choice program to help you understand the products you’re purchasing and their effects on human health and the environment. Start with your floor cleaners, including some of the more complex and stronger formulations in strippers and floor finishes, and go from there.
Robots are coming for our floors
The cleaning industry has a laid back reputation when it comes to technology. For example, there is an old-fashioned cotton string mop that was popular in the 1940s that is still being used in some facilities today. However, we’re also seeing a huge amount of technological improvements and exciting advancements lately, especially in floor care. We always love to see the new software programs and apps for cleaning and troubleshooting that help us do our jobs better. But one of the most exciting advancements in floor care right now is the advent of robotic auto scrubbers. Manufacturers of cleaning equipment are partnering with robotics companies to implement this AI technology quickly. As they continue to improve designs and efficiencies, we are most excited to see how this type of technology can free up custodial workers to spend more time on high-level cleaning tasks, training and education, leaving the repetitive, back-breaking work to the machines. We see only upside for floor care programs and the profession from this development.
An influx of low-maintenance substrates
Back in the day, floor care meant we needed to strip, seal and finish our floors at least once a year. These labour intensive tasks took up a lot of time and a huge portion of our cleaning budget. Today, more and more new buildings are opting for low-maintenance substrates that don’t need to be stripped or refinished, ever. For example, terrazzo and concrete flooring are making a huge mark on the flooring industry and new and exciting treatment programs allow cleaning programs to completely forego stripping and recoating, opting for low-maintenance floor care programs instead. Luxury vinyl tile, engineered wood, marble and slate are all exciting new flooring substrates on the uptick in new and renovated buildings that don’t need polymer coatings but instead require a fresh approach to floor care and the correct training to make sure we know how to clean these new substrates without damaging them. In other words: the old strip-seal-refinish paradigm will not work here.
A changing custodial demographic
We are also noticing the natural ageing of our custodial population. In Canada, the average age of a custodial worker in the education sector is 52 years old. Many of our most experienced and knowledgeable custodians are retiring with 30 years of service. It’s a shame to say goodbye to all that experience, especially when it comes to such a specialized form of work like floor care. As we lose that knowledge base, we must dig deep to motivate, coach and mentor the younger generation of custodial workers. The need for documented training that verifies the people understand the elements of the cleaning process is needed now more than ever. The education we provide our teams should not just be based on the products themselves, but teaching our younger generation about the science behind what we do, the health and safety measures needed and finding engaging ways to motivate them to become vested in the important work they do.
The need for alternate knowledge sources
As this older generation retires out of the custodial force, we are also seeing distributors with the knowledge and experience retiring. We will need to seek out information for alternate sources, including manufacturers, conferences, reports and case studies and learn ways to educate ourselves to make up for the loss of the distributors’ deep knowledge base. Having a specialist there that they can rely on to be your number one expert or a reliable source to answer your questions will be imperative as you adapt your floor care program to the ties.
Charlotte Products is a manufacturer of cleaning products with manufacturing facilities in Canada and the U.S.
The preceding article has been adapted and reprinted with permission from the Charlotte Products blog.