If You're Gonna Clean, At Least Do It Right

I recently learned that an acquaintance of mine works as a facility manager in a smaller company where he oversees and manages the cleanliness of the building. There is no in-house cleaner on hand so he outsources the custodial services. But I learned that he doesn’t actually outsource the service to a jan/san company, but to another friend of ours as a way to save money. She alone cleans the entire facility five nights a week. This revelation raised a number of red flags.

First, this “cleaner’s” experience doesn’t extend any further than what she does in her own home. Her knowledge of the reasons for cleaning, proper techniques, safety and disinfecting standards stem no further than common sense. And her training consisted of a tour of the facility and brief explanation of which chemicals should be used where. Certainly not the education or background you want from your cleaner.

My second major concern is that this “cleaner” works alone. As most of you are aware, there are many problems with this. Although I know this person to be an honest and hardworking individual, she is the type of cleaner often blamed for stolen or misplaced items because she comes and goes unannounced and works under no supervision. Working alone can also be a major safety concern — further emphasized when that independent worker is inexperienced and poorly trained.

Finally — and potentially most important — if this facility manager is willing to hire an inexperienced and uneducated (as far as cleaning goes) “temp” to save a couple dollars, where else is he making cuts? Standards of clean certainly can’t be where they should and where is the accountability?

Yes, he might be saving a couple dollars, but he is doing so at the expense of the building occupants. Substandard training, improper disinfecting, inferior cleaning standards and a lack of accountability negates the purpose of cleaning.

  • Good points all.  You could add to that:

    1)  Probably paying her as an independent contractor, without sufficient proof that she really is an independent business (offering similar services in the general market, etc.), so when audit time comes on workers comp or employment taxes, the building owner is likely liable

    2)  Safety and regulatory concerns - she likely has not had OSHA training, so is unaware of chemical labeling requirements, posting of MSDSs, avoiding mixing of bleach and ammonia...

    3)  No inspections, no fill-in for sick days, periodic work (burnishing, carpet cleaning, etc.) unavailable...One could go on.

  • Further thoughts on the above, from my blog:

    "The Missing MSDS Book":

    While inspecting buildings in preparing quotes for potential customers, I get a look at a whole lot of janitor closets used by my competitors.  I could count on the fingers of one hand the MSDS books I've seen in those closets, including janitor closets used to store lots of chemicals.  On the other hand, I do see a lot of unlabeled squirt bottles...

    Given that the undocumented chemicals are in the customer's building, and therefore in his employee's workspace, it would be the customer having to deal with OSHA, and with the fines.  Interesting, how many janitorial firms set their customers up for a fall, and how many customers are blissfully unaware.

  • I couldn't agree with you more!

    As the president of Clean Corp, a residential and commercial cleaning business in Atlanta, I can't stress enough the importance of hiring a professional cleaning company when it comes to cleaning homes and offices.   I’ve met so many facility managers and homeowners who learned a very hard lesson by hiring an independent cleaner.  Most independent cleaners’ aren’t equipped with the knowledge, certifications, equipment and insurance necessary to run a successful business.

    We don't train our techs to clean a commercial property the same way we would clean a client's home, because in fact they're two different environments. A lot of times a person will get what they pay for when cutting cost.  Unfortunately many make this mistake, and create more work for themselves by having to go behind the inexperience cleaner(s).

    Charnell Griffin



  • Bob ur my hero-  110% dead on! Would u mind sharing that with the Chemical Dwell Time Q & A ?

    Great post -Thank you!

    Kim Lynch

    * National Association Of Professional Women

    * Center for Health, Environment & Justice- Action/Events

    * National Campaign for Healthy Schools, Green Team

    * Cleaning for a Reason Foundation- Partner & Friend

  • You get what you pay for, right? Seriously, it is important for building managers to realize the extended ramifications of their out-of-house commercial cleaning decisions. Good post.