Formula for the Future – The Impact of Science-based Cleaning Standards

Imagine, within 60 seconds, convincing a penny-pinching customer to invest more money in cleaning and, in particular, your services.

Within a minute, you can validate the reasons why management needs to increase the facility’s cleaning and maintenance budget.

Would you invest in one word — “science” — if it resulted in improving your cleaning services, implementing more effective techniques, increasing productivity, hiring and retaining the best employees, winning new customers, benchmarking results … all within seconds?

Experts say that science-based cleaning is not only upon us, but over the next several years, there is a real chance that high-tech equipment, such as ATP monitors and Tristimulus Colorimeters, will be as common on a janitor’s cart as vacuums and mops.

Foundation of science-based cleaning

Experts agree that cleaning for appearance will no longer be the function and goal of cleaning after science-based standards are implemented.

Instead, quantifiable cleaning measurements will result in healthier environments and stress the well-being of occupants.

“As the industry continues to experience a shift in focus from cleaning for appearance to cleaning for health, science-based cleaning standards are going to play a crucial and increasingly important role,” notes Dan Wagner, director of ISSA’s CIMS program.

Several tests and studies have been conducted by manufacturers and scientists.

“Notable studies funded and conducted through the U.S. EPA, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the Danish Institute of Occupational Health in particular, over the past two decades, have identified science-based research tools applicable to the development of criteria for the assessment of cleanliness in various indoor environments,” notes Dr. Gene Cole, member of the Cleaning Industry Research Institute Science Advisory Committee.

Guiding the industry ahead


Collectively, the industry has backed such research and promoted the efforts set forth by the Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI).

According to “The Cleaning Industry Research Institute was created to raise awareness of the importance of cleaning through scientific research. Our goal is to identify, catalog and expand on existing industry research to help members be more effective, improve people’s understanding of the importance of cleaning and influence the development of public policy.”

Since its inception, CIRI has commissioned and completed a feasibility study to determine whether the development of scientifically based cleaning metrics and standards is possible given today’s chemical and biological measurement technology.

The organization also authorized a second study to develop the protocols and research plan for the development of science-based cleaning standards for educational buildings.

In addition to an annual symposium, the organization is also planning and conducting more research in order to complete the process of developing standards of clean.

CIRI’s Science Advisory Committee (SAC) is made up of respected scientists who are guiding the industry during this process.

“CIRI has identified highly knowledgeable and experienced task group experts to collaborate with its science advisers in further studying and perfecting (cleaning) methods,” says Jim Harris, Sr., CIRI president and industry consultant. “The research, methods testing and validation has to come first before the clean standards are fleshed out, finalized and industry training programs are launched. It’s an overlapping, step wise progression leading to the successful development of clean standards. Thereafter, the training and assessment for end users is the real application, the ultimate benefit and the business of clean standards.”

Pioneering the way


Several industry manufacturers and consultants are considered pioneers in this movement, investing time, money and research.

Kaivac Inc., for example, is playing a significant role in the movement as well as CIRI’s efforts.

“We have been a little frustrated over the last several years about the lack of science in our industry,” explains Tom Morrison, vice president of marketing for Kaivac. “So when we saw the opportunity for an organization such as CIRI, we were very supportive.”

In addition to presenting a research study at CIRI’s symposium that was based on the measurement of soil on surfaces, Kaivac is now offering ATP monitors to its customers. ATP, which stands for adenosine triphosphate, is the universal energy molecule found in all animal, plant, bacteria, yeast and mold cells.

ProTeam Inc. is another manufacturer that is considered a pioneer in this movement and also participated in CIRI’s symposium and ongoing efforts.

“It is important for the industry to rally around cleaning for health,” says Matt Wood, ProTeam’s CEO/president. “We’re happy to contribute and grow that awareness.”

In addition to forward-thinking manufacturers, industry associations, such as ISSA, have also shown strong support for CIRI and establishing cleaning standards.

“One of ISSA’s primary strategic initiatives involves leading projects that help make the connection between cleaning and health through the application of scientific research and the development of science-based standards,” says Wagner. “ISSA is a key supporter of the Cleaning Industry Research Institute; (ISSA’s) Executive Director John Garfinkel sits on CIRI’s Board of Directors and we anticipate working with CIRI as well as numerous other groups, such as IFMA and APPA, in the future on specific projects that help make the connection.”

In the eyes of the world

The need to implement science in today’s cleaning applications is derived from several factors, including a growing public awareness of cleaning and health being connected as well as end user demands to validate their services.

“There is growing attention to public health and hygiene, plus growing crises with MRSA infections in schools and other emerging public health threats. These demand that the cleaning professionals and leaders in the JanSan industry step forward and play a defining role in establishing new methods and standards to promote cleanliness and hygiene,” notes Dr. Steven Spivak, chair of the CIRI Science Advisory Council and also technical advisor with the Restoration Industry Association.

In addition, outsiders have often minimized the importance of the cleaning industry and, in particular, cleaning.

But, as more research is conducted, experts indicate that public perception is sure to change.

“As we start to connect the dots between proper cleaning and reduction in disease, for example, that is when the public will really start to understand the value of cleaning,” says Morrison, who adds that as this trend develops, it will be harder for management to cut cleaning budgets and customers to choose the lowest bidder. “When we can educate those people (management and customers), there isn’t going to be this struggle, and that is one very important outcome of the science.”

By measuring soil on a surface or carpet, for example, experts say that cleaners will be able to employ better practices, employees and products.

“Once you are able to quantify results, you will be able to spot areas that are in need of improvement,” notes Wood. “(Science) will be able to measure the results as well as performance.”

And, scientific evidence will give BSCs and ISPs the hard facts to present to management and customers.

The importance of effective cleaning will be the priority of every building owner and manager.

However, “effective” is the key word.

“Improper cleaning methods can actually cause more harm than not cleaning at all,” says Morrison. “If you don’t properly clean, you’ll actually spread bacteria and disease around rather than eliminate it.”

According to Dr. Cole, once science is implemented, cleaners will have a better understanding of what “clean” means relative to different indoor environments, along with the knowledge that is necessary to achieve and measure desired results.

Therefore, effective cleaning will be the only way to clean.

Planning ahead


Change is never easy and those who are involved in this movement are expecting a transition period to occur before science becomes fully immersed in cleaning.

“It takes continual training and a lot of time and patience to transition,” notes Wagner. “That said, as soon as the various groups see the value that can be realized by their own companies, they will support the new initiative.”

And, organizations are now calling for your assistance in advancing this movement.

“CIRI needs and expects end users to join in to support CIRI as members and as research sponsors. We cannot create science-based cleaning research for future standards without measurable support and commitment (by end users),” says Harris.

For more information on how you can get involved, please visit

CIRI’s 2008 Symposium, “Cleaning Science and Health: Making the Connection,” will be held on June 10-12, 2008, at the University of Maryland’s Marriott Inn and Conference Center.

BSCs and ISPs who get involved with today’s science-based cleaning standard movement can stay ahead of the competition and help change and advance the industry.


Reprinted by permission of Cleaning and Maintenance Management magazine.

Richard DiPaolo is editorial director of CM/Cleaning & Maintenance Management® magazine. The journal is affiliated with Cleaning Management Institute®, a membership society for training and education of building maintenance professionals.