Our Cleaning Theory

Our Cleaning Theory

What Is Cleaning?

We define cleaning simply as “capturing and removing dirt”. But that’s not the whole story. In the case of bacteria, we also make sure to kill it so it can’t reproduce; disinfecting, in addition to capturing and removing. So, after you decide what area and surface you’re concentrating on, you need to decide if you’re simply cleaning dirt, killing bacteria, or both.

Remember: cleaning is not for appearance alone. Cleaning is about maintenance of fixtures and flooring. Cleaning is about health and safety. In hospitals, for example, we clean to save lives. (Whoa. Cleaning just got real.) So, let’s put an end to cross-contamination and stop bacteria dead in it’s tracks. Looking over your cleaning plan, determine what needs disinfecting. Even if you’re not dealing with hazardous materials or bio-waste, you still need to consider kitchens, bathrooms, and high-touch zones.

ACTION: Make a list of areas and fixtures that require both cleaning and disinfection in your building.

Cleaning at it’s Best: The Formula for Success

A helpful way to remember how to clean any surface better is T-A-C-T, which stands for Time, Agitation, Chemical, and Temperature.

Let’s talk about each of these terms on a micro and macro level.

Micro is the down and dirty (literally) action of cleaning any surface. The macro level, however, brings focus to things as a leader in our organization: our people (patrons and coworkers), our profit (even not-for-profits need to stay financially healthy), and our planet (we’re all sharing the same place).


On a micro level, we’re referring to dwell time — the length of time it takes a chemical to effectively do its job. This could be the dwell time needed for a disinfectant to kill bacteria or a stripping solution to emulsify floor finish before a stripping procedure.

Often, the longer a chemical dwells, the more of the agitation work is done for you. This isn’t always the case, however, and you need to be especially careful with certain chemicals. Fortunately, if your team is reading labels and has the proper training, it’s simply a matter of following directions.

From the macro level, we need to ask, “How long does my team have to complete a task, from start to finish, based on our constraints.” Sure, it’s faster to run (yep, literally again) up and down a gymnasium floor with a dust mop, but you are unable to fully capture all the particles. That means this same task will need to be done over and over again (and you’ll be paying someone to do it each time). Yes, vacuuming can take longer than dust mopping, but because the dirt is actually being captured (preferably, in a disposable bag) and removed, you won’t have to do the task as often.

ACTION: Don’t damp-mop restrooms every day. When using disinfectant, a damp-mop doesn’t have enough dwell time (usually 10 minutes) to kill 99.99% of the odour causing bacteria.


At a micro level, agitation is about actually cleaning the surface: wiping, scrubbing, brushing, scraping, and so on. You can agitate manually (a cloth wiper and good ol’ elbow grease) or automatically (you should see some of the cool equipment on the market today). Once you’ve added chemical to a dirty surface, and let it sit long enough to do it’s job, it still needs to be scrubbed and removed. Even if no chemical is involved, like during vacuuming, agitation is necessary. (That’s why there are things like beater bars… which you should never use.)

Both manual and automatic agitation are viable, but from a macro perspective, we must ask, “What is the most efficient way for my team to perform this task if every work-hour costs the same?” We like tools. We like equipment. It’s more effective to have the right tool for every job, regardless of the cost. And, though some of these machines cost thousands of dollars, they don’t have to cost you that much.

ACTION: Throw away your dust mop. A vacuum with strong suction has far more agitation than a dust mop ever could.

NOTE: Vacuum suction is rated by CFM (cubic feet per minute) and this agitation grabs all loose, dry debris and puts into a neat little bag for disposal. Capture and remove. Add a HEPA Filter and Boom! Instant improvement to IAQ (indoor air quality).


Talking about chemicals on a micro level is making sure we’re using the right chemical for the job. For example, using an alkaline cleaner won’t work very well to remove hard water stains, we turn to acids instead. pH levels are important, too, but we’ll leave science class behind for now. And don’t forget dilution ratios: some chemicals come pre-mixed with a lot of water. Changing the dilution ratio, as the label states, will change how we use the product.

Speaking of dilution ratios, chemical at a macro level involves choosing chemicals that are safest for people and planet, and easiest on our budget. Ask, “What chemicals are going to be the most efficient for time and longevity, yet consider safety and cost-effectiveness?” Spending 50% more for a cleaner that can be diluted 250% more is a good investment. Spending more for a floor finish that lasts 4 times longer without yellowing is a good investment. Purchasing non-caustic, eco-friendly chemicals that won’t harm people or the local water supply is a good investment.

ACTION: Take a chemical inventory: ask your team which ones are actually used. Find ways to use gentle cleaners for daily maintenance and save harsh chemicals for only when you need them.


At the micro level of cleaning, temperature is about the amount of heat we use to clean. More specifically, how we use cold water whenever possible. Why? Hot water increases the spread of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) as the heat quickly vapourizes them and the steam carries them airborne, making it easier for us to breathe in and polluting our buildings.

From a macro perspective, heat costs the organization even more money: we use gas or electricity to heat the water. Yes, there are thermodynamic and kinetic reasons why heat cleans better (we’re still leaving science class out of this), but we must ask, “Does the extra benefit of cleaning with heat outweigh the safety and cost savings of cleaning without it?” There have been so many advances in chemistry behind the cleaning products we use today; why use additional heat when it’s unnecessary? If you’re using cold water for your laundry at home, why can’t you make the same change at work?

ACTION: Build your cleaning plan from the bottom up with a focus on the environment. Adjusting Time, Agitation, and Chemical, can nearly eliminate the need for hot water. You will be rewarded with the eternal gratitude of future generations.

TACT Keeps Focus on the Micro and Macro of Cleaning

Remembering this cleaning formula ensures each task is done right and each task is considered through the lens of the entire facility and organization.

When we need to clean anything in our building, we must determine the right combination of

  • Time (dwell time and overall workload priorities)
  • Agitation (which tool or machine)
  • Chemical (which one and its dilution ratio)
  • Temperature (cold water whenever possible)

With this knowledge, we realize we don’t need to do the largest time-consuming tasks everyday. We don’t need to use the harshest of chemicals everyday. And, there’s no need for the most aggressive machinery on every surface.

Using the right combination of these four elements creates the biggest impact.

We’ve just laid out the basics of cleaning any surface. The next step is for you to connect the dots: equipment, tools, chemicals, and your janitorial team. We want every building to be clean[er]. If you don’t want to miss future information on improving your facility, specialized tools, or cleaning techniques, sign up for an email alert when we publish something new.

A clean[er] facility awaits!

– The Team at Clean Answers

Note: We go through this whole process and more in our Cleaning Checkup: sometimes the best way for a breakthrough is to bring in an outsider (that’s us).