Originally published & reprinted with permission from CleanLink Online
By: Corinne Zudonyi, Editor
When Joseph Garcia, supervisor of custodial services at Mt. San Antonio College, Walnut, Calif., and president of the Cleaning Industry Trainers Guild, first began at the college, there was no rhyme or reason to the chemicals used throughout campus. The department would purchase products based mainly on price, and had even been known to incorporate free samples from distributors into their daily cleaning regimen.
“When I got here, they had been using anything and everything in terms of chemicals. I called it the flavor of the month,” he says. “Whenever the department signed with a new chemical vendor, we’d use that product. You could open the binder of material safety data sheets (MSDS) and there would be 500 pages to sort through.”
During that time, the department mostly used chemicals that came in gallon jugs or five-gallon pails. As new vendors came in, though, the department started experimenting with what Garcia calls “command centers” — wall-mounted chemical dilution systems. The goal was to get a handle on the chemical usage throughout campus.
“The first thing I wanted to do when I started was to streamline processes by using the same chemicals throughout campus,” he says. “The shift would improve safety, simplify purchasing and standardize cleaning processes.”
After testing a few portion-control systems that are available on the market, Garcia found a program that would work to meet the objectives at Mt. San Antonio. Five years ago, the college shifted to the use of preportioned chemical packets and Garcia comments that the shift has been a positive one.
In fact, he highlights four specific areas where he has seen benefits to the use of these chemical packets.
1. Simplicity and Low-Cost Setup
Using chemical packets means simply cutting the pouch and mixing it with appropriate amounts of water in either a bucket or handheld bottle. So assuming custodians have access to water source of any kind, set-up is simple.
According to Garcia, the only start-up costs associated with introducing the preportioned chemical packets came with training employees on the proper use of chemicals — the when, the where and the how much.
“The packets are color coded so training is simple,” he says. “We have three daily use chemicals we use on campus, but there is no guesswork involved in measuring or mixing. So we take one hour for each chemical to go over the Safety Data Sheets, proper application and proper use.”
He adds that all the instructions for use are printed on each packet, simplifying the training process even further. Nevertheless, Garcia does refresher training five to six times a year with the staff.
By mixing the contents of one chemical packet to a bottle or bucket, the custodial worker knows he or she has the correct chemical dilution to produce the best cleaning results.
“Prior to our portioning programs, the staff used the ‘glug’ method to measure out of the gallon jugs or five-gallon pails,” says Garcia. “It was nearly impossible to document whether the staff was correctly measuring, or budget for chemicals. Documenting preportioned packets makes that easy.”
Garcia has also seen a standardization in cleanliness throughout campus. When workers use the chemicals correctly, they’ll achieve the same level of clean no matter where they are on campus.
“I know the staff is using the exact measurement every single time,” says Garcia, “and they will get the same clean result.”
3. Accountability and Control
When using a preportioned chemical packet, managers know exactly how much product is being used for each job, and how many packets should be left at the end of a shift.
“We know how many chemical packets are required to complete cleaning duties,” says Garcia. “At the end of the shift, staff has to bring back the empty packets. By knowing what is necessary to clean, I know how and when to restock. It simplifies things.”
He adds that although some departments find that once custodians see the benefits to these chemical packets, they can sometimes “grow legs and walk off,” this isn’t an issue at the college.
“Because of our process of documenting chemicals — how much is needed when and where, and what was all used — it would be very difficult to get away with thievery,” says Garcia. “Our inventory is controlled.”
4. Mobility and Labor Savings
Chemical packets are small and easy to carry, meaning custodial staffs can take everything they need to complete their cleaning duties with them in one trip. When new chemical is needed, workers simply refill their bottle at the nearest water source and add one lightweight packet. This benefit saves both time and money.
“One of the chemicals we use is a germicidal detergent for the restroom,” says Garcia. Workers bring enough packets to clean each of the restrooms for that day and “that is all they use for spraying and wiping, toilet bowl cleaning and mopping.”
Multi-purpose chemical packets are used for light-duty jobs such as desks, white boards and glass, and neutral cleaners are added to mop buckets or autoscrubbers to clean floors. According to Garcia, the packets can easily be stocked on cleaning carts so workers have enough to complete all their cleaning tasks without having to return to the storage closets.
Managers comment that when custodial crews move quickly and efficiently through the building without retracing steps, they are more efficient. By carrying packets with them as they work, workers eliminate the downtime associated with going back and forth to a custodial closet to refill or restock chemicals. These efficiencies translate into savings on labor.
Overall, the use of preportion chemical packets at Mt. San Antonio College has been positive and Garcia doesn’t see the processes changing anytime soon.
“No system is perfect and everything has room for growth, but to look back at what we were doing five years ago, we have come a long way,” he says. “We have had no problems with the chemical packets, only great results and we look forward to continuing that success.”