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Maintaining smaller public spaces like convenience stores, quick-serve restaurants, and small retail locations can be challenging. With floor space at a premium, cleaners typically have to navigate shelves, display stands, or furnishings. In addition, foot traffic is constant, making it difficult and unprofitable to close an area for long enough to clean thoroughly...and bringing in new dirt all the time. Of course, customers expect to see clean spaces, no matter what the challenges are.
There’s a range of tools available for cleaning smaller, obstructed public spaces. Many facilities rely on a traditional mop and bucket system, or its newer, hipper cousin, the microfiber flat mop system. Others have implemented more technology in the form of corded or battery-operated micro scrubbers that clean well and efficiently, but that come at a higher price point than manual cleaning.
To make sure you get the cleaning system that’s best for your space, it’s important to spend some time making sure you've considered your routine and the needs of your space. Here are some questions to consider:
- How much time is spent cleaning floors on a typical shift? Time your cleaning process for several days over the course of a week and take an average to understand how much staff time is devoted to floor cleaning with your current system.
- What are your customers’ expectations for your facility? Customers always expect clean spaces, but the ante may be higher for restaurants and grocery stores.
- How frequently do you have to clean outside of scheduled cleaning? If your facility is subject to spills that must be cleaned when they occur, that means someone on your team is pulled away from other tasks.
- If you have to close a portion of your floor to clean when customers are present, how does that affect customer traffic and sales? Are customers leaving your facility when floors are closed for cleaning?
- Are wet floors a risk for slip-and-fall accidents for customers or staff? If you need to open a floor for traffic while it is still wet, that might increase the possibility of an accident.
- How does your weather affect cleaning? Are there other outside factors that impact these tasks? Snow and ice or sand and dust can impact cleaning needs…and costs.
Mop and bucket systems have advantages…and disadvantages. So do micro scrubbers. Here are some things to consider as you look at the options available.
Cost and ease of use are the big advantages here. Traditional mops, buckets, and wringers are inexpensive, and don’t require a great deal of training for new staff members, so cleaning operations are very consistent.
But consistently what? If you’ve ever walked by a bucket of chocolate milk-colored mop water and wondered how clean the floor is getting, you’ve pinpointed one of the main disadvantages of the traditional mop. It’s hard to clean once the mop water is dirty. Some even say that mops are really good at making your floors uniformly dirty – it’s hard to see the dirt when it’s everywhere.
And, mops leave water on the floor. If cleaning takes place during customer hours, that water on the floor can present a slip risk that you might want to consider. While you can mitigate some risks by closing off areas of the store, that will impact customer traffic and sales performance.
Finally, traditional mop systems, while easy to use, can be unwieldy and heavy. If you have a team member mopping frequently, this can cause strain, either from manipulating a soaking web mop head or from trying to pick up a full bucket.
Flat mops take the ease of a mop and bucket and add some design thinking and technology to improve on tradition. While they’re more expensive than string mops, these systems are still at the low end of the cost scale, and they are easy to learn and use.
Flat mop microfiber pads don’t carry as much water as string mops do, so less water is left on the floor at the end of cleaning. Addressing the question of cleaning efficacy, flat mop pads are designed to be changed frequently during a shift to limit the amount of grime being spread by a dirty mop head. With this system, it’s critical to make sure your staff members are actually changing pads, or you get right back to cleaning with dirty water and a dirty mop.
While microfiber pads are easy to change, the manual process still takes time. If your facility requires frequent cleaning or cleaning of a relatively open expanse of floor, or if your staff members have a long list of functions they need to perform on a given shift, the productivity rate of a mop system may be something to scrutinize.
You can choose a ‘George Jetson’ technology-enabled mop or a micro-version of a traditional scrubber—this category of cleaning tools has a wide variety of options, and price points. Compared to a string mop, automated cleaning equipment has a much higher up-front cost, there’s no doubt about that. But do some quick calculations on productivity, sales impacts, and slip/fall risks, and you’ll see that the value over time makes a lot of sense.
Cleaning efficacy is where micro scrubbers really win. In any automated system, rotating brushes scrub the floor with clean water and a vacuum system captures the dirty water in a separate tank so grime is not redistributed. If you’re cleaning to meet high customer expectations, micro scrubbers can help you meet your goals. The vacuum pick-up also means that floors are left nearly dry as soon as cleaning is finished, minimizing the amount of time an area must be closed or restricted for cleaning.
Micro scrubbers come in a wide variety of designs with different features, so if you’re exploring this option, you’ll have another set of questions to consider:
- Is your space open and unobstructed?
If so, a slightly larger machine with a wider cleaning head and bigger tanks will provide greater efficiency.
- Do you need to clean around and under furniture and fixtures?
In that case, something small and maneuverable, based on a mop design, may provide more efficiency for your space than a design scaled down from a scrubber.
- Does your equipment frequently need to handle quick, unplanned tasks?
Battery powered equipment has added costs and maintenance requirements, but it’s is easy to grab and go when there’s a spill or when mud and water make their way into your space.
- How frequently do you need to train new workers?
Most micro scrubbers are easy to learn, but consider ease of use and maintenance in your decision-making process.
Maybe your research indicates that a micro scrubber would be a good choice for your facility, but the cost is making it a hard sell. Contact a vendor for the machine you’re interested in to arrange a demonstration of the machine. You can see how it operates on your floors – even time cleaning tasks so you can calculate the productivity of using an automated machine versus a traditional cleaning method. Many vendors also have calculators to help estimate your cleaning costs over time with various cleaning methods and tools.
Ultimately, there’s no “one size fits all” solution for small space cleaning. Your productivity requirements, customer demands, the needs of your space, and your budget are all factors that will direct your decision. Taking the time to think through the underlying benefits and trade-offs of different cleaning systems will help you make a choice that you can be confident in, and one that will provide the cleaning results that meet your expectations.