What's Your College's Cleaning Level?

by EnvirOx
What's Your College's Cleaning Level?

Some of you probably saw the headline of this article and knew exactly what we were going to talk about. The rest of you might be scratching your head. There might be a temptation to think that something is either clean or not clean. Assigning a "level" to cleanliness might feel a little strange at first. But the reality is that not every facility can maintain the cleaning standards they strive for all the time. There's a real benefit to trying to quantify how clean a college or university is. This helps custodial managers and supervisors diagnose why they aren't reaching the top level of clean, and gives them something to strive for.

First, let's break down the different levels as identified by the Association of Physical Plant Administrators, or APPA. 1

Level 1

Orderly Spotlessness:

  • Floors and base moldings shine and/or are bright and clean; colors are fresh.
  • There is no build-up in corners or along walls.
  • All vertical and horizontal surfaces have a freshly cleaned or polished appearance and have no accumulation of dust, dirt, marks, streaks, smudges, or fingerprints.
  • Lights all work and fixtures are clean.
  • Washroom and shower fixtures and tile gleam and are odor-free.
  • Supplies are adequate.
  • Trash containers and pencil sharpeners hold only daily waste, are clean and odor-free.

Level 2

Ordinary Tidiness:

  • Floors and base moldings shine and/or are bright and clean.
  • There is no build-up in corners or along walls, but there can be up to two day's worth of dust, dirt, stains, or streaks.
  • All vertical and horizontal surfaces are clean, but marks, dust, smudges, and fingerprints are noticeable upon close observation.
  • Lights all work and fixtures are clean.
  • Washroom and shower fixtures and tile gleam and are odor-free.
  • Supplies are adequate.
  • Trash containers and pencil sharpeners hold only daily waste, are clean and odor-free.

Level 3

Casual Inattention:

  • Floors are swept or vacuumed clean, but upon close observation, there can be stains.
  • A build-up of dirt and/or floor finish in corners and along walls can be seen.
  • There are dull spots and/or matted carpet in walking lanes.
  • There are streaks or splashes on base molding.
  • All vertical and horizontal surfaces have conspicuous dust, dirt, marks, smudges, and fingerprints.
  • Lamps all work and fixtures are clean.
  • Trash containers and pencil sharpeners hold only daily waste, are clean and odor-free.

Level 4

Moderate Dinginess:

  • Floors are swept or vacuumed clean but are dull, dingy, and stained.
  • There is a noticeable build-up of dirt and/or floor finish in corners and along walls.
  • There is a dull path and/or obviously matted carpet in the walking lanes.
  • Base molding is dull and dingy with streaks or splashes.
  • All vertical and horizontal surfaces have conspicuous dust, dirt, smudges, fingerprints, and marks. Lamp fixtures are dirty, and some lamps (up to 5 percent) are burned out.
  • Trash containers and pencil sharpeners have old trash and shavings. They are stained and marked. Trash containers smell sour.

Level 5

Unkept Neglect:

  • Floors and carpets are dull, dirty, dingy, scuffed, and/or matted.
  • There is a conspicuous build-up of old dirt and/or floor finish in corners and along walls.
  • Base molding is dirty, stained, and streaked.
  • Gum, stains, dirt, dust balls, and trash are easily spotted.
  • All vertical and horizontal surfaces have significant accumulations of dust, dirt, smudges, and fingerprints, all of which will be difficult to remove.
  • Lack of attention is apparent. Light fixtures are dirty with dust balls and flies. Many lamps (more than 5 percent) are burned out.
  • Trash containers and pencil sharpeners overflow. They are stained and marked. Trash containers smell sour.

How to use this for your own benefit:

Reading through the different cleaning levels, where do you think your own facility would be ranked? Be as honest as possible in your self-assessment. Remember, this is a tool that you can use to improve how you clean. Most facilities probably fall into the Level 2 or 3 category. If you're lower than that, that just means you have challenges to overcome.

What contributes to a lower cleaning level?

Here's where we get into the part that can be the most transformative for your facility and cleaning staff. It's time to look at some of the issues that could be keeping your facility from that top level.

  1. Initial Training – Also sometimes referred to as "onboarding." There can be gaps in any facility's training program. If you're not seeing the cleaning results you want, it's worth investigating whether your training program is as good as it needs to be. We have an upcoming webinar about this very topic on August 28th. Don't worry, if it's after that date you can still use this link to watch a replay of the webinar.
  2. Ongoing Training – Colleges, perhaps more than other kinds of facilities, have a tendency to keep up with trends. This includes trends in technology and building materials as well. That means your staff will likely have new, unfamiliar surfaces to clean. It's vital to have training on how to do this, so they don't damage equipment such as electronic whiteboards. Also, luxury vinyl tile (or LVT) is another excellent example. Traditional methods of cleaning can actually damage this kind of flooring or leave it looking dirty and dingy. We have an E-book that covers this topic extensively.
  3. Lack of Personnel – This one is tricky. Everyone is dealing with tighter budgets. It might be that you simply don't have enough staff to raise your cleaning level. Being able to connect these two concepts is essential, though. If you've addressed all the other possible problem areas, then it may help make a case for more staff or help explain why you're at your current level of cleanliness.
  4. Type of Cleaning Product – If you don't have an effective cleaning product, it means that janitors are either working longer or harder on getting something clean. It might be time for a change.

Just remember, wherever you start out, everyone has room for improvement. This isn't about feeling bad that you're not hitting a specific number. It's about taking the first step to getting even better.

  1. APPA. (n.d.) Custodial Service (Staffing) Level. Retrieved from http://tnd.appa.org/detail/8780

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