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How do you know if spaces are actually clean?

As we head into the colder months where we’d usually spend more time indoors, the idea of proof of work when it comes to cleanliness and sanitization is becoming a greater concern for many. Normally around this time we’d be in malls shopping for holiday presents, traveling through airports to see loved ones or finishing up our work in various offices, facilities and more. In the past we probably didn’t think twice about touching a door handle or if the front desk had been sanitized, but this is the new normal. Companies can say they’ve cleaned and sanitized, but how do you know if surfaces are actually clean?

In one of our news briefs earlier this year, we referenced an Inside Edition investigation about whether high touch surfaces in airports were being cleaned. Investigators “applied the show’s logo with harmless, invisible ink on several surfaces throughout the airport, including several rows of seats, the doors, and handles in the men’s bathroom and even the counter where you check-in” at John F. Kennedy International Airport. As we know, this type of ink dries invisible, and can only be seen with ultraviolet light. Three days later, the UV light illuminated the ink on several of the surfaces, suggesting that they hadn’t been wiped clean in days. A lack of oversight such as this could have put thousands a day at risk for contracting COVID-19 or other illnesses.

DCS Global Inc recently performed a survey about the cleaning within property management groups. 75% of those surveyed stated that they are not measuring and testing the quality of their touchpoint cleaning to ensure that it is being done properly and yet 99% of them are saying that they are effectively communicating the steps they are taking to make their building cleaner and safer for employees, tenants, and visitors. This lack of communication is something many business owners are expressing.

What we see here is a pattern that spans across many different industries. This pattern includes the understanding that patrons, tenants, and anyone in a business space want the knowledge that a space has been cleaned and sanitized, yet many businesses don’t know how to properly inform them of this. They assume internal or contracted cleaning teams are doing their jobs, but unless they physically watch them do it, it’s hard to tell if spaces have been cleaned properly. Some business owners may cut corners to save costs or some may just be overwhelmed at the thought of having to figure out a way to prove to patrons that they really are hiring cleaning teams and taking CDC guidelines seriously.

Failures in oversight can happen for a number of reasons. Cleaning teams often work at night or off hours, spaces can initially look clean even if they weren’t sanitized and more. The commercial cleaning industry faces a high turnover rate for employees, which means more training is required more often as new cleaners come in. In a 2016 study of the Washington DC Metro area, investigators found that unmonitored workers often performed “their duties for as little as five minutes during an eight-hour shift before leaving.” The City of Houston also conducted a study in the same year and found that cleaning vendors rarely inspect their frontline workers as frequently as required. This leads to inconsistent results between locations and often a misrepresentation of hours spent at each location. In Tulu’s research on the topic, we’ve found that sanitization tasks are particularly rife with errors. 40% of workers fail a sanitization audit from an inability to follow procedures, apply chemicals correctly, and use fresh equipment. 

While there are many options to increase oversight and ensure spaces and surfaces are actually clean, remote management and live auditing prove to be the easiest for all parties involved. With Tulu’s software, managers can remotely check in with their employees, watching videos and messaging in real-time. Cleaners know exactly what needs to be done and can be contacted at the time of sanitization if an area is missed. We even offer live-auditing services for business owners and managers who don’t have the time to work on oversight themselves. On the consumer side, our QR code decals allow anyone to scan a QR code and immediately see data on the last cleaning, watch videos of the space being cleaned, and even leave feedback. Together, we can work on a new standard of showing how spaces are actually clean.