Practices Explored For Keeping Buildings Clean

AUSTIN, TX — Just because a building is given a clean bill of health doesn’t mean that the cleaning process ends. “The work doesn’t end when remediation is over,” said Steve Ashkins of Healthy Housekeeping Solutions.

At the recent Healthy Indoor Environments (HIE) 2002 Conference, Ashkins gave some statistics that supported his reasons for maintaining clean buildings: 4.8 million children suffer from asthma; cancer is the No. 1 related cause of death in children each year (8,500 children are diagnosed with cancer each year); and some cases of autism and learning disabilities (including hyperactivity) are attributed to poor IAQ.

“There are productivity losses at work, up to 30% more errors, over 7% worker slowdown,” Ashkins added. “Billions are spent each year on productivity and health costs.”

Ashkins said that the mere presence of dust should be taken seriously by building owners and managers. “Dust is a living, vibrant source of contamination,” he said. “We need to convince building occupants that dust is not an appearance issue; it is a health issue.

“Cleaning is a means of extracting contaminants, not a way to make things look nice,” he continued. “But cleaning is also a source of contamination.”

Ashkins said that 5 billion lbs of chemicals are used a year to clean buildings. An additional 4.5 billion lb of paper are used. He noted that some of the paper contains bleach, a dioxin.

“Cleaning should be a low-cost health-intervention strategy,” he said. “We are trying to introduce ‘green cleaning,’ which are cleaning products which will not harm the environment.”


Ashkins listed more than 20 cleaning tips, including:

  • Clean frequently.
  • Begin cleaning outdoors.
  • Use entry mats.
  • Remove shoes.
  • Minimize clutter.
  • Use hard flooring.
  • Dust and vacuum.
  • Clean or replace upholstered furniture.
  • Clean or replace draperies or horizontal blinds.
  • Change air filters (label with tape when last replaced).
  • Manage temperature, humidity, and ventilation.
  • Wash mattress covers and pillow covers.
  • Use care with “homemade” cleaning recipes.
  • Select the safest cleaning products.
  • Keep food areas clean.
  • Keep food in sealed containers.
  • Manage trash and receptacles.
  • Minimize the use and storage of pesticides.
  • Keep pets outdoors.
  • Use care with house plants — don’t overwater or leave on carpeting.
  • Stop smoking.

    Ashkins also quoted commercial-institutional cleaning tips from ASTME 1971-58, including utilizing a written maintenance plan, using environmentally friendly cleaning products, and practicing integrated pest management.

    “If you change the habitat, bugs will not want to come back,” he said.

    Publication date: 06/03/2002

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