FM Articles

Preventive Cleaning and Maintenance


When we talk about preventive maintenance, or as it is more formally referred to, planned preventive maintenance (PPM), we typically are addressing such things as machinery, computers and electronics, cars, buses, airplanes, etc. Planned preventive maintenance or PPM is performed while a piece of equipment is performing well. The goal is to keep it operating well by checking, lubricating, and/or replacing any components that may cause more serious problems down the road.

While PPM typically applies to equipment, it can also apply to facility maintenance. By taking specific steps at certain times of the year, managers can forestall or even eliminate problems that are more serious. Floor care is a perfect example.

In the Midwest, for instance, snow, ice, and the cold weather rarely occur before November. The winter season can be extraordinarily tough on floors, especially here and in other parts of the country, mainly because ice melt is used to keep outdoor walkways safe, ice and snow free. However, ice melt and similar products cause havoc on floors and can destroy a floor’s finish. Moreover, because the real purpose of floor finish is to protect the floor, this means the floor may be left unprotected, subject to all types of soils and contaminants that can permanently ruin it.

You might think this problem could simply be addressed by refinishing the floors during the winter months, or possibly performing a complete winter strip and refinish. However, in most cases, that would not be advisable. Most floor finishes are impacted by climate conditions. If the weather is very cold and dry, and if the floor itself is very cold, the finish may not adhere properly. Because floor care tasks are so time consuming and costly, most administrators do not want to risk undertaking this work in the middle of winter.Maintenance

However, if a planned preventive program is in place, building administrators will have their floors stripped and refinished in September, or October at the latest. In the fall, the weather is still warm enough for the finish to adhere properly and this allows cleaning workers adequate time to apply extra coats to the floor, further toughening it up for the winter months ahead.

The Air We Breathe
While we should avoid any major floor care work during the cold winter months, a preventive maintenance project that should be considered during the winter, or at least a couple of months before spring arrives, is cleaning the air ducts in a facility. This would apply to schools as well as offices and a host of other commercial locations. Changes in air temperature, from hot to cold and then cold to hot, can cause condensation to build up inside the ducts in a facility. Over time, and depending on the climate, this condensation can result in mold growth, which can cause significant respiratory problems.

Also, it is in the spring that many people start experiencing allergies. Very often, this is aggravated by dust, pollen, and debris that builds up in the ducts and filters. In some cases, rodents and insects seeking warm spots during the cold winter months find their way into or near building ducts; as they die, odorless gases may be released that can negatively impact indoor air quality and health.

Further, and what is specifically cleaning related, as dust and debris build up in the ducts and filters, dust is released into the facility. It is not captured by the filters. This makes it harder to keep the building clean. A preventive maintenance program would include having all HVAC filters changed, twice per year, and ductwork vacuumed clean once per year.

A Supply Audit
Many administrators continue to purchase cleaning supplies that were recommended to them by a distributor or in-house cleaning supervisor a number of years ago, without investigating whether these are still the most appropriate products to meet current needs. If they are not the most effective or cost effective, they may be adding to cleaning times and operating costs and in some cases, may be negatively affecting the health of the facility.

A key part of a preventive maintenance program is to conduct a product audit or evaluation at least once per year. Spring or summer is generally the best time of year for this activity. In the past, such a product audit or evaluation was difficult to accomplish because there are hundreds of brands and manufacturers in the professional cleaning industry.

However, some distributors now have access to online dashboard systems. At least one of which is free for administrators to use, that help them evaluate the cleaning needs of a facility; the needs of the customer; the types of products available from scores of different manufacturers; and help administrators select those products that are most effective and which often can produce the most cost savings. View this type of preventive maintenance as preventing unnecessary spending on less-than-effective cleaning products.

Carpet Care
When it comes to carpet care, preventive maintenance can get a little sticky because many green cleaning advocates suggest that carpet should not be cleaned on set schedules. While this may be true in areas of a facility that get little or only moderate foot traffic, it is not applicable to those areas that are heavily used by many people.

Here is the golden rule when it comes to keeping carpets clean and healthy:  if the carpet looks soiled, the nap has flattened, or is heavily spotted…you are too late. It is far more difficult to keep a carpet clean and healthy once this type of soiling has occurred than to clean the carpet every two to four months, preventing this from happening.

While no two facilities are exactly the same, in many situations using the carpet extraction method, the best schedule for cleaning carpet in a heavily used area is the follows:

  • October, before winter begins
  • January, to remove winter soils, salt melt that may have been walked in, etc.
  • April, before Spring arrives
  • Once during the summer months

Cleaning not only protects human health, it protects assets – such as the buildings administrators manage. Taking preventive steps throughout the seasons helps to prolong the life of these assets, and at the same time, helps keep building users safe and healthy.

Michael Wilson is vice president of Marketing for AFFLINK, a global leader in supply chain optimization and developers of ELEVATE, providing clients with innovative process and procurement solutions to drive efficiencies in today’s leading businesses. He can be reached through his company website at