Cleaning a Subway Car: A Never-Ending Challenge

By Anne Baley

Cleaning a Subway Car: A Never-Ending Challenge

Whether you call it a train, metro, or tube, a subway car is one vehicle that sees heavy traffic all day long. Not only do people purposely trash and deface the interior, normal usage alone causes the floors, seats, and handles to get dirtier as the day goes on. With the cumulative effect creating such an unhealthy environment, cleaning subway cars is a constant job that has to be scheduled several times a day. Fortunately, each route has a beginning and ending point with short breaks before moving on again, giving the custodial team time to quickly clean each car interior.

Cleaning Frequency

Each city has its own schedule, but a common practice is to clean the interior of the cars every time they reach their terminal stops. The train goes into a holding pattern until the cleaning team can finish with the cars on that line. This frequent cleaning not only cuts down on the accumulated dirt and germs that might build up, it also helps prevent the spread of flu and cold viruses from people constantly touching straps and hold bars.

However, a 2013 survey from the Straphangers Campaign revealed that only 42 percent of the New York City subway cars were rated as clean, representing a 10 percent drop from their 2011 survey. These results show how important it is to have a cleaning staff that is properly trained in using the best, most efficient equipment. Even the most frequent cleanings will not get the job done right if your staff does not know the best practices.

How to Clean Subway Floors

Cleaning the interior of any subway car has to be a quick job by definition. Speed counts as much as thoroughness. Floors used to be swept and mopped between trips, but this left them wet and slippery. In northern cities like New York, and even as far south as Washington, DC, snow and sleet tracked onto the floor adds to the slippery mess. Today, cleaning crews have the option of using spray-and-vac systems that clean the floor with a powerful spray and then vacuum up the soil and water, leaving the floor instantly dry. Not only are these machines better to use in terms of safety and cleanliness, they're quicker to use than the traditional mop and bucket. This allows the team more time to clean other parts of the subway car more thoroughly.

Health and Safety Concerns

Flu season can be especially bad in cities with large populations because of the sheer number of sick people who have to use public transportation while they're contagious. You can cut down considerably on the amount of germs on subways by using disinfectant cleaning solutions and disposable wipes or reusable microfiber cloths that are folded and refolded to expose a clean surface for each item you clean. This ensures that you remove the germs from each surface while preventing your cleaning tools from redepositing the germs on the next item you clean.

For more information on how to clean to prevent the spread of disease, click here.

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