When it comes to soils, commercial kitchen floors and other foodservice areas are some of the most challenging environments with which to deal.
True, restrooms have their share of issues; but, for the most part, the contaminants found there are — at least to some degree — water-soluble.
Commercial kitchens floors play host to a variety of soils mixed with grease, oil and whatever may have been tracked in from outside.
"We first started getting involved with restaurants about 10 years ago when we started going to the National Restaurant Association show with our large cleaning systems," says Tom Morrison, vice president of marketing at Kaivac Inc. "We would have a lot of interest, anyone from chain store operators to chefs, people involved in the running of the restaurant. Of course, the restroom applications of our systems were apparent, but what they were really interested in was using it in the kitchen."
The operational nature of the commercial foodservice environment is such that even floors cleaned multiple times throughout the day are again quickly covered in oily soils that also penetrate grout lines.
Out of necessity, floor maintenance becomes part of the regular routine.
The problem is that the standard go-to equipment is the outdated mop and bucket.
Mops were originally invented to apply a solution and spread it around, which they do very well; but, they do a poor job of effectively removing many soils from surfaces.
A mop will do very little to cut through grease and next to nothing in removing soils in grout lines.
Using a mop, you're never really removing some soils; you're simply moving them around and, at times, actually creating layer upon layer of oily buildup.
Add detergents and surfactants and it gets very interesting because the semi-porous quarry tile and grout found in many commercial kitchens retains this mix over time, resulting in a slippery, polymeric and sometimes dangerous surface.
At first glance, the answer would appear to be very simple: Just buy better cleaning equipment that incorporates more modern technology.
However, many restaurants and other foodservice operations function on a tight margin with a close eye on costs and expenditures, so purchasing expensive equipment not central to kitchen operations — ovens, freezers, stoves, etc. — is often delayed or outright denied.
But, cost isn't the only — or even the biggest — challenge faced by management.
Often, the biggest issue with restaurant cleaning and maintenance is the employees.
Unlike in a school, an office building or an airport, you're not talking about specially-trained janitorial or custodial personnel; you're talking about people who, just moments before cleaning floors, were making French fries, for example, and are now suddenly responsible for cleaning a highly-soiled kitchen.
Generally speaking, you have lower cleaning skill levels, little to no budget and time for training and high turnover, so deploying complex cleaning equipment effectively by such employees can be a challenge.
Enter dispense-and-vacuum, a crossover cleaning system concept employing the technology and efficacy of larger cleaning systems with the simplicity and ease of use necessary in a competitive, fast-paced and high-turnover foodservice environment.
With the addition of a modular wet/dry vacuum, a touchless cleaning system transforms into a high-performance dispense-and-vacuum system.
The operator opens the spigot to apply fresh cleaning solution to the floor, spreads and lightly brushes it into grout lines with the two-in-one squeegee head brush and then vacuum the soils and liquid away.
The result: Floors emerge clean and dry.
But, that's just half the battle.
Beyond becoming familiar with the products and equipment, employees must learn how critical they are to the maintenance of commercial kitchen floors.
Recognizing and rewarding — or, at the very least, acknowledging — employees for efforts that go above and beyond the minimum required leads to increased morale and greater job satisfaction for all parties.
To reinforce the importance of removing soils quickly, efficiently and completely, management also needs to compile a comprehensive, written cleaning and maintenance procedures guide that lists in detail the required steps for cleaning proficiency.
Such documents lead to improved safety and health for both employees and customers alike.
The restaurant or other foodservice operation itself will see an improvement in health as well: Financial health.
"Perpetually wet floors are unnecessary, and they're also dangerous; they're one of the biggest liabilities you can have. They're like an open invitation to a lawsuit," states Morrison.
"If you're using a cotton mop, you're looking at a dry time of four, maybe five minutes or more. And, if you're in a busy area, you don't have time for that," continues Morrison. "Even if no one slips and falls, you still have people walking over it and leaving on it whatever they've got on their shoes, largely negating cleaning."
The rapid drying offered by a dispense-and-vacuum system, combined with extremely clean surfaces, means almost immediate availability and reduced slip-and-fall accidents.
In fact, some systems have been certified by the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) as providing high traction when evaluated for wet slip resistance.
The benefit of independent, third-party certification is that tools, systems and chemicals have been tested using scientific principles and equipment.
"In environments with typical soils, and especially in commercial kitchens, products with NFSI certification make floors safer," asserts Morrison.
Data often relied upon by the NFSI includes coefficient of friction (COF) traction measurements using a state-of-the-art binary output tribometer (BOT), which indicates much better cleaning and slip-resistance results using crossover dispense-and-vacuum units versus mop-and-bucket systems.
"Many liability issues can be prevented with wise expenditures on crossover technology," adds Morrison. "Typically, when someone falls, there may be a quick settlement of perhaps $10,000 to $20,000, which would be unnecessary with the proper cleaning tools and preventative processes in place. Cleaning for health doesn't need to just be for infectious disease; preventing slips and falls should be an integral part of it."
The working commercial kitchen will always be a dangerous environment: The combination of tight spaces, fast-moving personnel, red-hot broilers, ovens and stove tops, the ubiquitous grill, razor-sharp knives, hot oil and — in many cases — hectic and demanding "busy times" make the possibility of an incident more "when" than "if."
But, in areas that can be controlled, such as floor maintenance, employing proper preventive measures will go far in eliminating serious problems down the road.