Duke University Relies on a Fleet of Kaivac Systems to Clean Student Housing

by | Mar 14, 2023

Founded in 1924, Duke University serves over 17,000 undergraduate and graduate students a year. Located in Durham, NC, the esteemed private institution boasts gorgeous grounds filled with Georgian red brick and Collegiate Gothic-style buildings. 

Bernard Smith, Director of Facilities Operations and Planning for Housing and Residence Life, relies on a fleet of Kaivac machines to keep the University’s 35 different residential buildings clean and safe for the 5,500 students and staff who live there. 

“We have between 80 and 90 Kaivac No-Touch Cleaning® systems spread over our three campuses,” he says. “There’s at least one machine on every floor.”

Since 2020, their Kaivac units have been purchased through distributor Brame Specialty with the support of their sales consultant John Ducatte.

Smith and his team of 109 housekeepers use those KaiVac® 1250, 1750, and 2750 No-Touch Cleaning machines to service as much of Duke’s four million square feet of student housing as possible. They even take the machines outside to power wash entryways. But the No-Touch systems really shine in restrooms and shower areas. 

Kaivac stairwell cleaning
Kaivac No-Touch Cleaning systems are used all over student housing at Duke University.

Before Smith arrived at Duke in 2009, housekeeping staff used spray bottles, rags, buckets, and mops to clean the restroom and showers. Some restrooms came equipped with a freshwater spigot so housekeepers could attach a hose and spray down shower areas. None of these tools delivered satisfactory results. 

“The restrooms looked exponentially better after I brought on that first KaiVac,” recalls Smith, noting that the machines removed built up gunk and grime around fixtures and hard-to-reach corners. “Customer complaints dropped, and administrators are proud of how the areas look.”

Housekeepers were a bit intimidated by the Kaivac No-Touch Cleaning systems at first. “I’ve never seen a Kaivac until I came here in 2013,” says Duke’s Assistant Director of Residence Hall Operations, Karema Atkinson. “But the machines are so much easier on the body. Even the University’s ergonomics department approves. Now everyone is on board.” Along with a drop in repetitive-stress injuries brought on by bending, twisting, and pushing a heavy mop, Atkinson adds that slip-and-fall accidents on wet floors are now nearly zero. 

Kaivac machines also boosted production by cutting maintenance times by more than half. “Cleaning a restroom area by hand typically took 40 minutes,” says Smith. “Using the No-Touch Cleaning system reduced that number to between 15 to 20 minutes. 

Smith estimates that Duke has saved thousands of dollars since switching to Kaivac. He notes that Kaivac cleaning chemicals continue to be a good bargain compared to the bulk chemicals he used to buy. Smith also appreciates that Kaivac machines and chemicals help him meet his green cleaning goals. “I wrote the Housing and Residential Life green cleaning policy back in 2011 and I really appreciate that some Kaivac chemicals and machines meet Green Seal™ standards.”

Smith and Atkinson expect to keep turning to Kaivac machines to make cleaning easier. “I just bought two new 1750s. I want to use these machines anywhere we can.”

Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines. Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.
Amy Milshtein
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