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Cleaning in the USA

Honoring Dick
A friend of mine died recently. I don’t usually do funerals, weddings or memorials but I made an exception for Dick. He was one of the good guys and there aren’t enough of them around anymore. Over Dick’s 30 + years in the cleaning industry he worked his way up from a part time janitor to Branch Manager for American Building Maintenance Co. in Seattle WA. This was quite an accomplishment, considering that ABM is one of those places with the 300% turnover.

You could always count on Dick. He was fair, honest, level headed and hard working. He’d listen when you spoke and consider what you had to say. You could actually change his mind if you had something worthwhile to say. Not that he couldn’t be tough, he was. Whenever I pissed somebody off and I had to meet with Dick about it, he’d close the door and yell at the top of his lungs. “Goddammit Griffin”. Then we’d figure out how we were going to get out of the mess I’d gotten us into. That was Dick, I laugh and I cry every time I think of those encounters. I miss the sparkle in his eyes and the can do attitude in his heart.

I worked with Dick at ABM for 3 years in the early 80’s. We became friends and stayed in touch for a number of years after I left ABM. We’d have lunch at the House of Hong and talk about the local business climate every month or two. I wish we had stayed in touch more instead of drifting apart and not seeing each other over the last 10 years. I knew Dick was sick, he smoked one cigarette after another for all those years and it finally caught up with him. A couple of years ago I heard he had quit work and was tethered to an oxygen cylinder 24 hours a day. So I knew one of these days I’d be hearing of his passing. It was just a matter of time. He held on a lot longer than anyone expected. That was Dick; he just didn’t give up no matter what.

The sad part is that he was only 66 when he died. Without those killer cigarettes Dick could have lived another 20 or 30 years. It’s sad when the good ones die, even more so when they die sooner than they should.

If you know someone who smokes, help them quit if you can. It may be painful to bring up the subject, I know it was with Dick, I tried several times, but if you don’t and they die 20 or 30 years early, it will be much more painful then.

Good Bye and Clean on Dick. I think of you often with a smile and a tear.

If There Was No Tomorrow
You’ve heard that saying before “If there was no tomorrow” would you do something different today. You’re damn right I would. I’d go fishing. I don’t know if I really would, but it makes me feel good to say it. Maybe if I had a month left I go fishing. Like you, I think there will be a tomorrow and many more days after that. It’s when we get older and deal with the reality of others dying around us and the fragility of life that the “If there was no” statement takes on a new and more urgent meaning. Think about it for a minute. If you knew you only had 1 day, 1 week, 1 month or 1 year left to live. What would you do differently? Chances are it would be something different than what you’re doing right now. My point is that life if shorter than we think and it’s fleeting. If you want to do something different than what your doing now, you’d better get on with it because before you know or realize it, you will have lived your life and one day when you least expect it, there will be no tomorrow.

Industry Trends In the USA

Cleaning Standards – Everybody’s Got One or Soon Will Have
The race is on with industry trade associations and other groups lining up to create standards for the rest of us to follow. Green Seal, ASHES, ISSA, CRI and other have announced plans to issue standards related to the cleaning of building and surfaces. And I didn’t mention the IICRC which has been issuing cleaning standard for the last 20 years and although the IICRC and it’s standards process is largely controlled by manufacturers, at least they do get some input from cleaners and other interested parties.

Here’s what’s happening. The associations are controlled by equipment and chemical manufacturers who want to make sure that their products and processes are included, or better yet, established as the way thing should be done. What I don’t see in this standards process is serious input or involvement from building owners, manager, contractors or those doing the work. Sure, the associations form token committees to get input, but it’s basically a joke. Associations are run by their manufacturer members and what they want is what we will get and it’s doubtful it will have much to do with what the industry or its customers actually need.

At the same time it may not be all bad, if the standards evolve over the years and develop into something realistic and attainable we may all be winners. Time will tell, but for now I’m skeptical of any group who is developing standards in a vacuum without industry wide involvement. My experience with these groups is that they put people on the committees who they can control and get to approve what they want approved. If you raise serious questions or ask “why” too many times, you’ll find that you aren’t on the committee any more. So much for due process and challenging the status quo, unfortunately, most people don’t have the kahoonas for that so the committees become a rubber stamp for what association management wants.

Is the Fizz Going out of Green?
Over the last year or two there has been a big push to go green in building design and cleaning. The chemical manufacturers are all for it. The government is all for it. A select group of consultants and architects are all for it. So what’s the problem here? Bottom line, building owners and managers and most importantly, customer aren’t willing to pay extra for it. So until we solve that little problem, I don’t expect to see green cleaning gaining much acceptance beyond public facilities, schools and a few hospitals.

Is Castle Rock Selling Windsor Industries
It’s only a rumor, but my inside sources tell me that Windsor Industries and some of Castle Rocks other cleaning related divisions are being quietly prepared for sale. The company with a great line of products hasn’t been able to get its marketing or management program together over the last few years so sale wouldn’t surprise me.

Will Robotic Cleaners Replace Janitors
No, not for another 40 years, but I’ll bet that within 25 years, most modern facilities will have on staff more robotic cleaners than they do human cleaners. The signs are there, the technology is evolving, and from my perspective it’s only a matter of time before robotic cleaners become economically feasible and technically capable as well as a reality in commercial and residential properties in the USA.

Part of the driving force behind the move to robotic cleaners is a lack of qualified and interested humans who are willing to do cleaning work for a living. Have you tried to hire a good janitor recently? Some of the applicants coming through the door you wouldn’t give your broom to, let alone the keys to the building. Unfortunately, I don’t see industry associations, employers or the government doing anything that will change this scenario in the future. Other driving forces include the continuing technical evolution and miniaturization of mechanized equipment. We will see smarter and smaller machines in our industry along with automated cleaning being built into surfaces and facilities. Coatings and nanotechnology are already beginning to impact the way we clean buildings and these and other technologies will only get better and play a greater role in our industry in the future.

Cleaning Forums, Boards and Chats
Here’s some hot links to cleaning forums that you might find interesting and useful.


World of Concrete Las Vegas, 2006
It was a good show and one of the largest held in Las Vegas each year. Some 80,000 contractors showed up from around the world. Seminars on decorative concrete and coatings seemed to be the most popular with over 500 attendees in some of the 4 hour classes. I sat through as many as I could and found them to be technical and well presented. My favorite this year was on Polishing Concrete, which is a growing trend in the USA primarily because most buildings already have a concrete floor and by polishing with diamond and densifiying with special chemicals (sodium, lithium, potassium) you can lower maintenance cost by at least 50% when compared to other hard surface floors that require burnishing, stripping and refinishing on a regular basis. ( ,

One new product that caught my eye was self-cleaning concrete. Essroc, an Italian company has found a way to add titanium dioxide to cement which gives the resulting concrete a photocatalylitic capability that makes building exteriors basically self cleaning. That’s quite an accomplishment when you think of all the soot and grime that collect on building exteriors in most metropolitan areas. For more information visit:

Another new product that I noticed is related to the moisture testing of concrete which has long been a problem when floor coverings or topical coatings are applied to a slab. Wagner Electronics recently introduced its Rapid RH module (disposable at $75.00 each) which is place in a drilled hole in the slab and will send out accurate moisture content readings from within the slab over a period of time via radio waves to a nearby recording device.

Overall I wouldn’t say there were a lot of new innovations at the show, but there were many products that have evolved to a new level of sophistication. This was most noticeable in the decorative concrete area which has been growing for a number of years. Decorative concrete isn’t new, but what you can do with concrete is definitely changing and growing. You can basically make concrete look like any surface or material today, from wood to stone and you are only limited by your imagination, pocket book and artistic talent. Micro topping of 1/8 inch thickness now makes it possible to stamp and or stain an existing concrete slab giving it a brick, wood or stone look in a few short hours. (

For information on next years World of Concrete Show in Las Vegas on January 23 to 26, 2007, visit:

If you’d like to see some of what you missed at this year’s World of Concrete Show, visit for a short streaming video tour of the show highlights.

Surfaces Floor Covering Show
It was tough duty but I had to go back to Las Vegas for the Surfaces show a week after the World of Concrete show ended. Just enough time between shows to recharge my batteries and wash my socks and I was back to sin city for another week of food, drink and information.

Over 40,500 people attended this year’s show visiting the booths of 1000 exhibiting companies. Some 2800 visitors showed up for the educational seminars held before and after the show each day.

At this years show I noticed a greater presence of international companies selling wood, bamboo, stone and other types of floor covering and related supplies and services. Exhibitors from China were the most obvious and represented with 20 or 30 booths most selling wood or laminate products.

Wood continues to grab market share when it comes to hard surface flooring, with more textures, deeper distresses and reliefs of common and exotic woods from all over the world being exhibited. There was a growing emphasis on natural materials, green products and sustainability at the show. It was interesting to see several companies now offering stain protector on hard surface flooring, something that has become common place on carpeting and other fabrics for many years.

Mannington has the biggest booth, with a full range of carpet and hard surface flooring materials. Even though Shaw Industries dropped out of the show a couple of years ago, I don’t think anybody noticed or missed them as there was so much to see, it was next to impossible to get through the entire exhibit area in 3 days.

Carpet and hard surface installation tools continue to grow in number and function. Two items caught my eye, one was the Sinch Technology microwave carpet seaming tool, it replaces the hot melt seaming iron and is used from the top of the carpet.( The other product was a hot melt gun tip that is used to seam carpet edges in place of latex or glue type sealers ( )

Both products look like they would be great additions to any carpet installer’s tool kit.

I was impressed with the selection and feel of synthetic turf (fake grass) by Grass tex. (

If you like to see a short streaming video of what you missed at this year show, visit:

If you would like information on attending next years show in Las Vegas, NV, February 6 to 9, 2007 visit:

Up Coming Educational Events for Cleaning Professionals.

Building Service Contactors, Nashville, TN, March 24 to 28, 2006,

Coverings Stone Show, Orlando, FL, April 4 to 7, 2006

Wood Flooring Show, Baltimore, MD, April 26 to 29, 2006,

Carpet Cleaning Show East, May 4 to 6, 2006,

ISSA/INTERCLEAN Amsterdam, May 9 to 12, 2006,

Carpet Cleaning Show West, Sept. 21 to 23, 2006,

IICRC Board/Certif. Meetings, Las Vegas, NV, Sept. 24 to 26, 2006,

ISSA/INTERCLEAN USA, Chicago IL, October 4 to 7, 2006,

Stone Expo, Las Vegas NV, October 18 to 21, 2006,