Designing to Maintain Cleanliness

January 2016 — The results of cleaning are visible to the public, customers, and employees, especially if cleaning is done poorly. Building tenants consider the cleanliness of a building and its common areas a significant criterion in assessing the effectiveness of building management. A clean building promotes good public relations and creates a positive first impression and working environment.

Cleaning costs are not only ongoing, but grow continually as wages and other costs increase. To minimize the increase in future cleaning costs, the design of new buildings and renovation of old buildings should take into account cleaning maintainability, as well as the prevention of the entry of dirt.

Cleaning maintainability requires surfaces that are easy to clean and cleaning tasks that do not depend on unusual worker skills or expensive equipment that is rarely used. Surfaces should not demand constant attention and should be reusable soon after cleaning. Cleaning procedures must not change the original appearance of surfaces.

Surfaces that are most difficult to keep clean include embossed resilient vinyl tiles; solid-color carpets, especially of dark or light colors; walls painted with low-quality latex paint; soft-blown mineral acoustic ceilings; raw concrete-block walls; and unsealed concrete floors. Designs that incorporate such difficult-to-maintain surfaces cannot be rationalized by suggesting that any adjustment to improve maintainability will incur a greater initial cost.

For example, the most expensive color of vinyl tile is white; the most difficult color of vinyl tile to maintain is white. The easiest tiles to maintain have mixed colors. Similarly, solid-color carpets, especially those with deep-cut piles, are difficult to maintain and are the most expensive. Tweed carpets with three or four colors and a low, dense loop pile are easy to maintain and are relatively inexpensive.

Carpeting Maintenance

Greasy or wet soil will penetrate different carpet fibers to different extents. Stains penetrate wool fiber and acrylics more readily than they penetrate nylon. Continuous filament nylon, which normally has a maximum moisture absorption of about 6 percent, is the most resistant to staining, although it also tends to build up static electricity, causing the fiber to attract surface soil. Using antistatic aerosol spray can minimize buildup of static electricity.

Higher carpet pile tends to retain more dirt and has a longer drying time when cleaned using a wet method. Furthermore, the higher the carpet pile, the more energy the cleaner must use to vacuum it.

For easier maintenance, avoid solid-color carpets; use three-color or four-color tweeds to hide dirt. Consider ease of maintenance when selecting material, weave, pile height, and pile density for new carpeting. Carpeting should be avoided in kitchenette areas, because of the possibility of spilled liquids.

A comprehensive carpet care program that includes vacuuming, spot cleaning, and thorough cleaning can significantly increase the life of a carpet. Common-area carpet care programs are sometimes contracted separately from general cleaning.

Restroom Maintenance

The cleanliness of restrooms is important to building occupants; restroom maintenance is therefore an especially noticeable part of the cleaning effort. The selection of fixtures and equipment and the layout within a restroom directly affect its efficient use and effective cleaning.

Although not an indicator of cleanliness, smell is an important component of cleaning. Many customers use smell as an initial gauge in determining a restroom’s level of cleanliness. Adding fragrance devices in high-traffic or problem restrooms is a viable and cost-effective option. Manufacturers supply a variety of fragrances and have numerous suggestions for devices and applications. Fragrances should not be used to mask poor cleaning; rather, it should be considered a component of cleaning. In addition, a well-designed exhaust system, providing a slightly negative pressure in the restroom, is a means of containing and removing the restroom smell.

Restroom Fixture Maintenance

Restrooms with wall-hung fixtures are estimated to cost 25 to 30 percent less to clean than restrooms with floor-mounted fixtures. In the former, the floor can be cleaned without having to maneuver the mop around the fixtures. When selecting new restroom fixtures, specify wall-hung toilet partitions, toilets, urinals, and wash basins. All surfaces should be impervious to water, and the floors should slope to a drain. With this configuration, the restroom can be spray cleaned. Local codes and building systems should be checked prior to the installation of new, more efficient, fixtures.

The white open-front style of toilet seat offers the easiest maintenance and is the most hygienic. In the United States, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules relating to restrooms require that every “water closet” should have a hinged open-front seat made of substantial material, with a nonabsorbent finish.

Although electric hot-air hand dryers decrease litter and maintenance and eliminate resupply expense, they have not been popular in office buildings because of the time necessary for this equipment to dry people’s hands. Most buildings with hot-air dryers also provide towel dispensers for those who prefer towels to the hot-air method.

Towel cabinets should be of simple but rigid construction so that paper hand towels may be dispensed individually. Cabinets should be designed to withstand long and constant use and be easy to service and maintain. Paper towels on a roll offset the tendency of occupants to take quantities of folded paper towels to use at their workstations.

Peak traffic loads should be estimated so that sufficient towel cabinets, soap dispensers, and waste receptacles are included in the restroom’s design. Because this equipment is typically serviced after business hours when restrooms are cleaned, extra service trips, which increase maintenance costs, may be necessary if capacity is insufficient for peak traffic. In larger buildings, the additional cost of day staff to service restrooms may be avoided by selecting dispensers and receptacles of sufficient capacity. Newer, oversized soap, paper towel, and toilet paper dispensers can hold two or three times the quantities provided by older units. They reduce the frequency of supplies running out and subsequent calls for refilling. Large capacity waste receptacles are also available to handle increased volumes of trash.

Restroom Lighting

Adequate lighting helps promote the appearance of clean restrooms and reduces the time necessary for routine maintenance; illuminated dirt is quickly removed. Fluorescent lighting with a minimum illumination level of 20 footcandles is both effective and energy efficient for this purpose.

Exhausting Air from Restrooms

Mechanical exhaust fans, as required by some codes, remove restroom odors before they result in complaints. Exhaust vents must be kept clean and open in order to function properly.

This article is adapted from BOMI International’s course Building Design and Maintenance, part of the SMA designation program. More information regarding this course or the new High-Performance certificate courses is available by calling 1-800-235-2664. Visit BOMI International’s website,