Sinks, Health, and Cleaning
By Matt Morrison
Restrooms make a significant impact on facilities. 'You may not even notice them if they are cleaned but you surely will if they are not,' says William Griffin, President of Cleaning Consultants, Seattle, Washington.
According to Edwin Feldman, author of the book Building Design for Maintainability, 'Restrooms [including urinals, toilets, and sinks] are ‘display' or ‘emphasis' areas. Everyone sees them and uses them regularly. They judge the entire facility and its management by the condition of the restroom.'
Indeed, restrooms can affect the morale of building occupants, encourage or discourage shoppers from returning to a retail store, and influence the way students and teachers feel about their schools. And nothing gets complaints quicker than a restroom that has a bad odor, is out of paper towels or soap, or has dirty floors, urinals, or sinks.
Improperly maintained restrooms not only give users a bad impression of a building but also, according to Griffin, 'can create financial liabilities for building service contractors, companies, individuals, and school districts. In the past few years, there have been lawsuits in facilities regarding the alleged failure of an organization to maintain clean restrooms.' Sinks especially get quite a bit of notice. And they also can affect the health and safety of facilities and those who use and clean them.
Sinks and Health
Sinks, including their faucets, can be a hotbed of germs and bacteria if not properly cleaned and maintained. Studies by Charles Gerba, a microbiologist with the University of Arizona, have found bacteria including salmonella, campylobacter, staphylococcus, listeria, and even E. coli in both restroom and kitchen sinks in residential and commercial settings.
The most common area to find these forms of bacteria is in the drains of the sink and on the faucets. Problems arise—and germs and illness are spread—when users touch the faucet or drain area, do not wash hands adequately, and then touch other surfaces or food about to be consumed.
Because of this, building service contractors (BSCs) should always wear gloves to clean sinks, and the cloths they use should also be changed frequently and washed after every use.
BSCs should also consider cleaning with 'no-touch' cleaning systems. With such systems, BSCs are in no way at risk because they never touch the surfaces being cleaned. After applying cleaning solution to surfaces using the system, the machine then rinses surfaces, essentially blasting away soil, bacteria, and germs.
What They Are Made Of
An important part of proper sink maintenance is having a general understanding of the various types of sinks available. Sinks, both residential and commercial, have undergone an impressive array of changes in the past ten years. For decades, they were made of baked enamel or enameled cast iron and came in white. Today, however, BSCs may encounter many different types:
Enameled Steel. Some facilities, in an attempt to cut construction costs, use enameled steel sinks. This material is less costly than enameled iron but is not as durable and, because its finish can chip and crack, is often more difficult to clean and maintain.
Stainless Steel. Stainless steel sinks are common in commercial kitchens. If they are made from less expensive stainless, they are more prone to dent and show scratches and water marks, requiring more time and effort to keep clean.
Porcelain. Although we hear a lot about porcelain sinks, these sinks, made of high-fired clay with enameled steel, are most common in Europe. They usually have a smooth surface, making them relatively easy to clean. However, depending on where and how they are used and installed, they can chip and crack, increasing maintenance concerns.
Solid Surface. Man-made solid-surface sinks are a more recent development. These sinks are compression-molded modified with acrylic. They are nonporous, and if they are scratched, the damage is hard to see and often can be sanded away. These sinks often have the appearance of granite or stone and tend to be more expensive than enameled or stainless steel.
Composite. Finally, a relatively new sink material is a composite made of both natural and synthetic materials: finely ground quartz and acrylic resins.
Wise facility managers, architects, and building developers are now constructing buildings with cleaning and health in mind. This includes the types of sinks installed. The more BSCs know about the sink materials available and their cleaning needs, the better role they can play in maintaining facilities. Additionally, a better understanding of where harmful germs and bacteria congregate and the safest, most efficient ways to remove them protects the health of both building occupants and cleaning workers.
Matt Morrison is communications manager for Kaivac, developers of the No-Touch Cleaning® system and the OmniFlex™ Crossover Cleaning System. He may be reached through his company web site at www.kaivac.com.