School buildings have seen a lot of changes over the past 100 years - from the disappearance of the time-honored school bell, to the introduction of computers in the classroom. But, as Cincinnati school building administrator John Beckemeyer often reflected, there was one thing that had remained virtually unchanged since the 19th century: the way the buildings themselves were cleaned.
"I did some research and found that the mop bucket first appeared in the 1890s. One hundred years later, we were still relying on mops and buckets to clean our restrooms and classrooms," said Beckemeyer, who serves as Operations Coordinator for the Oak Hills Local School District.
Beckemeyer, who is responsible for maintaining the district's nine schools, office complex and transportation building, was looking for a way to bring Oak Hills' custodial procedures into the 21st century. This was a particularly critical issue at several schools, where the restrooms emitted such a foul odor that "teachers and staff were complaining," said Beckemeyet. "At one middle school it was so bad, you could actually smell the restrooms at the other end of the hall. We couldn't get rid of the odor no matter how hard we scrubbed."
So when Beckemeyer saw a new janitorial system that would deep-clean in areas where conventional mops and scrubbers couldn't reach - the KaiVac No-Touch Cleaning System - he immediately took notice. Developed by Kaivac Inc., (Hamilton OH), the KaiVac system combines chemical injection, high-pressure washing and wet vacuuming into a single platfrom. With the all-in-one KaiVac machine, chemical solution is sprayed on a restroom's fixtures and walls, then a high-pressure spray is used to blast soil from every surface and crevice, down to the floor. As a final step, the floor is vacuumed dry, completely removing all soil and bacteria.
"Not only does the KaiVac system blow dirt out of areas that you can't reach with a mop or sponge, but employees don't have to touch any fixtures or surfaces," said Beckemeyer. "What's more, the dirty water gets vacuumed away, rather than just being moved around as with a conventional mop. I showed the system to our Director of Operations Mike Amos, and he agreed that KaiVac might be just what we needed to get at the root of the restroom odor problem."
This assessment proved correct. When used at the middle school with the most offensive odors, the KaiVac system brought remarkable results. After just one week, not only was the stench completely gone, but the restrooms smelled so fresh and clean that head custodian David J. Huebner was actually receiving compliments from the school's teachers and staff.
Previously, said Huebner, "I had gotten down on my hands and knees to try to scrub out the odor. But urine and soil often get trapped underneath toilets and fixtures in places you can't reach, and that's what causes the odo. But with the KaiVac system, you don't miss a spot. I demonstrated the system to a custodian at another building who always prided herself on her hand-cleaned restrooms, which always looked spotless, and she couldn't believe the hidden dirt that the KaiVac blew out."
What's more, because KaiVac is a completely "no-touch" system, employees don't have to come into contact with contaminated surfaces, which greatly enhances their working conditions. Worker productivity is also improved with KaiVac; studies have shown that the system can reduce cleaning time by as much as two-thirds.
But, as custodians at Oak Hills discovered, the KaiVac can do much more than clean restrooms. They have used the versatile system to clean everything from stairwells and classrooms to lockers and furniture. They've even put window cleaner in the system's tank and used it to spray down windows. The system has a number of convenient attachments that add to its versatility, noted Huebner, including a grout tool.
"There's no end to what you can do with the KaiVac," said Huebner. "One summer, we used it on the walls of the classrooms. It blasted off so much dirt that when the teachers came back in the fall, they thought the walls had been painted!"
The system has also saved a lot of time in the schools' woodworking shops, where it has eliminated the step of sweeping floors prior to wet-cleaning. "You just spray and vacuum, and it gets up all the sawdust and everything. The KaiVac's vacuum alone is the best I've ever seen," added Huebner. "I've actually used the cauum to clean out clogged sewer lines and floor drains. It's an indispensable tool."
So indispensable is the KaiVac that the school district now owns nine systems. John Beckemeyer has achieved his goal of bringing Oak Hills' custodial department into the 21st century.