Author Archive

4 Steps to Combat the Spread of the Flu

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As this flu season continues, it’s an appropriate time for us to review how we can help combat the spread of influenza. A lot of resources are wasted every year with improper disinfection methods that have no effect in stopping the spread of the flu.

Four key steps to keep in mind:

  1. Utilize extra cleaning resources while the building is occupied. Influenza viruses will typically only survive on a surface for two to eight hours. Bringing in extra help to clean while the building is unoccupied has no benefit.
  2. Use EPA-registered disinfectants to frequently disinfect high-touch areas such as door knobs, drinking fountains, and table surfaces. Also clean or disinfect these surfaces often, while the building is being occupied.
  3. Don’t waste resources on disinfecting surfaces where the transmission of the flu is unlikely to occur. Floors and walls are good examples of surfaces in public facilities that are disinfected when no need exists.
  4. Wash those hands! Encourage facility managers to promote hand hygiene, and ensure they have enough hand sanitizing stations. Proper hand hygiene is the most crucial step in stopping the spread of the flu.

This time of year is also a time for increased cases of Norovirus. Be sure to use an EPA-registered disinfectant. Hillyard QT-TB® and Hllyard QT® 3 are both EPA-registered with kill claims again Influenza A and Norovirus, with both products offering lower required contact time to disinfect for these disease-causing viruses.

For more information concerning influenza, norovirus, or for more information pertaining to other disease-causing organisms, please reach out to us.

Creating Positive Impressions

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– Cleaning for Health, Safety and Appearance

Written by: Cameron Blakely

We’ve all been there – fueling up at a convenience store or stopping for food along a road trip with family or friends when we decide to walk inside and use the restroom. Upon entering the restroom, we are greeted with either a pleasant and inviting experience, or maybe we glace around and make note-to-self that it’s probably best not to touch any of the surfaces. Or maybe even, you also have just turned around and walked out. After all, you’re almost to your destination and you can hold it, right?…

But the truth is, in a matter of seconds that restroom experience made a lasting impression on us – either positively or negatively. We actually started forming that impression as we were walking across the parking lot to the front door even, throughout all spaces and for the duration of our entire time in the building, and the impact is lasting. In fact, according to a Consumer Cleaning Insights Survey by P&G Professional™, 9 in 10 consumers agree that they are more likely to have an overall negative opinion of an independent business if the public spaces (lobbies, restrooms, shopping areas, etc.) are not clean.   The same survey concluded that 73% of people agree that a smelly, undesirable restroom is actually worse than receiving the wrong food order or enduring slow service times at a restaurant.

For business owners and retailers, it is extremely important to be aware and to adequately invest proper resources into ensuring that a positive impression is created for the patrons. Establishing and maintaining a clean, safe and healthy facility environment is one of the most direct inputs for boosting sales and retention, as well as customer and employee satisfaction. In a similar insights survey, 90% of workers felt more productive and rewarded working in a clean facility.

So what is a “clean” facility exactly? Although the standard of clean does vary some depending on the business (hospitals are obviously more thoroughly cleaned and disinfected throughout the day than the average service provider), the most important reason for cleaning is for the health of all occupants and visitors. Eliminating the cause of illness is key to reducing the number of sick days and avoiding epidemics and closures. Happy, healthy people assisting and being assisted in an environment free from dust, dirt, germs and bacteria.

In addition to that, buildings should be cleaned properly for the safety of the public. Slips, trips and falls are a common accident in the workplace, but there are steps that can be taken to eliminate those accidents. And finally, buildings should be cleaned thoroughly for appearance – for that positive impression that has a long-lasting impact.

At Interstate Solutions, we specialize in helping to create and maintain clean, safe, healthy facilities. If your business could use a make-over, give us a call today and together let’s work on a plan that promotes the most positive experience and impression for all who enter.

Cameron Blakely has been involved in the cleaning industry for 4 years. He is currently a Regional Manager, specializing in the oversight of Educational, Government, Industrial, Recreational, Religious and Tourism accounts.  He has completed Hillyard Peak Performance Training and Tomcat VIP Certification.  

Hydrogen Peroxide vs. Quats

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Written by:  Mark McInnesThe list of active ingredients available for disinfectants is lengthy and full of trade-offs, which involve finding the balance between the right amount of infection prevention properties while protecting the health of staff, building occupants, and the environment.Disinfectants are created with one purpose: to kill microbes and pathogens. In other words, by definition, disinfectants are destructive to cells, which means none are completely harmless. However, some active ingredients are safer for human health and the environment than others.

Common traditional active ingredients in disinfectants include alcohol, phenol, and chlorine. These chemicals can have risks associated with them ranging from flammability to long-lasting health effects, including occupational asthma. Understanding your active ingredients can help you make a more in-depth analysis of your choices.

For the purposes of this article, we will look at the active ingredients in hydrogen peroxide and some forms of quaternary ammonium compounds, which are generally considered to have less long-lasting health and environmental impacts. Understanding the basic science behind how disinfectants and their active ingredients work, and why some are safer, can help purchasers decide which disinfectants will work best for their facilities’ distinct needs.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen Peroxide is often recognized as one of the safest types of disinfectants, both for human health and the environment. Most people are familiar with the hydrogen peroxide that is available in a brown bottle at the pharmacy. This is the 3% variety that can go on a wound or used as a mouthwash.

Hydrogen peroxide has a really nice environmental footprint. The breakdown components are water and oxygen. It has a very good health and safety profile, too. If you can use 3% to wash your mouth out at the dentist, you can be pretty confident that your health risk from exposure to it is limited.

Used as a disinfectant, hydrogen peroxide is active against a wide range of microorganisms, including bacteria, yeasts, fungi, viruses, and spores. Peroxides are oxidizing agents, which means they work by pulling electrons from other molecules in the cells.

Hydrogen peroxide literally attacks pathogens. This means the disinfectant that uses hydrogen peroxide as its main active ingredient can have an excellent kill claim; however, it can be unstable. If it comes into contact with other molecules like organics and soil that haven’t been cleaned before the disinfectant was sprayed, then effectiveness will degrade. Processes that include thorough cleaning before the disinfectant application will need to be a high priority when using hydrogen peroxide disinfectants.


Quaternary ammonium compounds, or quats, are generally considered to be somewhat less toxic than more traditional active ingredients like bleach and phenolics. However, when used at higher concentrations, quats can have health implications that include skin and respiratory irritation. For certain circumstances where stability and broad kill claims are critical, quats can be safer to use than other hospital-grade disinfectants with more traditional active ingredients.

Quats are generally fungicidal, bactericidal, and virucidal. Quats are generally understood to be catalytic, which means they aren’t destroyed in the process of killing the pathogens.

Quats get their name because there is a nitrogen in the middle of the molecule, and the nitrogen has four chains coming off of it. There are hundreds of different quats, and the labeling and discussion of them can become very detailed and specific. In addition, each quat has a different environmental profile. Some are more biodegradable than others, and the ones that are biodegradable will break down into different molecules, with different environmental footprints, all depending on the type of quat.

Like hydrogen peroxide, quats have a dental use, as they are often an active ingredient in toothpaste and mouthwash. They are considered safe enough to put in your mouth at low concentrations.

When it comes to the health risks associated with quats, it is often a matter of concentration. As the market demands quicker contact times and broader kill claims, some disinfectants will use higher concentrations of quats. Higher concentrations will come with increased health warnings.

In the last couple of years, you have seen quats used in disinfectants increase from a few hundred parts per million up to 3,000 parts per million and higher. Those concentrations begin to have health and environmental risks to them, although they do have shorter dwell times and broader kill claims.

Decision Outcomes

Any disinfecting solution you choose to bring into your infection prevention program will be an important aspect of a much larger program that must include planning, training, and fully understanding the processes needed to allow that disinfectant to prevent the spread of infection.

Mark McInnes

Mark McInnes holds a master’s degree in environmental and life sciences; he also has a certificate in infection prevention and control. McInnes frequently speaks across Canada and the United States on issues of infection prevention and the cleaning industry.

Cut End Vs Loop End Mop Heads

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Written by: Kristen Easler

Are loop end mop heads the same as cut end?

The biggest difference between the two is durability.  Loop End mops are going to last longer and thus will be a little more expensive.  But you can also laundry a loop end mop and use it several times.  A cut end mop will fall apart and tangle in a washing machine.

When is a cut end mop head the best choice?

It really depends on your use.  A cut end mop head will usually absorb more.  Since laundering them isn’t an option, a cut end mop are best for cleaning spills.  Cut end are also best, if you have a facility without washing machines available.  If you have small areas with light mopping, they are also a very economical choice.

When is a loop end mop head the best choice?

Again, it really depends on your use.  A loop end mop covers more surface space, so they are best for larger mopping areas (and floor equipment is even better for large spaces).  The loop end mop is going to be more durable with heavy mopping, and you can laundry them.

Which mop head is best for applying floor finish?

The most important factor here is the make up of the mop.  You don’t want to use cotton; it’ll leave lint in your floor/finish.  Look for a rayon or nylon mop.  Applying wax with a transitional mop does take skill.  Want a higher guarantee that your wax goes down even and smooth?  Switch to a microfiber flat mop system.

Interstate Solutions is here to help with all your mop head and floor care needs.  Let us find a solutions for you!

Kristen Easler has been involved in the cleaning industry for nearly 5 years. She is currently the Operations/Office Manager, including overseeing quality assurance for new products. 


Dirty Schools Impact Student Performance

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Written by: Ben Walker

Schools are in the cleaning business.

That statement really says it all, but before I go off on one of my favorite impassioned rants, let me say one thing. If you’re managing a K-12 cleaning operation and you’re reading this article, relax — you’re cool. Rather, this column is intended to serve as a primer for defending the very critical roll your cleaning program plays when speaking to your superintendent, principal, PTA president, school board, state legislators and anyone else who wants to tell you how to clean school buildings.

Extensive research has shown that K-12 school environments have an improved capacity toward learning when they are clean. Perhaps the most comprehensive study on this concept was performed by Dr. Michael Berry at Charles Young Elementary School in Washington D.C.

The study’s main purpose evaluated correlations between educational performance of students and the quality (i.e. cleanliness) of their physical learning environment. Among the primary conclusions of this study was that the quality of learning is greatly impacted by the overall cleanliness of the indoor environment within the school. This was further confirmed when Berry reached similar conclusions in research done at the Frank Porter Graham School in 1998 and at the University of North-Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2006.

Six years later, facility management educator and IFMA fellow, Dr. Jeff Campbell reviewed the existing practice of cleaning schools and also laid out a compelling case for maintaining a clean school environment. The 2012 study, entitled “Clean Schools Initiative,” featured an academic review of existing literature on the state of the cleaning profession in the United States, and a case study of a complete remediation of the cleaning program at Dixon Middle School in Provo, Utah.

Ultimately, Campbell identified several takeaways for operations looking to improve cleaning and the indoor environment of schools. Specifically speaking, cleaning contributes to performance by reducing anxiety and distractions; controls the appearance, making a pleasant environment; and protects human health. Furthermore, Campbell concluded that when a school is systematically cleaned and maintained daily, the overall cost of running a custodial operation can decrease by almost 50 percent.

All of this begs the question, with the abundance of peer-reviewed, scholarly evidence, practical application and even anecdotal reporting of improved health outcomes, why it is still a fight to keep cleaning departments operational? In 2008, Berry even lamented, “It is too bad so few people have paid any attention to those peer reviewed research results that clearly demonstrate that a properly designed cleaning program will produce a healthy environmental condition.”

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with a few K-12 schools — the cornerstone of my consulting business is setting up cleaning programs for colleges and university campuses. This is a subject that is very close to my heart.

The cleaning program at a school contributes holistically to the student learning environment. Much of their learning experience will be shaped by the cleanliness of the facility. Most importantly, the cleanliness of the facility can directly affect the positive or negative learning experience of every student, teacher and administrator that occupies that building.

The work you do is important. It helps people. Sometimes this gets lost in the shuffle of putting out the daily fires, the complaints and the de-prioritization of daily cleaning in favor of other events. When that happens, stop and remind yourself that what you do matters.

Ben Walker is the Director of Business Development for ManageMen, Inc., a leading cleaning industry consultancy specializing in training, transitions, auditing and educational materials. In addition to his consulting work, Walker is the author of ISSA’s best selling book: 612 Cleaning Times and Tasks.

Unsung Heroes

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Written By:  Cam Walters

There are many unsung heroes in our communities who do jobs for little or no thanks. Everyone knows to respect firemen and police officers, but one is hard-pressed to find people who proudly voice their admiration or respect for custodial staff. Though the realization may not have ever occurred to us, the truth is that custodial professionals play a vital role in keeping our society running smoothly.

Before working at Interstate, I had never considered the hardships that a custodian faces on a day to day basis, but I have now witnessed just how much crap they must deal with (no pun intended). There are standard job requirements for a custodian, such as mopping, sweeping and basic cleaning; however, there are often also unnecessary tasks they must spend time on created by us, the people they are cleaning up after.

Many of these tasks created or requested by faculty or staff that are not listed in the day-to-day job description occur far too often.  These include hanging banners and pictures, moving tables and desks from one area to another and cleaning spills from careless individuals.  The fact is that many of the custodians spend their days on call waiting for the next accident to happen, all the while, still expected to complete their daily tasks that require most of their shifts attention without any disruptions.

When it comes to the cleaning aspects, people usually don’t notice the job until something isn’t done correctly, or when there’s an outbreak of an infection or illness. Custodians can go months of working without a complaint from anyone, but the first time one is filed, it is perceived as though the janitors have not been completing their job. We must remember that the facilities individuals are complaining about are routinely cleaned more than the average household.

Consider this; for a population of 2,200 students, a school may only have 10-12 custodians cleaning daily close to 300,000 square feet. Whereas a household of 5 and 3,000 square feet will have one-person cleaning approximately one time a week. Thus, a school janitor would be responsible for up to 30,000 square feet a day to fulfill their duties. This does not include all the non-cleaning tasks that arise throughout the workday. Taking the time to notice when the jobs being done well pays huge dividends in employee morale and retention.

Ultimately custodial professionals take pride in their building.  They are performing their job for minimal pay and take pride in making the community a better place that everyone can be proud of.  John F. Kennedy once asked a janitor in the NASA restroom what he was doing, to which the custodian replied, “Mr. President, I’m helping to put a man on the moon.”  That is the pride that illustrates the true role of a custodian’s work.


Cam Walters has been involved in the cleaning industry for 6 years. He is currently an Account Manager, specializing in the oversight of Educational accounts. 

The Unger Stingray: Glass & Window Cleaning

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Unger Stingray glass cleaning system cleans windows 25% faster and use 39% less chemicals than traditional cloth window cleaning.

When cleaning indoor surfaces, such as windows, mirrors and elevators, cleaning professionals face two key challenges: efficiency and safety. Current tools lead to time-consuming issues, like re-arranging furniture and reaching high or unusually positioned windows. The battery powered Unger Stingray increases productivity and safety by eliminating time spent moving furniture or climbing ladders.

The Unger Stingray tool provides a variety of surface cleaning options, while the multiple lightweight extending poles enable you to clean any height without the use of ladders.

Get professional results with minimal training!

Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting

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Written by: Patrick Haile

What’s the Difference? Let’s start with the definitions, so that we are all clear on what cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are.

Cleaning – is the process of removing unwanted substances, such as dirt, infectious agents, and other impurities, from an object or environment. Cleaning deals heavily with use of surfactants. Surfactants attach and lift soil out of surfaces.

Sanitizing – is the process of reducing the growth of bacteria so that a surface can be deemed hyenic from a public health perspective. Though sanitization is present in many different industries, the sewage and food service industries capitalize on sanitization the most.

Disinfecting – is the process by which one frees a surface from infection by destroying harmful microorganisms. This includes bacteria and viruses. Disinfectants must be 99.999% effective to be considered disinfectants.

Now that we know the goal of each process—let’s talk about when cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are appropriate!

Cleaning is always appropriate and generally should be done at the highest frequency. I cannot stress enough that cleaning (i.e. removing soil from surfaces) also removes bacteria and viruses. Cleaning does not kill microorganisms, but it removes a significant percentage of them. That being said, most sanitizers and disinfectants do not work well if there is heavy soil on a surface. Surfaces need to be cleaned before sanitizers and disinfectants are applied.

Sanitizing is most appropriate where bacteria need to be reduced significantly. In order for a sanitizer to be considered effective, it must kill 99.9% of microorganisms in 30 seconds. This process is mostly used on surfaces in the food service industry.

Disinfecting is most appropriate on surfaces that are touched most frequently. There are instances where a whole room might need to be disinfected top to bottom, but from an everyday standpoint only areas that come in contact with human or animal matter need to be disinfected. This includes but is not limited to knobs/handles, water fountains, paper dispensers, toilets, and desks.

Disinfection processes can and should differ from location to location. A hospital would arguably need the highest level of disinfection as opposed to a recycling plant where high levels of disinfection would be a waste of time and money. Kindergarten and daycare centers often have high frequency protocols for disinfection.

Practical Application: Flu season in late 2017 into early 2018 was arguably one of the worst the United States had experienced in years. The vaccine was largely ineffective and public schools saw attendance rates drop as much as 20% for small periods of time. Using the formerly mentioned information of the differences between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting—a church preschool in Rock Hill was able to maintain the vast majority of their student body through flu season. At most the preschool was at a loss for 1-2%.

The following is their flu season disinfection protocol:

  • Clean and wipe all surfaces with multipurpose cleaner, including restrooms.
  • Use a food grade sanitizer on tables, shelves, and large toys.
  • Use hospital grade disinfectant on touch points, restrooms, and at the users’ discretion.
  • If bodily fluids come in contact with a surface during school hours, see bodily fluid protocol for flu season. (Number 4 would require the writing of a whole new article)

This is the extent of the protocol. These duties are typically performed by only one or two people at this specific location. A small portion of the building is basically cleaned twice every day. One might think ‘wow that’s a great deal of work for two people’. This is true, so here’s a secret. The location in question uses an Electrostatic Sprayer to aid in the delivery of their disinfectants and sanitizers. Instead of tackling the preschool room by room the cleaners use the sprayer to quickly administer their chemicals. This saves them time and energy and this time and energy is used elsewhere in the facility.

Hopefully the differences between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfection are now apparent. Cleaning must be done before sanitizing and disinfecting, and cleaning can physically remove microorganisms from surfaces. Sanitizing is most appropriate for areas where bacteria need to be reduced and disinfecting needs to be done frequently and especially on surfaces that are touched often. Feel free to use this information in writing your own disinfection protocol! It just might come and in handy next time we have a particularly hard flu season.


Patrick Haile has been involved in the cleaning industry for 7 years. He is currently an Account Manager, specializing in the oversight of Educational and Religious accounts. 

Must-Have Tools, Products For Janitorial Carts

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Written by: Charles “Mickey” Crowe

The janitor cart can be an effective tool for cleaning any type of facility or it can be a disaster.

I have encountered carts that looked more like food stands due to the personal items and disorganization. One cart was full of various chemical containers (unnumbered and some unlabeled), three bowl swabs, two dusters, a quart of 26 percent-acid bowl cleaner, a buffing pad, multiple soiled rags, two rolls of toilet tissue that had evidence of water damage, four soap cartridges, two hot dogs, a soda, chips, a makeup kit and a purse.

When I mentioned this janitor cart to the supervisor, he responded that each worker had the right to customize their cart as they saw fit so long as they got the job done.

My first challenge was to educate the supervisor on the value of having a clean, well-organized cart that enabled the worker to be productive while also being safe.

Food and personal items should not be allowed on a cart at any time. Failing to maintain the cart with only the necessary products to be used that shift is simply not following custodial best practices.

The following is a suggested list of items for a typical janitor cart that would be used in zone cleaning. Note that this list will vary based on the requirements at different sites, so adjust as necessary.

• Full containers for glass cleaner, all-purpose cleaner, disinfectant, bowl cleaner (for restrooms) and polish (optional). All chemical containers should be color-coded, labeled and numbered.

• Optional chemicals include mild buffered acid cleaners for mineral deposits, deodorizers and mild abrasive cleansers for occasional use.

• Chemicals not to include on the cart: bleach, pine scent, ammonia, bowl acids or anything not needed.

• Cleaning cloths (can be disposable wipes, microfiber, cotton or a combination) that are clean. There should be enough to complete the shift without cross-contamination.

• A swab for cleaning toilets.

• A clean lambswool duster with an extension handle to reach vents.

• A sufficient amount of consumable products, such as toilet tissue, paper towels and hand soap.

• A sufficient amount of replaceable products such as can liners.

• A clean double bucket and wringer combination with microfiber mop heads that can be replaced after a predetermined number of uses.

• A plastic angle broom and dust pan. Both of which should be cleaned regularly.

• Each cart should have its own set of Safety Data Sheets readily available for all products in the cart.

• Optional products: notepad/pencil, inspection mirror and other similar tools.

For smaller routes that cannot accommodate a full-size custodial cart, building service contractors should provide their  janitors with caddies or utility buckets that allow workers to carry the cleaning chemicals, swabs and cloths safely without possibility of spillage. A major source of carpet damage can be traced to workers carrying damp bowl swabs or leaking bottles that can ruin carpets in seconds.

A well-stocked, properly set-up cart that allows the worker access to products (think rolling janitor closet), as well as tools and other supplies, can increase productivity, enhance results and reduce complaints.

Charles “Mickey” Crowe has been involved in the cleaning industry for over 35 years. He is currently a trainer, speaker, consultant and contributor to Contracting Profits’ website,