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Indispensable mopping15th of September 2010
Microfibre mopping systems have a vital role to play in healthcare cleaning – and modern breakthroughs have made them even more indispensable says Vikan.
For many years mopping has been the mainstay of cleaning in a wide variety of environments – including the healthcare sector. It provides an effective means of removing the build-up of bacteria and organic soiling associated with hygiene-critical environments like hospitals.
There have been many moves over the years to introduce high-tech techniques and sophisticated cleaning machines into the healthcare sector to further improve hygiene in these environments. But none has managed to replace the old-fashioned mop – particularly since recent industry developments have meant that today’s mops are anything but old-fashioned.
For example, the advent of pre-moistened microfibre flat mops has revolutionised the industry and made mopping even more suited to healthcare cleaning than in the past.
Microfibre itself has been a major breakthrough in the mopping industry. Microfibre mops are capable of removing significantly higher amounts of dust, dirt and bacteria from a surface than traditional cleaning methods. The soiling is then held within the fibres and can only be removed by laundering the mop heads at high temperatures to ensure that all bacteria are killed.
When used dry, a microfibre mop will create static electricity and attract dirt and dust which then remains trapped within the fibres. When used damp, a strong capillary force is created giving the microfibre material the ability to consistently remove dirt stains and bacteria from large
surface areas. Today’s pre-prepared microfibre flat mops have a crucial role to play in healthcare cleaning and offer a number of advantages over traditional Kentucky mop-and-bucket-methods.
For example, they dramatically reduce the risk of cross contamination since a clean mop is used for every room. A Kentucky mop has to be dipped back into a bucket of water between each mopping action which potentially leads to floors being contaminated with higher levels of bacteria than before they were cleaned.
Eliminate infection spread
When using pre-prepared flat mops in a healthcare environment, each area is cleaned using a fresh mop to eliminate the spread of infection. Once the area has been cleaned, the mop head is placed in a mop box for dirty mops ready for machine washing.
Another major advantage of pre-prepared microfibre flat mop systems is that they are much more user-friendly than traditional methods. When using a microfibre system it is the mop that takes the strain and very little cleaning pressure is required on the part of the operator.
Unlike traditional cleaning methods, pre-moistened mops require no buckets of hot soapy water since the damp mop heads are kept in containers on the cleaning trolley ready for use. Ergonomically this means there is no need for the operator to lift heavy buckets or wring out mops – both actions that could lead to operator strain and injury.
Flat mops are also much lighter in weight than traditional mopping systems which allows cleaning tasks to be carried out more efficiently and again causes less strain to the operator.
Pre-prepared damp mops also help to increase cleaning efficiency since mopping is not as effective when the mop head is too wet. Environmentally traditional mops use much more water and chemical than microfibre flat mops: 10 microfibre mop heads will use around 1.5 litres of liquid to clean an area of floor that would require 17 litres of liquid using a mop-and-bucket system.
When an excess of chemical solution is used, this can build up in hard-to-reach areas such as behind toilet pipes and in and around the wheels of beds where it creates a sticky residue on which bacteria can thrive.
The fact that flat mop systems are used damp and never wet also has health and safety advantages. In a hospital environment where patients may be unsteady on their feet it is more important than ever to leave the floor as dry as possible in order to reduce the risk of slipping.
Wet floors can also be a breeding ground for bacteria – a risk that should obviously be avoided in the healthcare sector. Where pre-moistened damp mops are used, the floor dries quickly and any health and safety hazards associated with excess water never arise.
Microfibre damp mopping systems are in use in hospitals all over the globe, but some countries have been quicker to take them up than others. In Scandinavia, for example, pre-moistened microfibre damp mops are already the preferred method of healthcare cleaning. In Germany and France there is a tendency to use a mixture of flat and microfibre mopping methods combined with cleaning machines, while microfibre has been slower to catch on in the UK and the US where Kentucky mops and buckets are still typically in use in the healthcare sector. However in these countries there has been an increasing move towards the use of microfibre pre-prepared damp mops.
Recent innovations have led to mopping systems in hospitals becoming even more effective. Colour-coding systems, for example, reduce the risk of cross-contamination that can occur when several different areas of a hospital are being cleaned. The standard colour-coding system for healthcare in the UK is yellow for clinical areas such as operating theatres; blue for general areas and wards; red for toilets and green for catering areas. Vikan mops come with tags in each of the four colours and the operator simply removes the tags that do not apply.
At Vikan for example they have also developed a quick-release function which allows the mop head to be removed from the frame using a simple 'click' system. This means that not only is the mop head released much quicker and more ergonomically than other microfibre systems, but more essentially the operator never has to touch the dirty mop, drastically reducing the risk of contaminating other surfaces through contact with their hands.
Other new developments from Vikan include a damp mop that can remove fine dirt and bacteria while also removing the type of dirt that is likely to be tracked in from outdoors, such as sand and grit. The one step Vikan Damp 42 multi clean mop features an ultramicrofibre core that picks up fine dirt while the surrounding loops of microfibre material will simultaneously pick up any larger particles of dirt on numerous types of floors.
While mopping systems are constantly being developed to suit the demanding needs of the healthcare industry, some hospitals are bringing in machines for cleaning hallways and corridors.
Since labour accounts for 90 per cent of the cost of cleaning, the use of machines obviously has its attractions for the cash-pressed healthcare sector. But automated systems are not without their drawbacks. There is a large capital investment involved with buying machinery, for example, and this can be a major barrier in a sector where cost is always an issue.
Cleaning machines are only really viable in large open areas since a mop is much better adapted for cleaning in a wider variety of areas. The fact that a hospital never closes means that automated cleaning cannot be carried out at night as it might be in other facilities since large machines moving up and down the corridors would potentially awaken the patients.
And there is also an argument that machines can never really replace the reassuring presence of an efficient, motivated body of staff. Patients and visitors are likely to have confidence in a hospital where manual cleaning is visibly being carried out on a continual basis.
Certainly we are finding that healthcare institutions are increasingly using mops for cleaning other areas rather than just floors – particularly for surfaces such as stainless steel units, door frames and glass where fingerprints are likely to be very evident. The argument is that while patients and their families may not be able to see the bacteria on the floor, they will certainly see fingerprints on the glass and around the door frame.
So mopping has a vital role in healthcare, and while machines and steam cleaning methods may have their place in areas such as corridors and mattresses respectively, mopping is still the primary method of cleaning in wards and general areas. However, there are good reasons why the mopping sector – just like the rest of the cleaning industry – cannot afford to stand still.
As one of the most innovative companies in the cleaning industry Vikan is continuing to develop mopping as part of a complete cleaning concept taking into account the trolley system, cleaning efficiency, ergonomics and ease of use for the operator. It is a challenge to us all in this important sector to continue to move the market forward and produce better and more effective mopping systems in a bid to improve cleaning standards in healthcare around the globe.