Staffing Shortages & Sustainability Shape the I&I Cleaning Category

Innovative products and training programs help service providers meet the cleaning needs of restaurants, hotels, offices and healthcare facilities.

The new year is just weeks away, and judging by Americans’ activity across the country, the pandemic of 2020 finally appears to be in the rearview mirror.

CloroxPro’s EcoClean Disinfecting Cleaner is a new a ready-to-use disinfectant cleaner made with plant-based active ingredients that kill 99.9% of illness-causing germs in two minutes or less.
Unmasked-and-vaccinated people are once again standing in long lines at O’Hare Airport and packing bars and restaurants in New York City’s East Village. College campuses have dropped strict covid protocols that once moved infected students out of their dorm and into quarantine. Workers are back at their desks inside offices from Portland, ME to Portland, OR—albeit just two or three days a week. 

As everyday life in the US returns to normal, the I&I market finds itself under the gun. Charged with keeping spaces clean to protect public health, labor shortages make cleaning providers’ job harder. The US unemployment rate remains low, yet there are fewer employees to mop floors and disinfect countertops.

According to the annual Residential Cleaning Benchmark Study from the Association of Residential Cleaning Services International (ARCSI), finding and retaining a trained workforce continues to be the top challenge. In fact, it was cited by more than 40% of residential cleaning companies that participated in the annual survey.

Similar trends have been noted in the lodging category. Nearly all hotels are experiencing staffing shortages, according to a member survey conducted by the American Hotel & Lodging Association in September. In it, 87% of survey respondents indicated they are experiencing a staffing shortage, with 36% calling it severe. The most critical staffing need is housekeeping, with 43% ranking it as their biggest challenge.

The restaurant sector is getting squeezed, too. While August marked the 20th consecutive month of restaurant employment growth, eating and drinking establishments were about 5.1% below their pre-pandemic employment levels, according to the National Restaurant Association.

“They would like to wipe counters 10x a day, but they just don’t have the people. It is the nature of business right now,” Laura Mahecha, director, agrochemicals and I&I cleaning products at Kline Group, told Happi.

Kline, Parsippany, NJ, closely tracks the jan-san and I&I markets, and has a new Janitorial and Housekeeping Cleaning Products: US Market Analysis and Opportunities report expected out this quarter.

The worker shortage in cleaning services is perhaps best exemplified in a new initiative between ISSA, the trade association for the cleaning industry, and the New York State Sheriffs’ Association (NYSSA).

In September, ISSA and NYSSA launched a statewide training and certification program for incarcerated individuals in New York’s county jail system. Through the program, incarcerated people in the state’s county jail system will have the opportunity to be certified as experts on cleaning for health from ISSA’s Cleaning Management Institute. It is two-phased approach; first to certify correctional employees as Certified Professional Trainers in commercial cleaning while the second phase includes the deployment of a new cleaning for health initiative within correctional facilities, followed by vocational instruction of incarcerated individuals. 

Staffing Support

At ISSA, SC Johnson Professional showcased a dispenser made with Recovered Coastal Plastic.
Even with current labor issues and rising inflation, Kline’s Mahecha described the overall state of the jan-san market as “very healthy”—but activity appears a bit more relaxed compared to the recent past.

“People are cleaning. They might not be cleaning to the same frequency as they were in 2020 during the height of the pandemic, but they understand the importance of clean hands and surfaces,” she said.

As staffing shortages continue to pose challenges for many professional end users, innovation on display at ISSA’s North American trade show in Chicago in October included finished formulations that provide better performance (think multi-taskers) as well as improvements designed to streamline the cleaning professional’s job. New developments came in the form of hardware, such as more ergonomic mops and floor cleaning robots, as well as new online training.

Category leaders recognize the role they can play in helping their customers retain staff, by providing guidance on how to clean effectively and efficiently.

“Employees want the ability to do the best at their job and be set up for success,” Van Walter, director of training and applications, Diversey, told attendees at the “Being Efficient and Effective in Today’s Challenging Environment Without Compromising Quality” session at ISSA in Chicago.

Diversey plans to offer more training via a partnership with Typsy, an online learning experience platform. Through the alliance, Diversey will expand its offerings for the hospitality industry to an on-demand training model, which will form part of the full suite of training solutions offered by Typsy to the hospitality industry.

Staffing shortages and burnout are two of the top three challenges among cleaning industry professionals, according to CloroxPro. At ISSA, the brand highlighted CloroxPro HealthyClean, its online learning platform. Rolled out earlier this year, it delivers education and training to help ensure cleaning professionals get the knowledge and skills needed to clean for health effectively, efficiently and safely. According to the team at CloroxPro, cleaning to help protect public health is expected—however many cleaning professionals are unsure of the implications and what they need to do differently to help meet this goal.

In a Clorox survey of facility managers and buildings service contractors (BSCs), 91% said their janitorial staff had to learn new cleaning and disinfecting protocols and 96% said staff are asked to do more cleaning and disinfecting to provide greater confidence for occupants and visitors. While more than 90% agreed training is important to help staff understand how to reduce the spread of germs, use products and equipment correctly and teach staff to do their jobs safely, facility managers and BSCs see areas to improve in their current training programs.

The CloroxPro HealthyClean Trained Specialist Course is the first third-party accredited certificate course launching under the program, according to brand officials that met with Happi at ISSA. The interactive course, designed for frontline cleaning professionals, teaches how to clean for health by using the right products at the right time. It covers actions that can be taken to do the job safely and effectively, the science behind how germs spread, how to break the chain of infection and easy-to-follow procedures and best practices.

But Is It Clean?

Further data culled by Clorox suggests there is “trust gap” between cleaning professionals and consumers. In a 2022 CloroxPro research study of more than 550 cleaning professional and nearly 1,200 consumers, 80% of professional cleaners cited feeling more pressure to clean and disinfect public spaces yet less than half (48%) of consumers have confidence in industry’s ability to protect the public from germs.

CrackleClean is a new hand sanitizer from Rubbermaid Commercial Products that has a unique sensory attribute. 
What’s interesting to note is that 70% of consumers said it is part of their responsibility to help keep clean the public spaces that they frequent, and 65% have disinfected an office, conference room, desk or other public use item at their work.

But when cleaning tasks are outside of their control, consumers want visual cues. Sixty-one percent of consumers have paid more attention to visual cues related to cleaning now than they did prior to the pandemic, according to the CloroxPro data.

Similar sentiment has been uncovered by Procter & Gamble in the dining category. Citing its own survey data, P&G Professional said Americans expressed how important it is for them to see a visible clean whether they are dining indoors (93%) or outdoors (92%), or ordering takeout (92%). What’s more, four out of five (82%) said they lose their appetite when they see grease or dirt at a restaurant.

P&G Professional also noted that 70% want restaurants to be more open about the cleaning products they use and 53% reported they are more likely to dine at a restaurant using cleaning product brands they recognize, suggesting that they would find comfort from products such as the recently relaunched Dawn Professional or Microban24 Professional, a newer brand name from P&G that rolled out right before the onset of the pandemic. Both are available for distributors and retailers that serve small businesses and on pgpro.com.
The Dawn range includes SKUs that help cleaning staff get more accomplished, such as new Dawn Professional Multi-Surface Heavy Duty Degreaser, which cuts through grease two times faster than the leading professional degreaser, and Dawn Platinum Powerwash Dish Spray, which doesn’t require water until the rinse step, which P&G says it is great for kitchens that need to wash dishes during busy service times.

According to Mahecha of Kline, the presence of a recognizable cleaning brand in public-facing spaces can provide a halo effect for customers.

SC Johnson Professional’s well-known consumer-facing brands are active in jan-san, too. This fall it rolled out Scrubbing Bubbles Multi-Purpose Disinfectant for professional settings. Formulated for use on hard, non-porous surfaces, this aerosol kills 99.9% of viruses including SARS-CoV-2, and bacteria including staph and E. coli, on top of sanitizing surfaces in just 30 seconds.

Some trouble spots can be out of sight, but not out of olfactive reach. Trash chutes, product storage spaces and other common back-of-house areas can be sources of lingering odors, which can attract unwanted pests (the common house fly can smell odors as far as four miles away). Customers and employees alike view lingering odors as an indicator of unhealthy environments, leading to negative perceptions of the business or organization. To that end, Rentokil has launched Genie Max, a patented odor management system for back-of-house malodors. Designed for large indoor and outdoor spaces, it eliminates and neutralizes foul smells while helping to reduce unwanted pests. UK-based Rentokil last month acquired US pest control company Terminix.

Answering More Needs

Leaders in jan-san continue to roll out new solutions for customers who want greener chemistry and novel solutions that simplify or speed up tasks without compromising on efficacy or performance.

Spartan Chemical Company, for example, launched X-Effect Restroom Cleaner with citric acid. It is billed as a convenient and effective solution for removing bacteria and viruses in the restroom while leaving a fresh lavender fragrance. The formulation cleans and disinfects surfaces, removing tough stains caused by urine and hard water. It is a ready-to-use disinfectant cleaner that also deodorizes and kills odor-causing germs, and carries the EPA’s Design for the Environment seal.  

Gojo Industries introduced Purell Healthcare Surface Disinfecting Wipes. The ethyl alcohol-based wipes eliminate 99.9% of bacteria and viruses of concern, including all ESKAPE pathogens, seven of the most common drug-resistant bacteria and viruses significant to the healthcare environment (including bloodborne pathogens, influenza A, respiratory syncytial virus and norovirus) in two minutes or less. Gojo says the wipes kill the virus that causes covid (SARS-CoV-2) in 30 seconds, too. The launch has the EPA’s lowest allowable toxicity rating (Category IV) and is FDA Food Code compliant. Plus, the wipes are proven to cover three to five times the average surface area covered by two of the leading healthcare surface disinfecting wipes on the market. 

Gojo now offers the Purell Healthcare Surface Disinfecting Wipes as well as its foodservice wipes in a portable, 72-count flowpack that allows staff to bring the wipes from location to location as they work. And, the slim packaging fits in tight storage spaces and other where canisters don’t fit.

Efficacy Matters

Gojo has, over the past 18 months, activated an additional 2.5 million square feet of manufacturing space, added three new manufacturing and distribution facilities, and expanded its US-based supply chain capabilities, including securing a captive source of high-grade ethanol through a strategic sourcing partnership. The company continues to look at the efficacy of products, too.

A new study by North Carolina State University, in partnership with Gojo, found that the total formulation (active ingredients and non-active ingredients) significantly impacts a surface sanitizer or disinfectant’s efficacy against norovirus—the leading cause of foodborne illness in the US.

Globally, norovirus sickens nearly 700 million each year and costs an estimated $64 billion a year, primarily through productivity loss, according to a 2016 study. Norovirus is the number one cause of foodborne illness in the US, and this is partly because of how well this virus can persist on surfaces—it can survive for weeks, according to experts.

In the study, NC State researchers applied human norovirus and Tulane Virus (a newer culturable surrogate virus with similarities to human norovirus) to strips of laminate material commonly used for restaurant tabletops and tested the efficacy of four commercially available food contact surface sanitizers with different active ingredients (ethanol, bleach, quaternary ammonium, and a lactic acid and surfactant blend). Only the alcohol-based (ethanol) sanitizer significantly reduced the amount of virus on the surfaces (>3.5 log reduction). The other products performed poorly (<0.5 log reduction).

“This research clearly shows all food contact surface sanitizers are not equal from a norovirus efficacy standpoint,” said Chip Manuel, PhD, food safety science advisor, Gojo.

Health remains a cornerstone of I&I NPD, which stretches beyond foodservice and hospitality to building maintenance.

For instance, in response to severe flooding around the country, EvaClean and EarthSafe in October announced a solution to protect homes and businesses from mold damage by combining their chemical technologies into one system. Preventing mold not only protects property but human health, too. Fungi produces spores and can create dangerous mycotoxins that cause serious respiratory health issues. Moreover, mold-infested areas are more prone to bacterial growth and exponential contamination.

The OnePro Mold Remover & Protectant System eliminates mold and mildew with EvaClean’s PurOne hospital-grade Cleaner & Disinfectant, and then seals surfaces to inhibit growth with EarthSafe’s XMold Pro Polymer Coating. OnePro is designed to start working before mold begins to develop, even while water is still present or receding. Beyond water emergencies, mold is a ubiquitous problem that impacts facilities everywhere. In fact, it destroys more wood annually than fires and termites combined. This is particularly concerning in school and hospital environments, as well as in gyms, locker rooms, pool facilities, manufacturing plants, commercial buildings and other public spaces where moisture is often present.

PurOne is an EPA registered bactericide, virucide and fungicide that cleans and disinfects in one step to kill mold, mildew and other pathogens in four minutes, including aspergillosis, a leading cause of infection-related deaths in immunocompromised patients. The NaDCC chemistry in PurOne has a neutral pH and is safer than bleach or other mold cleaners that can also be corrosive to surfaces. XMold Pro is the only mold, mildew and algae inhibitor with patented Superstratum Adaptive Smart Polymer technology which forms a fungicidal barrier that protects for as long as five years.

Another Important Surface: Hands

As health experts will attest, proper hand hygiene is critical to maintaining health. To that end, I&I brands continue to improve their hand soap and hand sanitizers formulations emphasizing efficacy, sensory attributes and sustainability.

At ISSA, Tork displayed its sustainable Clarity Hand Washing Foam Soap. With no fragrance added, the formulation has a high amount of sustainable ingredients and four certifications—Green Seal, EcoLogo, NSF E1 rated and USDA Certified BioBased, according to the brand, which is part of Essity. The sealed bottle with single-use pump helps promote hygiene and helps reduce the risk of cross contamination. Further, the Clarity bottle collapses as the formulation is used.

Rubbermaid Commercial Products showcased CrackleClean Hand Sanitizer. This new formulation has a sensory spin—a crackle feel upon rubbing into the hands, which provides a unique twist for commercials settings like a school, where it could help increase compliance. (What does it feel like? Think Pop Rocks candy; kids of the 1980s, you know what we mean!)

Charlotte Products launched a new USDA Certified Organic Commercial hand soap dispenser program.

Also at ISSA was The Cleani, an automatic disinfecting device that dispenses a cleaning solution directly onto door handles—one of the most-shared surfaces. The bleach-free solution kills SARS-Cov-2 in 60 seconds on hard non-porous surfaces and breaks down to a saline solution.

More Sustainable Solutions

Sporting a “coming in 2023” sign, SC Johnson Professional had a new dispenser on display at ISSA—the ProlineWave Dispenser, which is made with Recovered Coastal Plastic produced in partnership with Plastic Bank.

A similar product, the HyTech Seas Dispenser by Italian tissue company Sofidel Group, was named the winner of ISSA’s new Environment & Sustainability Award. It is manufactured with recovered ocean plastic waste.

Sustainability continues to move through the I&I category—from formulating with more natural/botanical ingredients and fewer dyes to new concentrated formats to more sustainable packaging. For instance, at ISSA, Seventh Generation promoted its EasyDose ultra-concentrated laundry product and CloroxPro promoted EcoClean Disinfecting Cleaner, which is made with plant-based active ingredients.

The acceptance of greener and more sustainable products is being driven, in part, by facilities managers who have their own benchmarks to meet, according to Kline’s Mahecha.

Scott Case, vice president of CSR and sustainability at the National Retail Federation (NRF), agrees. He was part of a panel discussion on “The Future of Sustainability for the Cleaning Industry,” which was held during the education day that takes place ahead of the ribbon-cutting at ISSA’s annual trade show.

During the session, which was moderated by Stephen Ashkin, president, The Ashkin Group LLC, and executive director of the Green Cleaning Network, Case said: “What is going on right now in every part of every industry in the US is that you have investors asking companies what they’re doing, customers asking you’re doing, and boards asking what are you doing about sustainability?”

Fellow panelists included Ecolab’s Oriana Raabe and Imperial Dade’s Bill McGarvey, who like Ashkin, are members of ISSA’s newly formed Sustainability Committee.

“When we think about doing the right thing for planet and people, what we have to realize is: how do we make their jobs easier,” said Raabe, corporate scientist, sustainability.

For instance, a concentrated product could be better for workers from an ergonomic standpoint.

“That’s when you get adoption. Make it easier to make the sustainable choice,” she said.

“Sustainability is much bigger than green cleaning,” noted McGarvey, who is director of training and sustainability at Imperial Dade, a fast-growing independent distributor of food packaging, commercial cleaning and paper products in hospitality, foodservice, healthcare and education.

According to Mahecha, end users have a growing interest in suppliers’ efforts to reduce the overall environmental impact on their manufacturing and distribution processes—chemical production, water and energy consumption, and waste reduction. Initiatives that suppliers are taking on include recyclable and recycled-content containers and boxes, concentrated products that use less packaging and less water, as well as electrification of delivery vehicles, and increased use of renewable energy in factories. 

Mahecha said suppliers with sustainable solutions have the potential to differentiate themselves.

According to Case, sustainability is now getting “baked into” performance structures and reviews, which means companies must prepare for when—not if—their customers ask about it.

“If you aren’t preparing for this, it will sneak up on you,” Case said. “And then you will have a big job explaining to your boss why you lost the contract.” 

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