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Commercial Cleaning: Let the Experts Do the Dirty Work

by Jan 8, 2024Magazine, Professional Services

Janco Commercial Cleaning is a family-owned and operated commercial cleaning company in Anchorage that specializes in cleaning medical facilities and Class A office buildings.

Janco Commercial Cleaning

The commercial cleaning industry is a dirty business.

It’s also expanding, spurred on by—no surprise—the COVID-19 pandemic, which drove home the importance of cleanliness and hygiene to protect the health and well-being of employees and customers.

“It’s a really vital industry, and I think COVID really showed building owners and property managers how important a clean and well-maintained facility is,” says Cynthia Mockbee, COO of Janco Commercial Cleaning, a family-owned and -operated commercial cleaning company in Anchorage whose niche is medical facilities and Class A office buildings. “It’s like a make it or break it, not just for the professional image but preserving the value of their investment.”

According to data from Statista.com, there were slightly more than 1.2 million commercial cleaning and janitorial businesses nationwide in 2022, a 7.7 percent increase over 2021. The industry employed more than 2.1 million janitors and cleaners and had a market size of almost $90 billion.

The Alaska Cleaning Company in Fairbanks contributed to that growth. When owners Matt and Remi Kawood struggled to find a company with the capacity to clean their rental properties, they decided to start their own. Their original plan was to offer residential services, but the couple quickly pivoted to commercial cleaning.

“We wanted to fill a void we were feeling ourselves,” Matt Kawood says. “But cleaning is a funny thing. You can provide one service, and people will ask if you do all these other kinds of cleaning. That’s when we moved into commercial cleaning.”

Commercial cleaning is a broad term for an industry that provides cleaning and janitorial services to non-residential spaces, says Genesis Parr, CEO of Janco Commercial Cleaning and Mockbee’s sister. It includes everything from general janitorial services to construction cleanup and floor care services, and it encompasses every type of industry and commercial space.

“When you’re cleaning a commercial space, there are a lot of different categories,” Mockbee explains. “There’s medical facilities and surgical facilities. There’s office space, whether it’s Class A, Class B, or Class C. There are educational spaces. All of these are very different.”

What they all have in common is the need for a tidy space when employees arrive in the morning.

Top-to-Bottom Clean

At their core, commercial and residential cleaners have the same goal: to rid a space of dirt, dust, and grime. That’s where the similarities end.

“The cleaning services that we offer are different than residential,” Parr says. “Residential is way more personal, but the machines and products that people use for residential are different because of the volume and the amount of foot traffic.”

Industrial-strength commercial cleaning products and equipment are more effective at cleaning large volumes of space than the materials used in residential cleaning.

“We’re using industrial equipment that you wouldn’t use in a residential place, like carpet extractors, that would clean the carpet on a larger scale,” Mockbee says. “Vacuuming is just cleaning the dust bunnies; the carpet cleaner gets the germs.”

Commercial cleaning also happens more frequently than residential cleaning, which means the spaces are generally cleaner to start with. “Businesses typically hire us on a recurring basis [and] are generally a lot cleaner because it’s something that happens either daily or weekly,” Kawood says. “Homes can vary.”

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Although the space to be cleaned is often larger than a residence, there are fewer unknowns when cleaning a commercial space, says Rosi Nantes, owner of Initiative Commercial Cleaning, a woman-owned business in Eagle River which specializes in cleaning dialysis centers. There are occasional emergencies or seasonal tasks in the commercial space, but she says the day-to-day cleaning remains relatively consistent, a benefit to employees.

“You do it every night and it’s a repetitive thing,” she explains. “You’re not expecting an extra bed to fix or an extra load of laundry to wash. It’s the same thing every night. I think you have more structure.”

Breaks in that rhythm typically arise with emergency spills, for example, or seasonal changes.

“Obviously breakup season is crazy,” Kawood says. “We do a lot more deep cleaning then, some more wall washing and carpet shampooing and stain removal during that time.”

Nantes, who is certified to handle blood and pathogens, is occasionally called in for an emergency clean-up.

“If they have an accident in the lobby, we’ll go in and shampoo the carpets to clean the blood,” she says. “If there’s a bathroom accident, we’ll go in and clean it.”

Out of Sight

Most commercial cleaners work after regular business hours and, if they’re called in during the day, must be mindful not to interfere with business operations.

“Commercial cleaners have to work around employees and customers,” Mockbee says, and most of Janco’s approximately 200 cleaners don’t start until 5 p.m. “Sometimes they are cleaning throughout the day, and then they have to keep disruptions to a minimum.”

Those daytime cleaners are typically in the medical setting, Parr says, and “basically tidy up everything and are there on call for any requests that the owner or the building needs.”

Cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing aren’t the only services commercial cleaning companies offer. Whether directly or indirectly, they also ensure their clients remain stocked with essential supplies.

Nantes provides her clients with a checklist of supplies, including the supplies her employees need to clean the dialysis centers. “I send them a list and they provide the supplies,” Nantes says. “I know how many supplies we use a month, so I have a monthly list and they order exactly whatever they need for that month.”

Janco has a day porter service that handles the procurement, delivery, and stocking of supplies.

“They [the day porters] provide supplies and make sure everything is stocked for each building,” Mockbee says. “We just want to make sure the property manager and the building owner trust us to not only deliver that high-quality cleaning but also maintain the assets and the procuring of supplies and coordinating the services.”

Cleaning Is Binary

The number of commercial cleaners and janitors is expected to increase by 4 percent annually through 2031. Despite those growing numbers and the increasing demand for commercial cleaning services, there are no industry-wide standards to guide those employees as they dust, mop, and vacuum their way through a commercial space.

“There really is no standard of cleaning,” Parr says. “I think there should be, but unfortunately the industry doesn’t have a standard.”

In other words, “clean” is in the eye of the beholder.

“Whether something is clean or not is very binary,” Kawood says. “Clean businesses are something that you take for granted. It’s not typically something you look for, it’s something you feel.”

But just because there are no industry standards for what constitutes “clean”—or how to achieve it—doesn’t mean commercial cleaning companies just hand their crews a mop and hope everybody’s idea of cleanliness is aligned. Instead, they provide extensive, ongoing training to employees from the moment of hire.

Janco onboards its staff with a standard one-on-one training that includes a checklist that explains how to properly perform each task.

“The job description lays out the basics of the tasks that need to be done, and then there’s a mini checklist to cover all the basics,” Mockbee says. “How to empty the trash, how to clean a restroom—not just cleaning, but disinfecting—a list of doors that can be left unlocked, which have to be locked, how to vacuum.”

“Clean businesses are something that you take for granted. It’s not typically something you look for, it’s something you feel.”

—Matt Kawood, Co-owner, Alaska Cleaning Company

Dirty Details

The heightened focus on disinfection of non-medical spaces, as opposed to just cleaning a space, became a bigger priority during COVID-19 and is included in the training.

“When you just wipe down your desk with a microfiber cloth, that’s cleaning,” Parr says. “Disinfecting is using a commercial grade disinfectant and leaving it on the surface for whatever time it’s recommended for. That’s really the biggest difference: cleaning is just wiping [but] disinfecting is using the chemical to its full potential.”

Every commercial space has a different scope of cleaning, so training is tailored to the specifics of each space. Medical or surgical facilities, for example, require more thorough cleaning than a retail or office space. Parr says employees hired to clean those facilities receive additional training, including how to properly handle biohazards, blood-borne pathogens, and terminal cleaning, which happens after a patient is discharged from a room.

“Medical is very, very different,” she says. “There is terminal cleaning nightly. You have to wear your scrubs, and you clean every single surface, from the ceilings to the floor.”

“It’s not just like a regular office cleaning, with mopping and dusting,” Nantes adds of the procedures for cleaning the dialysis centers. “It’s more detailed. They have to wear gloves because they’re around blood, and there’s more glove changing depending on where they are in the facility. You have to use a special product to sanitize the sinks and floor.”

Like any industry, the commercial cleaning industry poses hazards, from chemical exposure to the potential for injuries from improper use of cleaning equipment. Employee training includes the safe use of these materials as well.

“I try to do everything in a way that won’t cause injury,” Nantes says. “There’s a procedure to lift the trash bag so as not to hurt your back, and they use a cart to push the trash out. We use backpack vacuums that have the hose away from the body so they don’t have to breathe in any dust, and it’s lighter and easier to carry because it has reinforcement to their back and ties around their waist so they don’t use their backs as much.”

Trainings are designed to protect the health of not just the cleaners but also the people who come in contact with the commercial space.

“There are a lot of ways that cleaning technically could be dangerous,” Kawood says. “If we’re leaving chemicals behind or chemical residue, then that’s unsafe. So ongoing training, and just constantly ensuring that our cleaners are conducting themselves safely, is really our top priority.”

Passion for Washing

Janitorial staff became more appreciated during COVID-19, but outsourcing cleaning and janitorial services to professionals—which data shows roughly 25 percent of businesses do—has benefits beyond a clean, sanitized, and disinfected workspace.

Nantes says leaving the cleaning to the professionals who have a passion for it—“I love getting there and seeing the floor beat up and transforming it, and everybody comes in and says, ‘Oh, we can eat off the floor!’”—allows office staff to focus on the job they were hired to do.

Nantes adds. “If they hire an outside company to do the job that they’re not called to do, it frees them to do what they’re called to do. Then they can spend their energy doing what they do best.”

Because most commercial cleaners work outside of regular business hours (which, Kawood says, is a good reason for businesses to check that the commercial cleaning company performs employee background checks), they act as an extra set of eyes and ears when the office is empty.

“What people don’t realize in this industry is, we’re not only janitors,” Parr says. “We’re in your building daily, so we’re looking at, ‘Oh, there’s a leak, gotta report it to the property manager or the owner,’ or, ‘These doors were left open.’ Since we’re there daily, we have eyes on the building. There’s more value than just cleaning.”

Mockbee agrees, adding that outsourcing clean-up provides long-term financial benefits that businesses shouldn’t overlook.

“It’s not just about cleaning,” she says. “It’s preserving your building, preserving your furnishings, preserving your surfaces, extending the life of the space. It’s definitely a worthwhile investment.”

“What people don’t realize in this industry is, we’re not only janitors… Since we’re there daily, we have eyes on the building. There’s more value than just cleaning.”

—Genesis Parr, CEO, Janco Commercial Cleaning

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In their company kitchens, the Corporate 100 blend wholesome ingredients with exquisite utensils to create the scrumptious ambrosia that keeps employees gratified and contented. Meet the top Alaska employers ranked by number of Alaskans on their payroll, and learn the recipe for success. This issue also includes a focus on economic development initiatives in Anchorage and Kodiak.

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