Hey Dude! Wash your hands…..

Hey Dude!

Wash your hands…….

We were asked by a client to make a presentation to their field personnel on hand washing hygiene….in fact, to encourage any hand washing activity!  The title of the presentation was, “Hey, Dude! Wash Your Hands.”  And, while we are not working miles away from the nearest sink with soap and water, as we get closer to cold and flu season, a reminder about this easy habit is good.

Why is Washing Your Hands Important?

Did you know?   from your fingertips to your elbow  – 2 million to 10 million bacteria are present

Did you know?  germs that make you sick are called pathogens

Did you know?  only 1 in 3 people wash their hands after using the          bathroom

Did you know?  under your ring there could be as many germs as there are people in Europe!

Did you know?  164 million school days are lost to illness each year in the          US

Did you know?  a study of 305 schoolchildren who washed their hands 4 times a day had 24% fewer sick days due to respiratory illness (cold) and 51% fewer days due to upset stomach

Did you know?  germs can stay alive on hands for 3 hours

Did you know?  damp hands spread 1000 times more germs than dry hands

  Proper Handwashing Technique

  • Wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry.

Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on them. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.

Hand sanitizers are not effective when hands are visibly dirty.

How should you use hand sanitizer?

  • Apply the product to the palm of one hand.
  • Rub your hands together.
  • Rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.


Dude!  Wash your hands, and, stay well!



Making your Office Kitchen or Break Room More Pleasant to Use

The office kitchen or the break room is place that everyone uses. Don’t forget the guest and the occasional “would you like a cup of coffee” trips. What does your Business Kitchen or Break Room say about your company? It is an important question to consider as it may be speaking volumes to your visitors, not to mention the effect it may have on you and your co-workers that use it everyday.

Your commercial cleaning, or janitorial service may do the nightly cleaning of these rooms but they generally are not around all day during office hours to look after all the little tidying up that is often needed after each and every person uses the break room.

Here are some simple manners and common courtesies that should be kept in mind by all. Not “Break Room Rules”, just some helpful reminders to us that enhance our professional lives.

Be considerate

Okay, admittedly that might sound a little bit like dear old Mom. But think about it, everyone is entitled to some space in the fridge or a spot in the cupboard. With that in mind – don’t just toss your lunch into the spot up front. Take a moment to arrange your items carefully among others that might already be in there, leave a little room for the next person and their items.

Where’s my sandwich?

Identify what belongs to you. No, we are not talking about going to camp and putting I.D. Tags on everything, nor staking our territory as a specific shelf in the fridge. Simply marking your items will help to avoid any misunderstandings in the case of misplaced, discarded or wrongfully eaten food. That half eaten sandwich on a shelf may be something you planned to eat later but another well-meaning individual might assume it is a leftover that has been forgotten and toss it in the trash. If it’s yours and you want it, label it so others know!

Preventing Spoiled items                                        

On Friday, or if your day off is approaching, be sure to remove items that belong to you that will spoil.
Consider taking turns caring for the Break Room. Select someone in the workplace to be in charge of creating a cleaning schedule for things like dishes etc. that the janitor service might not cover or might take care of much later that evening.

That last cup of coffee The Coffee Pot

If you are the one that drinks that last of the coffee in the pot, it is considerate to make another pot. Or, if it is too late for more, make sure that the pot is turned off. What’s worse than the awful smell of burned coffee?

Microwave and behind that closed door

If you use the microwave to reheat leftovers, be sure to wipe it down if your dish has overflowed or sprayed around the oven. Spills that are left unattended not only dry hard and become more difficult to remove; they also create an odor for the next person who uses the oven. Another tip if you are the one that cleans the microwave. Take 2 cups of water and ½ a cup of white vinegar, heat on high for 2 minutes. All those crusty splatters can simply be wiped clean.

Crumbs and Spills

Little spills in the kitchen should be swept up as they happen. This will leave the room neat and tidy for the next person’s use. Tables and counters should also be wiped down. All empty disposable cups and napkins should be disposed of.

Hey! We are all out of water

Replace the bottled water if you use the last of the supply, or arrange to have a new water bottle put on the cooler if you use the last of it.

Hope this helps

These are just a few simple things that everyone can be aware of and perhaps be a little more pro-active to help make the office a cleaner, healthier place for yourself, your guests and for everyone.

Just In Case…Emergency Preparedness

Fall seems to be a great time for review of plans.  If it’s holiday plans, we have a reason for anticipation and if it’s tax plans, we still have a couple months for course corrections if needed.  But what about plans for “just in case?”

Having made the transition from hurricanes (East Coast) to earthquakes and fires (West Coast) only recently, it became clear to me that we really get complacent with the “evil that we know.”  Hearing of an impending storm while living in Florida, my preparations were simply to listen a bit more closely to the news.  I rarely took the recommended precautions of having food and water on hand, never considered evacuating – the one preparation was to have candles and matches and an oil lamp on hand.  I had lived through storm after storm with minimal effects and became “immune” to the warnings.

Shortly after moving to the Bay area, I experienced a small earthquake.  That was a first and it got my attention!  I was now paying attention in presentations on emergency and disaster preparedness, making sure I had survival basics on hand and for once, I had a plan. This is the time of year that I revisit the supplies, make sure that I am clear on how to turn off utilities in the event of an event, and just review the basics. 

Maybe you have reached the level of complacency regarding earthquakes, fire and the more common West Coast events that I had reached with hurricanes.  I hope not, but, if so I would urge you to just take an hour or so and review the basics (links below to some helpful sites) and make sure you and your co-workers and you and your family have basic supplies and plan knowledge….just in case.




An Invitation!

We would like to invite you to come by the Northern California Facilities Expo on September 22nd and 23rd  to visit with Customized.   We can chat about Day Cleaning or about how effective cleaning with water (!) can really be.  We’ll be in booth #433 and will be registering our guests for a chance to win a home model of the ActiveIon product, the Ionater.  This link will take you to a short video featuring Bill Nye, the Science Guy to explain the concept of cleaning with ionized water.   http://www.activeion.com/videos.aspx

Here’s the link to the Expo site for more information regarding times, seminars,  speakers and location.   http://www.facilitiesexpos.com/fenc/index.po

See you at the Expo!

Sanitize or Disinfect?

As a follow-up to our latest blog entry, H1N1- The 2009 Pandemic: Where Are We Now?  I was surprised to pick up the paper and see that a very serious disease is spreading right here in California. On June 24, 2010, an article in the San Jose Mercury News entitled Epidemic Endangers Children, reported on an outbreak of the disease known as Whooping cough, also called Pertussis, which has killed five infants across California since the beginning of the year. There have been 35 pertussis cases reported this year – more than four times the number reported by this time in 2009. Based on these statistics,  officials said California could be facing its worst outbreak of the disease in 50 years. Like many diseases, infants are more susceptible due to underdeveloped immune and respiratory systems.

 What drew my attention to this article was that young infants are being affected and also that they are defenseless to the spread of this disease. This led me to questions:   What exactly is the difference between a bacteria and a virus?  How do you go about cleaning to remove  these harmful germs and prevent infectious diseases? 

The difference between Viruses and Bacteria are listed below and are guidelines delivered by the U.S Food and Drug Association at www.FDA.org

  • Viruses must have a living host to multiply whereas most bacteria can grow on non-living surfaces.
  • Viruses invade the host’s cells and turn the cell’s genetic material from its normal function to producing the virus itself.
  • Bacteria carry all the machinery needed to  grow and multiply, while Viruses carry mainly information – for example, DNA or RNA, packaged in a protein and/or membranous coat. Bacteria, on the other hand, harness the host cell’s machinery to reproduce. In a sense, Viruses are not truly “living,” but are essentially information (DNA or RNA) that float around until they encounter a suitable living host.
  • Examples of some viruses are smallpox, AIDS, HIV, and the flu.

Now you might be asking yourself…. How do I clean surfaces to rid myself of all these germs and harmful things….Is there a difference between sanitizing and disinfecting?

Disinfectants inhibit the growth of microorganisms like fungi (which you might know as mold, yeast, ringworm and many more), bacteria (such as nasal bacteria caused by sneezing, or throat bacteria caused by coughing), and viruses on non-living surfaces. Disinfectants can kill microorganisms and prevent or slow their return. A disinfectant is a chemical that completely destroys all organisms. These organisms are disease causing bacteria or pathogens.  From a legal standpoint, these disinfectants must reduce the level of pathogenic bacteria by 99.9% after a dwell time of between  5 and 10 minutes.

A sanitizer, in contrast, is a chemical that reduces the number of micro-organisms to a safe level. It does not need to eliminate 100% of organisms to be effective.  It can also be used on living surfaces, i.e. instant hand sanitizer products.

A couple of points in summary:  Cleaning and disinfecting of hard surfaces (especially touchpoints such as phones, computer mouse, doorknobs, etc.) is desirable.  Following the recommendation of the CDC to avoid the spread of disease by coughing into your sleeve rather than your hands which can spread germs on the way to wash them is another action we can all take to prevent the spread of disease.

It’s not just “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” anymore!  My advice is to keep your environment clean, eat a healthy diet, exercise and you will do your part to stay healthy and avoid the spread of disease that can be dangerous for our most vulnerable citizens.

 The information referred to can be found in these two sources:

Maher, Sean. “San Mateo County Officials Work to Stem Whooping Cough – San Jose Mercury News.” Home – San Jose Mercury News. 27 June 2010. Web. 29 June 2010. <http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_15391435?IADID=Search-www.mercurynews.com-www.mercurynews.com>.

 Messinger, Eric. “Epidemic Endangers Children.” San Jose Mercury News 24 June 2010, Valley Final Edition ed., 103 Section B sec.: 1+. Print.

H1N1 – The 2009 Pandemic: Where Are We Now?

As you may remember, the Spring of 2009 was the genesis of the outbreak of H1N1 (swine flu) which resulted in some pretty attention-getting statistics. Throughout the period from April, 2009 to April 10, 2010, the estimated number of hospitalizations is listed as 274,000 with deaths listed at 12,400 on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website. The site reports that these statistics are likely underreported due to many factors and the number of cases of swine flu in this time period is estimated at 43 – 89 million.  Normal reporting of cases and details on a weekly basis via the CDC’s FluView, happens from May through October.  The last report for the week ending May 28th has been archived but reported 3 confirmed pediatric deaths from H1N1 for that week. These statistics provide a compelling reason to take normal precautions to prevent the spread of germs, viruses and disease on a regular basis, not just when flu is in the news.


Customized is recognized as the Cleaning for Health company.  With the rapid surge of cases of H1N1 flu in 2009, we found ourselves on the front lines of the fight, partnered along with the clients we serve.  With an informed and aggressive program of cleaning and disinfection we were able to support our client companies in their efforts to maintain maximum productivity and reduce the number of cases and thus lost work days.   We rapidly geared up with information about what Customized as the cleaning contractor can do, and, provided reminders from the CDC about what we can all do to stop the spread of this (and other airborne) disease. 

While the role of custodial service worker can, at times, be looked upon as a laborious job, the H1N1 virus brought a renewed awareness of the value of this role in preventing illness and promoting healthy work environments when the job is done really well.  We salute these frontline workers in a relentless (everyday) battle for better health!

No Vacation Nation

A 2007 report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research dubbed the U.S. the No-Vacation Nation. The report compared the U.S. to 15 other countries, and found that the U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not mandate paid vacation. 28 million Americans do not get paid vacation, and two-thirds of those who do, do not use all of it, or take their work with them. Job issues, career paths, mortgages, debt and thorny relationships are some of the leading causes of stress effecting people around the world today. Researchers and doctors have assessed stress-related illnesses for years and the majority of them have come to the same conclusions; vacations are an essential part of maintaining good mental health as well as good physical health. Everyone needs rest and a break from the everyday so that they can revive and be at their best.

Planning short vacations is one way to make sure that you get away from work and your daily routine to help you reduce your level of stress. We are fortunate that California has so many relaxing destinations from which to choose and easy on the pocket book too. Whether it’s a one-day drive on Highway 1, or camping in Yosemite, hiking at Big Sur, or people watching at the wharf, make time on a regular basis to play and enjoy it. It could literally save your life! Commit to change before change is forced upon you.

Rain, Rain….

Rain is a variable thing, right?  It is May, almost June and it is still raining.  Historical patterns show that San Jose, CA, has an average rainfall in May of less than a half inch.  Peak rain is in January…..but, when you look at the actual historical table, there can be some rain every month. And, that brings me to one troublesome aspect of lots or very little rain and the world of building and facility management. 

Yesterday’s a great example.  It was drizzling to say the least…umbrella optional for the walk from car to door.  Shoes picked up moisture from pavement/sidewalk and even though I did the rainy day shuffle outside before stepping in, the minute I hit the tile, I was out of shuffle and into full disco moves I haven’t visited in YEARS.  All in an attempt to stay upright!  I did, thankfully, no broken hip, just a bit less dignity and a bruised ego as I am sure I looked quite ridiculous with arms and legs flailing about seeking balance. 

Mats are the answer!  A good mat program can prevent 80% of the soil that comes into a building from ever reaching the inside.  How’s that for improving appearance and indoor air quality? And, if this isn’t reason enough, a good mat program can eliminate awkward dance moves at the front door or worse, a slip and fall.  OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration – U.S. Department of Labor) stats show that slip and falls are the second leading cause of fatalities, second only to auto accidents.  Other statistics vary, but show that between 8 million and 9 million incidents occur each year.  Average cost of a slip and fall with injury is $25,000.  A fabulous mat program with artwork and company logos suddenly looks like a SMALL investment:  A good mat program is a must!

Helping to select matting is one of the ways we partner with property and facility managers.  We would love to work with you on this enhancement to your building entrance which can beautify as well as support your overall building safety program.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Here’s a Top 5 List of concepts that were NOT in the custodial contractor’s vocabulary just a few short years ago.

5.  Green.   About the only thing I remember being green was the color of butyl degreasers .  These cleaners  were also very unfriendly to the environment and to those who used them.   Thankfully, today we have Green buildings, Green companies, and even Green degreasers!

4.    Eco-Friendly.   Most of our paper products, i.e., paper towels, toilet tissue, facial tissue, were purchased based solely on the look and feel (and price).  Products were bleached to a bright white and there was little or no recycled content.  Trash can liners were thick, virgin resin and there was no thought to a biodegradable product.

All the major paper and some can liner companies today boast products with published and certified eco-friendly content.

3.    Low odor/Low VOC.   Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) are compounds which contain carbon (organic) and readily evaporate or vaporize.  Most of the smelly chemicals our industry was notorious for using emitted LOTS of these.  Floor finish and strippers, degreasers, and solvents, and paint, were in everyday use until awareness was increased and low odor and low voc products became available.

Today’s contractor has great choices on low odor, low fragrance, low voc chemical systems.  Closed delivery systems also make them even safer as all of the “mixing” is done with equipment rather than pouring or glugging.

2.    Indoor Air Quality.  Right on the heels of the VOC issue, indoor air quality was rarely addressed.  We vacuumed our way out the door and the vacs we used had such poor filtration that we potentially added a layer of dust as the last act of cleaning.  Never mind that we dusted surfaces earlier in the cleaning process along with emptying the trash.  We used cleaning products with strong fragrance, deodorizers that were designed to mask rather than neutralize odors, merely inserting a strong perfume on top of an unpleasant odor.

Indoor Air Quality is routinely a topic of discussion for building designers, owners and occupants.  High filtration vacuums, cleaning cloths that pick up and remove dust and soil, low or no fragrance products, neutralizing deodorants all play a pivotal role in enhancing a facility’s indoor air quality.

1.  Sustainable. A responsible approach to using natural resources….huh?  Rarely was a thought given to the conservation of water or energy.   Times do change.  With effective maintenance systems and programs we also work to preserve building assets.  If you actually get the 10 – 15 years that a carpet is designed to give rather than the carpet “uglying out” before it’s time due to careless or improper maintenance, we have contributed to sustainability.

Indoor Air Quality – Filtration Facts

Continuing our discussion of healthier workplaces, filtration is the topic for the day. To give you a visual, just picture the image of a custodian vacuuming with a Sanitaire that has the red cloth bag on the back. You know the ones…if the doorframe lightly touches the bag on its way around; there’s a “poof” of visible dirt. These vacuums boast the filtration levels of, well; they don’t publish anything other than “Filtration Standard” in the specs for these vacs.

Here’s another thing….the rate of fall for particulates that a vac such as this puts into the air is one foot per hour. So, the custodian empties the trash, dusts surfaces and then vacuums his or her way out of the office. That’s right; the last task puts dust into the air by the very act of removing dirt! And, of course, this settles on all the previously dusted surfaces by the time the lights are turned on (eight hours later) for the next day’s work. It’s no wonder that lack of dusting is one of the most frequent complaints a custodial company hears!

Just in case you think I’m picking on Sanitaire, I’m not. They manufacture a number of sealed HEPA vacuums which are designed for commercial use. These vacuums are filtering particles (keeping them inside the vacuum for removal from the building) of .3 micrometers in size with an efficiency of at least 99.97 percent. They are more expensive than the cloth bag models and they require paper filter bags, another cost item, but, assure that the soils are trapped until removal from the building. When these high filtration vacuums are introduced into a building, the amount of particulates decreases and the overall air quality increases. Asthma is one of the most common respiratory illnesses and symptoms can be greatly improved with cleaner air.

ULPA filtration sees even more efficiency with smaller particulate size. This technology is appropriate for most cleanroom environments, but, is overkill for general office or facility workplaces.

The vacuum cleaner: Seems like an insignificant part of the overall healthy building puzzle, but, is a key component of a successful Cleaning for Health Program. Prevention of soil entering a facility and then removal of what does get in are the goals!

Filtration Level

Particulate Size

Particulate Example



120 nanometers

Mold, bacteria



.3 micrometers

Dust mite feces, pollen