Professional cleaners were once ‘the invisible worker’ — but not anymore
Workplaces across the U.S. are getting a lot more professional cleaning done during the coronavirus pandemic, and that’s transforming the image and role of the cleaners, according to a new industry group. “The cleaner was the invisible worker,” said Josh Feinberg, president of the recently formed Cleaning Coalition of America, an advocacy group that represents professional cleaning companies. “What 9/11 did for the security industry, we anticipate COVID doing for the cleaning industry,” Feinberg said.
For the most part, before the pandemic hit, businesses were likely to only bring in professional cleaners at the end of the day or during the overnight hours, when they would not be widely visible. “It was someone who was not necessarily as respected,” Feinberg said, noting that cleaners are now likely to be seen at work throughout the day, cleaning and disinfecting high-touch areas such as handrails, elevator buttons and door handles. Both the frequency of cleaning and the time spent cleaning have increased. According to Feinberg, the average business in the U.S. is having 20% to 30% more professional cleaning done now than before the pandemic hit. “It’s going to provide confidence to the public,” Feinberg said. But the increase in cleaning does not come without its own health risks, as more cleaning puts employees around chemicals they normally would not be exposed to. Feinberg said cleaners need to ensure they only use chemicals that have been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. And the chemicals must be used properly.
“You only use certain chemicals in certain situations,” Feinberg said. For example, the more hazardous chemicals should be used during the overnight hours, when fewer people are around, Feinberg said. Feinberg’s group was formed in March in response to the pandemic. It represents the eight largest cleaning companies nationwide, amounting to nearly 40% of the entire industry. There are more than a million professional commercial cleaners in the U.S.