Professional Carwashing & Detailing

A business case for restroom and lobby upkeep

June 6, 2011

You’ve invested in marketing, attractive signage, solid employees, top-notch carwash equipment and products and also other key customer-grabbing novelties. But, if your restroom and lobby areas are not on par with the rest of your attractive carwash, you could be in danger of unhappy patrons, a bad reputation and lost income. Especially in this day and age of continuous information sharing, keeping these areas of your carwash clean, welcoming and clutter-free is now more important than ever. Fortunately, there are several business reasons involved and cost-saving measures owners can take to maintain these areas and preserve your carwash’s reputation.

In addition to using their eyes, new and loyal customers also use other senses, such as smelling and touching, to draw conclusions about your facility’s level of car care and facility hygiene. Most carwash owners elect to keep restroom care and lobby cleaning services in-house. Therefore, your employees need to know the importance of proper cleaning and safety. And, as an owner, it is your job as the decision-maker to implement the right training methods and provide modern cleaning supplies and equipment to make sure they succeed.

Think of cleaning as a business strategy

When customers walk into your building’s lobby or restroom area, it can set a tone for the rest of the visit. A positive impression will raise the customer’s confidence in your entire carwash.

Unfortunately, a negative impression can linger. Not only may the customer never return again, but word of their poor experience may spread quickly — in person and online.

“A clean, well-maintained, well-stocked restroom is not only appreciated, for most customers it becomes a reflection for the owners, managers and staff of the establishment,” noted Angelo Poneris, who is a customer service representative for Valley Janitor Supply Co. “If nothing else, it says [your] people are professionals that care about their customers.”

The health factor

Maintaining restrooms and lobby areas only for appearance sake is no longer acceptable. Carwash facility employees must also factor in cleaning for health reasons.

The public’s awareness has heightened in recent years, and it is more cognizant of virulent bacteria, cross-contamination, mutant viruses and infection control measures. Recent news of community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA), vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), Clostridium difficile (C. diff) and H1N1 influenza (swine flu) call for proactive cleaning answers and consumer education.

In other words, while there are many financial and commonsense reasons to maintain restroom and lobby areas, there are health and safety factors in play as well.

We now know that dangers lurk in “hot spot” areas, including doorknobs, handles, traditional faucets and other commonly-touched restroom and lobby surfaces of your carwash. Bacteria, viruses and germs can be present even in areas that do not visually appear dirty and unsightly. For instance, E. coli bacteria can last up to 16 months on a surface; Staphylococcus aureus can survive up to seven months if not properly removed.

Lobby area cleaning

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regularly lists janitorial workers as an occupation type that is at most risk of sustaining workplace injuries. Repetitive motions, working with hazardous chemicals and often moving heavy objects are some of the contributors. So, in addition to the cleaning and maintenance tips provided here, teaching safety to your employees is key to their productivity and well-being as well as the program’s success.

In lobbies, which may receive more customer foot traffic than any other location inside a standard carwash, the area should be organized, free of malodors and well-maintained. In particular, malodors in these areas can be a negative setback to your team’s cleaning and maintenance efforts. And, in most cases, as the old saying goes, “Where there is smoke, there is usually fire.” Malodors can be a sign of “hidden” bacteria at your carwash. If a malodor is present, instead of covering it up with fragrances and air fresheners, consider its source.

Start by checking garbage and dumpster areas inside and outside the facility. If your lobby area has upholstery, carpet or couches and chairs, visually inspect and act as needed. Fabric and cushioned furniture, including couches and chairs, absorb odor and food sources. Bacteria thrive in these areas of your lobby and, therefore, cleaners should attend to these spots frequently.

Commercial facilities often use steam cleaning equipment to clean fabric and upholstery. You may also use an odor eliminator fabric spray but be sure to read the product’s label and use as instructed. Some carwashes serve food and beverages to waiting customers. Depending on this and other variables, set a schedule to check fabrics and upholstery.

Floors and surfaces

Depending on foot traffic, weather conditions, needs, etc., carpets and hard floor surfaces must be maintained frequently. Vacuuming throughout the day is an ideal way to ensure that no crumbs, soils or trash are present. Select high efficiency particulate air, also know as HEPA, filter vacuums. These high-performance machines will capture more and smaller contaminants as well as protect indoor air quality. Consider the different models of vacuums, such as canister, backpack and upright, and select equipment that is ergonomically advanced and conforms to the user.

Also, clean counters, shelves, glass and mirrors as needed. Using microfiber cloths for this light cleaning is ideal. Dust that settles on these surfaces can be unsightly and hazardous to health.

When spills or stains occur on carpeted or hard surface floors, time is of the essence. Attending to these issues quickly will enable your staff to remove a problem without lingering damage. If a stain is allowed to settle in carpet, for instance, it will penetrate into the carpeting’s backing, spread and attract more soils. And, it will be difficult to remove in the long-run. Acting fast might also eliminate slip and fall risks.

In addition to implementing a spot and stain monitoring program and vacuuming regularly, carpets will eventually need extraction cleaning. There is effective portable extraction equipment on the market today. Carwash employees, with proper training and education, may handle this deep-cleaning or owners could hire a professional carpet cleaner who may have more powerful equipment and more advanced market awareness.

On to the restroom

In an average restroom, malodors are the number one offender for visitors. For the majority of restrooms, ineffective urine removal is the cause. Proteins from urine allow bacteria to grow, and as it does, so too does odor. Areas around toilets, urinals and sinks should be checked and attended to throughout the day. Also, examine corner areas and edges along the restroom walls. There are specially designed cleaning tools and attachments on the market to reach these areas. If you wait until these spots discolor, it may be too late for simple cleaning techniques.

Regular vacuuming and mopping of restroom floors can contribute to your odor control program. Clean fixtures and commodes as needed and as instructed by manufacturers’ labels. If you don’t already have them in place, you might want to consider automatic flush toilets and urinals as well as waterless urinals, as they can save a facility money in energy and water costs. They also eliminate the need for users to touch the handles. Waterless urinals may also reduce malodors and cleaning needs.

Remove trash and stock paper supplies and soap as needed. Set a restroom cleaning schedule that is right for your facility and stick to it. Never use the same cleaning tools and equipment in the lobbies and the restrooms as it will prevent cross-contamination.

According to Poneris, today’s cleaners can do away with conventional cleaning cloths, sprayers, mops and buckets. “Studies now conclude that these old, inexpensive systems spread soil as they are being used. As to worker productivity, studies by ISSA, the worldwide leading cleaning industry association, find that compared to automated cleaning systems, the rag, mop, bucket and sprayer method can actually be one of the slowest and, due to labor costs, most costly systems to use.”

Instead, Poneris recommends using what are termed no-touch or spray-and-vac cleaning. This machine releases a metered amount of chemical on all surfaces to be cleaned. The same areas are then rinsed and the final step is to vacuum up remaining solution using the equipment’s built-in vacuum.

“Normally, this takes about one-third the time and results are much more thorough, hygienic cleaning. Originally these units were fairly large and used in larger settings, such as schools. Today, smaller no-touch cleaning machines are available, making them much more versatile and functional in a smaller setting such as a carwash or detailer’s store,” says Poneris.

Safety first

In restrooms, preach proper hand-washing to your employees and clients. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hand-washing is the number one defense against cross-contamination. Include visible signage in your restroom to promote CDC’s standard on hand-washing, which can be found at cdc.gov.

Safety signs when mopping or when performing extensive floor care can also be an effective defense against accidents and spreading dirt. Proper ventilation can minimize odors and any harmful volatile organic compounds from cleaning. Cleaning during non-peak or during off hours can enhance the program’s results as well.


Rich DiPaolo wrote the article entitled: A business case for restroom and lobby upkeep. DiPaolo is the Editorial Director of Professional Carwashing & Detailing, and serves in the same capacity for both Water Technology and Cleaning & Maintenance Management magazine. He can be reached at rdipaolo@ntpmedia.com.