Levels of Clean

Define performance expectations by following these metrics

Levels of Clean

“Clean” can be a subjective term. Facility managers have a specific expectation of cleanliness when it refers to their building the image they want to present to both building visitors and their superiors. Building service contractors (BSCs) want to meet that expectation, but often have their own guidelines regarding cleaning schedules and tasks.

Whether you are supervising an in-house or contract cleaning team, or on the team responsible for delivering quality service, coordinating the cleaning and maintenance needs with staffing and budget capabilities may help to set expectations across the board. This can be done by breaking down those needs into one of several performance levels.

Initial Cleaning

A good first step is to determine the baseline cleanliness that each organization expects or requires. An initial cleaning by a custodian or contractor visiting a space for the first time may be more thorough than subsequent maintenance cleanings to bring the space to the desired baseline level. Additionally, it may take more time to clean the space if the custodian has yet to become familiar with it. For example, routine industry production rates for maintenance cleaning may run anywhere from 3,000–10,000 feet per hour, depending on the type and level of service; however, an initial cleaning may be reduced to as little as 500–1,000 feet per hour.

Building service contractors may choose to perform a one-time billing for this service or accept payments for the cost of preliminary labor and materials throughout the course of the contract. In-house facility managers who are hiring a cleaning contractor or new custodial employees will want to keep this in mind as they budget for services and labor. Whether you are a BSC or an in-house facility manager, be sure to reach a mutual agreement about the contract terms to keep your relationship open and direct.

Remaining in close communication about the extra steps being taken to create a baseline is important. Without these reminders, clients may develop an expectation that their contractor will perform at this level throughout the remaining contract.

Basic Cleaning

The definition of a basic cleaning will vary among organizations. “Basic” may include:

  • Dusting
  • Damp mopping
  • Emptying trash cans
  • Vacuuming.

In some cases, the customer will have tenants or employees perform some of these tasks in order to reduce the number of hours custodial staff may clock. Other times, building tenants may leave little surprises that may interfere with a routine service: a sink full of dirty dishes that prevent custodians from cleaning the kitchenette or a jelly donut that’s crushed and smeared against the supply closet door.

For BSCs: Performing the occasional extra as a favor will help you retain a client. But be careful about having this extra become routine. Many professional cleaners I’ve spoken with have made assumptions on client expectations and lived to regret what they agreed to and now cannot bill for.

For facility managers: Be aware that these extras may not be included in your contractor’s scope of work. If you have in-house custodians, performing these tasks may add extra billable time to their day.

Mid-Level Maintenance Cleaning

Regular maintenance cleaning service will include everything done in a basic cleaning as well as:

  • Wiping down trash cans
  • Vacuuming behind computers and in other areas where dust bunnies collect, such as around cables
  • Spot-treating carpets
  • Additional cleaning under desks to remove food particles and other debris
  • Vacuuming vents for dust and debris buildup.

Deep Cleaning

Deep cleaning and initial cleaning have a lot in common. Some examples of services include:

  • Refrigerator cleanouts
  • Carpet cleaning/extraction
  • Grout treatments in restrooms.

However, there is one factor that greatly differs between deep and initial cleanings—billing.

Often, custodians will spend more time on the initial cleaning because the site may not have been cleaned recently. A deep cleaning, however, requires additional services and more time. If you are a BSC, let your clients know ahead of time that you will charge more for it, and set up a method for billing and payment. If you are a facility manager, expect to pay more or budget additional staff time for these types of services.

Stand-Alone Services

Services that go beyond regular cleaning are billed separately. They may include:

  • Painting
  • Floor stripping
  • Floor refinishing.

Validate the Results

Whatever level of cleaning a facility requires, there are several methods to show whether cleaners achieved the desired results. Numerous software applications will show when cleaning crews checked in and out of a job. They can be useful in gauging how much time cleaners spent on specific cleaning tasks. Checklists may also be helpful in comparing what tasks were accomplished while the cleaning team was on site.

For an exceptionally accurate measure of cleanliness, consider using an adenosine triphosphate (ATP) meter. ATP is an enzyme present in all living cells, including viruses and bacteria. An ATP meter can detect the amount of organic material remaining on a surface after a cleaning. It will determine whether your sanitation and disinfecting methods are effective.

As quantity of time spent cleaning doesn’t always represent the quality of the cleaning, crew supervisors, or even outside firms, can perform routine quality audits.

Setting Standards

Nearly all of us have been faced with the challenge of trying to improve the quality of cleaning across facilities for less. For BSCs, your best option is to display your knowledge and training on industry standards. This usually helps potential clients realize that they need to pay a fair price to receive quality services. However, you may still come across some customers who insist on a cheap service at a bargain basement price. The choice is yours whether to accept their monetary offer and appropriately adjust your cleaning methods. Ultimately, I suggest not allowing a customer to limit your level of professionalism.

For facility managers, studying the various levels of clean may help to set a realistic budget and schedule. In the end, no matter your role, it’s all about setting expectations for clients, supervisors, and building occupants alike.

Posted On August 30, 2017

Joel Craddock

President of Doc's Facilities Solutions

Joel Craddock is president of Doc’s Facilities Solutions in Rochester, NY, and is a master trainer for CMI’s certification programs. He has more than 30 years of operations and sales experience. For more information on Craddock, visit

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