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The great mopping debate…

19 May 2023

As Neil Spencer-Cook observes, many people ask BICSc why we are ‘behind the times’ in terms of manual mopping.

LET ME start by asking the industry at large how many cleaning contractors do not have mops of some kind – be it a traditional dolly or Kentucky mop or a flat mop? 

We are keen to promote efficiency in the industry and the scrubber dryer, for certain areas, is without question the most efficient method. With the choice of machine sizes and robotics available, we are fully behind the use of the scrubber dryer, and we even have a skill to train cleaning operatives on how to use these machines. But does a scrubber dryer get into every corner, groove, or shape? Is there not sometimes a need to catch these areas with a manual mop of some kind? 

Does every cleaning contractor have a scrubber dryer?

The BICSc ethos includes ensuring that all cleaning operatives are protected so that they operate in a safe way to protect themselves and any other users of the area they are cleaning. We deliver training on 43 different skills which include damp mopping, and various skills using machinery including a skill dedicated to using a scrubber dryer. By far one of the most popular skills requested and trained by us and by our accredited training members is damp mopping. To put that into some sort of perspective in 2022 damp mopping assessments outnumbered scrubber dryer assessments by nearly 10:1, and so far, this year, damp mopping outnumbers scrubber drying by more than 11:1.

So, I’m at a loss as to why, when we promote our products and use images that include equipment such as a mop and bucket, we get accused of not being ‘in the 21st century’ and training ‘archaic methods’. Surely the future of cleaning includes machinery and manual mopping? There is not a one-size-fits-all answer.

In my humble opinion, as an industry, we need to embrace technology and innovation to provide an efficient and effective service, but we also need to utilise, where necessary, the ‘archaic methods’. Whichever way we go, what we do need to ensure is that the people doing either task are trained to be the most efficient and effective they can be, and that means training in the safe use of chemicals, machinery, equipment, and how to safety check and store them. It also means that they are trained in how to complete the tasks. For manual mopping, this would be to ensure that muscular-skeletal damage is avoided by following a safe and effective method, and for machinery that they understand what they are operating and how to use it effectively and safely, as well as knowing the best method to follow to ensure the area is cleaned properly.

If robots are being used whichever type you are using, and the subject here is too large for me to go into any major detail, the training has to come from the manufacturer as every robot is different, whether it is a simple one that stops when something gets in its programmed path or a clever one that can navigate around an obstruction, all of them will require a level of set up and programming as well as maintenance. Technology is progressing and auto-reporting on problems, self-docking, refilling and even emptying are becoming more common but there will still be some manual intervention at some point.

So, what I am trying to say is, please do not knock the manual skills that have been around for years and are still valid today. A trained operative with a manual mopping system may be quicker and more effective than an untrained operative let loose on a scrubber dryer.

Don’t throw the baby out with the mop water!

Neil Spencer-Cook is chief operating officer at BICSc.

For more information visit www.bics.org.uk