Seemingly overnight, the pandemic forced the professional cleaning industry to jump from “normal” clean to COVID clean, where hygiene and safety were of critical importance. As a result, several cutting-edge cleaning trends such as “smart” sensors and robots (think R2D2 with a mop) began to rise in popularity.
“The COVID-19 pandemic forced cleaning-chemical manufacturers to see the value in innovation and becoming trusted advisors to their customers. They provided their clients with training, signage, cleaning protocol advice, and other tools to help them ensure that their facilities were clean,” says Laura Mahecha, manager of our Institutional and Industrial Cleaning segment. “Industrywide trends — including almost-futuristic ones — have picked up steam, with some already having moved closer to becoming the new everyday normal.”
These are the top trends on our radar:
Look, ma – no hands! The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic significantly boosted the demand for touch-free dispensers, which eliminate a common contact point to prevent germs and bacteria from being transferred. As a result, many facilities quickly switched from manual to touch-free dispensers for hand soaps, hand sanitizers, and paper towels, among other supplies.
UV-C Light Cleaning Devices
UV-C light cleaning devices — literally a bright idea — utilize a high frequency that is lethal to bacteria and viruses and claim to kill 99.9% of both. The lights are appearing in devices that range from state-of-the-art robots used to clean operating rooms to giant UV-C light wands to disinfect airplanes to various portable UV sanitizing boxes. Diversey, with its Moonbeam3, is a heavy-hitter in the industry.
Electrostatic Cleaning Sprayers
The cleaning industry is abuzz — electrostatic cleaning sprayers are now being used with increasing frequency in the I&I space. Sprayers combine a disinfectant solution with air, then use an electrode inside the sprayer nozzle to electrically charge them; once charged, the disinfectant is sprayed on surfaces. The positively charged disinfectant bonds with any negatively charged surface, creating a more even and complete coat of disinfectant and helping to kill any pathogens present on the surface. With an electrostatic sprayer, it’s possible to disinfect areas that no other method can reach — one reason why they’re being utilized on mass transit, such as in trains, subways, buses, and airplanes. Electrostatic sprayers can also cover a lot of ground very quickly, which is why they’re now finding use in large venues, like stadiums and concert halls.
A growing number of I&I facilities are outfitting their various dispensers — soap, hand sanitizer, paper towels, and more — with IoT sensors, which alert a janitor, via a smart device, that a particular dispenser needs to be refilled. IoT, or the “Internet of things,” can broadly be described as a network of physical objects, or “things,” that are embedded with sensors, software, or other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet. Simply put, IoT connects the designated objects with the designated people via the internet. The increased use of sensors and analytics is expected to play an increasingly important role in facilities management, including custodial services, in the future.
Autonomous Cleaning Robots
The autonomous cleaning robot population was estimated at more than 4,200 units in 2019, or just 0.2% of the number of janitors and cleaners employed. In contrast, the robotic population is expected to cross 680,000 units by 2030, representing 28% of the janitors and cleaners employed.
“While the use of robotics in the janitorial segment is relatively new, there are innovations currently being tested that may have a tremendous impact on the industry in the future,” says Mahecha. Going forward, the three core janitorial tasks — sweep, mop, and vacuum floors; clean restrooms; and empty trash — are expected to witness an increased presence of automation, “with more complex tasks likely to become automated as the technology improves,” adds Mahecha.
The Dilemma: Chemical or Green?
As the frequency of cleaning I&I buildings and disinfecting surfaces soared during the pandemic, facilities were torn between going chemical-based or going green. At one end of the spectrum, the more potent the chemical-based product, the better; these facilities took a scorched-earth approach and focused primarily on annihilating germs. At the other end of the spectrum were facilities that opted for environmentally friendly disinfectants. So which approach came out on top? The vote is in: based on our July 2021 study, Foodservice Cleaning Products, 60.6% of survey respondents looked for sustainable ingredients, while 32.2% switched from green products to those that were chemical-based.
For more analysis of I&I cleaning products in various settings and recent changes that have been made to cleaning protocols as a result of the pandemic, subscribe to the Kline I&I PULSE annual subscription service.
About this blog:
I&I Upswing: These Cleaning Trends Have Been Turbocharged by the Pandemic contains insights from Laura Mahecha, manager of Kline’s Institutional and Industrial Cleaning segment. Mahecha has followed the Industrial & Institutional (I&I), Healthcare, and Consumer Products markets for Kline since 1995; during this time, she has authored and managed multiple studies including market research, analysis, and writing for the I&I industries, OTC pharmaceuticals, consumer products, and nutritional supplements.
Mahecha’s expertise is utilized in various studies on the I&I and nonprescription drug markets, Rx-to-OTC switch, managed care, competitive analysis, competitor cost structures, innovation analyses, forecasting, janitorial cleaning products, foodservice cleaning products, and laundry cleaning products. She has also contributed to numerous articles and speeches for international and U.S. trade conferences and publications.
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