Category Archives: Commercial Cleaning

Blog Article – Microfibre, Friend or Foe?

Microfibre has been gaining speed in the cleaning industry since its initial adoption at the end of the 20th century. Now a household and commercial favourite, this popular material is used to produce a host of different cleaning tools including cloths, mops and mitts (you can even get couches made out of microfibre). Touted as one of the biggest and best cleaning breakthroughs of our time, Agar asks, is it as good as it seems?

Microfibre’s main claim to fame is its ability to clean without the use of chemicals. The unique structure of the fibres allows it to capture soil, liquids and bacteria far better than natural fibres. Traditional cleaning cloths have fibres that are shaped like a cylinder and have a tendency to push dirt and moisture around, requiring a scooping technique to remove soil. Blended microfibre is shaped like an asterisk (*) and has the ability to pick up and lock in dirt, dust and moisture into the fibres, to clean and dry the surface.

The material is highly absorbent, made from a combination of polyamide (nylon) and polyester fibres, they are able to soak up both solids and liquids. Around 100 times finer than a human hair, microfibres can also reach into tiny cracks and crevices in a surface and scoop up bacteria. Furthermore, microfibre is positively charged which allows it to attract and capture dust, making the cleaning process quicker and faster.

Microfiber Diagram V2

The claim that microfibre has the ability to disinfect surfaces by removing bacteria and soil has resulted in some households and commercial enterprises shifting to chemical-free cleaning. While the benefits of microfibre are clear, there is research to suggest that its cleaning power is reduced over the life of the cloth, which may result in a higher turnover of cleaning equipment and decrease its status as an environmental saviour. Furthermore, disinfecting microfibre is problematic and can pose real problems when used as a sole tool for reducing microbes in sensitive environments such as hospitals.

The pitfalls of microfibre

1. Bacteria gets locked inside

As previously discussed, the cleaning power of microfibre is greatly attributed to its ability to capture and absorb a greater amount of soil and liquid than regular cleaning material. This feature, however, has its downsides as the bacteria can be very difficult to release from the microfibres once captured. The cloths can only absorb so much soil before they become ‘full’ and thus must undergo effective laundering in order to release the bacteria. If the cloths are not cleaned properly they lose their ability to pick up further soil and can potentially transmit bacteria previously held within the fibres. This problem is made worse by the delicate nature of the fibres and the limited options available for safe laundering.

koli-bacteria-123081_640Research has been conducted into the decontamination capacity of cleaning cloths including microfibre, cotton, sponges, and disposable paper towels which are commonly used in hospitals. One study examined each cloth’s ability to remove microbial loads from surfaces when new and after being laundered 10 and 20 times at 90°C for five minutes in a washing machine (Diab-Elschahawi et al. 2010). The results concluded that microfibre cloths achieved the best results when being used in new condition, however, after multiple reprocessing, cotton cloths showed the best overall efficacy (Diab-Elschahawi et al. 2010).

The warm and soiled environment of cleaning cloths provides a breeding ground for bacteria to feed and multiply. Studies into microfibre’s reluctance to release bacteria during laundering has resulted in both silver and triclosan being embedded into the cleaning cloths to kill bacteria.

Another 2013 study published in the American Journal of Infection Control titled “Microbial Contamination of Hospital Reusable Cleaning Towels” revealed that 93 percent of the reusable hospital cleaning cloths tested contained bacteria including E.coli, total coliforms and Klebsiella after laundering (Sifuentes et al. 2013). The cloths tested included cotton and microfibre and led the researchers to conclude that regular hospital laundering processes were insufficient in disinfecting cloths (Sifuentes et al. 2013).

In order to sustain microfibre’s effectiveness, the cloths would need to be regularly replaced or disposable microfibre cloths would need to be adopted, greatly impacting its sustainability claims.

2. Safe and effective laundering

Made from petrochemicals, microfibre fabric is essentially plastic and can easily melt or be damaged when heated. While natural cotton cloths are well suited to handle bleach and heat high enough to disinfect, effectively sanitising and preserving microfibre cloths poses a problem. There is a range of conflicting information available on how to safely launder microfibre, with the normal recommendations set out below. These practices may not be effective in completely removing soil or bacteria from the cloths.

  • Use liquid detergent and cold to warm water
  • Hang them up to air-dry
  • Never use hot water or hot tumble-drying
  • Never use fabric softener or BLEACH
  • Never wash with clothes or other fabrics: they will attract lint and it will be very hard to remove

With these restrictions on laundering microfibre cloths, how can we be certain that they are going to be completely sanitised before returning to use?

3. Soil particles could get locked in

Similar to the issue with bacteria, microfibre’s extreme absorbency means that it is very difficult to clean completely, resulting in the possibility of dirt particles remaining locked in the fibres. The cloths may begin to look dirty and stained, even after they’ve been washed, and can risk scratching surfaces if grit is left behind in the weaves.

4. Oil removal may not be complete

Detergents can suspend solid particles, emulsify oils and fats and prevent re-deposition of soil onto the surface. Microfibres cannot achieve all of these functions, rather they tend to smear oils and fats across a surface. Over time, this can lead to a build-up of fatty matter on the surfaces. This can provide a breeding ground for bacteria and it may require a stronger detergent to remove it and rectify this problem.

5. They release microfibres into the ocean

loggerhead-turtle-123402_640Microfibre cloths are made from petro-chemicals that are non-renewable and non-biodegradable. Scientific research has found that every time a synthetic-fibre piece of clothing is laundered, 1900 tiny pieces of microfibres are released, ultimately ending up in the ocean (O’Connor, 2014). Too small to capture, the same thing would occur when washing microfibre cloths. Numerous studies have shown that small organisms readily ingest microplastics (microfibre is made from the same ingredients as plastic), introducing toxic pollutants to the food chain (O’Connor, 2014).

What can you use instead?

Surfaces that need to be disinfected may find that using a disinfectant together with a natural fibre cloth is more effective in the long term. Reusable, biodegradable cloths and mops are a better solution for the sustainability of landfill and waterways. Cotton and cellulose materials are made from plant-based fibres and have the ability to break down naturally. They can be easily washed using biodegradable detergents and disinfected using heat during the laundering process.

Save microfibre for the jobs where nothing else will work and ensure that sufficient disinfection procedures are put in place to sustain their cleaning power and protect surfaces from reinfection.

Diab-Elschahawi, M, Assadian, O, Blacky, A, Stadler, M, Pernicka, E, Berger, J, Resch, H & Koller, W 2010, ‘Evaluation of the decontamination efficacy of new and reprocessed microfiber cleaning cloth compared with other commonly used cleaning cloths in the hospital’, American Journal of Infection Control, viewed 4 December 2015, <>.

O’Connor, M 2014, ‘Inside the lonely fight against the biggest environmental problem you’ve never heard of’, The Guardian, 28 October, viewed 4 December 2015, <>.

Sifuentes, L, Gerba, C, Weart, I, Engelbrecht, K & Koenig, D, 2013, ‘Microbial contamination of hospital reusable cleaning towels’, American Journal of Infection Control, viewed 4 December 2015, <>.

Four tips for improving cleaning staff productivity

The cleaning industry is highly labour intensive with businesses allocating a large majority of expenses to funding man power. Efficiency of staff and productivity are paramount to the success of cleaning companies. The longer it takes staff to complete tasks, the more they have to be paid, increasing expenses and minimising business profits.

So how do businesses get the best out of their staff to ensure the greatest productivity? Cleaning companies should aim to provide staff with solutions to clean quickly and efficiently while ensuring that the finished result is still sparkling clean. Below are four tips which aim to help cleaning business owners get the most out of their staff.

1. Use the best you can buy

Providing cleaning staff with the highest performing cleaning products and tools will enable them to do the best job possible in the shortest amount of time.

“Highly concentrated cleaning products are much more effective than their cheaper, watery counterparts,” says Paul Agar, Managing Director of Agar Cleaning Systems.

“They will instantly improve cleaning staffs’ productivity through utilising higher quality ingredients, which attack soil faster and provide quicker results without compromising safety or damaging surfaces.”

Spending slightly more on products upfront can reduce your expenses over the long term through minimising manual labour and improving the life cycle of cleaning chemicals.

Don’t make the decision to invest in a supplier lightly – search for quality products, seek referrals and run trials to ensure you make the right decision for the needs of your business. Agar’s cleaning products have been designed with the cleaner in mind, ensuring that each product provides unmatched performance.

2. Cleaning less frequently may be a false economy

How frequently a cleaning task is completed will greatly affect the amount of time that it takes to be cleaned. Surfaces which are only cleaned weekly will build up a greater amount of soil than surfaces which are cleaned daily, requiring more time and effort to return them to the desired finish.

Furthermore, cleaning less frequently generally requires a greater amount of cleaning products to be used to achieve the same result.
Where possible, have staff aim to clean more difficult areas more frequently such as bathrooms, floors and kitchens. Regularly removing grease, soil, soap scum and dirt will ensure that build up does not occur and cleaners will be able to consistently achieve beautiful finishes without reducing productivity.

3. See training as an investment, not a cost

The Australian cleaning industry has seen a shift in its employees over the last few years from career cleaners to casual workers. Staff are no longer spending decades in the industry perfecting their craft, rather signing up to the popular entry level job for its universal abilities (people from all over the world practice the art of cleaning).

Unfortunately an eagerness to work and some experience cleaning at home does not always equate to competent professional cleaners. Simultaneously, equipping employees with quality products and a schedule of tasks does not guarantee that they are going to be efficient at the job. Cleaning staff need to be shown the most productive and precise means for achieving the best cleaning results.

There are a number of options available for training cleaning staff including certificates from various TAFEs, registered training providers Lennox Institute and Daniels Association as well as online short courses from institutes such as the Building Service Contractors Association of Australia (BSCAA) and in-house training.

If you are providing new staff with on-the-job training it is a good idea to outline what your expectations are. Provide them with worksheets which highlight what the desired standards are as well as outlining how long they should dedicate to each task. It is also a good idea to provide them with other information which may save them time, such as the order of which tasks should be completed and which products to use for what surface as well as any other tips you have found useful.

While staff are training to reach the cleaning standards within the detailed timeline, it is a good idea to assign them a cleaning partner to ensure that they are performing the tasks correctly.

It is also worth auditing staff cleaning practices after they have been in the role for a certain amount of time to ensure that they are completing tasks in the most efficient and effective manner.

Agar provides online chemical handling staff training which teaches employees safety requirements and risk management procedures for using cleaning products. To sign up to the program, please visit and register.

4. Keep them motivated

Keeping staff motivated is a challenge regardless of the industry and cleaners are no different. Lack of motivation can have a major impact on productivity but there are ways to counteract it and ensure that you get the most from your staff.

Motivating staff does not have to hit your hip pocket, in fact many managers are now realising that drive is less to do with the dollars and more about the employee’s sense of self-worth. With this in mind focus your attention on generously praising staff when they do a good job.

Run small competitions and give out regular rewards to members of your team who are performing well. Take the time to recognise their successes in front of the other members and other employees will strive to be the next person who is acknowledged.

Build a company bond through doing things together outside of work, sharing business successes and thanking staff for their contribution as well as letting them in on company goals.

All of these little things add up to give employees a greater purpose in their roles which can help you improve the overall productivity of your business.