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By definition, Cleaning is the action of removing dirt, marks, or stains from an object using a machine or human effort. The word cleanliness means the state or quality of being clean or being kept clean.

What is Clean?

Clean the result achieved through the cleaning process. Other words that refer to cleaning are washing, cleansing, wiping, brushing, sponging, curbing, moping, rinsing, scouring, swabbing, flushing, shampooing, drying, disinfecting etc.

Public housing authorities (PHAs) should provide a safe and healthy environment for residents and visitors, and cleaning of common spaces plays a vital role. Cleaning should be an environmental enhancement, not a source of unintended pollution. By definition, cleaning is the removal of unwanted matter, contaminants, or pollutants from the environment, or the prevention of soiling; thus, it is or should be green. Cleaning is about removing pollution, not adding to it.

Types of Commercial and Domestic Cleaning

A variety of cleaners are available in the market depending on the skills and expertise required. Some of the common types are listed below.

Cleaning Procedure

Redefining the processes or the ways in which cleaning is performed, to enable the effective removal of contaminants without adding unwanted substances to the environment or otherwise causing harm;

Read more about Cleaning Procedure

  • Improving and Standardising the Way to Clean
  • Chemical Management
  • Entryways and Lobbies
  • Dusting, Dust Mopping, and Dry Floor Cleaning
  • Floor Care: Hard Floors and Carpets
  • Restrooms
  • Disinfection
  • OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standard
  • Spills
  • Food Areas
  • Reducing Solid Waste from Cleaning Operations
  • Pest Management
  • Indoor Plants
  • People with Special Needs

Improving and Standardising the Way to Clean

Improving cleaning procedures involves changing the way or the focus with which cleaning is performed to better prevent or remove soils, contaminants, or pollutants, and to select and use less toxic products. These processes should be integrated into a system of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that are part of the overall operations and maintenance plan for the building.

Chemical Management: Reducing Waste, Efficient Use

Minimising the effects of toxic cleaning chemicals requires building managers to work and communicate with cleaning staff, the PHA management or owners, and occupants.

Staff Guidance on handling cleaning chemicals

Provide easily understood directions for cleaning staff in appropriate written languages or graphic representation for the dilution of chemical cleaning products.

Employees Training

Provide employees with initial, on-site, site-specific, and annual in-service cleaning training. Training should be done in a manner that respects unique needs of the employee, such as limited English proficiency, physical challenges, or learning disabilities. All employees should receive training and/or education on an annual basis to maintain knowledge of correct procedures for safety, tools, techniques, and pertinent environmental standards.


Communicate to the public housing management or owners of the building the presence of pests and any maintenance issues discovered during cleaning operations.

Highly Concentrated Products

Special care is needed for highly concentrated cleaning products. These products reduce environmental impacts from packaging and transportation, and typically reduce actual use-cost compared to less concentrated alternatives. Use appropriate protective equipment as recommended by the manufacturer when mixing concentrated cleaning products.

See Products Section and Appendices for more information about:
Dilution control units and proportions

Entryways and Lobbies

Entryways are the first line of defence against many contaminants. Thus, special effort should be focused in these areas. Begin by cleaning outside walkways leading into the facility, especially during inclement weather. Use walk-off matting at the outside (bi-level, scraper mat construction to remove and trap soil) and inside entry (smooth carpet-like mat surface to dry and wipe shoes). Vacuum, sweep, clean, and replace mats frequently (weekly, daily, or as needed), especially during inclement weather.

See Products Section and Appendices for more information about:

  • Glass cleaners
  • All-purpose cleaners
  • General disinfectants
  • Chrome cleaners/polish
  • Gum Remover
  • Equipment

Dusting, Dust Mopping, and Dry Floor Cleaning

Traditional dusting and dust mopping techniques frequently move dust and other contaminants from one area to another, such as from a countertop to the floor. It is important to recognise that moving the dust around is more than just an efficiency issue. Dusting and dust mopping activities that do not capture soils frequently stir them into the air where people can inhale the particles, creating a potential health hazard.

Floor Care

The procedures for floor care in a green maintenance program are similar in most instances to those of a traditional program. Floor care in a green maintenance program addresses the selection of environmentally preferable products and equipment (see Products Section and Appendices), along with minor modifications of the procedures themselves.

Hard Floor Maintenance

Hard floors include stone, tiles, resilient flooring, and other non-carpeted surfaces.

 It is preferable to conduct major cleaning activities in a time period when traffic is minimal or the area can be closed off. This allows maximum time for the building to be ventilated (flushed with fresh air) prior to the return of the majority of occupants.

Floor Stripping

Removing floor finishes is perhaps one of the most labour-intensive and hazardous of maintenance operations, placing both cleaning personnel and occupants at risk. Furthermore, frequent stripping can cause health, safety, and environmental impacts through the use and disposal of products.

Floor Restoration, Buffing, and Burnishing

To maximise the life of finishes and floors, make sure there is a solid foundation of water-based finish (as applicable) on the floor. Dry buffing and burnishing is slightly abrasive and increases the appearance level by removing thin layers of finish to smooth out the surface the smoother the surface, the shinier its appearance. However, if too much floor finish is removed, dry buffing and burnishing can damage floor tile and send flooring particles into the air, which may be harmful if inhaled. Important: Dry buffing on the asbestos tile should only be performed when there is an adequate coat of intact floor finish to prevent abrading the floor itself. Non-bluffable coatings (those that shine to a certain degree without buffing) may be a better choice for asbestos-containing tile.

Carpet Maintenance

Periodic light carpet cleaning is necessary to clean the tops of carpet fibres and maintain the appearance of carpeted floors. Restorative deep carpet cleaning is needed to extract embedded and sticky soils. When carpets require spot cleaning, apply solutions from a sprayer in a stream or coarse spray, not a fine mist. This minimises the amount of material that is atomised and potentially inhaled, as well as over-spray.

Carpet Extraction Cleaning

Extraction is a carpet-cleaning process in which a water-based cleaning solution is applied to the carpet and vacuumed (extracted) from the carpet nap, taking soil with it. Extraction helps remove unwanted contaminants deep in the carpet before they cause problems. But extraction cleaning can also add large amounts of water to the carpet, especially if the equipment is not functioning properly. Care must be taken to service equipment regularly by an authorised maintenance and repair centre and to ensure adequate passes during use to remove the most water from the carpet.


Many restroom cleaning products are hazardous, such as drain cleaners and toilet bowl cleaners, although less toxic alternatives are available (see Products Section and Appendices). Make sure that appropriate personal protective equipment recommended by product manufacturers is used. Never mix ­chemical products.


Disinfection is particularly important on touch points in restrooms, community rooms, gymnasium and workout areas, daycare/preschool surfaces (e.g., desktops and toys), and other high-touch locations.

Reducing Solid Waste

Another aspect of a green maintenance program is to reduce solid waste throughout the building, including in cleaning operations.

Pest Management

Traditional pest management practices are being replaced by an “integrated pest management,” or an IPM, approach. As defined by the EPA, IPM is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices.

Indoor Plants

Indoor plants are a wonderful addition to any facility. Building staff charged with watering and caring for plants may also be called upon to address spills from watering, mould growth in carpets from dampness, pest control, and other problems.

People with Special Needs

One of the primary goals of a green cleaning and maintenance program is to protect the health of building occupants. This is done in many ways, including the identification and removal of harmful contaminants, such as particulates, mould spores, bacteria, and viruses. Read more about Cleaning for People with Special Needs.

Cleaning Products

In addition to cleaning procedures, the selection and use of cleaning products are important in a green maintenance program. General guidelines for purchasing cleaning products decisions include:

  • pH
  • Biodegradability
  • Dyes and fragrances
  • VOCs
  • Bio-Based/Renewable Resources
  • Flashpoint
  • HMIS (Hazardous Materials Identification System) rating


Appendix A: Housing Complex-Specific Green Cleaning Plan
Appendix B: Environmentally Preferable Cleaning Products and Supplies
Appendix C: Powered Equipment Use and Maintenance Plan
Appendix D: Acronyms and Definitions in This Chapter
Appendix E: Toxicity Categories for Pesticide and Disinfectant Products

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