Spotlight On Reducing Supply Costs

It’s during the summer months and near the beginning of the school year that most institutions begin purchasing supplies such as cleaning solutions, paper products, trash liners, and other essentials for their campuses. Making these purchases can be a challenge because, in far too many cases, administrators are grappling with very tight budgets that only continue to grow tighter. 

While it is true that the costliest part of cleaning is labor, the supplies, and equipment used for cleaning, especially when purchased in such large quantities, are also costly. Recently College Planning & Management spoke with Michael Wilson, who is with AFFLINK, a distributor-focused sales and marketing organization with distributor-members throughout the country, to ask if he has suggestions on ways to reduce janitorial supply costs.

Q. Are there any "tricks of the trade" to selecting less costly cleaning solutions?
Yes. Don't look at the sticker price. Many cleaning solutions may cost about the same, but what administrators must pay attention to are the products’ dilution ratios. For instance, the manufacturer of one cleaning solution may indicate the product is to be diluted two parts chemical, four parts water. Another manufacturer’s label may indicate their product must be diluted one part chemical, four parts water. The second product is less expensive and, all things being equal, should be purchased.

Q. That was easy. Do you have another one?
If cost savings are the chief concern, do not purchase ready-to-use (RTU) products or products in one-gallon containers. RTU products offer convenience, but administrators must pay for that convenience. Further, cleaning solutions, especially green cleaning solutions, should be purchased in five-gallon containers.  These products tend to be more concentrated, so they go further and are often less expensive than buying the same product in smaller containers. Even more, this can reduce shipping costs and shipping needs, helping to reduce greenhouse gasses and promote sustainability as well.

Q. Regarding chemical dilution, are auto-dilution systems necessary?
When it comes to reducing costs and ensuring cleaning solutions are used effectively and safely, these should be installed on each campus. While they can differ in how they operate, essentially auto-dilution systems allow custodial workers to set dilution ratios based on the manufacturer’s recommendations. This helps reduce waste, and that’s where the cost savings materialize. Additionally, it helps put to rest an old idea in the cleaning industry that if some chemical works well, more will work even better. That’s not true with cleaning agents, and actually increases costs. They should be mixed precisely as prescribed by the manufacturer.

Q. Should administrators work with janitorial distributors?
Warranted, you may believe I am biased in saying this, but the answer is a big YES. The job of a janitorial distributor is to stay up-to-date about all the new cleaning technologies being introduced into professional cleaning. In recent years, scores of new products have been introduced. Invariably, these new products are designed to improve upon older products already being marketed. Either they are greener, more productive, provide new benefits, or are more cost-effective. An astute distributor will be aware of these and may also have access to online “dashboards,” which can help administrators compare products according to performance, costs, and other metrics.

Q. Is chemical-free cleaning the wave of the future?
Engineered water, as it is often called, for cleaning has proven effective in some cleaning situations, such as cleaning floors with automatic scrubbers. However, it is not recommended in learning environments. As we know, colds, flu, and other diseases can spread very quickly in these settings. In such cases, we must turn to cleaning solutions that are proven to remove soils and kill pathogens, which can cause disease. The first goal of professional cleaning is to keep building users healthy. Effective cleaning solutions, appropriately used, makes this happen.