Magazine

Neglect Garage Cleaning at Your Peril

By Scott Stone

One of the biggest concerns in any industry is public appearance and perception.
Garage operators, in an effort to save some money, or through neglect, often will put off or delay cleaning, thinking they are saving the money that it would normally cost for this part of garage maintenance. They do not stop to realize the potential liabilities and hazards of having a dirty, poorly maintained garage.
Regular maintenance will make your garage more popular and desirable for future customers. Even if you have customers on a subscription program, they will be more likely to refer you to colleagues and co-workers if your garage is clean and well-maintained.
Often, parking garages are neglected and have large oil spots on the floors, urine trails and filth from dirt buildup. This causes many concerns for the parking garage operator.
The first concern is safety. Anytime you have the public in an area, there are liability problems. These could be slips and falls, and tracking oil, dirt and debris into their prized vehicle.
Also, there are health concerns, including urine and feces that might be in the garage, particularly a public one. In my 20 years of cleaning parking garages, I have not found a single garage that did not have urine stains in it.
Curb appeal is what could drive the selection of a garage. With the thousands spent on architecture to make a parking garage appealing, it becomes even more important to keep it clean and sanitary.
Few people will go into any place of business with a poor street appearance. Even if you are able to have a customer the first time, it is difficult to get them to return the next time they are in the area when there are other choices that are available, and there often are.
There also are legal concerns, especially in California. For example, the state EPA may be preparing to implement standards for garage cleaning. Most of these are not from the standpoint of the cleanliness, but from the potential pollution that comes from hazardous runoffs into storm sewers.
When planning a garage cleaning, it is important to take into consideration many things that might affect your customers.
The first is timeliness. An inexperienced contractor can often cost far more in inconvenience and damage by not having the experience or equipment to get your facility cleaned in a time frame that works for you or your customers. Nothing is more frustrating than having a contractor that supplies you with a short timeline, and ends up taking far longer than you had planned.
Damage is another concern that can happen when inexperienced contractors are trying to get out that last piece of gum or stubborn spot and dig a hole or leave scarring in the concrete of your garage.
Closing a garage or doing a garage by level is sometimes the only solution, even if not the preferable one. Some we have cleaned are “live” garages. This means working while customers are coming and going.
The advantage is that you keep customers coming into your garage and parking. There also are several disadvantages.
One is that someone will be needed to keep customers from parking where the contractors are cleaning. Another is contractor safety. Customers are not careful or don’t pay attention to contractor employees, even when they wear reflective vests, or to their equipment
Finally, there is the situation of cars that are parked. They will be cleaned around, but are you going to require the contractor to return and wash that spot? If you do, does your contractor have the equipment necessary to recover the water and grime that will come up, without affecting that spot?
Obviously, I prefer a closed garage, but sometimes that’s not possible because of contractual constraints. Allowances and arrangements will need to be made in order to achieve the most time- and cost-effective cleaning available.
Scott Stone is Operations Manager of A Mind for Detail in Mesa, AZ. He can be reached at stonewasher@gmail.com.

Sidebar:
Some of the minimum garage-cleaning requirements are:
1. 5.5 GPM at 3000 PSI hot pressure washer. The hotter the water the contractor is able to generate with his equipment, the more easily he will be able to remove oil and other deposits from your garage floor.
2. Some sort of recovery system. These are readily available to the serious contractor and should include some sort of filtration system so the water can be disposed legally down the sanitary sewer.
3. Documentation process for waste disposal, which includes the filtration media. This is part of federal guidelines for “cradle to grave” responsibility.
4. A safety plan. This is particularly important for a “live” garage, because of the traffic there.
5. A work plan. This will demonstrate that the contractor has actually thought through the cleaning process for your particular garage.

Article Abstract from July, 2009




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