After the last 12 months, making any kind of predictions might seem a bit of a risk but as health authorities get on top of the virus and we emerge from lockdown, here are the trends we feel are likely to define the cleaning industry this year.
The environment was just about to really get serious attention, commitment from companies, and genuine priority not just PR fluff with no action - then Covid hit. Single use plastics usage ballooned, cast-off surgical masks adorn every hedge and verge you walk past like some persistent weed, and countless items are being discarded instead of cleaned. While Covid still looms the likelihood is that the environment will continue to be neglected.
But as soon as vaccinations take effect and the panic subsides, the environment will quickly rise to the top of the agenda again, and with more energy than before. We’re going to see a renewed emphasis on reducing the use of single-use plastics and plastic packaging, and cutting carbon emissions in order to meet the national ‘Net Zero 2050’ targets.
Although there's been an explosion of misinformation, there also has been a widescale growth of helpful cleaning and hygiene information. Many people now have become aware of disinfection fundamentals like contact times, realising that you must clean before disinfecting and so on. Also people have more widely become aware of quality standards, checking products for EN certification or industry benchmarks - with the flood of unchecked imported PPE this has become very necessary.
We'll be seeing a continuation of this as cleaning retains its newly recognised importance and the public give it the time and attention it deserves. Cleaning contractors will need to make sure their staff and managers are ready to answer more challenging questions from a more discerning client base.
It may seem that once Covid is getting under control or on the way out then it's unlikely that, for example, workers in an office block will clean and disinfect door handles and computer equipment near where they work. Well - I put a theory out that people will carry on cleaning themselves and not just "leaving it to the cleaners" for years to come.
This is based on history repeating itself - long after World War II rationing had ended, people kept using their ration book recipes. By then it had become part of the way of life, part of the thought process and the accepted norm. In the same way as people who lived through World Wars were forever (rightly) aware of the need to not waste resources, so will all of us who have lived through the Great Plague of Covid be forever (rightly) aware of the importance of frequent cleaning.
Staff in offices, factories, hospitality and many other industries have become accustomed to cleaning surfaces regularly through the day now. While this may not apply to toilet descaling or window-cleaning, touch points, handles, and kitchen surfaces are going to be getting much more common wipe-downs as employees and customers come to expect a far higher standard of hygiene.
There will be an increase in equipment that generates cleaning and disinfection fluids on site, for example SAO (Stabilised Aqueous Ozone) , hypochlorous acid (also known as ECA or HOCL) and reverse osmosis purified water.
The drivers for this change will include
- Increasingly frequent sanitisation requirements meaning there’s a requirement for cleaning and disinfection agents which don’t leave residues
- Requirements for eco-friendly sanitising products, without plastic packaging waste, high CO2 cost or harmful ingredients
- cost reductions (although balanced against the reduced chemical spend, such systems do require capital outlay)
We’ve seen ‘PPE’ used to describe everything from dispensers to thermometers to wet wipes, as people loosely group everything that could be used to combat Covid under the same heading and businesses trying to jump in on the Covid spend start to label themselves as ‘PPE suppliers’. Although it annoys us, it seems to have passed into common usage. But with the return to normality, and supplies of hygiene consumables going back to being purchased by professionals who know the industry better, hopefully the term PPE will return to just being used for genuine personal protective equipment – gloves, masks, and disposable and protective clothing items.
As the public and the market becomes wiser to the misleading claims made by those who jumped on the bandwagon and tried to make a quick buck from the misfortune of the universe, the cowboys will realise their days are numbered. People will use professional providers once more and the fraudsters will go and pick some other scam to get involved in. Or at least, we all hope so!