Visual Standard Cleaning Audits

The most common evaluation method for cleaning audits is the Visual Standard Audit (VSA).

Visual Standard Auditing may sound easy but there are significant drawbacks if performed without correct training and understanding of cleaning process. The following issues need to be addressed prior to implementing Visual Standard Audit programs.

Objectivity: Cleaning evaluation is often subjective.  What is’ clean’ to you may be totally different to what is ’clean’ to someone else.  It is important that all cleaning auditors and cleaning assessment procedures are on the same plane.  Cleaning outcomes have to be clearly described in contract documents and auditors need to make allowances for variations in surface condition and ability of the surface to be cleaned affectively.

Scoring Systems:

  • Pass/Fail scoring systems can be brutal and unfair to cleaners and contractors if they are too broadly applied. For instance, Pass/Fail applied to a room, may deliver a fail to that area for minor imperfections such as small amount of dust on the skirting boards or a spot on the carpet.  Similarly, Pass/Fail inspections can be time consuming and monotonous if every single task is rated as a pass or a fail.
  • 1 – 5 Scoring systems with a pass mark of 3/5 (60%) for good are preferred by many contractors.  However it can be a disaster for building owners and tenants as it sets  low benchmark for cleaning standards.  It is difficult to understand how 3/5 (60%) could be interpreted as a ‘good’ standard or value for money.   A pass mark of 4/5 (80%) may sound OK, if you are prepared to let standards slip by 20%.  However this does not leave much room to improve, particularly if  auditors are reluctant to give scores of 5/5 (100)%.
  • 1-10 Scoring System – This is the preferred scoring system for evaluating commercial cleaning outcomes as the benchmark can be set at higher than 80%. 1-10 provides fairness and allows increments of 10% when measuring cleaning quality and improvement over time.  A 1-10 scale can evaluate and apply incremental scores based on whether the task has been performed and how well the task has been performed.  This can assist identifying areas and tasks that has not been performed well and where training or alternative methods may be required.  g. Carpets may have been vacuumed but some edges and corners may have been missed.  An Auditor may score  9/10 rather than a full score.  The task may have been performed but not to the standard required in the scope.  An example of a 1-10 scoring interpretation can be found here.

Surface Condition: Cleaning auditors need to understand the condition of the surfaces being cleaned and the ability to actually clean a surface that is old, discoloured  or damaged.  A good cleaning auditor will have a comprehensive knowledge of cleaning and may provide advice to the client or the contractor where cleaning issues are noted.

Surface Colour and surface cleanability: The nature of a surface and the environment associated with the surface need to be taken into account when auditing.  A white carpet in high traffic area or high spillage area will be much harder to clean and may deteriorate faster than a more appropriate floor covering.  Porous surfaces will also present cleaning problems. Professional Cleaning Auditors can identify these problem areas and provide solutions or alternative approaches to maintaining these surfaces.

Building environment:  The quality of cleaning and the levels of dust and soil within a  building are affected by both internal and external environments.  External and internal construction work, work in grounds and gardens and building maintenance works create abnormal levels of dust and tracked in soil.  Cleaning Audits need to have some flexibility in interpretations of soil levels when the cleaning might not be at fault.

Cleaning frequencies:  Cleaning Auditors need to take into account the frequency of performance of tasks. e.g.  if carpets are only vacuumed once a week on Wednesdays and the audit is performed on Friday then carpet vacuuming cannot be properly assessed.

Time of Inspection:   Ideally, audits should be performed immediately after cleaning has been completed.  However, this is not always practical.  Key areas of the building that are subject to heavy traffic, e.g. entrances, lifts, toilets and staff kitchens, should be inspected first.  Experienced cleaning auditors can audit at any time of the day as they can differentiate between fresh soil and soil and dust build up over time.

Frequency of inspections:  Cleaning standards need to be assessed on an ongoing basis as part of a continuous improvement program. A one-off inspection may identify service shortfalls but there is no way of  assessing rectification of issues and changes to cleaning practices unless audits are ongoing and random in nature

Enhanced Visual Standard Audits:  Organic soils and soap and detergent residues will fluoresce under ultraviolet (UV) light.  UV torches are essential when inspecting toilets, basins and urinals as they highlight potential hygiene issues related to poor cleaning practice.  Care should be taken when using UV light and low power torches are sufficient to highlight most cleaning issues.

Independent external auditors offer experience and objectivity in evaluation of cleaning processes and outcomes. For more information or far an obligation-free quote, please contact FM Contract Solutions by clicking on this link.