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First, Do No Harm

The phrase “First, do no harm” originates from the Latin phrase “Primum non nocere” and is most famous for being part of the Hippocratic oath doctors take. Wikipedia says this phrase “is one of the principal precepts of medical ethics that all medical students are taught in medical school and is a fundamental principle for emergency medical services around the world.” Another way to state it is “given an existing problem, it may be better not to do something, or even to do nothing, than to risk causing more harm than good.”

While floor care is certainly never as critical as emergency situations encountered in the medical field, the concept of “First, do no harm” does have application for us in building maintenance. Every day when cleaning buildings, this maxim is ignored. There are processes that do more harm than good being used by cleaners.

The most basic example of this is dust mopping.

“Dust mopping?” you ask. Yes, dust mopping.

Whether the floor is finished, terrazzo, marble, or any other type of hard or resilient floor that is dust mopped, damage occurs to the surface every day during the dust mopping process. In the process of dust mopping, soils are captured in a mop head, even if it is microfiber, and they are pushed across the floor.

Did you realize that the average grain of sand tracked into a building has 32 cutting edges and grinds like 120-grit sand paper? Image how much damage is done by pushing a pile of sand and grit down the hallway on newly finished floors.

No matter what type of mop you use, every time you dust mop you end up degrading the appearance of your floor finish or your hard floors. This will help to drive your maintenance costs on these floors.

It is fascinating to watch cleaning personnel push a dust mop down a hallway and then prepare the dust mop for the return trip back down the hallway. Shake-a-shake-a-shake-a-shake! From a cleaning standpoint this should be frustrating because much of the debris left on the mop is now airborne. Airborne debris will eventually need to be dusted, so this process of cleaning the dust mop head creates unnecessary work.

The other, more critical, issue this creates is an indoor air quality issue. We live in two environments: the outdoor environment and the indoor environment. We have all seen commercials about protecting the outdoor environment and the resources in it, such as lakes, air, and woods. Certainly, we need to be responsible here. However, when was the last time someone talked to you about protecting the indoor environment?

Do you realize that we spend on average 90 percent of our time indoors? Indoor environments include cars, homes, offices, buses, planes, and any time you are in a closed environment. We are constantly breathing the air in these environments.

Shaking out the dust mop at the end of the hallway may seem innocent enough, but it contributes to higher levels of airborne particulates.

Today, and for the past ten years, the EPA Science Advisory Board has listed Indoor Air Quality as one of its top five health concerns. The average indoor air is two to five times more polluted than the outside air. Worst of all, one in 13 school age children today have a breathing-related illness.

What is the solution for removing the soil without degrading our floors or contributing to poor indoor air quality? Vacuum the floor.

New solutions have been introduced that are not only more productive than the average dust mop, but also contain the soil with HEPA filtration. Instead of pushing the soil along, these units incorporate dual cylindrical brushes to lift the soils from the floor and vacuum them away.

These machines provide a solution that meet the goal of “First, do no harm” by not harming the floor, whether it is finished or stone, not harming the indoor air quality, since they provide superior filtration, and not harming the budget thanks to the labor savings achieved with these units.


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