Ready for a new add-on cleaning service in 2018? We’ve heard about all the traditional add-on services, such as carpet cleaning, floor refinishing, window cleaning, lighting, and even restroom cleaning. But, here’s one you might not have thought of: dumpster cleaning.
While I can’t say dumpster cleaning is going to make any cleaning contractor a millionaire, it does have the potential to bring in some added income. If the work is performed correctly using the right tools and cleaning solutions, it can be a little less, shall we say, unappealing to perform than you might think.
But, why would your customers want to have their dumpsters cleaned? There are several reasons.
For one, what has been continuously evolving in the U.S. and other parts of North America is something called “dumpster diving.”
At one time, most of the people who dived into dumpsters did it out of a necessity to survive. While this continues, many people are dumpster diving today because they are curious to see what might be inside, looking to re-purpose or recycle items, finding things they can resell, looking for apparel and, yes, searching for food.
However, dumpster diving can be a hazardous activity.* Germs, bacteria and various biohazards, along with pests, insects and small rodents like mice and rats, can all be prevalent. In addition to these unsanitary conditions, dumpsters are often filled with fragments of broken glass, nails, open cans, discarded metal, etc.
People have become sick, injured or been bitten by an animal while dumpster diving. If this happens in one of your customer’s dumpsters, it can present potential liability issues along with fines. Because of this and the growing interest in dumpster diving, in some communities health inspectors are giving dumpsters a much closer inspection than in past years.**
Another key reason dumpster cleaning is important is because of where dumpsters are placed. Invariably, they are placed right next to a back entrance of a building or a loading dock. This means germs, bacteria, odors, biohazards and a variety of pests are just outside the door. As a result, the likelihood of contaminants and pests finding a way inside a facility, negatively impacting the health of the building, is greater.
And finally, we should add that a heavily soiled, smelly dumpster is unsightly. While no one expects a used dumpster to be beautiful, a heavily soiled and odor-ridden dumpster is something no building owner or manager wants others to see right next to the property.
Reducing Dumpster Pest Appeal
Before discussing ways to clean and maintain dumpsters, we should consider ways to keep them from becoming so unsanitary and pest-ridden in the first place. After all, your customer is likely going to be turning to you for advice on dumpster maintenance; now is the time to show your expertise.
Here are some suggestions you can offer:
• Make sure no tree branches are near the dumpster; branches become “trails” for some pests, directing them to the nearest dumpster.
• Related to this, eliminate any vegetation near the dumpster; vegetation is often used as a hiding place for insects.
• All trash liners placed in the dumpster must be tied appropriately. If there is a chance the trash liner will tear, double bag it.
• Cans and bottles should be rinsed before tossing in a dumpster.
• If the dumpster has drains or openings, make sure they have a grid covering to prevent insects and rodents from coming inside.
• Keep the area clutter-free; clutter draws insects and pests to dumpsters.
• Keep the dumpster firmly closed and locked; this prevents neighbors from using your customer’s dumpster.
This last point is essential. When a nearby building uses your customer’s dumpster for their trash, its occupants typically have little concern if the trash is bagged or disposed of properly.
Traditionally, dumpsters have been cleaned either by pressure washing, or by hosing them down, along with the surrounding area. Powerful cleaning solutions are used to break down the soils, and because dumpsters often develop grease and oil buildup, the affected areas are scrubbed down, either using brushes attached to poles or automatic scrubbers, to loosen and remove the buildup. This is followed by rinsing the entire area.
This process can work successfully, but it tends to be slow and messy, and the cleaning solutions used can be harmful to your health. A healthier and more appealing option is to use cleaning solutions that digest the soils in the dumpster and its surrounding areas. These products are referred to as microbial cleaning solutions.
Microbial cleaning solutions, also known as microbes, include a form of bacteria that essentially eats grease, oil, fats, urine, organic waste and other contaminants that develop and line the interior of dumpsters and surrounding areas. The microbial cleaning solution contains specially selected bacteria that eat soils, but are safe for workers’ health and the environment. In the process of eating these contaminants, the solutions also eliminate the odors produced by many of these soils.
Here is how to put microbial cleaning solutions to work when cleaning dumpsters:
• Use a dispensing system to apply the cleaning solution to the interior and exterior of the dumpster and its surrounding area.
• As the microbes begin digesting germs and bacteria, they release enzymes that help convert soils into carbon dioxide and water.
• This waste can then be washed away with pure water and dispensed down drains. There are rarely environmental concerns.
While some scrubbing of heavily soiled areas may be necessary, for the most part, the microbes do most of the work cleaning the dumpster. Further, another benefit of using microbial cleaning products is that they can typically continue working for up to 80 hours after they have been applied. This means that if a dumpster is severely coated with soils and contaminants, the microbes will “dwell” on the dumpsters surfaces, continuing to break down the soils.
While our focus here has been dumpster cleaning, we should note that microbial cleaning solutions are used for many different cleaning tasks. In the past, for instance, they have been applied to clean up oil spills. They are also often used for cleaning drains. In San Diego, city park administrators have deployed these products to “eat up” bird droppings. Therefore, building service cleaning contractors may find many other helpful uses and applications for microbial cleaning solutions.
*It should also be noted that in most areas of North America, dumpster diving is only prohibited when it happens on private property; then it is considered trespassing.
** In many cities, property owners may be fined if their dumpsters are not properly closed; if excessively soiled or have strong malodors; are not removed from sidewalks within an hour after trash collection, etc.
Mike Watt is Director, Training and New Product Development at Avmor