Economizing Cleaning Costs – Platinum Cleaning


Economizing Cleaning Costs

A Facility Manger’s Guide to Assessing, Understanding, and Streamlining Janitorial Services

“Time is not refundable; use it with intention.”

Running an office, building, or any facility can be expensive. Maintenance and upkeep often make up a large percentage of overhead costs. Efficient execution of janitorial services can be a key factor toward the making an economically efficient facility. The key to efficient janitorial services lies in better understanding of how to assess and execute your needs.

Streamlining said services begins by asking the following questions:

  • How many hours will it take to clean this facility?
  • How much will the labor cost?
  • What are some of the building’s characteristics that might slow down the production rate for cleaning workers?
  • What are the best cleaning practices to implement?

Knowledge is power. As a consumer, your power comes from being fully equipped with an array of important facts, specifically pertaining to your expected overhead costs.

This sheet aims to provide you with an overview of crucial information to empower you, the consumer of janitorial services, with the requisite knowledge to help streamline and maintain an efficient balance sheet.

Assessing how your industry impacts cost of janitorial services

Assessing your overhead begins with assessing the demands of your facility and understanding what kind of janitorial services you need provided. The first step is determining what kind of facility you need cleaned and what the specific services that facility requires.

FM Benchmarking suggests a number of best practices in janitorial services and facility management which will help ensure a clean environment. Some of these include:

  • Defining cleanable areas and ensuring this is understood by the workforce and management or contract manager
  • Establishing cleaning frequencies for all areas based on user needs
  • Reviewing cleaning frequencies regularly to determine if they’re still appropriate

It’s important to get on the same page about these best practices with a janitorial services provider before entering into a contract, and then to regularly check in with your provider to confirm such practices are being implemented at your facility.

Be aware that certain industries need specific janitorial services that may affect your maintenance overhead.

For example, considerations for janitorial services at medical facilities should include:

  • Best practices and cleaning techniques to safely disinfect and clean hospitals, outpatient centers, medical officers, or surgery centers
  • Strategies to control and prevent infection through surface cleaning and disinfection
  • Specialized abilities to address OSHA, HIPAA, or CDC complaints

Industrial facilities, manufacturing plants, or distribution centers considerations:

  • Cleaning techniques to meet high-dust factory environment
  • Cost impact of an industrial facility’s lower density of people per square footage of workspace
  • Efficient carpet, bathroom, sorter, and loading dock cleaning
  • Amount of plastic and cardboard recycling needed

Commercial facility considerations:

  • Maintaining a clean, attractive business space for both employees and customers
  • Addressing the demand for commercial carpet cleaning, including vacuuming and spot treatment, and floor cleaning
  • Efficient trash and recycling services, documental disposal, breakroom and restroom cleaning, food service sanitation
  • Maintenance-related electricity needs, such as bulb replacement and light maintenance
  • Elevator and escalator cleaning, and other electrical cleaning
  • Assessing population density

Janitorial services for retail and/or hospitality considerations:

  • Hiring service providers with a firm understanding of applicable health codes and high-quality cleaning practices to keep your facility up to code. Without the proper knowledge, you could be liable to pay hefty fines for violating health codes.
  • Specialized cleaning techniques for your facility’s bathrooms, kitchens, or dining areas
  • Ability to minimize disruptions to your day-to-day business and customers

How your unique needs impact the cost of janitorial services

Janitorial service providers will consider a wide array of factors about a facility before making a bid on a job. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Age and size of a building
  • Location and climate
  • Service frequency
  • Function of the building (medical facilities incur higher cleaning costs)
  • Type of flooring, specifically the percentage of wool, carpet, tile, laminate, etc.
  • Location of dumpsters, recycling bins, and exits
  • An accurate understanding of the density of the space. For example, a commercial office will have a higher density of people per square footage of floorspace than that of an industrial facility (more crowded spaces take longer to clean)
  • Daytime vs. nighttime cleaning hours (cleaning while a building’s other employees are working slows down production rate)
  • Degree of labor segmentation (a variety of work for each janitorial worker can decrease boredom and increase productivity)
  • Quality of cleaning machinery and equipment
  • The unique needs of the employees using each office space. For example, the cleaning required for an executive office will differ greatly from that of a laborer’s workspace. The same can be true for providing services to a millennial-geared workspace, like a new startup’s office, or an older, more traditional office space.

Smart-technology and a clean restroom?

Clean workspaces start in the restroom. It’s important to guarantee that the janitorial service provider you’re hiring is qualified to adequately and efficiently clean your facility’s restrooms.

Some of the work, however, starts with you and your decisions about the kinds of technology you can afford to include in your facility’s restrooms. Do you want more traditional equipment, like paper towel dispensers, or does your facility allow you to take advantage of smart-tech eco-friendly and efficient technology, like electronic hand dryers?

How important are “smart methods” for bathroom sanitation?

You should also be aware of the “smart methods” that some janitorial companies use to keep restrooms clean, to make sure that the service provider you choose to contract with is implementing the most efficient, up-to-date cleaning technology. Think of it like this: Don’t you want to be using the latest iPhone, not a flip phone? These smart methods include:

  • Smart soap dispensers, which help avoid waste and make it as easy as possible to ensure that people are properly cleaning their hands
  • Apps and other technological elements which ensure that bathrooms are efficiently restocked and never run out of supplies
  • Automated tracking systems for “traffic patterns” which intelligently order the right amount of supplies for restrooms

Getting to the bottom of it: floors matter

Maintaining clean floors is not only important but also costly and can impact your janitorial overhead. Your facility’s flooring material and hours of operation will impact costs. No matter what the cost, consider using energy efficient technology, like low-flow dispensing scrubbers, which can reduce water usage by upwards of 70%.


Rubber probably isn’t the first material that comes to mind when you think of a floor.

Yet in a study that compared 12 frequently-used synthetic and natural flooring products by assessing initial purchase price, cost of installation, and cleaning and maintenance costs over the course of 15 years, Sue Tartaglio of the International Interior Design Association found that rubber is the most cost-effective and long-lasting flooring option, with a lifespan of approximately 30 years.

“With new colors, innovative designs, and the fact that many types are now considered both green and sustainable, cleaning professionals can expect to see more rubber floors in all types of facilities. Cleaned and maintained properly, a rubber floor can prove to be a high-quality, good-looking investment welcomed in all types of properties for many years to come.”
How to Care for Rubber Floors by Joe Versluis


According to the Carpet and Rug Institute, carpets account for 51 percent of the total flooring market in the United States.

Best practices for carpet care include:

  • avoiding twisting vacuum cords
  • regularly checking the brush bar of the vacuum to avoid causing further carpet damage
  • dialing the suction up to the highest level and then all the way down to optimize airflow
  • changing the vacuum filter regularly

How much does it cost to clean carpet? Cleanfax’s 2018 Carpet Cleaning Benchmarking Report provides helpful facts and figures.

Brushing up on your carpet cleaning terminology will also ensure that you’re speaking the same language as your janitorial service provider when negotiating on a bid. Cleaning & Maintenance Management (CMM) provides a helpful guide here.


Wood floors can be particularly cleaning-intensive — and costly to maintain — since they need to be stripped and refinished.

Luxury vinyl tile (LVT) is emerging as an aesthetically similar yet easier-to-clean substitute for wooden flooring.

“You get the feel and look of wood, but you’re not dealing with wood at all,” says Stanley Quentin Hulin, president and CEO of Future Floor Technology, regarding LVT flooring.

Calculating cleaning times

How long does it take to clean a building? How long will each cleaning task take?

The International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA) suggests conducting the following seven-step “time study” to determine your particular building’s production rate (the number of square feet cleaned per hour):

  1. Choose a task
  2. Measure the area
  3. Note building variables
  4. Observe and record
  5. Average the rates
  6. Adjust for variables
  7. Fine-tune your rates
“Because there are so many variables — cleaning frequency, customer expectations, building surfaces, equipment used, and level of quality, to name a few — and accurate production rates are so essential, the best practice is to develop your own building-specific rates. Conducting your own times study is one of the best methods to determine the production for a given task.”
How to Calculate Cleaning Times, International Sanitary Supply Association

ISSA’s formula for calculating cleaning time is as follows:

Cleaning time =
60/Average minutes from time study x number of square feet in study

Giving the example of trash removal for a 15,000-square-foot area with normal density and no variables, ISSA calculated the following production rate:

Cleaner Time to Complete
Cleaner 1 33 Minutes
Cleaner 2 27 Minutes
Cleaner 3 30 Minutes
Cleaner 4 30 Minutes
Cleaner 5 32 Minutes
Cleaner 6 28 Minutes
Total Time 180 Minutes

In this particular time study, this works out to:

Total cleaning time =
60/30 minutes x 15,000 square feet
= 30,000 square feet per hour

Therefore, we know that the base production for trash removal in the building is 30,000 square feet per hour.

For additional insights into cleaning times, The Janitorial Store provides detailed charts on the estimated production rates for various areas and components of an office building here.

How much will it cost me?

To get a benchmark for bids, first determine which pricing category your building falls into from the cleaning industry’s perspective:

  • Micro accounts: less than 5 days a week and less that 2,500 square feet
  • Small accounts: full service, ranging from 2,500-30,000 square feet
  • Medium accounts: 30,000-150,000 square feet
  • Large accounts: 150,000-1,000,000 square feet

Next, assess the variables. William R. Griffin, president of Cleaning Consultant Services, explains that price can be affected by local competition, the stock market and financial stability, skill and knowledge level of the service provider, and the expectation for the training and supervision that will be required from the job.

Developing a benchmarking system for comparing and contrasting your building’s characteristics — such as occupancy per square foot — to other facilities is another useful tool in determining what you should be paying for janitorial services.

“Facilities managers are usually looking for better ways to clean and provide a better, more healthful, environment for the occupants. But janitorial services are often the first things to be cut in any budget reduction initiatives and it’s very difficult to get the funds back when the economy improves. Many clients and attendees at conferences readily admit that their facilities are ‘moderately dingy’ and would like to do something to improve the appearance and cleanliness of their facilities. Benchmarking can help you understand how your costs compare with others in your peer group and may be able to help you justify budgeting additional funds.”
-FM Benchmarking

According to a study conducted by Nilfisk and ISSA, labor costs typically constitute approximately 70% of total cleaning costs.

Are janitorial services considered fixed or variable?

Every facility and business have fixed and variable costs that impact your overhead.

If a cost is fixed, it never changes despite sales, vacancy, or fluctuations in your business. This can include rents, property taxes, insurance premiums, equipment depreciation, and labor that does not change regardless of business fluctuations.

If a cost is variable, it changes based on business performance or sales. Usable inventory like napkins, sauces, cleaning supplies, food, and labor the changes with business fluctuations are considered variable.

Janitorial services are generally considered a fixed cost and should be budgeted as such. This changes, however, if your facility qualifies for “vacancy credit” which may lower your janitorial overhead costs in the event of a vacancy.

What is a vacancy credit?

Typically, cleaning contracts with janitorial service providers are based on 100% occupancy. Obviously, at times a space may become and remain vacant. That’s where a vacancy credit comes in. A vacancy credit is an allowance given to a property manager using janitorial services that guarantees not paying for unoccupied spaces. Vacancy credits are calculated using a vacancy-credit rate formula which is based on a pre-negotiated rate multiplied by square footage of your facility.

How does cleanable square footage impact production rates?

In order to get the best quote from a janitorial service provider, there are a few key numbers and rates to be aware of that may impact your costs:

Cleanable Square Footage

To economize costs and avoid being overcharged, provide bidders with accurate measurement of your facility’s cleanable square footage. Estimating or guessing can come back to bite you and result in being overcharged for square footage that may not need to be serviced.

Production Rate

Understanding your production rate can save you money. Production rates are calculated using a formula and used to determine the number of labor hours needed to adequately clean your facility. The cost of labor is then multiplied by the number of hours required. Note that this cost will always differ based on your facility’s work hours, floor surfaces, special needs, etc.

To get an estimate for your facility’s production rate, use the following formula: PROD. RATE = cleanable square footage / total hours. In practice, this formula shows you that the smaller your cleanable square footage, the lower your production rate will be.

It is integral when bidding out your facility to ensure that the different service providers are clearly letting you know their estimated production rates. This will allow you to have an apples to apples assessment of the competing firms for your business.

Conclusion: Knowledge is Power

Equipped with the right information on production rates, labor costs, flooring options, and more, you now have a better idea of what to expect when calculating how long it will take and how much it will cost to clean your facility.

It’s important to remember that there are many important questions to consider when it comes to janitorial services, but few definitive answers, as every building is different. But with the right framework for decision-making, you can begin the investigatory process of determining your facility’s cleaning profile, and that crucial information will enable you to take the necessary steps toward attaining a clean space and a clean mind.

Are you ready to partner with Platinum?

Let’s talk. Contact a Platinum representative for a free walkthrough and quote to learn more about our award-winning cleaning and facility services today.