With the advent of microfibers, industrial wipes & mops have gone through a major makeover from moist cloths and towels which at times fail to remove contamination on reuse. From an iPad to boiler installed at a power plant, wipes have been customized as per the product and requirement – making them more specific in cleaning quality control. Colour coding has been done in accordance with their applications and the requirement of hygiene level which differs as per the industry.
Using wipes & mops to clean a surface is nonetheless an Art & Science. If done properly 16x16in microfiber wipe/mop can be used to clean four times larger surface area. Along with palm & frame area, selection of cloths/wipes does depend on the contamination level, type and so on.
One of the largest consumers of wipes & mops in terms of volume and applications is the facility service sector. Some of the main factors that determine the kind of wipes & mops to be used include the type of surface, area to be cleaned and hygiene requirement. Indeed, an end user need to gather all the data regarding exact requirement before placing an order for wipes & mops. This includes: Diameter of the particles that need to be removed, particles’ property that correlates the absorptiveness needed, area and volume of the space to be cleaned, hygiene level requirement, endurance needed and capital allotted to the cleaning. But in India, the cost factor plays an even bigger role in the purchase of wipe.
Despite the various determining factors, Liju Mathai, Director, Vema Hospitality Inc prefers to use easy mops for floor cleaning, as they can be refilled on a monthly basis. “For window cleaning and office maintenance, we prefer cloths & towels. Especially during the monsoons, we avoid microfiber material as it leaves behind moisture.”
While many service providers stretch the use of a single mop cloth in common area to a month, in food processing, cloths or wipes must be changed regularly in order to curb spread of contamination to food products. Satish Kumar, Quality assurance Manager, MTR Foods Pvt Ltd says, “We make use of normal dry cotton wipes & mops to clean our facility. These mops are cleaned with cleaning chemicals and disinfectants before being used in different areas. They are discarded on a weekly basis.”
A wide range of mops & wipes is produced by manufacturers for different applications. End users must be aware of these new products. For e.g., some mopping systems have their heads made of hydrophilic urethane foam laminated with a layer of knitted polyester fabric on both the sides. With up to five degrees of freedom, they can be used for both horizontal and vertical surfaces with equal ease and cleanliness. The mop heads can be used with dry and presaturated wipes for further cleaning. Similarly in aerospace applications, PolyVinyl Acetal (PVA) wipes should be used owing to its 600% absorbency over conventional wipes and softness while removing fine particles from metal and plastic surfaces.
Steam mops are available that can be used without chemicals and as the manufacturers of various steam mops claim, they kill 99% of salmonella & E. Coli that are usually present at surfaces. Such information must be passed on to end users properly. Mohan Soman, Manager-operations, ISS Integrated Facility Services Pvt Ltd says, “End users are unaware of minute details of cleaning. Until they know it, they won’t find the suitable applicability of different wipes & mops. FM providers and manufacturers must spread the information through various meets. The approach should be not only to improve the knowledge about soils, fungus, bacteria or other contaminants and the suitable chemicals but also to know how to use them. For e.g., while presenting a role wipe, they must address the concepts behind its making, the cleaning procedure and the advancements done with relation to conventional wipes. They must address its applications in detail.”
Cleaning is important but sustainability is even more important. In other words, cleaning can’t be done at the cost of sustainability. Lint-free microfibres are costlier than the conventional wipes & mops. Hence many of the end users, in spite of knowing the benefits, express their inability to adopt them. R. Sukumaran Nair, MD, S&C Multi Commercials Pvt Ltd says, “Microfibres, in the long run, are actually cost effective as they last longer. We have deployed microfibres to improve the cost effectiveness by 20%, when compared to cloths/towels.” Mohan says, “Yes, microfibres as mops or wipes are 2.5-3 times costlier than that of conventional wipes/mops. This is where, Indian companies don’t want to invest. They are still considering it as a backroom process. The cost can be reduced by controlling the import of raw materials such as wood pulp and viscose.”
Many of the end users who are truly concerned about the cleaning and maintenance expect better in terms of QOS, availability and biodegradability. Santosh Naik, Admin Manager, Shell India comments, “We are more concerned towards eco-friendly and carbon free products. We want 100% biodegradable material used in wipes and have given instructions to our service provider accordingly. Not only to cloths and mops, we also pay equal attention to the use ofchemicals. Good products are not widely available in the market. Awareness level should be more so that FMS providers or end users could demand these products. Government too has a role to play here. It must make some strict laws regarding the use of various hazardous materials/chemicals as some of them become a high threat to the environment after use.” Mohan says, “The current wipes & mops are made of 70-80% biodegradable materials. That needs to improve. The quality too must be improved.” Sukumaran too complains, “As far as problems are concerned, we don’t have any except the quality of mops which is not up to the mark. The mops should last a little longer.”
Changing Market Scenario
Wipes market is drawn by personal care products which influence the other two – housekeeping and industrial segments also. It increases the awareness level. Soman indicates, “Recently, we have seen good demand for lint-free microfibers particularly from pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. These microfibers not only last longer but also improve the quality of service with reduced cost in the long run and give higher satisfaction and improvement in HSE & sustainability.” Increased awareness level has made manufacturers to innovate more on materials and the recent growth has been made through enabling wipes with anti-allergic, moisturising and anti-inflammatory properties. New variants that are attracting Indian consumers are the wipes & mops containing the natural soothing elements such as aloe and lavender, or unscented with only the basic essentials. Thus, as indicated by Santosh, with a little guidance from the government, the small Indian market of wipes & mops can be blossomed to its fullest.