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What contaminants are you dealing with?

Cleaning is easier and more effective if you identify what contaminant is on the floor and can choose the right equipment and detergent to get rid of it.

A quick guide to contaminants

Material, or matter, is either organic or inorganic.

Organic matter is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. Steam cleaning or disinfecting is the most effective way to clean.

  • material that is alive such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa (tiny animals). This will be most common in kitchens and canteens where there is food waste, or in bathrooms, changing rooms and hospital wards where there is human waste such as skin, body fats, faeces and blood
  • material that was part of a living thing which includes food, but also sawdust and rubber shavings. This is found anywhere where food is produced or consumed, such as cafés, bars and restaurants 
  • ‘man-made’ material including plastic fragments, mineral oil and paints and glues. These are common where manufacturing takes place but also anywhere that decorating or repair work is done

Inorganic contaminants have not been part of a living thing and do not contain carbon. They include glass, salt, rust and brick dust.

“We work with water, flour and oil which can be difficult to clean but with the new flooring, we’ve significantly reduced the time this takes.”

Franco Giuseppe Zirotti
KFC’s external architect consultant

Whether organic or inorganic, soil behaves in a certain way when you try to clean it:

Soluble contaminants dissolve in water, for example sugar, salt and detergent powder. Because they dissolve, they are generally easy to deal with. It is common where food is sold, prepared or consumed such as cafes, school dining rooms and hospital kitchens.

You are most likely to come across insoluble contaminants; these won’t dissolve in water so will need detergent to remove them. Examples include oil and skin, so they are found in many environments, including kitchens and wet environments.

Insoluble soil can be greasy or particulate:

Greasy contaminants stick to surfaces and smear when touched. Examples are oil, fat and grease. This is likely anywhere food is present but also, as vehicles leave behind oil and grease, it will regularly be carried on foot into communal areas.

Particulate contaminants are powdery, examples being sand, skin, washing powder and broken fibres, so they will be found in a wide range of environments.

It is very likely that you will find greasy and particulate contaminants together as the powdery soil will stick to any grease it comes into contact with.

Abrasive soil may scratch a surface, for example, glass.

Stubborn/tacky contaminants may stick to a surface, for example, syrup, wax or glue.

So, materials belong to more than one of the categories, as one is what it is made of and the other is how it behaves: salt spilt from a container is an inorganic, particulate soil which can be swept, or vacuumed, up; salt spilt onto a wet surface is an inorganic, soluble soil that can be washed away.