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Cleaning with Scrubber-Driers in Hospitals

Every potential saving matters in times of exploding costs in the health service. This applies particularly to cleaning, which accounts for a large proportion of the running costs of a building. The trend to amalgamate smaller hospitals in centres is accompanied by an increase in the size of the areas to be cleaned and the need for mechanized solutions. A contract cleaner can make an impression if he can guarantee reliable, cost effective and fast cleanliness. The use of scrubber-driers offers an economical alternative to manual cleaning methods. Moreover, these machines can often achieve better results.

Anyone entering a building usually decides spontaneously whether he or she feels comfortable in it. The factor that influences this first impression most is whether the surroundings radiate a feeling of cleanliness or neglect. This applies to public buildings such as schools, town halls and swimming pools in general and to hospitals in particular.

Regular wet cleaning of hard and resilient floors provides the necessary cleanliness. It traps and removes not only dust - a potential carrier of germs, but is also indispensable because it helps reduce maintenance costs in the long term. Apart from operating theatres and other areas, which have to be protected against infections with scrupulous hygiene measures, there are many areas in a hospital with a potential for transmitting infections that hardly differ from other public buildings – such as entrance halls, corridors, kitchens, WCs and washrooms. A scrubber-drier can prove its worth in areas of this kind. Compared to manual cleaning with a mop and bucket, such a machine is often more thorough, faster and more economical. It performs three functions in a single operation: 

  • Uniform distribution of washing solution.
  • Mechanical removal of soil by means of disc or roller brushes.
  • Recovery of cleaning solution in the same pass

In daily maintenance cleaning, a mixture of water and 1 to 3% detergent is generally applied and the floor then scrubbed with disc or roller brushes. The thorough mechanical action in this process easily removes even stubborn soil. Another advantage is the fact that the squeegee immediately collects the washing solution and transports it into the dirty water tank. This means that the machine always uses clean clear water and the floor can be walked on immediately, without any risk of slipping, which is particularly important in traffic areas open to the public. A mop, by contrast, tends to distribute rather than remove dirt. In addition, a scrubber-drier can not only perform maintenance cleaning operations, it can also be equipped for polishing and deep cleaning.


Scrubber-driers quickly pay for themselves

Generally speaking, about 85% of the expenses incurred by service providers in cleaning buildings are wages and ancillary wage costs. For this reason, the purchase cost of a machine which reduces cleaning times significantly is recouped within a relatively short period. At the same time the use of machines enhances the standing of the cleaning staff and allows an anatomically correct working posture. The motivation associated with this aspect also improves the cleaning results.


Sound levels of scrubber-driers in hospitals

In hospital, where patients often require peace and quiet, it is particularly important for the use of machines not to be perceived as a nuisance. For this reason, it is possible to modify the sound level on modern machines by, for example, lowering the speed of the roller brushes or the output of the suction fan. The scrubber-drier then operates not only quieter but saves electricity and noticeably reduces wear. This approach is possible without any problems on smooth PVC and linoleum floors – without impairing cleaning performance. As a rule, daily floor care takes place in the mornings or evenings outside normal visiting hours.


What areas of hospitals should scrubber-drier machines be used?

Preferred areas for the use of scrubber-driers in hospitals are entrance halls, corridors, kitchens and washrooms. Purchasing a scrubber-drier is already worthwhile where the area to be cleaned is between 100 and 400 square metres. Selecting the right size of machine to suit the specific task is important. There are three basic types of machine as far as size is concerned: 

  • Walk-behind units are usually so highly manoeuvrable that they can be easily negotiated around obstacles. They are normally battery-powered, but are also available in mains-powered versions. These very compact machines are particularly suitable for smaller areas and furnished areas.

  • On step-on units, the operator stands on a platform at the rear of the machine rather than sitting on it or pushing it. These machines can turn on the spot and are therefore highly manoeuvrable and just as fast as larger ride-on models.
  • Ride-on machines are designed for effortless cleaning of large areas. The higher their scrub-and-dry performance and the shorter their set-up times, the more economically they can be used for long periods of uninterrupted operation.

The choice of a suitable machine depends not only on the area of the floor to be cleaned, but also on the layout of the rooms as well as the quantity and type of dirt. Smaller scrubber-driers are more manoeuvrable and easier to transport, over sills, around corners and obstacles as well as from one storey to another in a building. Step-on machines are relatively short and narrow so they fit through doorways and into an elevator, if necessary. In addition, they provide a good view of the area to be cleaned and the operator can quickly step off to move obstacles out of the way and get on again. The distances to be covered should not be too long where walk-behind machines are used. Models which allow the push handle to be folded over and operate in the forward and reverse directions are very convenient for cleaning in narrow WCs and washrooms, for example. Furthermore, they can be stowed in a minimum of space.


Roller or disc brush scrubber-drier?

Choosing between roller brushes or disc brushes is an important decision because the contact pressure and RPM have a considerable influence on the cleaning action. At a comparable purchase price, roller brush technology is more versatile in its uses. The following applies as a general rule: A good finish can be achieved in maintenance cleaning with disc brushes on smooth floors such as PVC and linoleum of the kind often found in entrance halls and corridors. Roller brushes have advantages on structured floors and where stubborn stains have to be tackled, since they have a smaller footprint and a contact pressure of up to 200 g/ which is up to six times higher than that of a disc brush. On machines with two contra-rotating roller brushes, the cleaning solution is not thrown outwards, it forms a continuous film. Less water is used in this way and the cleaning agent has a longer reaction time. Moreover, roller brushes adapt to irregularities, have a better deep cleaning action and reach up to edges and into corners so that there is less finishing work to do. Operating at speeds of up to 1500 RPM, they can also be used for stripping, polishing and crystallizing. One side benefit of the enormous centrifugal forces is a self-cleaning effect. And on machines with a sweeping attachment, the roller brushes throw coarse and loose dirt into a bin in the scrubbing head. That saves time by eliminating the need to sweep or mop the surface beforehand.


Flexibility ensures economical applications

The perfect floor maintenance machine would be one which instantaneously adapts itself to the type of soiling, the floor and the specific requirements in the facility. In a hospital, after all, scrubber-driers have to accomplish a wide range of cleaning tasks: For example, they have to work particularly quietly on smooth floors in corridors, but also reliably remove obstinate grease stains from rough kitchen tiles.

Modern machines offer a high degree of flexibility, including adjustments for varying the suction power of the fan as well as the contact pressure and speed of the roller brushes. For example, a scrub and dry setting of 60% is usually completely adequate to clean normally soiled floors. Stubborn encrusted stains can be reliably removed with roller brushes running at a maximum speed of 1300 RPM. This power range can also be used for stripping, polishing and crystallizing.

Cleaning agents can be added to the freshwater tank if required or a system with automatic metering may be used. An environment friendly and economical metering system enables the operator to quickly react to floors with different degrees of soiling by simply pressing a button during the cleaning process.  The mechanical action of the brushes and the demand-oriented concentration noticeably reduce the consumption and cost of cleaning agents. A large number of specially formulated detergents is available for maintenance cleaning normally soiled floors, for removing limescale and urine stone in WCs or stubborn encrustations in the kitchen, but also for disinfection. If required, the containers can be changed over or the floor can be rinsed with clear water. Furthermore, the system of external metering excludes the risk of undesirable bacterial growth in the tank.

It is an advantage if the brush head can be changed to use the machine at another cleaning site or for a different cleaning task. With such a facility it is possible to subsequently convert from disc to roller brushes and choose a different working width.


Simple operation and maintenance of scrubber-driers are essential

Intuitive operation of the scrubber-drier is an advantage in general terms and especially if the machine is used by different members of the cleaning staff. All controls should be clearly laid out and their use independent of language. Safety is ensured by an automatic system which stops the water supply as soon as the machine comes to a standstill. Retractable wheels make the machine easier to transport between cleaning sites and protect the brushes when they are in the park position.

In order to keep non-productive down times to a minimum, replacement parts should be easily accessible, and it should be possible to carry out maintenance work quickly and simply. This can be achieved if the suction blades and the brushes can be changed without tools. On modern machines the brushes can be unlocked by pressing a button or pedal. Another convenience feature is a removable and easily cleaned water distribution duct, which may occasionally become blocked when feeding washing solution to the brush head.

To summarize, one can say that scrubber-driers are suitable for wet cleaning about 60% of all floors. They produce a more uniform finish, are faster and more cost effective than manual methods of cleaning. In many cases their use is worthwhile on relatively small areas. A number of different factors have to be taken into account when selecting the right machine for the hospital. The more versatile the machine, the more economical it is in operation.


Tips on purchasing a scrubber-drier

  • The scrubber-drier should be the right size, i.e. large enough for the surface area to be cleaned and still easy to transport. Walk-behind machines are recommended for areas of up to 2500 sq.m, while preference should be given to step-on or ride-on machines for larger areas.

  • Manoeuvrability is particularly important where it is necessary to negotiate beds, trolleys and other obstacles in corridors. Very compact machines are suitable for use in areas where space is restricted, e.g. in WCs and washrooms. 
  • In hospitals it is important that the machine operates as quietly as possible. This can be achieved by reducing brush RPM and fan output. 
  • Simple operation relieves the workload on the cleaning staff: Are all controls clearly laid out, intuitive to use and is the machine ergonomically designed? 
  • Easy maintenance and servicing also contribute to low running costs. It is an advantage when all replacement parts are within easy reach and the suction blades and brushes can be changed without tools.

Blog post provided by: Gilles Troff, Category Manager Scrubber-Driers, Alfred Kärcher GmbH & Co. KG 


Secure Tools supplies an extensive collection of Karcher scrubber-drier machines which are ideal for hospitals and other public buildings. You can see the the range here:


To discuss your requirements for cleaning in hospitals, please call 01274 308961 for an informal chat.


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