Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy in general, the increased concern for public health and safety has become a rare opportunity for one sector – cleaning and sanitation.
From regularly disinfecting offices to exposing delivery packages to UV light, cleaning has become everyone’s obsession, and rightfully so as Coronavirus infection and variants continue across the globe.
How will 2022 look for the industry? Here are the trends that are likely shaping this year:
- Disinfection more than cleaning
Whereas cleaning removes unwanted materials on surfaces, disinfection means the eradication of microorganisms. The difference between the two has become increasingly mainstream with the pandemic.
Since 2020, I have already been suggesting that commercial and DIY laundry services apply quaternaries on the last rinse to ensure a disinfected batch of linen. I have also suggested using swab tests on linen to ensure customers about the business’ compliance in disinfection procedures.
The use of quaternaries, chlorine, and other disinfectants that have new generation materials to combat new microorganisms will become the new standard in the cleaning process. This year and beyond, I also see greater variation in disinfectant usage types to prevent microorganism resistance.
- Costs continue to rise
During the pandemic, we have seen the cost of freight increase. The cost of gas locally has meanwhile doubled. The cost of chemicals has already been rising since before the pandemic, and this will likely continue to do so. Overall, these are bad news for cleaning, sanitation, and laundry service providers… and ultimately to customers who will absorb many of these additional costs.
Cleaning and commercial laundry companies will need to find a way to optimize their operations to lower their costs, especially utilities. Companies will continue to look at sustainable practices too such as recycling to cut back on costs.
- Re-assurance is key for customers
Our understanding of COVID-19 and how it spread has significantly changed since the beginning of the pandemic. In 2021, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention argued that there is less than 1 in 10,000 chance that one will get the virus from surfaces. Instead, it argued that people can get infected from respiratory droplets.
Despite this, the new scientific knowlegde did not stop the rate by which we have been cleaning surfaces. Although air quality has also become the focus of keeping a COVID-safe environment, a “hygiene theater” of surface cleaning has become part of the standard by which we now live our everyday lives.
Nine out of 10 Filipinos are worried about getting COVID-19, according to an October 2021 SWS survey. In 2022, customers will still want reassurance from businesses – especially those in the service sector – that they’re applying all best practices to ensure a clean and disinfected environment. Customers expect businesses to practice minimum health protocols and safety standards and abide by pandemic-related rules. This means that laundry shops will need to continue communicating their commitment to safety, and that cleaning service providers will still have B2B customers who will continue to hire them for regular cleaning and disinfection errands. In addition, this also means that cleaning and laundry services will need to continue re-tooling their systems and training their teams.
- Customers spend more on sanitation
Do you have that friend who insists on spraying alcohol every time they touch on anything? This and other related habits are becoming more common than we think, and this means more spending on cleaning products. In the U.S., people have spent 12% more on cleaning in January 2021 than 2019, according to a survey. In the U.S., around 25% of Americans have increased the frequency of their laundry because of COVID-19.
P&G Chairman and CEO David Taylor was quoted in early 2021 as saying, “I think we’ve all gotten in the habit of cleaning. We’ve got in the habit of the home being a bigger part of our life… In many ways, these habits will likely sustain for … an extended period of time post-pandemic, and that bodes well for many of the categories we compete in.”
This is true for institutions and businesses, too. Before the pandemic, food processing companies will typically sanitize only after a shift. Today, they conduct sanitation before they begin operations, which means the cost for sanitation has doubled.
The global sustainability movement in 2021 has intensified after COP 26. The cleaning industry will be more involved in sustainability as companies look to optimize their use of resources (energy and consumables, like chemicals) not just as a way to save the planet but also to lessen cost. We will therefore see more water recycling, rain-water harvesting, waste-to-energy sources of power, and mechanisms to make water and energy utilization much more efficient (For instance, use of soft water lessens chemical consumption).
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About the author: Engr. Romy Apolega is a consultant for the cleaning & laundry industry, helping businesses enhance their operations, formulate products (chemicals, etc.), and train staff. He has been in the Philippines’ cleaning, sanitation and laundry industry since 1973, or over 49 years. He is one of the country’s sought after experts in the field, having had leadership roles at BASF, Diversey, Kalinisan Steam Laundry, Oxychem, Chemlux, and WARM, among others. He served at the national board of the Philippine Institute of Chemical Engineers. Email him at email@example.com