Over the pasts few years we have noticed an increase in the volume of products being sold to businesses to help improve the janitorial work done in their building.  For the most part they don’t help and cost the customer more money.  There are two truisms that can lead you down the right path when the salesman comes calling. One: Janitorial service is mostly you buying labor and management. The other is, when the dispenser is free you will be paying dearly for the product.

With very few exceptions there are not a lot of new products that can improve the quality of cleaning in a building (microfiber rags are a notable exception).  A building is cleaned by labor and the inspection of that labor.  A steady worker and an attentive inspector to praise them and correct them can do wonders.

The most common item sold to a building owner that is a waste of money is a automatic chemical dispenser. The pitch is that with their system you can take away the complicated task of mixing chemicals. One position of the dial will dispense soapy mop water, another will do toilet bowl cleaner and the third will make glass cleaner.  The problem with this system is twofold. The system always mixes the chemicals too strong and you are left with residual soap on the floor or other surfaces that gets sticky and thusly dirty faster (my assumption on the over mixing is they are trying sell more chemical).  The other problem is that you are stuck buying the chemicals that fit in the system. Those chemicals and the special bottles they come in are significantly more expensive that non proprietary chemicals.  A gallon of Windex glass cleaner is cheap and can’t be beat for performance.  A gallon of defecting floor soap is as cheep is it is ubiquitous.  The mixing of a mop bucket or toilet cleaner is far from complicated and can be accomplished with a $2.00 measuring pump stuck in a jug.

The other favorite of the salesman is paper towels, toilet paper and hand soap.  They generally will give away the dispensers for free. However, the dispensers will only fit their products.  If your lucky the products can be bought from multiple sources, if you’re not you will end up signing a contract for them to service your account exclusively. In some cases, the dispensers are only loaned to you and would have to be returned when you cancel the contract.  In both cases your will be paying double the cost of non-proprietary products.  The alternative is to just buy your own dispensers and put them up.  You will pay this off within a few months of purchasing the refills on the open market.  An added bonus is that if you find a cheaper alternative or just don’t like your salesman anymore, you can just buy from somewhere else!

Paper products and soaps for commercial buildings are a commodity like corn or beans. Don’t get caught in a trap of paying more for a gimmick.  If you don’t want to deal with the purchasing just ask your janitorial company to do it. They will usually have a great price due to volume purchasing and can handle it all for you.