As businesses have gradually reopened and people have been going back to work, a Carroll County cleaning business happened to open at a time — during a pandemic — when sanitization of shared spaces is in high demand.
Office Pride of Westminster-Eldersburg, an independently owned and operated franchise of the commercial cleaning company, opened its doors in Carroll in early April. It aims to put other local business owners, employees and residents at ease by offering commercial cleaning and janitorial services.
The company offers a range of commercial cleaning services for businesses across Carroll County that range from weekly cleaning sessions to one-time deep cleanings. That includes deep cleaning reserved for spaces where there has been known exposure to COVID-19.
Kim Burckhardt, the owner of Office Pride Westminster-Eldersburg, said she and her husband had decided to open before the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Carroll and didn’t anticipate the importance their business might serve in the following months.
“It just seemed like the right time since cleaning is at the top of everybody’s mind. We can help put our local business owners and the residents at ease,” said Burckhardt, who lives in Woodbine just over the Howard County line. “That’s what we want to do. We want to make a positive impact on the local community.”
According to Office Pride’s website, the business offers three levels of cleaning services that clients can choose from. Level 1 consists of basic janitorial services that include general office cleaning; level 2 includes level 1 services and focuses on deeper cleaning methods, including those that center on high-touch surfaces; and level 3 is a “COVID-clean” that includes sanitization and disinfection like with level 2 but is designed to address spaces where there has been COVID-19 exposure.
According to Burckhardt, the majority of clients want a level 2 clean since businesses are reopening and are looking to sanitize their spaces and stay open while protecting employees and customers. Businesses have tended to get a level 3 clean if someone who tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, had been in the building.
Burkhardt said Office Pride didn’t initially pick up many clients when they first opened in early April in the beginning phases of the pandemic, but now that different kinds of businesses have been allowed to open back up in Maryland, they are receiving more and more calls.
“Over the last few weeks, it’s starting to pick up, because we really kind of opened our doors, right in the thick of it,” she said. “When the governor told everybody to stay home, everything was closed, but now that things are reopening we’re having a lot more activity.”
As cleanliness in shared spaces has become especially important during the pandemic, Office Pride has been working to implement new and improved methods of cleaning.
Burckhardt said she’s excited about Office Pride’s new electrostatic sprayers, a device that uses a specialized solution containing positively charged particles that cling to hard surfaces and objects, helping to keep surfaces disinfected more thoroughly.
“This is the way I like to think of it: If you know how you have a balloon and your hair gets attracted to it like radical electricity,” she said. “So think of the chemical as hair, and the piece of furniture or whatever it is, as the balloon. So that hair, or that chemical, is going to be attracted to that piece of furniture.”
Burckhardt added that the electrostatic sprayers increase efficiency and are able to penetrate hard-to-reach surfaces that normally would not be cleaned.
“It’s able to get into the nooks and crannies that humans just really can’t reach. So we could go ahead and wipe a table away, but there are going to be places that we miss because they’re tiny. So, the chemical can get into all these small places,” she said.
Some other concepts for cleaning that have arisen during the pandemic and have become popular include taking into consideration a chemical’s dwell time, or the amount of time a chemical must stay on a surface to kill a virus, according to Burckhardt.
She said that the business is following all guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on best practices for cleaning facilities and high-contact surfaces, such as wearing disposable gloves and washing hands often.
Burckhardt also stressed the importance of providing the right type of protective equipment for employees who are going into these facilities to perform cleaning services. She said all Office Pride staff are required to wear gloves and masks, and are completely covered from head to toe in body suits.
In terms of social distancing, cleanings are usually done during the evening, after everyone in a facility or space has left. Sometimes a single staff member may be present and Office Pride cleaning staff may begin cleaning a room at the opposite end of the building.
“We’ll send staff to the opposite side of the building, and they work their way back and then staff is gone by the time we get there,” Burckhardt said. “It’s usually one person per office, and if it’s more than one, then they work in separate areas.”
According to Burckhardt, Office Pride employees are also receiving frequent training about new cleaning procedures and how to stay safe both physically and mentally.
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“We’re making sure that their mental well-being is okay, too, because our employees are like our family, and we want them to be healthy and feel okay going to work,” she said.
Currently, Office Pride offers services to medical and dental facilities, warehouses, office spaces, commercial properties, and churches, according to their website. Burckhardt hopes that her company will be brought on to help clean public schools in Carroll, but they’re working on an approval process.
Although Office Pride focuses on commercial cleaning, Burckhardt spoke out about what families and individuals can do to combat the virus in their own homes during the pandemic.
“Think of surfaces as if they have grease on them. If you’re walking up the stairs, for example, and you’re touching the railing, pretend like that has grease on it. You’re not going to go and touch your face with the same hand that you touched the railing right? You’re going to wash your hands and then you’ll touch your face,” she said.
Despite the challenges, Burkhardt said that she’s looking forward to gaining new clients who are enthusiastic about staying clean.
“If we want to get back to any type of normalcy, we have to start thinking about clean and preventative measures. What I think is great about us is that we have a lot of years in our back pocket and a lot of research,” she said. “We want our community to thrive and everybody to get back to normal. That’s our goal.”