When it comes to cleaning, the awareness of specialised cleaning techniques like carpet cleaning, disaster recovery, odour management are far from the mind of the general customer. Through rigorous training and passion over the past 7 years, Omar Al Hadrami, President, Smart Solutions Cleaning Services, has changed the understanding of specialised cleaning. He gives us an idea of what goes beyond general cleaning in the commercial industry.
Cleaning as an occupation has progressed over the years. From just a mop and bucket, it has advanced into the world of technology over the years. And, as luxury and comforts increase, so does the need for cleaning the services that provide these. Specialised cleaning has come about as a new form of cleaning, where companies like us venture out of the general floor and highlevel cleaning department and focus on nicher areas like ducts, marble restoration, carpet cleaning, tank cleaning, etc.
When it comes to general cleaning, most companies use just one solution. But, the idea is in using several cleaning solutions without foam for different applications. That is the actual definition of technology. Most of our chemicals are solvent based and dry and can be used in areas with high humidity. Others are water based. In the case of disaster recovery, we work with insurance companies to save their money, while allowing the client’s premise to be restored to its original condition.
Seven years ago was when I realised the importance of the need for duct cleaning. Air-conditioning ducts are possibly one of the most hazardous sources of disease and allergies. With the formation of dust over the years and the increase in microorganisms as a result, these ducts are direct sources of allergies as they are thrown out of the vent along with the cool air. In a place like the Middle East where the reliance on airconditioning is extremely heavy, it is important for facility companies and residents alike to be cognisant of this. Especially given that at any given time at least 70 per cent of the population sits indoors.
The process of cleaning airways of such operations is quite tough due to difficult access. The idea is to go beyond the vents and the filter inside the duct. Using a robot camera, which enables visibility inside the duct, we use steam cleaners at the temperature of about 50 to 70 degrees to kill and prevent microbial action without damaging the fabric. We also ensure that in the process we examine the indoor air temperature, humidity, amount of dust and toxic gases in the vicinity.
Our strategy is very different when it comes to disaster recovery. Cleaning up after a fire and restoring the space is hard work. Not only do we have to deal with ash and soot. But we also have to work on the smoke and odour control. For this, it is important to know about the type of smoke, its particles, size and behaviour all depending on the nature of the burnt and affected materials. The right chemicals and equipment must be used to clean the smoke and soot. In the case of flood management, it is important to know about mould, the nature of damage and measure humidity and temperature using a biometric chart depending on the present climate and materials affected. Any water damage without restoration allows for the growth of mould after 72 hours. It is important to know what chemical to inject into walls to structures and how to use a dehumidifier, as well.
Some time ago, I was called in to consult on an automobile parts factory in Sharjah that had been the victim of fire damage. On visiting the site, I was met with a scene full of smoke and soot that had covered all the machines. Humidity was high and the materials made of PVC were susceptible to turning into the dangerous hydrochloric acid in reaction with water. We had to work fast.
The first step was to remove all the soot using a special machine – the 15,000 CFM Truck Mount Extractor. We then went on to work on dehumidifying the premises while also addressing the high levels of smoke. A tip to be kept in mind when it comes to cleaning smoke is that it is important to work from the direction opposite to which the smoke is moving.
Odour control is also closely related with fire recovery. We use neutralising agents versus masking agents because the latter usually mixes in with the odour, or even it masks the odour once the effect runs out, the odour remains. Neutralising agents, on the other hand, change the chemical composition of the odour making it disappear. As a last resort, one may use ozone, which is an extremely toxic substance and must be used in limited amounts, to neutralise the odour. Overall, we worked on the site for five full days and restored the expensive machines to their original condition, thereby saving more than 20,000,000 Dirhams for insurance and preventing the client from losing his contract with his agent in Germany.
Fabric and Marble Restoration
While disaster recovery is super-niche, we also are involved in post disaster restoration work including civil works, painting, rebuilding through a sister maintenance company. We also indulge in fabric cleaning – carpet and sofas. The important thing here is to be able to discern how the chemical used can react with the fabric. Special dry vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters ensure that all possible allergens, dusts and microbes are filtered.
In carpet cleaning, the challenge is to understand the fabric and how it can be cleaned for specific stains. It is important to have an entire kit for food stains. Moreover, the use of carpet cleaning machines in large lobbies up to 60,000 cu. ft. helps in covering a large surface area faster. In the case of marble restoration, cleaning must be done to remove stains and other marks on the highly porous surface of this extremely popular stone by using a Poultice solution, which penetrates deep into the stone and removes stains.
Transparency and customer service
Offering services for disaster recovery is a lucrative option, but in a year one may get just 6-8 jobs; there isn’t a disaster every day! But, given the nature of the problems, one of the most important aspects of disaster recovery is transparency – both on part of the client and the service provider. We do entertain urgent service requests. But, we ensure that we have forms that the clients have to fill up about their premises, and we offer them a 65-page contract quote, which explains the specifying the nature of the service we will provide and ongoing damage (secondary damage), the equipment, the chemicals, etc., that we use.
We have a team of 5-6 staff members who are specially trained in our entire portfolio. For bigger jobs, we subcontract staff that has either worked with us previously or is open to being trained by us.In the nature of our job, we rely more on the efficiency of technology than on the volume of the people. Cleaning the ducts of a high-rise building over two weeks doesn’t need the efforts of more than two people.
I have certifications in carpet cleaning, duct cleaning, disaster recovery (including fire and smoke restoration, microbial remediation, water damage restoration, applied structure drying and odour control. I intend to complete a few more specialised courses – of which health and safety is one – and impart this education through a training centre and programme. While the UAE is known for its high standards, when it comes to specialised cleaning and disaster recovery it is still behind. My aim is to change that by training as many people in this craft as possible.
About the Author: Omar Al Hadrami is the President of Smart Solutions Cleaning Services. He is an Emirati citizen and the first certified Arab in his field. Al Hadrami evangelises disaster recovery cleaning and is passionate about imparting his knowledge in the trade of specialized cleaning techniques.