The result is spick and span. Cleaner Rachida Bouchta mops the stairwells of an eight-storey building in the Helsinki neighbourhood of Kalasatama. It’s a rainy day, which means mud and sand accumulate, especially near the front doors. The vacuum cleaner also comes in handy: gravel is dragged all the way to the lift’s door grooves.
Leonkatu 21 is only one of five buildings Bouchta cleans. Her working day starts at 7 a.m. when she picks up the keys and washed mops from Palmia’s office. Key management is centralised, which has to do with safety: maintenance keys are stored behind locked doors.
“I take the bus to Kalasatama and start working. Every week, stairwells are cleaned three times, sauna facilities and laundry rooms twice and basements once. There are nine stairwells in total.”
The work keeps Bouchta busy, but she’s a professional: she has 13 years of experience cleaning stairwells. She also enjoys her work, which makes the time fly by.
Members of one big Lumo family
Service company Palmia, owned by the City of Helsinki, has kept Lumo buildings clean since the autumn 2020.
“Cleaners represent our buildings. Our residents know them by their uniforms, which have a Lumo logo. Residents also know they can tell our cleaners anything, such as if a light bulb has blown, and rely on the cleaner to pass on the information,” says Marjo Kiviranta, Cleaning Services Manager at Lumo Home Centre.
According to her three months of experience, Kiviranta says that the cleaning quality has been consistent and buildings have been very clean. It’s part of the Cleaning Services Manager’s job description to tour the buildings and monitor the cleaning quality. There’s plenty of ground to cover: it includes 380 buildings in the Helsinki metropolitan area.
“It’s great to be a partner of Lumo homes,” says Service Manager Mirka Pajunen. Working for Palmia, her responsibilities include the quality of the service, supply orders and maintenance washes. Pajunen also does moving-out cleaning that residents can order through the My Lumo service.
Days with more than 10,000 steps
Pajunen says that different seasons are like night and day. In the spring, basic work includes vacuuming birch seeds and wiping off pollen. The autumn is the muddiest season. In the winter, gravel that is spread on icy roads also travels indoors. Summer is the easiest of all the seasons.
Almost all Lumo buildings have lifts, which also affects cleanliness: stairwells stay fairly clean. Mondays are often the most labour-intensive days after the weekend when no cleaning takes place. People also often move in and out during the weekend.
“My working day is good exercise: cleaners easily take more than 10,000 steps a day.”
A basic tool in the cleaning of Lumo buildings is a light-weight microfibre mop that requires only a small dose of detergent. This makes cleaning more environmentally friendly, and all detergents have environmental classifications. Microfibre cloths are needed to remove dirt from different surfaces.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made a separate agreement on disinfecting all relevant surfaces three times a week. Saunas are disinfected, too, but shared sauna turns for residents have not been used much. People are afraid of going into the sauna with other residents during the pandemic,” says Pajunen.
The i-mop floor scrubber makes cleaning hallways easy. It’s also used for a basic wash once a year and conditioning treatments that protect against wear and tear three times a year. The basic wash also includes washing windows. The building’s own cleaner washes the windows they can without climbing.
In some buildings, things like bikes and prams end up in the hallways, which makes cleaning difficult. The Lumo building on Leonkatu hasn’t had this issue.
The cleaner doesn’t receive much feedback. Complaints are often directed to the property manager. According to Kiviranta, people working remotely during COVID-19 pay more attention to their surroundings and give feedback.
“We receive less feedback if everything is as it should be. Fortunately, we also receive praise, and it’s always nice to pass that on.”
Kiviranta says that the most important feature of a great cleaner is reliability. Also courage and the ability to adapt are needed: you can’t sweat the small stuff and can also take on jobs with a tight schedule.
“A great cleaner is proud of what they do and appreciates the outcome.”
Saying hello feels nice
Bouchta and Pajunen enjoy their work because it’s independent. Seeing the results of your work immediately is also rewarding: everything is clean, neat and tidy.
“Residents saying hello feels nice, too. Once, in a certain building, a resident always invited me in for a cup of coffee and a bun. Another time, a Christmas party with gifts and everything was organised in my honour,” says Bouchta.
The two ladies are also grateful to Palmia for offering opportunities for additional training. You have to stay up-to-date in the industry because cleaning equipment and detergents, for instance, are always developing. Lumo requires that its cleaners have training.
Bouchta has completed the two-year training alongside her work, and Pajunen is currently completing a specialist vocational qualification in the service industry in addition to her degree as a cleaner.
Both feel that cleaning is considered to be so self-evident that only deficiencies are noted. That is why increasing respect for the industry wouldn’t hurt.
“It’s a good industry also in that sense that there’s always work, even during a recession. We haven’t needed any sick leave even during COVID-19. We have such amazing people working for us,” says Pajunen.
Thank you for cleaning!
The Thank Your Cleaner Day is a national theme day celebrated annually on the first Monday of December. This year the day is 7 December. The purpose of the theme “Thank Your Cleaner” is to increase awareness of the significance of cleaners’ work.
On the Thank Your Cleaner Day, the winner of the Cleaning industry’s action of the year 2020 will be released and rewarded. Cleaners can give out Let’s celebrate cleanliness cards with their own signatures to their customers.