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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Shopping Mall Cleaning Crews Up Their Game

Shopping centers in the San Fernando Valley are turning to the technology of electrostatic spraying to keep properties free of the coronavirus. Arturo Sneider, chief executive of mall developer Primestor Development, is employing the technique at his Valley properties including the Sylmar Towne Center, Olivo in Mission Hills and the Panorama Mall. “If tenants tell us they’re open and essential, we support them. In that regard, we’ve gone way beyond the normal process of cleaning our shopping centers,” Sneider told the Business Journal. “(Electrostatic spraying) adheres to surfaces way faster and much more intensely (than standard disinfectants). … Think about kids touching surfaces in different ways than adults do. Spraying allows us to get the entire surface area.” What makes electrostatic spraying so efficient is an electric charge. Specialized spray guns apply a positive charge to the liquid being sprayed – in this case, a hospital-grade disinfectant. When atomized, the positively charged ions gravitate to grounded, negatively charged structures, ensuring a surface is totally coated even if the sprayer misses a spot. The technique is often used for industrial painting and coating of metals, but can be repurposed with most liquids. Sneider said he asked one of his property service vendors, Crown Facilities Solutions in Santa Ana, about the method after hearing it discussed in one of his business coalition meetings. Luckily, he said, they had the necessary equipment. Now, Crown’s cleaning crews circle Primestor’s shopping centers all day, every day, constantly spraying down all exposed surfaces. “They spray it on and wipe it down with the same product,” Sneider said. “We use a combination of two products – a disinfectant, and also a product called PurTabs, from a company called EarthSafe.” Crown’s spray teams don’t go inside tenant businesses, but Sneider said some of his tenants have hired electrostatic cleaning crews of their own to sanitize their interior premises. According to Eddy Perez, regional director of janitorial contractor Stratus Building Solutions of Los Angeles, based in North Hollywood, demand for electrostatic spraying has been “off the charts” during the coronavirus outbreak. “Clients we’ve been cleaning for several years … are now saying (they) prefer electrostatic technology,” Perez told the Business Journal. “In addition to that, we’re getting customers we’ve never worked with calling us, saying ‘Can you come disinfect our place one time or once a week?’” Perez said only a few companies make the handheld hardware required for electrostatic spraying. Among them are Victory Innovations and EvaClean, a subsidiary of EarthSafe, which makes a cordless sprayer called Protexus. “For lack of a better term, it looks like a Star Wars gun,” Perez said of the machine. “It’s got a tank attached to it that you fill up with mostly water and some disinfectant. … The spray wraps around any item and kills all viruses, including the coronavirus, within 30 seconds.” He added the spray isn’t harmful to people, animals or electronics. Stratus has used the technique to disinfect outdoor strip malls, gyms, hotels, aerospace manufacturers, medical centers and even dental and veterinarian offices. Because electrostatic spraying requires specialized tools, it’s a bit pricier than normal spray-and-wipe disinfecting services. Perez said Stratus charges anywhere from 8 cents to 20 cents a square foot, depending on the size and type of the facility. If there’s an active COVID-19 case on the grounds, Stratus adds a flat fee of $300. “We have to take extra precautions, fully suit up and treat it like a hazmat situation,” Perez explained. He added this was the situation for several of Stratus’ new clients in the last month. Snyder, the mall owner, said he worked out a deal with his janitorial provider to add electrostatic spraying without changing the terms of their existing agreement. “With some adjustments like less (frequent) trash pickup, we’ve been able to balance the budget,” he said. “The question becomes – as we normalize, do we want to include this sort of process in our upkeep? We don’t know enough yet to make that determination.” Perez said he thinks the coronavirus will make clients see the value in a large, commercial cleaning provider such as Stratus. “Traditionally, in the janitorial or housekeeping business, people are always looking for the best price,” he added. “A lot of our competition is what you’d call the mom-and-pops. Now, people are more cognizant.”

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