Ultrasonic Cleaning: Is It Right For You? by Lisa Morantz
If you are considering ways to improve your current contents restoration business or the possibility of entering into the realm of contents cleaning for the first time, there are many questions to be explored. One option to think about: ultrasonic cleaning technology.
Ask around, there’s a lot of good news about ultrasonics. You’ll find it’s a thoroughly tried and tested technology around for about 40 years. Industry experts discuss its meticulous and efficient cleaning capabilities. Business owners tout ultrasonic cleaners as highly valued tools for increasing profitability. Insurance companies recognize the cost savings of ultrasonics, and some even insist restoration companies use ultrasonics in order to receive new contents jobs.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions and some guidance on how to consider and answer: Is ultrasonic cleaning right for you?
1) Is my company big enough?
This question usually refers to the number of content jobs a company is currently handling. In other words, are there enough jobs each month to justify the investment? Consider this another way: Are you satisfied with the number of jobs you are bringing in or would you like more work? And, are you profitable enough with the work you are doing?
If you’re looking to expand your contents business, this should be planned growth. Set goals, and determine what you need to achieve those goals, including equipment. The reality is insurance companies give contents jobs to companies they know can handle them. If you can show adjusters you can perform these jobs with efficiency, handle multiple jobs at once, take on contents that were previously considered a loss, reduce secondary damages and residual issues, and also save them money… you will get more work!
This is one of those, “if you build it they will come” scenarios. Successful businesses make targeted investments in the proper ultrasonic cleaning systems, and then market it well. It’s a proven formula for success in contents restoration.
If you’re only looking for improved speed and quality, there is ultrasonic equipment for this too. No one will argue hand cleaning contents is difficult. For items with crevices and other hard-to-reach areas, it is even more problematic. As a result, there are frequently odor and corrosion issues where items need to be re-cleaned. Hand wiping is also tedious and time consuming work. Because it is so labor intensive, with labor being the biggest cost for any company, it is expensive work. This means many companies are currently doing a lot of work for little profit. It’s frustrating.
Fortunately, there are ultrasonic tools for these companies, too. These machines are typically smaller, but just as powerful as well as portable and can serve as a launching point for growth once owners begin to realize more profit.
2) Do I have enough employees?
In many cases, individual ultrasonic machines can be operated by a single employee, but that doesn’t mean you’re working efficiently. Employees are also needed to unpack boxes of contents, inventory them, prep, wash, dry, and repack. With a single employee, you can get the job done, but that employee becomes a bottleneck. However, you don’t necessarily need a single employee for each step. Many profitable ultrasonic cleaning businesses can work effectively with two to four employees. This keeps overhead low, but doesn’t depend on one person to do everything.
3) Do I have enough space?
Ultrasonic cleaning and contents restoration does not require a tremendous amount of space. While some companies with expansion plans may want to relocate to a larger facility, most only need to use their current space more efficiently. Sometimes all it takes is a little reorganization, better lighting, a fresh coat of paint and some creativity.
There are more ultrasonic equipment options available today than ever. One size does not fit all. Guidance should be provided by your contents equipment manufacturer or supplier to help you choose the right equipment for your space, electrical capacity, drainage, etc. Many will even help you design your space and provide you with floor planning.
If you are a company with a goal to diversify services and grow ultrasonic cleaning as a major division or department, keep in mind more equipment may be necessary as well as space.
If you are a newer or smaller company, it may be necessary to minimize the space you use. A smaller ultrasonic machine may be the answer to help in being nimble, flexible, helping with cash flow and allowing you to maximize your profits. Your strategy should include some planning for future growth and deciding if you want to reinvest your new-found profits towards additional space or future equipment.
In most cases, you should plan on a minimum of 500 square feet. This space will not only be for equipment, but for storage of both dirty and cleaned items, racks for drying, tables for packing/unpacking, etc. With a little extra attention to detail, you can easily turn your cleaning area into a “show room” to bring adjusters and other customers through for demonstrations and classes. This is terrific marketing that will grab their attention and brings the “wow” factor.
Don’t let the perception that you can’t start offering the ultrasonic cleaning service until your space is perfectly planned out stop you from moving forward. Start simple and see what works best.
4) Should I just sub out contents work?
Some companies are currently sub-contracting their contents work because they don’t want to deal with these questions or invest in equipment. Companies taking on this contents work are profiting tremendously! The question is: would you like to re-capture this profit? Take a look at how many dollars are going out the door and think about what that would mean for your company. Better yet, maybe you would like to become THE contents company to which everyone else subs their work.
5) What about training and support?
Ultrasonic equipment utilizes sophisticated technology. Accordingly, it is critical the machinery you work with is designed for ease of use and is supported by the manufacturer or supplier. While training is available from most manufacturers and some industry experts, “hands-on” training is critical and truly the best way to learn.
Additionally, many restoration companies prefer to have an instructor come to them so employees receive individualized training and attention on their own equipment. When these employees become comfortable using the equipment, they’ll look forward to using it and use it more effectively.
Finally, no single training program or class can account for all the different items and scenarios that occur in contents cleaning. Be sure your manufacturer/supplier offers on-going, expedient, and ideally, free-of-cost answers to all of your questions.
6) Can I afford it?
We’ve already discussed the labor savings, the efficiencies, the marketing capabilities, etc., but there is one more factor to consider: additional markets.
One of the great things about ultrasonics is its ability to clean so many different types of items. When not busy with fire restoration and you have some down time, why not diversify? Clean sports equipment, electronics, industrial parts, window blinds, medical equipment and more. If you haven’t explored and marketed these other options, you are leaving the proverbial money on the table.
An investment in ultrasonic equipment can run anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 (your manufacturer/supplier should work with you to determine your budget and needs). Most companies are reporting return on investment within the first quarter of ownership.
With profit margins averaging over 50 percent, ultrasonics is a serious tool for business and worthy of serious consideration.
Want to learn more about how Morantz Ultrasonics works for Soft Contents Cleaning? Click here (even if it shows as crossed out you can click through) to read another great R&R magazine article.
A growing consideration when evaluating the quality of indoor environments is the role that building finishes, furnishings, and cleaning practices have on the transmission of infectious agents. This is especially true in medical facilities where health care acquired infections (HCAI) are having a growing impact on patient survival rates and health care costs. Anywhere from 48,000 to 100,000 fatalities annually can be tracked back to the development of infections in patients that did not have an infection upon admission.(1) Beyond the loss of life, these infections are expensive. Various researchers estimate that the extra days spent in the hospital lead to $8.1 billion in added costs.(2)
The move to address such problems has intensified since Medicare and Medicaid implemented a policy of refusing to reimburse health care facilities for certain preventable infections. Private insurance is now following their lead. This push toward recognizing infectious contaminants as part of the indoor environment has also grown as the European concept of “baubiology” has caught hold in North America.(3)
The move to new types of cleaning chemicals, including botanicals and “natural” cleaners from plant oils is one response to this deadly and expensive problem. But this change toward stronger and stronger chemicals for cleaning purposes generally only provides short-term relief as the side effects of harsh chemicals and the natural ability of bacteria and other infectious agents to develop a resistance to antimicrobial agents limits their effectiveness, especially in health care facilities.
Ultrasonic Cleaning to Control Infections?
Fortunately, there is an option that has been proven to dramatically enhance normal cleaning procedures in health care facilities: Ultrasonics. Ultrasonic cleaning kills bacteria and other pathogens through physical means rather than by a chemical reaction, eliminating the need for harsh compounds and the possibility of instigating resistant organisms.
After more than two years of testing in both the United States and Great Britain, the results showed conclusively that Morantz ultrasonic cleaning equipment was capable of removing bacterial contamination from items typically used in both institutional and residential settings. Over the course of three carefully controlled studies it was discovered that the Morantz ultrasonic machines were effective in:
Removing both gross contamination and microscopic bacterial pathogens that are found on items after they have been involved in a black water loss (sewage).
Destroying bacterial that pose the greatest concern to health professionals, with a strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) chosen to serve as a surrogate for such serious strains of microbial contamination.
Supplementing normal cleaning procedures in hospitals to significantly improve infection control without being burdensome or overly expensive.
The fact that the testing progressed from cleaning in controlled environments to utilization of the Morantz Ultrasonics equipment in two different hospitals in England verified that the results represent a real-world application rather than just theoretical data. It should also be noted that the field testing in the hospitals was sponsored by the National Health Service in the United Kingdom as a demonstration project that was part of the Technology Innovation Program, which focuses specifically on reducing health care facility acquired infections.
A History of Effective Cleaning
Ultrasonic cleaners use sound waves produced at frequencies higher than our ears can perceive. The process involves the use of a generator, called a transducer, in a water tank, which creates high-frequency sound waves. As the sound waves move through the liquid they create compression waves that “tear” the liquid apart, leaving behind many millions of microscopic voids or partial vacuum bubbles. (The technical name for this effect is cavitation.) These small bubbles expand and eventually implode when they strike an object, and this energy dislodges contaminants even from intricately shaped surfaces.
Ultrasonic cleaning came into vogue for various types of industrial cleaning processes in the early 1950s. Small, table-top units quickly became common in jewelry and watch repair facilities, as well as in dental laboratories for cleaning surgical equipment. Many hospitals utilize ultrasonic cleaners for de-contaminating surgical instruments. The attraction of the ultrasonic cleaning process is that it minimizes the need for chemicals while allowing cleaning to occur in the smallest and hardest to reach places.
Large portable ultrasonic cleaning equipment was utilized in the 1970s for the cleaning of Venetian blinds, developed by Stan Morantz, one of the founders of Morantz Ultrasonics. From there, Morantz introduced the process to the developing restoration industry where it was found to be very effective at gently removing soot and fire residue from even the most fragile of items. Ultrasonic cleaning and Morantz took another leap forward at the end of the 20th century when it was shown to be effective at cleaning intricate electronic components, such as computer keyboards, without damage.
The usefulness of ultrasonic cleaning in regards to biological pathogens like bacteria and virus has been known for some time. However, until recently most of these efforts have been limited to small equipment such as clamps and dental molds. The testing done on the Morantz units for efficacy on large items such as wheelchairs, commodes, I.V. stands, bedside tables and other common hospital items is truly groundbreaking in the ultrasonic industry.
Not All Ultrasonic Equipment Is the Same
While all ultrasonic cleaners work on the same principle of cavitation, there are critical differences in the design and function of the various machines. Manufacturers generate sonic waves inside the tank of an ultrasonic cleaner in a variety of ways and in varying powers and frequencies. The testing showing the effectiveness of ultrasonic cleaning for controlling the spread of bacteria was done with equipment with specifications that included immersible transducer packs and a 40kHz frequency. Other manufactured machines have not been tested or proven to produce the same results.
Highlights of the Three Tests
In all three tests a common sense approach was followed. The ability of the Morantz ultrasonic equipment to kill microbial contaminants was measured by collecting samples from items prior to and after being cleaned. Immediate feedback was provided in all three studies by collecting samples on swabs that were analyzed by field equipment using adenosine triphosphate (ATP) technology. ATP instruments have a long history of use in food service and health care settings to determine the cleanliness of surfaces related to biological contaminants. Such instruments provide numerical results known as relative light units (RLU). In two of the studies, side-by-side surface samples were also analyzed by an independent laboratory to determine concentrations of specific types of bacteria.
The first independent test was conducted in order to determine if the cavitation process was as effective at removing bacteria as it was at dislodging dirt, grease, and other non-hazardous materials. A variety of residential and commercial items were tested, including toys, a wheelchair, and electronic components. The sampling data generated during the initial study revealed that:
The Morantz ultrasonic cleaning system was extremely effective in removing bacteria from items with heavy contamination. Bacterial reduction of nearly 100% (99.86% and 99.98%, respectively) was achieved for items that started with more than 1 million and 259,900 colonies of bacteria, respectively.
There was no evidence of cross-contamination even after the water in the ultrasonic tank had been used to clean items with extreme bacterial counts. In fact, one of the items cleaned immediately following contamination of the tank water by items with highly elevated bacterial concentrations had test results below the laboratory’s detection limit.
A follow-up study was authorized in an attempt to determine whether difficult-to-clean items from a hazardous environment could also be effectively decontaminated using a Morantz ultrasonic cleaner.
Since the testing of the Morantz ultrasonic equipment involved cleaning items that would be inoculated with dangerous bacteria (raw sewage and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)), appropriate precautions had to be taken. A small (~10′×10′×8′) enclosure was constructed with stud walls and double layers of six-mil plastic. A one-stage decontamination unit was attached to this enclosure to minimize the possibility of hazardous contaminants escaping from the test area. A HEPA-filtered negative air machine was utilized to keep the test area under negative pressure throughout the process.
On each item that was to be tested and cleaned, five squares were marked and numbered with indelible marker. All five areas on each item were contaminated in a uniform manner with either MRSA bacteria or raw sewage. Field samples were collected from each of the five test squares: three for analysis using a portable ATP tester (square 1, pre-cleaning; square 3, post-cleaning; square 5, post-cleaning and drying) and two for comparative laboratory analysis (square 2, pre-cleaning; square 4, post-cleaning and drying).
All items to be cleaned in the ultrasonic tank were intentionally contaminated prior to cleaning in order to ensure that the contents represented a worst-case scenario. Contamination of test items was conducted with commercially cultured methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria or sewage obtained (post-screening) from the local wastewater treatment plant. As a further challenge, both porous and non-porous items were intentionally contaminated and then cleaned in the ultrasonic tank. Standard cleaning times (two to four minutes, depending on the object’s size, type, and material) were used so that results useful in real-world applications could be obtained.
The sampling data generated during the second study showed that:
Pernicious bacteria types, such as those resistant to antibiotics, can be effectively cleaned from surfaces using Morantz ultrasonic equipment, since MRSA bacteria were completely eliminated from contaminated surfaces by the ultrasonic cleaning.
The laboratory results for Enterococcus and Escherichia coli bacteria contamination showed a 100% reduction for every non-porous item tested. The system also showed impressive results cleaning a microfiber cloth, with 100% reduction of E. coli bacteria and 97.7% reduction of colony forming units of Enterococcus.
Laboratory testing revealed that live bacteria counts in the water when the ultrasonic machine was operating stayed close to zero even after intentional contamination with gallons of raw sewage.
MRSA bacteria was applied to the plastic tray of a walker using a swab.
Initial test results showed that the tray of the walker had been successfully contaminated as indicated by a reading of 925 relative light units (RLU).
As a comparison, the manufacturer of the ATP tester indicates that a clean surface would have less than 10 RLU’s.
Following a two-minute cleaning in the Morantz ultrasonic unit a sample was collected from square 3 and subjected to the same field analysis as the initial sample. Relative light units had been reduced from 925 to 10, indicating that the cleaning process was successful.
The two earlier studies garnered interest from the National Health Service in England as they aggressively attack the problem of HCAI. In this case a three-month trial was extended to six months because of the impressive results that were obtained. However, it is important to note that in the hospital study the “ultrasonics technology cleaning system was not intended to, and did not, replace standard cleaning. All equipment continued to be cleaned in the usual way”.(4) In other words, the infection control experts understand that ultrasonic cleaning is a supplement to existing infection control efforts, not a process that supplants it.
The British study was prompted by their understanding of the ultrasonic cleaning process:
Ultrasonic technology is good at accessing inaccessible areas that normal cleaning cannot reach, for example screw threads and hinges. It is good at cleaning hard substrates. It has been found by researchers to be even more effective than thorough hand scrubbing, often observed in busy work areas. It involves less exposure to cleaning agents and, therefore, contributes to a reduction in skin damage.(5)
1,025 measurements were collected from items before and after cleaning during the course of the study at the two hospitals. A careful analysis of the data showed “an average of a 98% change in the RLU reading when the average Pre-Clean reading is compared with the average Post-Clean 2 reading”.(6)
The results were so consistent and impressive that the researchers were able to draw a stronger correlation than expected. The stated goal was to measure the cleanliness of particular items with the expectation that better cleaning would, indeed, have a positive effect on the number of health care acquired infections. At the conclusion of the trial period the study authors noted, “The evaluation was not designed to assess the effectiveness of ultrasonics in reducing infection, but was it more effective than normal routine cleaning”.
As part of the study in England, hospital personnel were asked to evaluate the ultrasonic cleaning process. When those individuals who had knowledge of the trial were asked, “Would you recommend the system to other colleagues?” 100% of the responses were positive.(7)
At the conclusion of the study hospital personnel had some specific recommendations and conclusions.(8) They noted that the ultrasonic cleaning was especially useful for:
Overall, the study authors were enthusiastic about the Morantz ultrasonic cleaning equipment as a new weapon in the war on HCAI as they stated:
The…ultrasonic system can be used without disruption to staff or patients so long as there is a plan in place to ensure equipment that may be required frequently through the day is cleaned at an appropriate time to allow it to be returned before being required again. The clean appearance of the medical equipment returned had a lot of support from staff and the RLU values post pre clean proves equipment was less contaminated.(9)
An Ultrasonic Answer to Controlling Infections
Both controlled testing and field demonstrations have confirmed that Morantz ultrasonic cleaning equipment is an important tool that should be utilized to improve cleaning performance in health care settings and other critical use facilities. This improved cleaning is one of the keys to reducing health care acquired infections and limiting the personal suffering and financial loss that comes from these preventable diseases.
Monina Klevens, DDS, MPH et. al., “Estimating Health Care-Associated Infections and Deaths in U.S. Hospitals 2002,” Public Health Reports, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March–April 2007, Volume 122.
Douglas Scott II, “The Direct Medical Costs of Healthcare-Associated Infections in U.S. Hospitals and the Benefits of Prevention,” Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion National Center for Preparedness, Detection, and Control of Infectious Diseases; Coordinating Center for Infectious Diseases; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 2009.
Baubiology is the study of how buildings impact the people who occupy them. It is not limited only to the practice of reducing toxicity of building materials, but represents a total approach to a healthy living environment. The approach of baubiology examines lessons from the past, but is future focused. It emphasizes that a particular combination of building materials, furnishings, and cleaning can create positive or negative synergies.
“Showcase Hospitals Local Technology Review Report number 5: Bio-Cav40 Ultrasonic Cleaning,” Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, p. 10.
Ibid., p. 8.
Ibid., p. 12.
Ibid., p. 16.
Ibid., p. 7.
Ibid., p. 18.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael A. Pinto, CSP, CMP, is chief executive officer of Wonder Makers Environmental, Inc. He focuses on common sense practices that work when health professionals are faced with threats from swine or avian flu, MRSA outbreaks, norovirus exposures, and nosocomial infection problems in healthcare facilities.
Mr. Pinto is the author of over 150 published articles and several books including, Fungal Contamination: A Comprehensive Guide for Remediation. He completed doctoral course work in environmental engineering and holds numerous certifications in the environmental and safety areas including Certified Safety Professional and Certified Mold Professional. He conducted most of the testing described in this article but has no ownership connection to Morantz or other manufacturers of mentioned products.
Thanks to all at Servpro of Oregon, Northern California and Western Nevada for the warm reception we received from your group. It was great attending your Annual Meeting and Banquet. A special thanks to Kay Harley of Servpro of Salem West, OR for purchasing our Z-56 tank and to Tim and Nikole Clark of Servpro of Douglas County, OR for ordering a new Morantz Ultrasonics SM-200 Super System for their new facility.
Originally Posted by Patrick Kiger (via @AARP), Posted: 11/19/2012
If you’re a golfer, you know how important it is to keep your clubs clean since dirt, grass, and other debris that accumulates on a clubhead can dramatically affect how it interacts with a golf ball at the moment of impact. And you also know what a pain it is to have to scrub golf clubs by hand with a toothbrush. That’s why you should be thankful for the ingenuity of Stan Morantz.
Back in 1991, Morantz patented a process for cleaning golf clubs with a machine that uses ultrasound — that is, sound at a frequency higher than the human ear can perceive. Morantz’s device made it possible to clean a club simply by inserting the grip and the head into tanks filled with cleaning fluid and connected to an acoustic wave generator.
While Morantz’s machine wasn’t the very first ultrasound golf club cleaner, it improved on an earlier design by filling the tanks and cleaning the clubs automatically. That made it possible for golf clubhouses to install token-operated self-serve machines that golfers could use at their convenience. Morantz, who died on Nov. 10 at age 69 in the Philadelphia area, actually got into golf-club cleaning as a sideline. He grew up working in his father’s drapery business in Philadelphia, and with his father invented a machine, the Morantz pleater gauge, that revolutionized the process of pleating draperies.
Morantz went on to patent 52 other devices for the drapery trade, many of which are still used by companies around the world. But when Morantz noticed that sales of draperies were declining, he got the idea of expanding into selling window blinds. And when his customers came back to him for advice on how to clean their new acquisitions, Morantz created the Baby Blind cleaning machine, the first device to use ultrasound and water to remove dirt and other contaminants.
From there, Morantz branched out. Today, the family business, Morantz Ultrasonics, sells machines that clean wheelchairs, computers, and auto parts, in addition to blinds and golf clubs.
Thanks to all for making our 75th year of business a great success. Our last and BEST anniversary special still going on until December 31. Check out our new logo commemorating our long years of business history.
Happy New Year! I said this to a new client by the name of Jim who I spoke to on the phone this week. His reply was, “This is going to be the best year ever!!”
WOW! His response really resonated with me. Here is a guy that recently lost his job with a company he worked with for over 10 years. At a time when he has every right to feel confused, angry and even resentful, amidst the daily news reports of doom and gloom, he remains utterly and fantastically optimistic.
When I asked him how he could be so positive, he told me, “I have been waiting all my life to take control and not work for someone else. I was just too scared to do it before. Getting laid off was the best thing that could have happened to me because now I will set my own hours, be my own boss, and take control of my own destiny.”
…And he will. I have personally seen this scenario play out over and over again; people who have diligently worked for another boss for years finally having the opportunity to step out on their own and take charge. For many, it is a truly liberating and thrilling experience. They finally have the chance to live out their dreams and define what success means personally for themselves and their families. Although there is hard work involved with starting your own company, once things take off, our clients are then financially rewarded in ways that could never dream of as someone else’s employee.
Good luck Jim…I do believe you are right. This may just be the best year of your professional life.
Today we welcome new clients to our family of Ultrasonic Cleaners. The team from Clean Blinds Now, David Morson, along with his fiancée, Cindy, his father Lamar and Lamar’s wife Hannah all completed 2 days of Basic Training at our Philadelphia headquarters and are headed back home to take delivery of their new 3-in-1 system.
Training is among my very favorite activities at Morantz Ultrasonics. While I do the majority of the teaching during training, I also make sure I spend time at the beginning of each session doing plenty of listening. This is my way of knowing what I really need to teach my clients to position them best for success. Believe me, it’s not the same for everyone. I’ve never approached our training as a set, static class. I individualize each training session for the needs of that client. This is the reason we conduct our basic training classes one on one and not in a group, classroom style.
For example, Dave and his family are a new, start-up business. They are planning to diversify into many different areas of ultrasonic cleaning including window blind cleaning, fire restoration and parts cleaning. To teach them everything they needed to know, I set aside two days. Beyond the basic know-how of the machine and cleaning techniques, we spent time talking about the family’s goals and expectations for the business. This helps me to make recommendations on things as diversified as marketing, pricing, and even the legal structure of the company (I am a lawyer, so I always ask about the nitty, gritty details to make sure everything is being thought through). However, if for example, I was training an existing fire restoration company, I would not approach the training the same way. Their needs are very different, as is each client’s needs.
I truly believe that training and support is the key to success in this business, and while each client has different needs, we are available for all of them. I told David before he left that he should feel free to call me and ask questions often….especially in the beginning when he is just getting started. He admitted that he is a bit anxious about everything but feels better knowing he can reach us should he need to.
Best wishes to the Morson family on their new venture!
Note: Shortly after this post, here is the note we received from the Morson’s:
Dear Stan, Lisa, Heather, and the entire Morantz Team.
We wanted to thank you for your hospitality, generosity, and wonderful experience we had coming to your operation. We look forward to embarking on a wonderful journey in the world of ultrasonic cleaning. The professionalism of each of your employees was unmatched. It was truly a pleasure dealing with each of them.
We are very excited to get started and look forward to many future dealings with your company.
Sincerely, David, LaMar, and Hannah Morson Clean Blinds Now