I have most of the past versions of the ISSA Cleaning Times standards in my possession. The first one I have, the Cleaning Time Estimator, is dated 1985 and is similar to the 1963 edition. This version is in a slide-rule format with an accompanying guide that contains 130 different tasks and times. For those not of the Baby Boomer generation, a slide rule predates the first calculators and was always prominently displayed in the shirt pocket of the smart kids in high school. They could calculate almost anything by using these mysterious devices. The front of the ISSA slide rule was used to calculate square feet and the back was for calculating fixtures. On page 5 of the guide, some items listed for dusting include a piano (1.10 minutes), a typewriter and stand (0.80 minutes), and a Dictaphone (0.15 minutes). Vacuuming carpet (assume using an upright unit) was 20 minutes for unobstructed areas and 30 minutes for obstructed areas per 1,000 square feet.
The First Edition
ISSA (then known as the National Sanitary Supply Association) introduced the first cleaning times booklet in 1963. According to John Walker, the next edition, titled the 292 Cleaning Times, was introduced in 1990. Over the years, Walker has updated the times standards while reflecting changes in technology that have allowed workers to be more productive.
The next edition I have in my possession is the 310 Cleaning Times Standard (1994) and lists Task No. 108— vacuum with 12-inch upright vacuum—as 22.80 minutes per 1,000 square feet. On page 14, Task No. 124— vacuum with back pack vacuum and 12-inch tool—is listed at 6.00 minutes per 1,000 square feet. Although back packs were a rarity in the early days and much more expensive than a basic upright, the writing was on the wall for those intent on increasing productivity while reducing direct labor costs.
The Official 358 Cleaning Times Standard was published in 1999 with edits by Walker. Each edition stresses that “when calculating cleaning times, many variables must be considered. These include: the age of the building, design of the building, climate, season, outside soil, placement of custodial closets, type of floors and walls, custodial training….” As a point of comparison, Task No. 157—vacuum with 12-inch upright vacuum—gives a time of 26.80 minutes per 1,000 square feet and Task No. 173—vacuum with back pack vacuum and 12-inch tool—lists 8.25 minutes per 1,000 square feet.
Note that the time standards have changed and reflect more accurate data collection. The 447 Cleaning Times (2003) and 540 Cleaning Times (2009) cleaning times, both of which were edited by Walker, listed tasks that actually stayed the same as the 358 Cleaning Times while adding more and more tasks to the mix.
The latest edition, the 612 Cleaning Times & Tasks (complied by Ben Walker in 2014), continues to support the same times for the two tasks we have tracked, although there are many added tasks reflecting improvements in technology. This means there have been 482 total additions and possibly corrections since the first estimator guidebook was published. This edition has a more robust section on team cleaning and cleaning times for schools.
Using these guides can help newcomers and veterans alike decide when to automate, convert from uprights to back packs, or make other changes even though your numbers will vary for many reasons. Please understand that this guide is not intended to replace your developing cleaning times standards for your operations. Rather, it is an excellent starting point to begin a journey that may never truly end so long as you are involved in custodial operations. Always remember that adage: “Time is money.” I am already awaiting the next edition.