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Robots and self-cleaning rooms – what do they mean for cleaners?

3-minute read

Lauren Hellicar

13 September 2018

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Is technology set to take over the jobs of cleaners? Or do self-cleaning rooms and robots signal a brighter future for the cleaning industry?

You’ll find plenty of articles on the internet covering all angles of the smart technology debate. While some may be worried about robots taking jobs away from humans, there's also a history of positive advances when it comes to automating tasks.

Just think where we’d be without some of the labour-saving gadgets that have come out of the past few hundred years.

  • 5 top technological trends for business in 2020

Here’s a short history of cleaning inventions

  • 1882 – electric flatiron – invented by Henry W. Seeley
  • 1901 – vacuum cleaner – invented by Hubert Cecil Booth and David T. Kenney
  • 1908 – electric washing machine – patented by Alva J. Fisher
  • 1913 – Brillo pad – patented by two brothers-in-law from Brooklyn
  • 1927 – aerosol sprays – patented by Erik Rotheim

The latest cleaning technology

Fast-forward to today, and there have been some great leaps forward in cleaning since then, from the robot vacuum cleaner, the robot mop, and the robot window cleaner to the chemical-free microwave cleaner and the electric appliance scrubber.

And then there's impressive 'smart' technology like the Washlet – the creation of Japanese sanitary ware company Toto. If you’re not familiar with their bidet seat, more formally known as the shower-lavatory, it’s a pretty big deal in the bathroom department.

What’s a Washlet?

For users, it makes toilet paper redundant in favour of an ultra-hygienic washing and drying nozzle. With a sensor-operated lid there’s no need for you to place your hands anywhere near the pan, either, while the heated seat simply makes going to the loo a more pleasant experience.

The Washlet has an extremely smooth glaze that makes it really tough for dirt and grime to cling on. Couple that with the Tornado Flush, which comes as either two or three swirling jets of water, and you’re looking at a bowl that largely keeps itself clean.

Making it even less like conventional toilets, the Washlet has no rim, which means one less place for cleaners to sweep for dirt and germs.

Home or business owners who have the cash can also opt for the PreMist feature, which sprays electrolysed water around the bowl before use. The electrical current changes the makeup of the water to give it disinfectant super powers.

At the top of the range, there are loos coated with a layer of titanium dioxide, which breaks down dirt. These pans are also fitted with a UV light because the dirt-zapping action is only activated by light.

That room will clean itself

And it’s not just bathrooms that are set to clean themselves. Hotel rooms are tipped to be their own chambermaids in the future too.

Jovoto, a tech company with bases in Berlin and Silicon Valley, has grand plans to change the future of work. One brief from international hospitality company Marriott saw them tasked with designing the hotel room of 2022.

Imagine used beds folding up and being whisked along a track system to a cleaning platform ready to be re-made and sent back to the room, with UV lighting to break down pollutants and rapidly clean the whole room.

What does it all mean for cleaners?

It seems humans, for a long time to come, will still be needed at various points in the cleaning process, even with the most sophisticated technology. Take the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner, for example, which now has a model with automatic dirt disposal. It still needs emptying by a human when it reaches its 30-bin maximum capacity.

And it’s still relatively early days for some of this hi-tech hygiene, which means it can cost serious cash. So the smart tech takeover of the cleaning profession may be further around the bend than cleaning business owners need worry about right now.

That said, The Telegraph reports that other, more mid-range companies like Britton are catching on to self-cleaning bathroom design. But inventions and product advancements have been happening for centuries in both the cleaning world and elsewhere.

While it’s easy to get carried away thinking it’s all bad news and that robots will take over the world, even if that does eventually happen, it’s unlikely to be in our lifetime. And there may be some positives to take away. For example, with bathroom build-up becoming less of a problem, could it be possible for cleaners to get through jobs quicker, and cash in on fitting more clients into a day?

Are you a cleaning business owner who's concerned about technology taking over cleaners' jobs? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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