By Marcel Steuer
Having an effective – and preventive – water cooler care service in place improves the hygiene and safety of these systems for customers. The hygiene service ideally is one that is regularly carried out as opposed to a just-in-time (or just-too-late) system of trying to control situations that spin out of control. And achieving a regular service requires a dedicated staff involved only in cooler care and sanitization.
In the day-to-day practice of a hygiene service company, there are regular instances of calls being received from customers complaining of differences in water taste, green water bottles and the occasional occurrence of obstinate biofilms – i.e. the slimy substance sometimes seen on the bottle cap during a bottle change. Oftentimes, this causes alarm in customers, as they want to see the situation remedied on the spot. Needless to say this reflects badly on the image of the company as a provider of pure, fresh and good tasting water.
In part, the development of a biofilm can be caused by the customer,without them even being aware. Take the single-serve water bottles that are being refilled from the water cooler faucet. When the single-serve bottle has already been used once or several times, there will be traces of human bacteria – or possibly pathogens (disease-causing bacteria) – on the bottle neck.
This is subsequently transferred to the faucet. In addition to distributing these bacteria or pathogens, with the water cooler faucet serving as the agent, the contamination will also turn inward, affecting the water. Over time, this will cause a biofilm to grow and create taste and possibly safety issues.
An unwanted consequence of the occurrence of a biofilm on the bottle cap is that no matter how stringent a water cooler is cleaned, once the bottle containing the biofilm is taken off the waterguard, the biofilm is transferred into the water inlet of the water guard. This means that the biofilm remains behind, and can simply continue to grow.
If it is six months until the next cleaning service, the biofilm will be a lot harder to tackle. The best way to really keep the biofilm at bay is to make preventive use of an anti-biofilm treatment. Convenient sprays are available where the customer treats the water guard and the bottle cap with every bottle change.
The occurrence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a common biofilm bacteria, on water coolers has made headlines in Europe and turned into a public relations nightmare. In Germany, for example, the water cooler industry is struggling to educate legislators and the press alike about the quality of the water in water coolers.
They do a very good job of it, with professional public relations campaigns and press releases with positive stories about water coolers sent out to many different news media. However, many dozens of positive press releases can be offset by a single negative story.
Because of this negative potential, a good thing has also occurred.We now see a growing number of German water cooler companies adopting a preventive hygiene system, using products like cooler cleaner spray to provide or sell to the customer.
This leads to as many cleaning moments as there are bottle changes, and to a better all-round hygienic condition of the water cooler. Furthermore, both customer satisfaction and water quality improve as a consequence.
The reasons for developing a cooler cleaner spray hygienic cleaning product meant to prevent such occurances helps involve the customer in the hygiene process. This also often leads to setting up a company or group focused on water cooler hygiene as its only activity, allowing undivided attention to be given to customers on maintaining water cooler hygiene through a quick and effective cleaning-in-place tactic.
In talking to water cooler companies about providing such a cooler spray to their customers, the response is often that they do not feel their customers are going to use it, or that the cleaning spray bottle will not be at the water cooler, so it will not be convenient. To solve this potential issue, a spray bottle holder can be attached to the water cooler with a self-drilling screw.
Stickers can also be placed on the unit, so that customers are reminded to use the product on the water guard and faucet(s).
This considerably improves the convenience threshold for using the product.And many companies now sell such a spray bottle to their customers with a private label bearing their own company logo, enhancing the opportunity for service reminders.
Many hygiene and safety focused companies have even reached agreements with water cooler manufacturers to include spray solution with every cooler they sell. And the manufacturers recognize such sprays as a most effective preventive solution to keep the water coolers in pristine hygienic condition.
Every water cooler manufacturing company promises and desires quality and fresh tasting water for their customers. But when the water cooler is the weak link in the chain because of improper cleaning, it becomes harder to keep that promise.
Providing the customer with the appropriate instrument to become involved in the hygiene process, helps keep the water cooler clean and the water quality at the desired level.
About the author
Marcel Steur is one of the founders of Hygienic Solutions, which manufacturers CoolerClean products for both European and North American markets. Along with his brother Ben, they incorporated Hygienic Solutions in The Netherlands in 1999 and later became one of the first companies in Europe to enter into hygiene service programs for the water cooler industry marketplace.