Vacuuming or sweeping?

Many services use sweeping as the main source for hard surface cleaning, I have always considered a tank vacuum instead because it’s more versatile.

The open end of the tube gets into corners and along the edges of walls better than using the short end of the hose with a crevice tool or round horsehair brush,  bringing the cleaner into close contact with window sills, shelves, and desks that have dust buildup as well as in construction cleaning.

We use the method of vacuuming with the horsehair brush and then a damp microfiber rag as a dual combination for heavy dusting.

The more powerful upright vacuum is used for most carpeting with the tank vacuum for carpet edges and under desks where cords and wires cannot be sucked into the vacuum. Years ago in my travels in Asia when I was 26 years old I witnessed brooms made of small tree sticks wrapped tightly together. I was amazed that elderly people were sweeping the streets of Singapore and Hong Kong using these, what I thought were primitive tools, upon closer inspection I saw how the stiffness of the Wood scratched the cement jarring everything loose. These were for mostly outside and for more industrial environments.

The age of the workers taught me that no matter your standing in life one must continue to work, to live.

Is cleaning a necessity? Is it valued in the world of technology, construction, science or education? Why do we clean?

How does cleaning or cleanliness pair with the human existence? Not everyone cares to live or work in a clean environment and as buildings and infrastructure run down, keeping surfaces clean becomes even more time consuming. Upgrades to surfaces such as wood floors or painted walls need resurfacing from time to time. However if you rent or even own, what sense of responsibility does a person or persons have to maintain the dwelling that exists around us?

In my 35 years in the cleaning business I have come to except that cleaning is rarely affordable, regularly disregarded and completely misunderstood. What you say?

Explain you might say, tune in next time.

Mr Atomic

It all started because of love…

As Atomic Janitorial celebrates 35 year in business I started to reflect on how it all began.

I was in love with Wanda Martin, we had met when I took her modern dance class at Napa College in 1983 and we started talking, she was looking for a place to rent and I said I had a room in my house in Yountville.

At the time I was working for my friend Tim Bates cleaning the Calistoga Inn and various other establishments around the valley. But as our relationship blossomed and I began to see a possible serious future with Wanda, I decided to take on some of my own clients. Mama Nina’s hired me, and then my friend Tim decided to leave the valley and I was in position to take over his accounts of which I did. The Liberty Theatre, Rose et Le favour,  a five star restaurant, and then I began to get more of my own clients Dansk design, Raymond Vineyards,  Markham Vineyards.

For over 12 years I worked by myself cleaning seven days a week and although I never married Wanda I did commit in full to Atomic Janitorial.

The name Atomic from the 1950’s, my birth year of 56 the Atomic age, pink and black—Elvis favorite colors.

What a holiday season 2017 was…

What a holiday season 2017 was this year, following the tragedy of the Napa Fires and the whole state of California the air quality and ash, soot and debris reached so many surfaces as well as our lungs and eyes. As a proactive measure it would be good to replace all of the air filters and check vent pipes exhaust fans anywhere air is coming into your home.

WALLS—In most cases after cleaning walls for smoke or soot damage painting is recommended. The odor of smoke is strong and every application should be used to get the results needed. In some cases TSP is still the most powerful and or bleach but I use a steamer to extract the debris on the surface without any chemicals or soap.

January seems to be a month of turning your life around, setting goals creating expectations for the coming year. But it’s also a time for rest less activity and while the world never stops it’s just as valuable to accomplish less.

However a great way to maintain some low key activities is cleaning the house! Or if it’s motivation you need, start with at least one clean room and move on from there.

**My mother devised a system where she would get us all five kids watching a Saturday morning cartoon around 8 AM and after an hour with breakfast in us she would holler ‘Room to Room and none would escape her clutches! Vacuum in hand we were cornered into staying for each rooms completion before moving on to the next room.

What my mom didn’t realize is that I would use part of that system to design my approach to team cleaning.

Each team member discusses what each will do before the clients building is started, then each time the job is cleaned the team members switch to give the surfaces a different perspective.

An industrial toothbrush is bigger and has good handle, wrap a damp microfiber rag over the toothbrush bristles and gently use this in corners and crevices or molding and baseboards for the complete job.

This evening I was out to dinner with my son who turned 20 yesterday, I noticed when I went to the restroom that the floor was very greasy or waxy. The food in this place is outstanding every time and I decided to approach the owner and ask about his floor. He was eager to listen because of his frustration with the floor. So I asked to see what chemical he was using and the dilution amount then I borrowed a rag and asked for vinegar.

We then discussed how the floor company he thought had put a shiny wax on the floor.

I got on all fours applied straight white vinegar and watched it bead up on the floor then I dried it with a dry towel and presto no more greasy floor. To make this a complete job I would use a diluted solution of warm or cold water and white vinegar one tablespoon per gallon. I would use my floor machines to try for an industrial application for removal. While I personally cannot do much work on my hands and knees anymore this is one of the best ways to clean but hard on the body.

But to remove what I thought was paste wax on a floor it was important to test first to get some results. Floor waxes like paste wax or carnauba * wax are petroleum based and made to penetrate the surface. His floor was already sealed and needed a water based wax or nothing at all. Mixing his floor cleaner into the surface made it break down and turn the whole floor into a slow motion skating rink.

Now he has solution to his problem. Although the work still lies ahead, he was excited to change his floor so his patrons could get back to admiring his great food.

Till then cleaning friends.

Thank you,

Mr Atomic

Why Clean?

Once again as I expressed in my first blog, organization and cleaning go hand in hand, yesterday my crew cleaned my house.

This morning I am relaxed and in a peaceful state of consciousness. Is this because every inch of my house is clean, not really because there’s always going to be something else to do or more too clean. It is more to the point that the house is balanced and settled, things are where I like them, in their place.

As humans, we are in a perpetual state of movement our lives, for the most part, a constant combination of tasks and the repercussions of interacting with others and the physical world. Nothing drives this point home more than watching my ten-year-old son dismantle my home in literally minutes upon his arrival, dropping his backpack sweater, picking up a toy going to the refrigerator taking food into his room etc. Now I could and do follow him around asking and demanding that he pick up after himself ☹️Which seems to fall on deaf ears or and ultimately I succumb to the disarray that comes with living with not one but two Boys!

Can this, does this drive me crazy?

Yes and no, for various reasons it affects that I must yield to our differences in personality as I’m sure many of you do if you have children or roommates. However now I know that at any point in time I can return myself and my environment to a neutral state of being.


Everyone has a different style of how to clean but I like to start off with de-webbing the rooms then proceeding to dust. De-webbing consists of a springy ceiling brush on some kind of pole or ‘ a webster’ For basic dusting we mostly use a microfiber all purpose cleaning rag and ostrich feather duster. The feather duster is not to be relied on as a remover of dust but more as a take flight duster however, for office desks that have barely any open surfaces or wine bottles window sills and other hard to reach areas it suffices I have always believed that picking up dirt and dust with a damp rag then rinsing it down the drain is the the best way to clean.

When I teach my staff about cleaning I usually start out with bringing their attention to the whole perspective, tunnel vision is a difficult habit to break, I like top to bottom cleaning.

The term hotspots is how I see things like the tops of refrigerators, door molding, thermostats, picture frames, high shelves, curtain rods.

These are surfaces often missed because they are invisible to the parallel vision of a person’s view. They are also the variables of cleaning, the not every time, not basic cleaning.

What I teach is that doing these surfaces make us the superior cleaning service.

What is “Green” cleaning?

Everyone has their own idea of clean and how to achieve an end result. In this introduction to my Atomic Janitorial Facebook page, I will lend my total of thirty-eight years in the cleaning business to those of you interested in this fascinating subject.

What is cleaning?

Really for me, it’s a trick question, organization is the secret goal, in order to clean in the most efficient way the room or house or office needs to be organized.

The classic situation is arriving at a new clients building to find them preparing by trying to organize or pre-clean before we can begin our work. Rooms are set in motion around the way we live. I’ve seen so many spaces some balanced many cluttered. Homes and offices designed by architects usually have a balance of furniture to space, however, casual homes often have clutter and wasted space.

Ultimately what we are working towards is positive energy from a clean and organized area, arranged books or magazines on a coffee table, cushions placed nicely on the couch, pictures on the wall horizontal furniture angled inwards for connective interaction. This is a daily feng shui or practical living. We all have our own way of living but I don’t think everyone understands that positive energy comes from a balanced environment.

I have seen many well-organized rooms that upon closer inspection revealed years of dust and neglect. As people of habit, we tend to only use what’s necessary, the bathroom kitchen and TV/computer room and of course our bedrooms.
Over the next few months, I will describe a variety of spaces and the degrees of use or dirt, how to prevent and how to maintain.
Cleaning and it’s importance culturally and historically play out in everyone’s lives from minute to hour day month or year.

I started cleaning restaurants in 1980 for another company and three years later started Atomic Janitorial. I am still learning how to clean not so from the bottom up but more through the experience of all these years. Most importantly I am still learning and this is one of many lessons.

The core to my style is organization, this drives the engine of cleaning. Can you ask yourself if the intention of cleaning your house on your day off is to clean or find the perfect place for all the things you own?

Till next time,

Gavin Smith