NYC Office Cleaning Pro Todd Saunders Interviewed
Commercial Cleaning Podcast Notes
This is coach Tim @ Deep Clean Radio. And I'm with Todd Saunders. And we're here to talk about Cleaning Specialists of America Inc. in New York City. And I want to welcome Todd Saunders. How are you?
What makes me enjoy the fire rescue part of the first responder thing is I can multitask under extreme pressure. And it just comes naturally, which for most people, it doesn’t, but quite frankly, I find it. I know this is a little crazy to say, but I find it relaxing to be in a burning building.
Well, let me let me kind of read off your website a little bit to give a little bit of context here. You’re on Madison in the heart of New York City.CSA has been serving a virtual who’s who of corporate America since 1988. That’s a long time. And we are highly valued in the corporate and real estate marketplace from hotels, banks, law firms, retail stores, restaurants, theaters, cruise and rail lines.
Well, in a nutshell, we we wanted to set ourselves apart from others in the marketplace, we didn’t want to be just a run of the mill, janitorial service.
And we do that now because our clients had asked us to do their janitorial daily and nightly service after a number of years service in the in the, in the specialized cleaning sphere. So we started in 1988 as a highly specialized cleaning and restoration firm.
We got certified in specialized cleaning. We actually we went to the New York School of dry cleaning was one of the things that we’ve done. And we worked with Dan Aizen who is now since retired. And he was their chief analyst for their lab for the neighborhood cleaners Association, which is now an international organization. As a matter of fact, that same guy used to be on Late Night with David Letterman all the time. That’s the guy who trained me originally.
And so I taught a lot of that knowledge from a long time studying underneath that gentleman in the lab. And I brought the dry cleaning as as well as wet cleaning and the things from the store or factory and brought it into the contract cleaning corporate marketplace which I was one of the first to do that.
And that’s why the chief lab analyst wanted to work with me because most people have their own dry cleaning plants and things like that. So we were able to bring that expertise into caring for fabrics and furnishings and the like. And then from there, we branched out and started to do non fabric type of specialized cleaning and that would be vinyl wall coverings, acoustical ceiling grid systems, stretch wall, and we got into millwork, polishing and then even glass cleaning.
And there’s various types of glass that you need to clean special in a specialized way. So, we took all that and, and we actually got into of all things are also licensed by the FDNY for flame proofing operations within New York City. And as a matter of agnostically.
One of the main accounts that we have is the New York City, firefighter Museum, FDNY Museum of all things. So Wow. And what we do is we come in and we clean the draperies and or furnishings, and strip them from all any type of surface dust and any other debris which could possibly be combustible. And then we lay in an application of fire retardants, with a certain ratio and degree depending on the material that we’re working on. And that will interfere with the triangle of fire, meaning oxygen, and fuel, and heat. So if you interrupt any one of those three, you can’t have a fire.
So and that and then we give affidavits of completion or you know, sort of certificates that it has been done. And it has to be presented to the FDNY, fire marshals and inspectors upon demand. So we’ve done that for New York City. And we also actually did some work for some casinos down in, in Atlantic City.
And one more one more notable thing as far as the fire for protection and the work. We were sent down to the Intercontinental Hotel on Biscayne Bay in Miami. And that was way back in the day. I think that was 87 of all things. And that was just as I was starting my own Cleaning Specialists of America business.
And they pull me down from intercontinental hotels. And I did personally actually, because we were short handed at the time, but they had, they really had a need. And we took care of two full floors of all their fabrics, the carpeting, the upholstery, and of course, all of the drapery on two full floors of the hotel top two floors. And then when I was done after 18 hours of non stop work, they finally tell me who the dignitary was, and it was none other than for President Ronald Reagan.
I’m going through and I’m looking at some of the stuff that you’re involved with and you have certifications from the the who and the CDC, these are names that are really in front of us for the last couple of years. And it’s to do with infectious pathogens. You’re you have a certification from FEMA, from G back the global bio risk Advisory Council again on infectious pathogens, response control and remediation, hazmat up and from NYS, New York State registered firefighter, etc. So that brings me to this. When I the first thing I mentioned was who and the CDC has the COVID issue of the last two years or so how’s that changed? The demand that you have for certain types of cleaning? And how has that affected you know how you go about your business?
Well, great question. When the pandemic first started, when the United States really got involved with it. A lot of companies, including our own, took a major hit in business because a lot of our clients close their offices, and we were doing janitorial at that time as well, as well as specialized cleaning, but since they were closed, you really couldn’t do that.
So, but we had a number of locations that we were doing group homes that are state regulated, and so they couldn’t close. So those operations expanded quite frankly, with us. number of locations. And while I had extensive hazmat experience with the fire department for all these years, we are and also blood borne pathogens and, and various other things, but specifically for COVID 19.
And of course, which is the disease actually caused by SARS COVID. To that was something that we delved into to be certified by going online, and going through extensive courses. And a lot of it came easier for me because I had all this training previously from the fire department. So I got certified in from the World Health Organization on several different things.
And, and part of that was for from a World Health Organization was environmental cleaning and disinfection for hospitals, and healthcare support centers, from the same organization, infection prevention and control for the workplace, and the like, and similar type courses from the CDC, g back, which is global bio risk Advisory Council, and from FEMA, that I got several certificates from FEMA for national, it’s called NIMS, National Incident Management System.
. And with you know, we’re certainly on the, on the forefront of that. There’s, there’s other there’s many types of other disinfection type of technologies, one of which is UV light, which is they’re trying to use it when the UV light source was because of sunlight, quite frankly, is one of the best disinfectant. And UV light systems will replicate that spectrum of light, which will disinfect. The only problem with that is it doesn’t wrap around surfaces. It’s a direct view, line of sight, so to speak. So so there’s no, at least not in this time. I don’t really subscribed to technology completely replacing the human touch.
I like being tested. I like to, to be challenged to see if I can get in solve the problem. That’s I guess that’s one of the reasons why I like firefighting so much, because you need to solve problems, then you need to solve problems on the fly. And certain times, if you don’t solve those problems properly, you can get badly hurt or killed. And that may be maybe it’s a bit of an adrenaline adrenaline junkie, or what have you. But that’s part of the thing why I like scuba diving and I like boating, I like flying, because you can really make mistakes really badly and not be affected by it. Maybe I don’t know. It’s, it’s kind of weird. As far as you know, that’s part of the challenge thing. I mean, but I grew up. My father was a, in the army, he was a drill instructor at back in World War Two. And towards the end of the war, he ended up being deployed to the island of Okinawa in the Pacific, which actually was the bloodiest battle of World War Two more, I actually saw the movie Saving Private Ryan with him. And I was tearing up when I saw the opening scenes in the movie. And I said, was that what is life for you? He says, Well, not exactly, we walked on, I said, You walked on, I thought it was a bloodiest battle, he says it was they let us come onto the island for three to 400 yards, and they cut us to pieces for months at a time. So I said, wow. And by the way, my, my father, God rest his soul. He is a decorated war hero, he wanted the silver star for gallantry and action under hospital fire. So I had a really great mentor. And I was very fortunate to have one of three sons to really take to my father’s stewardship. My brother’s not so much, but but I certainly did. And he ended up becoming a successful businessman. He owned several companies. And he actually became, I believe it was the fourth largest manufacturer of paint brushes and rollers. I will certainly in the United States, and arguably the world at that time. And that was in the 60s and 70s and 80s. And I was fortunate enough to work in his offices and factory ever since I was six years old. Now, of course, he wouldn’t let me anywhere near machinery at that age. I was always segregated to you know, certain areas where I was supervised and what have you, but he put me to work. And he gave me that strong work ethic. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. So as far as the challenges, it started really, then not at six, of course, but as I got into my late teens in the like, and I was 20 years old. And we heap Well, he picked up a new account. And it was a brand new store never opened anywhere in the world. And it was on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, I do forget the town. And he sent me down to set up a 24 foot display with schematic drawings, what have you by myself, if I flew out of candidates and flew into Atlanta with a Jackson hartsville, I think, and I said, I’m 20 years old, I go to the store, I set up just the paint, display the paint brushes and rollers, not the paint cans or anything like that. And I set it up in a day. And I flew back, I was back in New York at night. That store is none other than the very first Home Depot store in the world. So I set up the paint the paint brush display for the very first Home Depot store in the world in 1980. Actually,
Unknown Speaker 18:21
that little tidbit there. That’s That’s cool. I’ve got a question. I’m looking at your website right now, which I really recommend that people go to and, and there’s a ton of information from I mean, just non stop types of services and cleaning that you offer. You have the staff has a background. So that what that brings me to the background checks. So not the the background necessarily, but I’m looking at all kinds of different cleaning and pictures of cleaning. I’m in LA right we unless you’re in you know in downtown LA. My view is of a tall building is two stories. Right? But you’re in Manhattan and you’re in office buildings. Do you typically do those office buildings multi storey kind of situations? single story or single floor? How what what kind of services are you able to to handle if you know and then are you staff to do that?
Unknown Speaker 19:46
Well, I certainly staffed to do the work that we’re doing now. As far as post pandemic, it has been a challenge getting new staff because we are at Financially growing right now, because people are getting back in the offices and what have you. We picked up several new accounts recently. And also we got approximately 90% of our old contracts back, which is really great. And it’s been tough getting some new staffing. But we’ve been fortunate enough in the last 10 days to pick up about six people. And they’re, they’re going through the onboarding process. Now, some of them are out of the six, which is rare, half really, a show immense progress, and potential, which so we’re very happy about that. As far as servicing buildings in Manhattan, we do everything from low rise to high rise, we do more low rise than high rise, because a lot of times the super high rise buildings will have dedicated contracts in place with the management companies and growing landlords. And every tenant would have to use exclusively that service. Where we do a lot of our work is the tenants have much more choice and autonomy to actually choose the vendors that they would like. So but we do we do high rise as well. But we do the every night of the 50 floor buildings now that we don’t do. But what kind of
Unknown Speaker 21:39
in the beginning, we talked about the various some of the various types of generalize the types of stuff you do. Is there any specific that you you really is your sweet spot where you know, you deal with a certain type of industry, or is it pretty varied.
Unknown Speaker 22:01
And it’s varied, actually, we will do anything from office buildings, obviously, office space, we do restaurants, both front and back of house restaurants, we do convention centers, theaters, both movie and or Broadway will do on higher end, highly interesting, specialized stuff, we’ll do yachts, we’ll do private aircraft. But that’s only detailed stuff. And that doesn’t happen aircraft. We don’t do with like, you know, an everyday thing, when they have a real problem. And usually, we get a call when everyone else can’t do it. And that makes it even harder for us. Because a lot of times when someone cleans something, people think cleaning is very easy. It’s not it’s very technical. If we and we, what separates us from most others is that we treat it as a highly technical event. So we ask questions, what we you know, we can kind of determine what the mid stage material is or what have you. But we ask questions and when we get certain answers, we have, for instance, most other companies will have one or two things to put on the on to the area that needs to be cleaned. We have about a dozen or more because we either we don’t mainly use off the shelf product. We can but if it becomes more challenging, we work with the raw solution and material and chemical. And we mix it to the ratio that we need for that specific thing. And or debris and or what have you residue, because quite frankly, here’s something a tidbit nobody can get out of stain, a stain can only be recovered.
Unknown Speaker 24:10
That stain is when when a material or agent affects the color of the certain that could be on on non fabric materials could be painted walls. It could be on mica, it could be on granite, marble, or carpet, obviously wood. But a lot of people think that a stain, you know that the stain, it’s really not it’s just residue, intractable residue. And you have to learn how to emulsify that residue and then readily lift it from its surface and flush it away. And that’s basically in a nutshell how to do it. And there’s many ways of doing it. It’s not like that’s the the it that’s the technical person But as far as getting into various types of stains, there’s various types of procedures and methods to take care of it. For instance, coffee and tea and, and medicines and things like that. Those are tannin type stains, and that requires a much lower pH type product in the acidity range to get that out and it should readily come out, then there are certain things that will be taken out more readily with a higher alkalinity on the spectrum. So when you drink a cup of coffee in the morning, your pH scale is approximately six and a half to nine, about seven, about seven, which is neutral, you’ll find a lot of times if you actually look at some cleaning products, and you look at the label, it will say this is a neutral cleaner. And so they that way it doesn’t harm any surface, they don’t want any claims. For instance, if we’re cleaning your ceilings, for instance, and it needs to be nonie just clean for aesthetics but clean for health. So we’re killing microorganisms, we use a product that has an oxidizer an oxidizing bleach. But there are times when this the product that we’re using from a specialized manufacturer isn’t quite enough for that particular part of the ceiling. So we juice up something extra and we use of all things, we will purchase Clairol 20 volume hair stripper for bleach blondes, because it’s an oxidizing bleach, at 20%. Of course, you need to wear gloves and eye protection and face protection. And then you mix it in and that will then not only kill the microorganisms, but it will also use that oxidizing bleach as it dries. And it will lighten the ceiling tile by several contracts. So you have to do it, you have to do it in the right concentrations, you have to do it. When you apply it, you have to feather it out. Meaning when you feather you blend in so there’s no de Marchi demarcations of where you work. So it’s a lot of technique, it’s a lot of knowledge, to really get the job done correctly. And I can go on and on about that. But then, for instance, one other thing, if there’s someone if if there is a, a protein type stain, that could be from various bodily fluids, it can be, you know, Bloods and other things. That is what they call an albuminous, Spain. And that when we did this work for Tiffany’s Actually, that’s how I got a major. Ironically, I got a major major 17 year contract with Tiffany’s on matter and on Fifth Avenue on 57th Street. And then from that, we got their manufacturing facilities. We got their corporate headquarters around the block. We were there I had 17 people there for 17 years. So we started out with a highly specialized approach. For one thing, one, and I don’t want to go into the graphics of the stain, but it was in albumin, albuminous stain, the call the facilities director called in all these other companies couldn’t get it done. And he defied me to get it out. I said, If I get it out, I want you to contract. And he said, let’s see if we can get it out. It took me a little while but I did get it out. It was on a a fabric. It was on a pure velvet elmora green velvet cushion in a window seat overlooking Fifth Avenue. And
Unknown Speaker 28:51
everyone was trying to get it out the wrong way. It was an albuminous stain it was protein based, no amount of soap solution is going to get that out. You need to address it as albuminous stain which I added hot water over like 15 minutes with a syringe and a powder called a digester. And that digester chemically altered and changed the protein molecule to sugar. And then the sugar was easily clean the way with a shampoo concentrate. Unit the
Unknown Speaker 29:32
mad scientist This is ridiculous. That’s crazy. It’s a weren’t so a lot of variations of dealing with these. These chemicals to be able to to cause like what you just said you turned it the protein into a sugar and and then it came out.
Unknown Speaker 29:58
That’s exactly right. Exactly. Because the approach that everyone else was trying to do, wasn’t addressing its chemical compound. And that’s how
Unknown Speaker 30:09
you come at it from, from literally, almost a scientist, a chemical perspective, instead of just saying, oh, we’re just gonna wipe it clean or whatnot, which is what I would try to do. You’re actually
Unknown Speaker 30:25
actually they try to do it, and then they, I was the third company to come in, and what and what By the way, once you’re done, and you’re working on velvet, which has like a W type weave, there’s a weave, and then there’s a weft, which is the opposite direction. It’s a it’s a very technical term. And then you use a small brass short like a toothbrush, but it’s much bigger, and it’s brass bristle, and it’s called the napping brush. And you and you map the fibers upright, like combing your hair, napping it and you use a hairdryer to gently dry it. So it would blend in and it wouldn’t. So when it dried after I was finished, it wouldn’t dry where the fibers are perpetually now facing slightly askew from the rest of the fibers. So we definitely always show that there was a spot there, I was able to eliminate the resilient shadow effect to make sure that all that the fibers would lay in the same direction when I was done.
Unknown Speaker 31:36
That’s, that’s highly detailed. That’s crazy. That’s that’s phenomenal. You have so many stories like this. You know, we’re coming up on the hour Todd, Can Can we get your phone number on how people can get ahold of you? What is your website? And and what are your hours? How do people hire you?
Unknown Speaker 32:01
Well, I mean is even though our website obviously our website is CSA and why.com. And that’s basically for cleaning specialists, America, New York. So it’s CSA ny calm, I have to say it does redirect to our website. NYC office cleaners.com. So either or is good. And you just review our web website it’s a highly informative and check out our Hall of Fame we read through we have service who’s who have not just corporate america of just America itself. So it’s not just the corporation’s we’ve done governmental agencies as well. And and, and as a matter of fact, one of the pinnacles of what we have done, we’ve done the Smithsonian Museum, downtown Manhattan, one of our outlets there. And we also did a major project for the United States parks department. For Ellis Island, we did a number of jobs for on Ellis Island, which was exceptional as well. So and, I mean, I can go on and on, but did we, the website does it mentioned most of it. And and if anyone out there has a challenge, call me. I love a challenge.
Unknown Speaker 33:29
What’s your number?
Unknown Speaker 33:33
Well, we do have several, you know, we do have several so I want to make sure that you know i certainly give you the correct one. But we have one of our numbers is that we’ve had 33 plus years is 212545 8300 212545 at 300. And that comes to our call center. And the good part about that once it hits our call center for we don’t just like it where it goes to some inane menu driven voicemail situation, it will get forwarded to one of our top principals in the field and it gets patched through right to our our cell phones and other factors known as the number that’s on the website. It’s also a different number I can tell you at 917-935-4990 or you can email us an email at info at CSA ny comm there’s many ways
Unknown Speaker 34:43
right? Yeah, this is I’ve learned more about cleaning just talking with you than then then my years so I really do appreciate you Todd and you have Have a wonderful day. Well, thank
Unknown Speaker 35:02
you so much. I’m glad I was able to shed some light on the specialized part of this work.
Unknown Speaker 35:08
That’s awesome. Thanks a lot and thank you for listening to deep clean radio