Where visitors relax and cleaning personnel work on rotation
The 7132 Thermal Baths are located in the long Vals Valley in the Swiss mountains. The thermal baths are an architectural masterpiece that poses a real challenge for cleaning personnel. A report on cleaning Vals quartzite, heroes of the night and the unwritten rule of the thermal baths.
In the local dialect, the community of Vals is pronounced “falsch” – which means ‘wrong’ in German. But this community’s landmark, the 7132 Thermal Baths (named after the postcode), is living proof that this mountain village does things the right way. This thermal sanctuary, renowned beyond the borders of Switzerland, was constructed in 1996 by award-winning architect Peter Zumthor.
60,000 slabs of Vals quartzite
The monolithic structure creates an ideal atmosphere for relaxation with its clean shapes and light grey stone slabs. The thermal baths were built using 60,000 slabs of Vals quartzite – the resulting simplicity and elegance is unparalleled. Bathing in the thermal pools between 32 and 36 degrees brings guests into direct contact with the high-quality stone and the warm thermal water from the nearby spring. With every stroke, bathers are immersed in a modern atmosphere that retains a natural purity. Yet as elegant as the stone is, it is a real challenge to clean.
Quartzite cleaning requires specialist knowledge
Quartzite is highly resistant to environmental influences, but its retention of odours and potential for staining make it tricky to clean. The floors, pools and walls of the baths are all made of Vals quartzite. The floors between the pools are cleaned every day with the scrubber-dryer. A highly acidic cleaner and an alkaline disinfectant cleaner are used alternately to remove odours and limescale. Cleaning personnel have to take extra care to ensure that not even a drop of cleaning product gets into the thermal pools. The pools also undergo complete cleaning on a regular basis: daily, weekly or fortnightly depending on the water temperature. They are emptied and then alternately cleaned of the first signs of algae and limescale using a single-brush machine, foam gun or high-pressure cleaner. The walls are a different story: Here, the cleaning team doesn’t use any chemicals at all – instead, the walls are cleaned using the high-pressure cleaner where required. Since numerous cleaning methods and various special cleaning products are used, it is impossible to obtain all products from a single supplier. However, most of the cleaning products are used at the same unusual time: at night.
Heroes of the night
Due to the long opening hours of the baths, maintenance cleaning at the 7132 Thermal Baths takes place mainly at night. Three members of the cleaning crew are on duty every night from 8:15 PM to 5:00 AM. Three times a week, this time window is shifted to allow night bathing for guests at the affiliated hotel. Before the first guests arrive in the morning, baths supervisor and cleaning manager Margrit Derungs reviews the quality of the cleaning throughout the baths. The types of soiling are more varied here than at almost any other site. Limescale, hair, grease, algae, skin flakes – various types of loose and stubborn dirt occur at spas, along with a variety of mineral and organic deposits. “The high humidity and temperature provide an ideal breeding ground for bacteria – it is a constant battle to try and counteract these conditions. High visitor frequency, sensitive materials and eliminating slip hazards pose additional challenges,” explains Margrit Derungs. Nightly cleaning is supplemented by one person cleaning during the day. “Regularly checking all areas is essential – especially at the weekends when there can be up to 200 guests. At a high-class thermal bath, guests also expect high-class cleanliness,” affirms Margrit Derungs.
Foam removes residual shampoo
One of the three members of the cleaning crew is Ricardo Nunes da Silva. As soon as it gets dark outside, he makes sure that guests can relax in a clean environment the following day. One of his daily tasks is cleaning the showers. The material used in the shower is blackened terrazzo concrete. To remove residual shower gel, shampoo and the like, he uses a pressurised foam device. This enables him to work efficiently on the large cleaning surfaces in the showers. The device is filled with an alkaline foam cleaner. After wetting the walls, he sprays foam on them working from bottom to top. The direction is key: If the foam were applied the other way round, dirty water running down the dry surface might soak in and stick there. The foam also enhances the effect of the active cleaning ingredient on the soiled surface. Finally, the cleaning specialist rinses the shower walls with water – working from top to bottom this time. All traces of grease have disappeared. On to the next station.
No alcohol-based cleaners for varnished surfaces
Now it’s time for the dressing rooms. The lockers for storing valuable objects and clothing are covered with fingerprints and grease marks by nightfall. The doors of the lockers are made of stained mahogany wood and coated with clear varnish. Care must be taken when selecting a cleaning product to clean varnished surfaces. “Alcohol-based cleaning products can damage the varnish, so we can only use cleaning and disinfecting products with no alcohol content here,” explains Ricardo Nunes da Silva. He sets to work with a microfibre cloth and a surface cleaner. After cleaning, the locker doors are so clean that the cleaning specialist can almost see his reflection in them.
Removing dust without stirring up dust in the treatment rooms
Meanwhile, evening cleaning has also begun in the treatment rooms on the lower floor. This is carried out by the spa staff who offer cosmetic treatments during the day. Zsofia Zita Nagy-Toth is one of them. She is in the process of attaching a Masslinn dust cloth to a mopping device. First, she removes dust from the edges of the room and under the furniture. She then dusts the entire area, making sweeping movements until she reaches the exit. One important rule applies to prevent germs being carried from one room to another: one cloth per room. Once she is done, she disposes of the disposable cloth. White Masslinn cloths are ideal for spa rooms, since drops of water on the ground do not impede cleaning performance. The major hygienic advantage over dry vacuum cleaning: Masslinn cloths bind dust in the cloth without stirring it up in the room.
Optimal cleaning influences the appearance
The 7132 Thermal Baths are a prime example of the great influence that correct and careful cleaning has on retaining the value of a building’s materials. The sanctuary of relaxation has been around for almost 25 years and yet to this day it looks as if it was built only yesterday.
When leaving the thermal baths, guests pass the spa reception area. Some guests might like to buy a postcard to send to their loved ones. Spa manager Hannelore Derungs shakes her head and lets us in on an unwritten rule in Vals: “A postcard or story is never able to express the true nature of the thermal baths. You have to experience the magic of the baths for yourself with all your senses.” The locals of Vals might be onto something.
Short interview with Eva Schmid, Head of Purchasing at the 7132 Thermal Baths
“We give preference to cleaning products that can be used in more than one area.”
What are the main things you look for in a cleaning product?
Above all, what matters is quality: we must be able to rely 100% on the effect of a cleaning product or disinfectant. The health and safety of our guests and staff is our top priority. Other criteria include biodegradability, cost-effectiveness, dosage and user safety. The range of applications is also of great importance: We give preference to polyvalent cleaning products, i.e. products that can be used for different areas. This makes them easier to use and also saves costs.
Have your demands changed in recent years?
Yes, two factors in particular have grown in importance: environmentally friendly cleaning products and user safety. As one of the largest employers in the Vals Valley, we have a responsibility to the environment and our employees.
How important is price?
My priority is not the purchase price, but whether a product is cost-effective. We are a premium hotel and thermal baths, and with that comes certain commitments. We have to offer our guests a premium level of cleanliness and hygiene. There is no point in buying a cheap product if the accompanying service or quality are not adequate. With Wetrok, we are impressed by both the quality of the product and the service provided.
What impresses you about Wetrok customer service?
Whether it’s a question concerning application, spare parts or a defective scrubber-dryer – Wetrok representatives are immediately on hand to solve the problem. For a business like ours, which is open seven days a week, quick and straightforward problem solving is crucial.