The Halls are something of a unique feature in Mayo — a husband and wife team running a thriving family cleaning business since 1995, and mopping up a bucketful of accreditations along the way.
This husband and wife team have no problem working together, as each has his/her own work remit. Both devise strategy, Lorraine deals with finance, accounts and HR, and John devises contracts and quotations, ensures standards are upheld, meets clients, and carries out work when required.
Only master textile cleaner in Ireland
As the only master textile cleaner in Ireland, and one of only two Woolsafe approved registered inspectors, John Hall, MD of The Cleaning Corporation, is considered one of the country’s most qualified and experienced voices in the cleaning industry.
“John spent 10 years and sat numerous exams to become a master textile cleaner with the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification, and is now renowned as an authority on carpet, rug, and upholstery cleaning,” explains Lorraine.
The Cleaning Corporation was the first carpet cleaning company in Ireland to be Woolsafe certified and is amongst the few companies in Ireland to have achieved full accreditation to the National Carpet Cleaners’ Association.
In addition, the company’s carpet cleaning technicians have passed the relevant exams of the IICRC.
“We believe in on-going training and accreditation for ourselves and our staff,” emphasises Lorraine.
Highly trained staff
“All our cleaning staff attend COPC training (Cleaning Operative Proficiency certificates ), which is very thorough, and is certified by the British Institute of Cleaning Science. There are three levels of qualification, and around 85 per cent of our staff have passed level one. A number of staff have passed level two, and all our managers, including myself and John, have passed level three, which means that we can also train our own staff.”
The company is also accredited to the Federation of Window Cleaners and the British Window Cleaning Academy.
If this seems to the layperson like an awful heavy investment for a cleaning company, for the customer the years of training, education, experience, ethics, and quality guarantee a ‘zero-risk’, highly professional company.
“We believe that it is our dedication to quality standards that sets us apart,” states John.
The Cleaning Corporation is very much a family business, and Mayo is at the centre of both Lorraine and John’s lives.
“Although I’m originally from Newcastle in England, my parents are from Westport and Castlebar, and I spent every summer here as a child, so it seemed natural to move here permanently, and it’s wonderful having my parents and John’s parents so close, as the business is really on call seven days a week. We clean to suit our clients’ needs.”
John, a native of Castlebar, previously worked in contract cleaning for 12 years in London, in both management and director roles.
“We married in Breaffy in 1989, returned to London, but made our way back for good in 1995 with our two children,” explains John.
Lorraine’s training in HR secured her work quickly in Ireland with companies such as Baxter Healthcare in Castlebar and ICE in Galway.
“I decided to take the plunge and start up a company using my skills and experience in the cleaning sector, so I worked steadily away, building up the business, with Lorraine helping out initially in the evenings after her own work, and eventually, as the company grew, full-time,” states John.
The Cleaning Corporation’s workforce is largely female. “They carry out their commercial cleaning duties in offices, shops, factories, and public buildings, and can fit their work around family life,” acknowledges Lorraine.
While Lorraine is mainly office-bound, John is most often on the road.
“I’m ‘hands-on’ and on any given day could be carpet cleaning, doing floor maintenance, or putting my skills and qualifications to use by carrying out technical inspections for carpet manufacturers. I also visit clients and manage the workload on larger contract jobs.”
John clearly is passionate about cleaning and very much enjoys carrying out the work himself to his own high standards.
As well as investing in its staff through ongoing training, The Cleaning Corporation continually invests in state-of-the-art equipment and materials.
“Being ahead and constantly adapting to our market is of vital importance. Our latest investment is a truck-mounted carpet cleaning system that runs on liquefied petroleum gas. This is a clean, efficient, fuel system that is greener than traditional petrol or diesel. As it also supplies its own power, we save on electricity, and the cleaning results are excellent,” explains John.
‘Setting the Standard’ is a slogan carried on all the company’s vehicles.
“We like to set ourselves apart through quality service and innovation. We have always been leaders in the marketplace,” states Lorraine.
But how does one ensure consistency of standards?
“We have set criteria and guidelines and work to British standards,” explains Lorraine. “We have inspection sheets and schedules that cover every aspect of cleaning. We inspect all our premises regularly to make sure that our staff is complying with all our accreditation standards, and we meet with clients regularly to ensure that they are happy with our work.”
One-stop-shop for cleaning needs
There are three divisions to The Cleaning Corporation, which makes it something of a ‘one stop shop’. Contract cleaning accounts form the largest portion of turnover. The balance is divided between carpet and upholstery cleaning/floor maintenance and window cleaning.
Contract cleaning is purely commercial, covering both public and private sectors, mainly in Connacht. The company’s other two divisions are a mix of commercial and residential work and extend from Mayo into Sligo and Roscommon.
“My forte is in the care of carpets and rugs that require specialist treatments,” explains John. “But we also clean and renovate both leather and fabric upholstery and soft furnishings. This division is roughly 50/50 between residential and commercial, and we have a number of major hotels among our contract cleaning clients.”
The trend over the past decade, both domestically and commercially, has been to replace carpets with hard flooring in the belief that these are cleaner and maintenance free, but John points out that this is a bit of a myth.
“A wool carpet, unlike a hard surface, will actually hold 85 per cent of dust, so the answer to good air quality is in regular vacuuming and thorough interim deep cleaning. People invest hugely in their homes, putting in the best of materials, so naturally they are keen to maintain these. A good quality wool carpet, well cared for, can last for 25 years.”
The Cleaning Corporation cleans all floors, whether carpet, stone, marble, tile, Karndean, Marmolium, or laminate wood, and when these are machine-cleaned by specialists, the results, states John, make the floors look brand new.
“We are also happy to provide advice to any customer on how any type of flooring should be cared for and maintained,” assures John.
“Hard floors can be very expensive and have to be maintained carefully, which is where John’s training is paramount,” explains Lorraine, “and to assure customers of the best service possible, we will shortly be attending a specialist stone course in the UK.”
Heavy investment in window cleaning system
The company’s window cleaning division is 80 per cent commercial, and includes a number of Mayo hotels. The Halls invested around €20,000 in a top quality ‘reach and wash multi-filter reverse osmosis’ system that allows its workers to clean windows from ground level up to 65 feet high.
In our ecologically conscious age, the Halls have been doing their bit for the planet for some time now by harvesting rainwater for its window cleaning, office, and domestic operations.
Harvesting rainwater for cleaning
“Our window cleaning service operates using harvested rainwater that is converted into pure water and gives outstanding long lasting results that are chemical free, safe for the operator, and good for the environment,” explains John.
“Rainwater harvesting was a big investment for us — around €12,000, but will save us considerably in the long term. It’s also much simpler to filter rainwater than tap water. Being pure water, it acts like a magnet and holds onto dirt very effectively — making our window cleaning spotless and our commercial and residential clients very happy.”
Annual trade shows and seminars in Amsterdam and Birmingham help the Halls access the latest cleaning equipment and materials, and learn all the latest techniques.
Outside of the cleaning business, the Halls are heavily involved in local community work and sport.
“Our two teenage children, Michael and Katherine, led us indirectly into sports sponsorship,” explains Lorraine.
Involvement in local community
“I train youngsters in football at Breaffy GAA,” says John, “and we’re about to sponsor the under-16 jerseys for next season.”
The Halls also sponsor T-shirts for boys at the Community Games, held this year in Mosney, and Lorraine is involved with Castlebar Celtic Soccer Club, and coached with Castlebar swimming club.
Lorraine is also a director for Western Care, an organisation looking after those with learning difficulties and special needs.
“I run a black-tie ball every year in Breaffy House Hotel to fundraise for Western Care and in the last two years we raised over €20,000 in the one night. All of this money goes back into respite care, specialist schooling, and training centres.”
Despite all these Mayo commitments, the Halls have recently discovered a new world of enjoyment on the very clean ski slopes of Austria.
“It’s family quality time, and we loved it so much that we’re going back. It’s hard work for Lorraine and myself,” explains John, “but the kids picked up the skiing techniques right away, so we’ll persevere till we get it right.”
In leisure, as in work, for the Halls, it has to be perfect.