Managing Spills: How to Deal With Messy Customers and Employees

Managing spills and cleaning stains is a major part of maintaining a professional look in your office space. After all, a huge stain on your office floor can be distracting and reflect poorly on your business.

And yet, as property and facility managers know, cleaning up after messy customers and employees is easier said than done.

Where do the biggest spill issues originate and how can you keep them under control? Here are some of the most common offenders, plus what you can do to help mitigate stains in your spaces.

The Biggest Culprits of Office Spills and Stains

When we talk to property and facility managers, they tell us about three primary cause of spills and stains in their facilities:

  • Food in the office. Employees eating in the office is one of the biggest culprits of messes. Some companies have on-site cafes or bring in food trucks as a way to reward employees and encourage productivity, while other companies simply encourage people to stay on-site to eat lunch at their desks. And while these efforts can positively impact productivity, the downside is the increased likelihood of food spills and stains.
  • Messy customers – especially children. Customers rarely have the same care for your office space as you do. They might not pick up after themselves or report when they have spilled something. And if you host children in your space, they can bring a lot of spill risks with them. Juice boxes, sports bottles, crackers, fruit snacks, crayons, markers, or even the dreaded upset tummy can really leave some marks on your upholstery and flooring.
  • Unreported spills. No matter who makes the mess, the biggest problem is silence. Not reporting a spill right away gives the stain time to soak into a carpet or flooring. Salad dressing, oils, or dark liquids, such as coffee or wine, can be especially problematic as they attach to the carpet fibers and hold fast. The longer spill sits on your carpet or upholstery, the tougher it will be to get out. And even if you don’t have carpet, unreported spills leave floors slick and unsafe for pedestrians.

How to Manage Spills in Your Facility

So, how do you prevent and manage spills without banning food and liquid from your office? Here are a few ideas:

1. Give employees incentives to report spills.

Finding strong incentives for your co-workers and guests to report spills is one of the best ways to combat stains. Rewarding team members for noticing and reporting spills may help you achieve the clean carpet you need while boosting morale at the same time.

To take this approach, start by getting employees involved. If your team can come up with their own incentives for taking care of spills, they will be more likely to help you out. But if they get stumped, you can suggest ideas as well. For instance, a free lunch out of the office or gift cards would be great ways to reward the department with the cleanest carpet each month or quarter.

You can also work with managers to try to tie a clean workspace to job expectations. A clean workspace is a professional necessity that inspires client confidence, so it may make sense to make keeping tidy part of your office handbook and to make your policy clear to new employees. This solution does not have to be a negative incentive; people work better in clean spaces, and it benefits everyone to look around and tidy up throughout the day.

2. Give your colleagues tools to knock spills out.

Educating employees about how to tackle spills when they happen is another great way to avoid ugly stains on your carpet or flooring. Empowering your team to act quickly after a spill will help employees take responsibility for the cleanliness of their space, plus it will prevent stains from setting in before your cleaning crew can get to it.

Effective spot cleaning can go a long way to preventing stains and extending the life of your carpet and flooring. Find a good peroxide based spot cleaning spray for your facility and make it readily available throughout your building.  Then, show employees how to to use it.

For instance, here’s a video that shows our clients how to use our Banish Plus, DPM Care’s proprietary stain remover spray.


If you take this approach, your employees can be the first line of defense for spills and stains.

3. Use fewer trash cans and more recycle bins.

It might seem counterintuitive, but our clients tell us that using fewer trash cans can actually help reduce waste and spills.

Instead of placing trash cans in every office, some companies are only using recycle bins. The idea is that this will cut down on the number of people eating at their desk and reduce spills that occur when the janitorial staff empties trash cans. Not to mention, removing trash bins can help reduce the overall amount of waste your office produces. Etsy implemented this program a few years ago and they saw their waste drop by 18 percent.

Removing individual office trash cans also forces employees to go to a common area to throw away garbage, which can open up the opportunity to engage with co-workers and create a more collaborative environment. The trashcan can become the new water cooler!

I’ve seen this approach in two modern corporate offices I’ve visited in the past few weeks and I believe this trend is something that we will continue to see.

What works for managing spills and stains in your facility? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear your tips for keeping your space clean!