Filthy Escalator Handrails – Better than “Hospital Clean” in One Session! – The Thomsen Way!

Are your escalator handrails hospital clean?

Dr. Charles Gerba, aka. Dr. Germ, during testing, has found food, E. coli, urine, mucus, feces, and blood on escalator handrails. Where there is mucus, you may also find cold, flu, and Covid-19 viruses. Escalator handrails are often filthy, but they need not be.

What’s the Problem?

As we move to a post-pandemic world, still filled with Covid and other pathogens, escalator owners and operators need to be able to reassure the public that their escalators and those handrails are clean, safe, and healthy. If they can’t, or won’t, do this, they will soon find that the people that they rely on for rent in their office buildings, travelers, on their subways and airlines, fans at their theaters and sports complexes, or consumers frequenting the stores in their shopping centers will soon find other places to move about and enjoy the world around them.

Consumers are avoiding unhealthy venues.

Consumers are already planning their commutes and travel plans based on where they perceive they will find the cleaner, safer, and healthier path to their objectives. Handrails on escalators are vital safety features. When they are not used, accidents rise, and liability insurance costs skyrocket. The Thomsen Way cleaning system is designated to mitigate these issues and provide a cost-effective solution to assure the traveling public that handrails are clean. The Thomsen Way provides them a certified cleaner, safer, and healthier travel option.


When consumers see The Thomsen Way gold seal, they rest assured that these escalators, moving walkways, and other handrails have been cleaned and tested and provide them the assurance they need to be safe and healthy. Thomsen constantly improves our cleaning/sanitizing solutions, conditioners, and equipment to validate and support this trust. As part of this commitment, Thomsen continues to scientifically test our systems not only to keep the public safe but to reduce the time and cost of maintenance and increase the life span of expensive handrail components for escalators and moving walkway owners and operators.

hospital clean the thomsen way

Our Recent Study

Recently, Thomsen’s conducted a study to determine if we could improve the initial deep cleaning cycle. Escalator handrails ride on tracks and have a series of rollers that help them stay aligned and properly tensioned. Dirt and microbiological load that builds upon the handrails also gets transferred to the rollers. The internal rollers build up quite a reserve of biological residue, dirt grease grime, and other filth for escalators that have not had effective routine maintenance and cleaning.

For neglected escalator handrails, The Thomsen Way requires that an initial deep cleaning step is completed before operators can start routine cleaning and conditioning. This deep cleaning typically takes about 60 to 90 minutes, depending on how dirty the handrails and the internal rollers may be. Due to the significant buildup of grease, grime, and microbiological material on the internal tracks and rollers, it often takes many subsequent daily routine cleaning steps to reduce the internal buildup significantly. Of course, this is something that UVC light cleaning systems cannot do. The alternative is for owners and operators to schedule an expensive full internal maintenance cleaning.

The purpose of our latest study is to find a way to be able to reduce the microbiological load to acceptable levels after the first deep cleaning step.

Measurement Standards

Direct measurement of pathogenic organisms like bacteria, fungi, and viruses has historically been a costly and time-consuming business. Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) luminescent measurement is an acceptable and practical method to define and quantify cleaning effectiveness in recent years. The Thomsen Way, as part of its effectiveness monitoring program, utilizes ATP level testing to assure the public that handrails have been effectively cleaned.

For this study, Thomsen selected two external escalators that had not been cleaned for an extended period of time. The dominant – most used – escalator handrails were first tested to determine their microbiological load levels. The handrails were then processed with only the first Deep Cleaning step of The Thomsen Way process. Upon completion of the Deep Cleaning step, the handrails were again tested.


Before the Deep Cleaning step, the two dominant handrails recorded ATP levels averaging 1927 RLU (Relative Light Unit) for one handrail and 4349 RLU for the other handrail. After the Deep Cleaning process, the handrails were tested at an average of 0 RLU, undetectable microbiological load, and 1 RLU, respectively. A range of from 10 to 30 RLU is considered “hospital clean.”


Deep Clean Step 1


Deep Clean Step 2


Deep Clean Step 3


Deep Clean Step 4

Looking at the Microfiber cleaning pads from steps 1-4, while there has been significant cleaning of the dirt grease and microbiological load, you can still see visible levels of dirt and grease are being picked up from the handrails on the step 4 pad. This is due to the redepositing of the buildup of grease and dirt from the rollers back to the handrail as the handrail is being cleaned. Yet, the detectible level of microbiological load is at or near zero. This means that with the revised Thomsen Way cleaning process, we can rapidly assure the traveling public, the owners, and the operators of escalators, moving walkways, and other handrails that their customers can once again use their systems and travel safer, cleaner, and healthier. The Thomsen Way gold seal assures consumers this venue and its owners and operators are doing everything they can to keep them clean, safe, and healthy!

What to do now?

If you own or operate escalators, you know your customers need cleaner, safer, and healthier handrails. Thomsen’s is ready to get you started. Give us a call at (503) 804-3150. We will show you how The Thomsen Way gold seal will reassure your customers that you care about their health. The Thomsen Way seal on your escalators will show your customers exactly what you are doing to keep them safe. Fill in the form below, and we will get you started taking care of your customers The Thomsen Way!.