Cleaning a Rainbow

Can you imagine cleaning up after a volcano has rained down ash all over a city? Nightmare, right? Well, Immaculate Power Sweeping’s Derek Grieco joined many other sweepers around the country in a similar feat when he agreed to clean up after the Color Me Rad 5K.

At the beginning of the course, runners start off with a white T-shirt. Color stations are set throughout the course to blast runners with dyed cornstarch in varying colors. And, it goes everywhere. Lucky for Grieco, this course was entirely on pavement, but that isn’t always the case.

“Color Me Rad was at a shopping mall parking lot,” says Grieco. “So that one race in particular was on a Sunday morning with the mall opening at 11 am. We needed the whole thing cleaned up extremely fast to get the mall open. To accomplish that, I brought in a lot of equipment. Our challenge was never having swept up that kind of material before and our time crunch. We knew we had to get it right the first time.”

The dyed cornstarch can be a mess, getting into every nook and cranny around. “It’s very light and silky,” says Grieco. “Any type of air will turn it into a cloud and when water touches it on pavement, it stains the pavement the color of the starch (blue, green, yellow and pink). What we found was that we were going to go in and not use water. If we sprayed water on the initial sweep, it would’ve instantly stained the entire parking lot. We couldn’t use a mechanical broom to sweep it up because it would’ve created a massive dust bomb. It had to be done with a vacuum sweeper.

“We found that you need to dry vacuum up as much as you can first. You don’t need a lot of RPM—we ran it just above idle. One of the keys to get it to work properly was to adjust the rubber skirting, close the blast orifice bleeder vent, and we also put about 8″ of water in the hopper of the sweeper. We did one pass and it pulled it all right in.”

They were also contracted to do the Color Run, a two-day event in Boston. “It was so popular that they sold out the first day and then had a new group of runners for the second day,” says Grieco. “We worked with a police detail to get it cleaned up off the streets. Luckily for us, we didn’t have to deal with grass or dirt, which would’ve been more difficult to get a clean sweep.”

They also had to contend with some of the starch getting wet from the runners’ water bottles and splashing water from the water stations. “For our second step, we hired a company that fills swimming pools that had a 9,000-gallon water tanker,” says Grieco. “We used that tanker and after the initial vacuum of the lot, we took out a 1 ½” hose and washed down areas that were stained. The stained starch would suspend in the water and lift off the pavement and then we vacuumed up the water. We really cranked up the machine and it left the surface really clean and took off staining.

“Again, one of the keys to getting it done quickly was using a lot of equipment. I brought in eight vacuum trucks for the mall job. Seven of those were parking lot sweepers like my Schwarze 348 LE and Victory Mark I, but the Elgin Crosswind was the main piece that got it really clean (especially for sucking up the water). We couldn’t have done it without that machine. It was important that we got it cleaned up right, because if not, then it looks bad on Color Me Rad. If they look bad, then they might not get the same venue the next year.

“On the Color Run, we brought four trucks total and the water tanker for each day. They had 10,000 people on Saturday and a new group of 8,000 on Sunday. I brought in three of those smaller parking lot sweepers and the Elgin Crosswind to get it cleaned up.

“We had to clean up each day—two complete clean ups. They ran the same course day two. But, day two, it rained, so their was a lot of staining. Every bit of starch was stained into the pavement so we couldn’t vacuum first like we had before. We ended up washing it with heavy amounts of water and vacuuming it with the Elgin Crosswind.”

And get it right they did, Jerrica Hall, race director for Color Me Rad wrote a testimonial to 1-800-SWEEPER saying that she loved their work and that it came out the cleanest of anybody she had ever worked with. The mall was exceptionally happy and it made Color Me Rad look good. “When I worked with Derek, he gave me a rundown on everything he did as well as the specs on the equipment,” says Hall. “I use that information as a template to ask other sweepers who are bidding on the job.”

All in all with the eight sweepers used, it took Immaculate Power Sweeping a total of 3 ½ hours to clean up the Color Me Rad race at the mall. “We started cleaning station 1 about 20 minutes after the race started,” says Grieco. “I actually thought the trucks were going to be exceptionally dirty at job completion, but they weren’t. The hoppers were spotless inside. The starch just dissolved into the water that was placed in the hopper and the trucks just needed to be hosed off. I would love to do it again if they come back to Boston this year.”

Story by Jennifer Taylor


For More Information:

Immaculate Power Sweeping, visit
Schwarze Industries, visit
Victory Sweepers, Inc., visit
Elgin Sweeper Company, visit