What’s it like giving commuter trains a thorough scrubbing, which comes on top of their daily cleaning?

“When the weather’s good, the freshly-cleaned cars really shine, and it feels great,” says Mieko Wada.

Commuter trains run non-stop from morning to night. With so many passengers getting on and off, there’ s no way the trains wouldn’t get dirty, but you never see people complain they couldn’t stand to ride more than five minutes in one of them. While the cars may not be exactly spotless, there are at least no shoe-prints on the seats, and the cars are never so dirty as to be unpleasant.
Each day at the end of their runs, the train cars undergo a “minor” cleaning, where any serious grime is wiped down and trash is collected.
This helps maintain a certain level of cleanliness. In addition, the trains regularly undergo a complete interior cleaning and the cars are run through an automated washer. The sole objective is to rid the trains of their accumulated grime.
Tokyu Corporation trains are taken to an inspection depot every 20 days, where they are transferred to dedicated cleaning lines for interior clean-up and to scour the front surfaces of each car.
Mieko Wada has been doing this work for 16 years. She noted that the dirtiest spots are the places that people touch with their hands.
“Worse,” she said, “during rush hour, passengers grab on to whatever they can, which means even more extensive cleaning is needed.” Oils in the skin are tough to deal with, especially in the winter when they harden on surfaces, making them more difficult to remove.
Cleaning starts with the doors between each car, moving on to the handrails, blinds, windows, and walls.
Once those are done, workers use step ladders to reach higher spots for cleaning. To get into tight spaces where fingers can’t reach, like the space between the plastic rings and belts on hanging straps, and behind florescent bulbs, they use a specially-designed stick. You would think these out-of-reach spots would stay relatively clean, but that’s not the case.
“The Den-en-toshi Line not only travels long distances, but it also runs underground. A lot of dust and dirt comes in through the windows,” said Ms. Wada, whose cleaning towel was already dark with grime.
One worker is assigned to clean the interior of each car, while another is assigned to clean the bodies and floors of two cars at a time. Since the cars receive such a detailed going-over, each one takes about 90 minutes to finish. Workers complete about four cars a day.
Meanwhile, the trains are run through an automated washer once every 10 days. The cleaning machine, which is located in the same inspection depot, moves along at 5km an hour, spraying cleaning fluid as brushes scrub the bodywork.
While this is sufficient to get most of the car clean, a deck brush is used to scrub the front of the cars where the machine’s brushes can’t reach.
This is to ensure the train’s driver always has a clear view, free of dust and dirt.
Asked why the trains are cleaned so thoroughly, Megumiko Hasegawa of Tokyu Corporation’s public relations department replied, “Keeping our stations and trains clean is one factor in ensuring that people who live along our train lines can do so comfortably.”
There is no avoiding the crush of people on morning and evening rush-hour commuter trains. It is thanks to the proactive efforts of the train companies to provide clean cars that the experience isn’t more uncomfortable.

Trains are washed by machine once every 10 days (Photo, left). The cleaning machine in the inspection depot scrubs the entire train body. The front of each car is carefully washed by hand every 20 days (Photo, right).
1. A step ladder is used to reach spots higher up.
2. Inside, windows are often sticky with hair products.
3. Dust is swept out from between the seats, where it tends to accumulate.
4. A whisk broom is used for more detailed cleaning, while a flat stick wrapped with a cloth gets into spots that fingers can’t reach.
5. Even the bottoms of the doors get a thorough polish.
6. Floors are waxed every few months. Once dirty build-up starts showing along the edges, the floors are stripped and new wax applied.
7. Air conditioners in the ceiling are especially tough to clean.

Text: JQR Editorial Staff

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