Johnson Zhuo was a regular in the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) as a full- fledged operational paramedic from 2000 to 2007. “Seeing life and death, day in and out, made me wonder: ‘What has life got to offer? Am I able to do more if I have more resources and capabilities?’ I began to think of wanting to do more of what I was doing as a paramedic,” he shares.

He spent the next four years in the beauty industry, selling massage cream to Singapore spa and salon owners. The initially rosy business venture went bust when he expanded to Indonesia, and he returned to his old profession as a paramedic in Singapore.

“In 2012, I was fortunate to have my previous boss from SCDF employ me back as a paramedic in Unistrong Technology. Doctor Tan said to me, ‘Johnson, nothing is lost when you are still alive. Come back as a paramedic and continue doing what you are good at and at the same time, look at what you want in life’,” he recalls.

Johnson Zhuo, founder of Dream Sparkle

In 2014, there was an increase of the Hand Foot Mouth Disease (HFMD) in Singapore, and Johnson had an epiphany. He noticed the gap in Singapore’s cleaning industry. Thus, he founded Dream Sparkle, a cleaning and disinfecting company that year. We’ve asked him to share more.

Are you/have you always been a clean freak?

Nope [laughs]! Instead, I had always been called the “dirty boy” of the family in my primary school days by my mum!

What’s your earliest childhood memory related to hygiene and cleanliness?

It was only during my secondary days when my younger brother caught chicken pox that I had first experience of a thorough wipe down and disinfecting of the house. I had wanted my younger brother to recover and my family to be safe.

You had a revelation that led you to establish Dream Sparkle. Tell us more.

In 2014, I started to understand, life isn’t just about money, fame and power, it’s what one wants to do with it when he or she has it and what he or she wants to leave behind before he or she touches the earth. I want to set up a Moral Education Centre for our next generation and an Elderly Hospital to remember our pioneering generation.

How has Dream Sparkle evolved since you founded the company?

Dream Sparkle started with four people, managing day in and out business and operation. Today, we have over a hundred cleaners for commercial term contracts, professional disinfecting cleaners for pandemic or clinics, room attendants for hotels, tea ladies managing office pantries and dishwashing cleaners for F&B.

Dream Sparkle disinfecting an office.

What are some of the biggest challenges of operating a cleaning company during the pandemic?

Daily managing a team is never easy without a great operation manager and excellent team leaders. Handling clients or customer expectations are one of the many daily tasks. Explaining the difference between cleaning and disinfecting service does come with a challenge as customers usually lump these two services together.

Currently with the pandemic scares, we need to explain to customers that Covid-19 is a respiratory illness that spreads through droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze and by contact with contaminated hands, surfaces or objects. And depending on the temperature, humidity and nature of the material, current evidence suggests that Covid-19 may remain contagious on a surface for two to three days on average.

“Explaining the difference between cleaning and disinfecting service does come with a challenge as customers usually lump these two services together.”

Johnson Zhuo

Studies and Dream Sparkle’s years of disinfecting experience shows the importance of practicing good office hygiene. Regularly cleaning and disinfecting shared surfaces and high touch point areas (phones, keyboards, computer mice, desktops, door handles and security card readers) is crucial to slowing the spread Covid-19.

Dust, dirt and residue on a surface can inactivate many disinfectants. Hence, physically wiping away surface contamination first with a detergent is required prior to sanitising with the authority stated active ingredients to be effective against viruses.

Does Dream Sparkle charge by the hour?

Every day, Dream Sparkle takes the responsibility to explain to our clients or customers what services they are looking for and what is really needed for their environment. Dream Sparkle doesn’t charge by hourly basis, as we want to ensure our clients will not feel that we drag the timing for extra charges on cleaning.

Dream Sparkle disinfecting an office.

Can you share some of the craziest homes/venues that Dream Sparkle had to clean?

One of our residential customers called us during one of the Saturday nights in 2016, she had been very secretive about what type of cleaning or disinfecting services she needs. She insisted that we go down to her house that night and start the cleaning and deodorise her rented apartment unit.

Upon reaching the corridor of the unit, I told Mark (Dream Sparkle’s then-supervisor) that I smell the familiar pungent decomposed body smell (I remembered that smell since my paramedic days). Mark looked at me and joked that the owner might not be from this world…

Nope, the owner is human, but her tenant had passed away about a week before. They just found out and just had the body removed.

What is the most satisfying part of your job?

The happiest moment comes into picture every time I see babies crawling happily on the shining floors or bed after we had rendered our services. It’s very costly to get married in Singapore, buying a new dream home with your life-long partner and setting up a family. We want to make couples’ dream home sparkle with our cleaning and disinfecting services/products. That’s the origin of the Dream Sparkle name.

Can you share some tips for homeowners to keep their homes clean?

Take note of the high touch surfaces in your home – this can include areas such as door knobs, remote controllers, sofa, handles of kitchen wares, etc. Make sure these areas are frequently cleaned and disinfected as an important precaution to lower the risk of infection.

You have to also make sure to follow cleaning product instructions for safe and effective use, including precautions you should take when applying the product, such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation.

Dream Sparkle disinfecting a home.

If a surface is dirty or stained, first clean it with soap or detergent and water. Then use a disinfectant product to wipe down the areas. If there’s a family member who is Covid-19 positive, it’s important to wipe down the location that comes in contact with the patient in the household. Ensure there is proper ventilation for the cleaned and disinfected location in the house.

It’s also important not to wipe cleaning solutions off as soon as you’ve applied it to a surface. Do allow some time for the disinfectant to stay wet on the surface for several minutes in order for it to be effective.

Make sure to read the directions to make sure you’re using the products as recommended and to avoid damaging sensitive items such as mobile phones, furniture and other electronic devices. Consider using wipeable covers for electronics

Dream Sparkle disinfecting an office.

What are some of your favourite products to clean your home?

We have always been looking for eco-friendly solution and this year, Dream Sparkle have started to produce our own eco-friendly general cleaning and sanitising solution called Mr. Wonderful. The technology and minerals came from Japan, and we do the quality check in Singapore.

I use Mr. Wonderful for a lot of the cleaning at my own home, including to deodorise areas and equipment, clean toilets, and house wipedowns, as it effectively removes stains without damaging surfaces.

It is a purified pH12.5 ionized alkaline water made with advanced Japanese technology that is chemical free and requires no rinsing after use.

Mr. Wonderful has no colour compounds, no odours, non- sticky and no foam during use, a perfect cleaning agent in areas that are sensitive to conventional cleaning chemicals, such as childcare centres, hospitals, F&B outlets and theatre seats.

“It’s also important not to wipe cleaning solutions off as soon as you’ve applied it to a surface. Do allow some time for the disinfectant to stay wet on the surface for several minutes in order for it to be effective.”

Johnson Zhuo

What’s the difference between cleaning and deep-cleaning?

Regular cleaning is the tasks you do on a weekly basis. They usually don’t take that long to complete, and generally are done to maintain a certain level of cleanliness at home and make it free from dust.

Steam cleaning the window panel

Deep cleaning removes the deep dirt and germs, and like the name suggests, is more extensive than a regular cleaning. They also cover areas that aren’t typically covered during regular cleaning. It takes longer to complete, cover more areas, especially areas that are often overlooked by regular people, and because of this, people usually hire professional cleaners to do it.

How often should we deep clean our homes?

I suggest doing this once every six months.