Over the last decade there has been increasing concern of the environment and the impact of harsh chemicals that may damage our environment. You may be facing pressure to "green" your building but not sure of the how to get started. A common sense approach is all that's needed to implement Green Cleaning in your building.

Definition

First of all what exactly is "Green Cleaning"? It is defined as cleaning to protect health without harming the environment.  A good Green Cleaning program should be more than just switching a few products. It's also about effective cleaning and implementing procedures and training that can benefit the health of occupants and the environment of a building.

Why Switch To Green Cleaning?

A significant impact on the health and performance of building occupants and staff, can be directly related to how buildings are being cleaned and what products are being used to clean them. Choosing green cleaning chemicals, products and procedures can also dramatically impact the lifespan of building materials and furnishings while preserving the environment.

Cleaning products affect indoor air quality and may contain a high level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can cause respiratory irritation, headaches and other symptoms to building occupants. 

It's been estimated that over 35% of cleaning chemicals can cause blindness, severe skin damage and damage to organs through the skin.

Some ingredients in cleaning chemicals have contributed to smog formation while others such as alkylphenol ethoxylate surfactants do not break down completely and persist in the environment. This can cause interference with the hormonal system of exposed organisms, causing a wide variety of health issues.

Janitorial workers are also exposed to chemicals that contain carcinogens (known to cause cancer), asthmagens, and substances thought to contribute to birth defects, kidney damage, neurological impairments and other serious health effects.

Training
There are many sources for training including vendors and people who specialize in Green Cleaning. The amount of training will depend on your situation. It does not take any additional staff to implement a green cleaning program and it may improve the productivity of your current staff.

Keep in mind that an effective Green Cleaning program requires participation from everyone involved. From research, to training, to implementation and follow up, all parties need to collaborate to ensure that the program will succeed.
 

 

Step One - Review of Current Chemicals

Step one involves reviewing current chemicals being used and identifying where they are being used. This information can be obtained by checking inventory against purchasing records.

Identify the following for each product found:

  • Product Cost (you'll use this later when comparing alternatives)
     

  • Manufacturer, vendor, and or distributor information
     

  • MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) and any warnings from labels
     

  • List of protective equipment required to use each chemical
     

  • Where the product is being used and for what application
     

  • Make note of any products that have been linked to worker or staff injuries.
     

  • Check to see if any of the chemicals have been implicated in any regulatory compliance issues.

 

 

Step Two - Review Cleaning Equipment
Another important step to going "Green" is making sure the equipment you use is efficient and leaves as little impact on the environment as possible.

Record the following information for equipment found:

 

  • Number and types of equipment
     

  • Purpose of each equipment and how it is used
     

  • Identify the type of filtration on vacuum cleaners
     

  • Do high speed floor machines use vacuum attachments?
     

  • Determine the maintenance procedures for equipment, does it involve laundering, disinfection or disposal

   

Step 3 - Evaluate and Categorize Facility Areas

Identify areas that are high-contamination areas such as bathrooms and determine what areas need disinfection as opposed to general cleaning. When determining if an area should be disinfected, consider the level of hand contact.

High touch items should be disinfected. Remember that in order to disinfect properly, the surface area must be cleaned first. A detergent, water and mechanical action are required to remove visible dirt, organic material and bacteria. After this is done, you can disinfect.

 

Step 4 - Making the Switch

Use 3rd party certification to help you find replacement chemicals. A good program to use would be Green Seal. They do all the screening for you which takes a lot of the guess-work out of finding suitable replacement products.

Green Seal is an independent non-profit organization established to achieve a healthier and cleaner environment. Green Seal has no financial interest in the products that it certifies or recommends. They provide unbiased information to help people make decisions to purchase environmentally responsible products. 

You can visit their website by clicking on this link:
 http://www.greenseal.org

One thing to note, some chemicals may not yet be certified but can still meet the criteria of being a Green Chemical. It may take more effort on your part to determine if a product is beneficial.

When comparing costs of existing chemicals to replacement chemicals, keep in mind that you should be comparing cost per cleaning and not cost per ounce as different chemicals require different dilution ratios. Also factor in the cost of special handling, worker protection and disposal issues to get a more accurate cost comparison.

In many instances a green cleaner can be used as a replacement for more than one type of cleaning product. This can save storage space and help staff avoid confusion.

 

 


 

Step 5 - Finding Replacement Equipment and Cleaning Tools
This is a little bit trickier as there aren't too many 3rd party certifications in place yet for helping you evaluate replacement equipment and cleaning tools.

Capital Supply carries many Green Seal certified products, click here to find a list.

Click below to find out more about Hillyard Green Seal Certified Products.

The Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI) does evaluate and gives CRI’s Green Label and Green Label Plus seals to vacuums and other machinery that meet their standards.

You can read more about their certification process here:

CRI - Green Label and Green Label Plus
 

To qualify, a vacuum must pass performance tests that measure:

  • Soil Removal
     

  • Dust Containment
     

  • Carpet Appearance Retention

Sound levels when operating a vacuum should be less than 70dBA and capture at least 96% of particulate 0.3 microns in size.

When evaluating Carpet Extractors you should make sure it is capable of removing sufficient moisture to enable the carpet to be dry within 24 hours.

Buffers and Burnishers should be equipped with guards and vacuums designed to capture fine particulate and operate at less than 70dBA sound levels.

Auto scrubbers should be equipped with variable-speed pumps to optimize the use of cleaning solutions. They should operate at less than 70dBA sound level and preferably use gel batteries.

Preventative strategies can help reduce the need for cleaning with harsh chemicals. These include removing absorbent materials like carpet from areas that have moisture present to reduce the risk of mold contamination. Installing a walk off mat at all entrances can reduce the need for cleaning floors with harsh chemicals.

In fact, installing mats at entrances can stop contaminates at the door. You can consider entrance mats your first line of defense for protecting interior flooring. It's been estimated that as high as 85% of the soil entering a facility has been "walked" in by the soles of people's shoes. Installing 12 to 15 feet of entrance matting will help trap this dirt and can be removed later on with vacuuming.

Benefits of installing entrance matting include:

  • Removes wet soils and dust at the door which minimizes the amount of contaminants that enters the building

  • Reduces the wear and tear on interior surfaces

  • You will not need to clean as often and you'll use less chemicals

  • Reduces the risk of trip and fall caused by water and dust on slippery floors

  • Improves air quality by holding dust

 

Switching to pour and wipe products as opposed to spray applications can significantly reduce airborne contaminants.

Using a vacuum attachment on buffing equipment can help minimize respiratory problems.

Tools such as microfiber mops and automated equipment such as auto scrubbers can also significantly reduce chemical and water usage.

After you've switched over the first area, move on to the next and keep going until you've implemented all the changes required to make your building go green.

Capital Supply carries an assortment of "Tools & Equipment" designed to help you go "green", click here to find a list.

  

 

 
   

 

Step 6 - Implementing the Change to Green Cleaning

After finding suitable replacement products it is now time to implement Green Cleaning.  Sometimes it's best to start with one area and move onto another after the first area has been successfully switched over.

Gather the staff that is associated with the area you will be focusing on and start training them. Explain how to use the new chemicals and equipment you've selected for this area.  

 

 

 Step 7 - Evaluate the Changes

This should be ongoing as you will probably find that you will need to make some adjustments to your program. It's also a good idea to find out if the program has been well received by your staff.

You'll need to educate them and point out the health benefits to themselves and others by switching to Green Cleaning.

Be sure to ask for feedback as the switch over progresses. Something that sounded like a good idea on paper, may not work well in the real world. If something is too inconvenient, your staff may not want to cooperate with the new chosen method. You may have to re-evaluate and come up with an alternative solution.

 

 

Conclusion
I hope you have seen the benefits of choosing to go with a Green Cleaning program and realize that it's not as hard as you thought it would be. By following the guide laid out in step-by-step form, we've broken down the task into manageable steps.

If you have any questions, please be sure to call us at Capital Supply and we will be glad to help you implement your own Green Cleaning program.

 

   

Resources

Capital Supply's Green Chemical List 


Capital Supply's Green Tools & Equipment List