Chemical management for green cleaning

Dilution control is key to realizing the benefits of eco-friendly sanitation products
Friday, September 5, 2014
By Brad Betz

The first step in a green cleaning program is often to switch from traditional to green cleaning chemicals. What facility managers may not realize is that even a green chemical certified by a reputable organization must be used carefully. Many green cleaning chemicals are heavily concentrated, which means they must be diluted in order to fulfill their promise of being eco-friendly, as well as to work properly and safely.

In particular, using too strong a cleaning solution can damage a surface such as a floor or counter, leave a sticky residue on a surface and cause rapid re-soiling. This is when the residue actually acts as a magnet, attracting more soils to a just-cleaned surface and significantly reducing cleaning effectiveness.

Because of this, many green cleaning advocates suggest that, along with selecting green cleaning chemicals, administrators also choose an effective chemical management system. In fact, schools seeking U.S. Green Building Council LEED credits for sustainable purchasing of cleaning equipment are required to have an “appropriate dilution system.” And not only is a chemical management system crucial to an effective green cleaning program, it can also prove beneficial in many other ways.

Chemical management systems, also referred to as auto-dilution systems, accurately and precisely mix chemicals with water based on specific cleaning tasks. This helps avoid waste, eliminates guesswork, and ensures predictability. In this context, predictability means that the chemicals are mixed the same way every time so as to accomplish the same cleaning results. And it is this consistency that helps maintain cleaning standards.

Additional benefits to using chemical management systems include the following:

  • One chemical for a greater number of uses: In many cases, one chemical can be used for many different cleaning tasks, depending on how it is diluted; proper dilution can help consolidate the number of chemicals used in a facility.
  • Cost control: Concentrated chemicals tend to last far longer, simply because less product needs to be mixed with water, which contributes to cost savings.
  • Inventory control: Because less product is needed, selecting concentrated cleaning chemicals can help free up valuable shelf space; in addition, working with fewer chemicals makes it easier to monitor inventory.
  • Time savings: Compared to a chemical management system, refilling chemicals manually takes time.
  • Safety: A chemical management system helps to reduce the risk of chemicals splashing onto a worker’s eyes or skin.
  • Waste management: A chemical management system helps ensure that just enough chemical and water are used, eliminating waste of both.

Some chemical management systems include other helpful features. Systems that have containers with sealed inserts prevent spills and drips and can be used to dispense chemical into existing bottles, mop buckets, and automatic floor scrubbers. Systems with intuitive icons and colour-coding technology help to eliminate errors and ensure the right chemical is used for the cleaning task at hand.

Many, if not all, of the traditional benefits of chemical management systems lend themselves to green cleaning. For instance, ensuring that only the necessary amount of chemical is used is key to a green cleaning program’s goal of minimizing the impact cleaning has on the environment.

The big picture of using a chemical management system is that it helps reduce a facility’s overall environmental footprint. Selecting more concentrated chemicals typically means fewer containers, which helps reduce packaging needs and sends less waste to landfills. Plus, there is a reduction in greenhouse gases because less fuel is needed to ship the chemicals.

Brad Betz has been involved with the professional cleaning industry most of his professional life. He is now vice president of Betco, a manufacturer of chemical mixing systems and other tools, chemicals, and equipment for the professional cleaning industry.