Sustainable Cleaning Continues to Evolve
It is admirable how far the professional cleaning industry has evolved when it comes to green cleaning. From a rocky start just a decade ago, green cleaning is now a fundamental component of our industry. Today many, if not most, facility managers base cleaning product selections—for both chemicals and equipment—on whether products are green or known to have a reduced impact on the environment.
While green has become a norm in the industry, the professional cleaning industry continues to evolve. Green originally revolved around developing safer chemical formulations. With that accomplished in large part, manufacturers, dealers, and end-users are focusing their attention on making cleaning more sustainable. The term sustainable has different meanings, but sustainable cleaning typically involves implementing cleaning strategies and programs and selecting products that help preserve natural resources and reduce waste.
The following are examples of how the professional cleaning industry is getting not only greener but more sustainable as well:
Telling customers what should be cleaned and when. You read that right. When it comes to carpet and floor cleaning, for example, many facilities have set frequencies built into their cleaning contracts that have not been revisited in years. For example, a schedule may indicate that the carpets in the executive area of a facility are to be cleaned four times per year. But invariably, the carpets do not need to be cleaned this often, and reducing this frequency to just twice per year can save considerable amounts of energy, chemicals, packaging materials, fuel for transportation, and water, while also allowing staff o spend more of their time cleaning other areas of the facility more in need of attention.
Replacing older equipment with new equipment. Cleaning equipment can be compared to automobiles. At one time, car owners decided to get a new car when their old vehicle began costing them more to service than it was worth. When they purchased a new car, they were not necessarily expecting a lot of new features, just a vehicle that would provide a number of years of service without breakdown. Similarly, that is how cleaning professionals viewed replacing their equipment. However, that has all changed in both the automobile industry and the cleaning industry. Many of the cleaning tools and equipment manufactured today are designed to use energy, water, and chemical much more efficiently. In essence, the machine is designed to do more while using less…one of the cornerstones of sustainability.
Replacing older equipment with new technologies. Not only are newer cleaning tools and equipment more resource responsible, new technologies have evolved in recent years that have also made cleaning equipment far more sustainable. For instance, portable carpet extractors typically use as much as one gallon of water per minute when cleaning. New technology has made it possible for a machine to recycle that water several times while still producing clean, healthy results. This is proving to be a big step forward in using both water and chemicals more efficiently.
Additionally, conventional floor machines typically use rotary pads manufactured with fibers and a variety of chemicals. While these pads have proved their value, they typically are replaced after each use and may need to be replaced several times in the course of performing floor cleaning tasks. This can be an excessive use of natural resources and a major contributor to landfill waste. New floor-care technologies use cylindrical brushes, not pads, to clean floors. These brushes can be reused up to 100 times before replacing and require the use of less chemical and water, making floor-care more sustainable.
In the past couple of years, there has been discussion that some cleaning equipment may be evaluated not only on how green it is but on how sustainable it is as well. In reaction, over the next few years we can expect to see equipment that is not only greener but far more sustainable. This will involve re-engineering older equipment along with developing entirely new technologies.
Importantly, there does not seem to be any of the reluctance that existed when green cleaning first was introduced years ago in our industry. Instead, it appears that all segments of the professional cleaning industry—manufacturers, distributors, and end users—have not only embraced green, today they are actually encouraging the evolution to sustainable cleaning.
Michael Schaffer is a senior executive with Tacony’s Commercial Floor Care division. He is also president of Tornado Industries, which manufacturers a full line of professional cleaning equipment and CFR brand carpet extractors that recycle water and cleaning solution.
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