City of Madison

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How is a Building Green Cleaned?

A building is green cleaned by a combination of cleansing agents and the processes used to apply these agents.  Some green cleaning methods are simple, and some are more complex.  Surface cleaners that used to rely heavily on slightly corrosive chemicals to achieve that “squeaky shine” are easily replaced by citrus oil based cleansers or hydrogen peroxide.  Floor finishes that used zinc as an agent to maintain a gloss have been replaced by zinc-free products; these new floor finishes require a different method of application, but the result is the same, a smooth, shiny floor.

Another important aspect to keep in mind with Green Cleaning is that it is important to consider chemical dilution.  Some cleansers and finishes are not sustainable at certain concentrations, however, by adding the right amount of water that very same cleanser has become environmentally sound.  The sustainable application of such cleansers requires careful training of the custodial crews or, as some manufacturers have done, the elimination of customer dilution.  Some products now arrive in the concentration that is ideal for application.

The same principle applies to the use of paper products and, in this case, the debate rages on.  It is better to provide a paper towel with a high-recycled content but has a lower absorbency rating, which will result in the consumer using more of the paper?  Or is it preferable to provide a paper towel with low recycled content that will require fewer sheets to leave hands feeling dry?  Portion control is an essential feature of green custodial management, and it is still evolving.  Hands free, automated devices that dispense just the right amount of paper also have the advantage of breaking the chain of hand-borne infection. 

It’s not just chemicals or supplies that affect indoor air quality, but the equipment used to clean a structure as well.  Vacuum cleaners with HEPA (high efficiency particulate air filters) bags are preferable to those without.  They don’t allow the particles trapped in the floor surface to re-enter the air supply, thus contributing to respiratory ailments.  And it doesn’t stop there: riding vacuum sweepers are generally equipped with an array of batteries, and operators must make sure those batteries are recycled at the end of their useful life.

To summarize, the entire process of cleaning a building must be implemented in a sustainable manner, from the commitment to purchase the greenest possible materials from the most proactive vendors to the end-of-use issues for all materials involved.