I received a question from a reader about the effectiveness of scrubbing with ionized water — rather than chemicals — to clean floors.
The following is the conclusion of a study we embarked upon to find some definitive, measurable answers.
Appearance: The testers and employees of the plant were very impressed by the performance of the ionized water scrubber.
Given the nature of the residue on the floors, everyone was a little skeptical that water, even ionized water, would be able to remove any soiling as effectively as a chemical.
It was immediately apparent that those fears were unfounded: The ionized water method quickly removed even the toughest greasy dirt, leaving the concrete floors dry and residue-free.
Organic load: For removing ATP, the ionized water machine delivered superior results overall, reducing ATP by an average of 90.1 percent.
The chemical scrubber reduced the ATP load by an average of 84.2 percent.
Bacteria removal: In removing bacteria, the ionized water scrubber also outperformed the chemical scrubber, reducing the presence of aerobic bacteria by an average of 95.1 percent.
The chemical scrubber also removed a significant amount of bacteria from the floor at an average of 89.7 percent.
It is interesting to note that the ionized water system seemed to perform more consistently in all areas than the chemical scrubber.
It also outperformed the chemical scrubber by a large margin in the cafeteria area, the only room that had a VCT floor instead of a concrete floor, reducing bacteria by 92.2 percent instead of the 77.9 percent reduction by the chemical scrubber.
Gloss: For both floor cleaning systems, there was no distinctive, definitive pattern of improvement or reduction in gloss levels.
For the four areas with concrete floors, the ionized water system appears to have reduced the gloss levels more than the chemical scrubber did.
The only area that showed a distinctive pattern was the cafeteria, which was the only VCT floor surface tested.
Both systems showed decreasing gloss reduction over the study period.
Slip resistance: The change in slip resistance was not remarkably different from one system to another, as neither system showed a definite pattern of improved or decreased slip resistance over the course of the study.
They both showed similar results by area — the average slip resistance of the bottling area declined by 9.4 percent with the ionized water system and 9.8 percent with the chemical scrubber.
Sustainability: "Green" is defined by Presidential Executive Order 13101 as "products or services that have a lesser or reduced effect on the health and environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose."
As such, it is imperative to consider both environmental impacts and human health issues when considering a change in products or equipment.
Another factor to consider when it comes to "green" or sustainably preferred processes is the triple bottom line: Economic, environmental and social.
Economic bottom line: Profitability
Environmental bottom line: Reducing or removing pollutants from the environment, using fewer raw materials, energy and water, decreasing materials disposed of in landfills and the impact of transporting the product
Social bottom line: The impact on people, both those who use a product and those who come in contact with it or the results of its use.
We did not evaluate all of the possible factors, just the ones most apparent in the study.
Our study clearly shows that the ionized water floor scrubber method delivered greater ATP and bacteria reduction and higher appearance than the floor scrubber using a designated chemical cleaner did.
So, to answer the original question, I must conclude that the ionized water device adds another valuable and effective tool to the alternative methods available to the cleaning industry.
Beyond soil removal, the custodians noticed several aspects of the ionized water device that make it an effective alternative that is easier and more appealing to use.
The trigger mechanism on the unit makes it easier to spray than traditional spray bottles, which results in less hand fatigue
The nozzle dispenses the ionized water in a consistent, round pattern that results in a more even spray than traditional spray bottles
The bottle can be refilled at any faucet, which means that cleaners don''t have to go back to a central closet or office to fill up, saving travel time.
Vincent F. Elliott is the founder, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Elliott Affiliates Ltd. of Hunt Valley, Maryland, www.ealtd.com. He is widely recognized as the leading authority in the design and utilization of best practice, performance-driven techniques for janitorial outsourcing and ongoing management.