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Be mindful of green pitfalls, components, benefits

September 19, 2010
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Building managers understand the importance of cleaning.

While it can require hundreds of hours of labor and billions of dollars on equipment and manpower each year, it is a necessary component for maintaining a building and health.

However, the very products and processes used to maintain buildings may actually do more harm than good.

Certain chemicals can lead to an unhealthy indoor and outdoor environment as well as poor health and decreased productivity.

To resolve these issues, building managers are beginning to incorporate green cleaning.

Green cleaning can be defined as the use of products and procedures that have been approved as environmentally friendly to improve environmental sustainability, while reducing costs and improving worker health and efficiency.

The dark side of green
Unfortunately, the notion of green cleaning has become so popular that many manufacturers have begun to label all of their products as “green.”

With so many products to choose from, building managers can become easily overwhelmed, preventing them from implementing a green program.

However, there is a solution to help building managers break away from the label of green and create a cleaning system that will best fit their needs.

Match the task to the product
When trying to determine which green products will be most effective, building managers should look at specific areas where green cleaning can be executed with success and cost efficiency.

Product selections can then be made based upon the particular needs in each area.

Some areas may include the restrooms, hallways, high-access areas and entryways.

Once building managers understand how to clean these areas in order to produce a healthier environment, they can then decide which products will best fit their particular needs.

Color your facility
Before exploring how these areas can be cleaned using environmentally friendly products, it is important to understand a key factor in keeping the entire building clean and healthy.

Because several of today’s green tools may be safe to use in more than one area of a building, there is an increased risk of cross-contamination.

To solve this problem, some manufacturers have designed their products using a globally recognized color-coding system, which consists of four colors: Red, green, blue and yellow.

Each color should only be used in the area it is intended for and kept separate from tools used in other rooms.

Reviving restrooms
The first area of a facility that can benefit from green cleaning is the restroom.

Because a clean restroom is the hallmark of a healthy building, building managers should focus on cleaning for health as well as green cleaning.

Possible green cleaning steps may include removing bacteria using less water and cleaning chemical, preventing the bacteria from spreading back into the air and keeping cleaning staff safe.

To ensure all bacteria are removed from restrooms, counter tops, fixtures, toilets and urinals should be wiped down daily.

As there is a risk that cleaning these surfaces can harm the environment through the use of harsh chemicals, switching to microfiber cloths can help reduce this risk since these cloths have been proven to remove bacteria by up to 97 percent without requiring large amounts of water or cleaning chemical.

As bacteria are removed from surfaces, cleaning staff should work to prevent bacteria from re-circulating back into the air.

This can be done using microfiber mops as well as dual-compartment buckets.

While microfiber grabs dirt and keeps it from spreading into the air, dual-compartment buckets keep dirty water separate from clean solution, preventing germs from being redistributed onto other surfaces.

This helps improve indoor air quality and helps keep workers from becoming sick.

Hallways and entryways
A significant portion of a facility consists of either entryways or hallways.

Because it is a guarantee that these areas will constantly be seen by building patrons, it is equally important that they are kept clean on a daily basis.

Since hallways or entryways mostly consist of a floor and basic furniture, they require only a few tools for building managers to successfully incorporate green cleaning.

As with restrooms, cleaning staff should clean the floors daily to remove bacteria.

To keep floors clean in an environmentally preferable way, as mentioned earlier, microfiber mops should be used.

Also, if stuck-on dirt is present, ergonomic floor scrapers can ease worker strain and the tools can safely be recycled once they have reached the end of their lifespan.

Drinking fountains, vending machines, desks, chairs or benches along a facility’s hallways that should be wiped down daily can also benefit from green cleaning.

Microfiber cloths, for example, can clean each of these objects without requiring additional cleaning chemical — saving building managers money on cleaning costs and helping to keep cleaning staff and building patrons safe.

Healthy high-access cleaning
It is also important to incorporate green cleaning with high-access areas.

Walls, ceilings, vents, light bulb fixtures and windows require regular cleaning to allow natural and synthetic light to enter a building unobstructed, while keeping dust from circulating.

Lightweight, telescopic poles can easily snap on to squeegees, washers and scrapers to clean walls and windows, without requiring workers to strain their backs or stand on unstable platforms, making it safer to clean.

These poles may also be used with microfiber dusters to remove dirt and dust from ceilings and vents.

Finally, light bulbs can be changed and fixtures can be cleaned using tools that attach easily to the telescopic poles, keeping workers safe from potential burns, scrapes or electrical shocks.

Placing distance between a cleaning worker and these dangers is not only safer for the worker, but safer for the building in general as it can lower the risk of electrical fires and power outages.

This can mean lower electric bills and insurance premiums, as well as less strain on the environment.

The adoption of green cleaning tools and techniques is an important step for any building manager.

In addition to creating a more sustainable environment, green cleaning can help keep workers healthy and productive as well as lower labor costs.

Building managers should look to their own facilities before selecting which products will work best for them.

First determine how much cleaning is needed in each area, and then begin to develop a green cleaning plan that will support a sustainable environment.


Bruno Niklaus is vice president of Global Marketing for Unger Enterprises. For more information, please visit www.ungerglobal.com or call (800) 431-2324.

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