Since 1847, when chlorine was first used as a sanitizer, there have been few, if any, alternatives to the useful, moderately effective but often dangerous substances known as chemical cleaners and sanitizers.
Today, there is a device that combines three simple things — water, salt and electricity — to create a sanitizer that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports to be 80 times more effective than bleach and sodium hydroxide that can significantly reduce or eliminate the need for soaps and detergents in a variety of custodial operations.
These two extremely green solutions are acidic and alkaline electrolyzed water.
Both of these solutions can be created on site regardless of facility type, eliminating thousands of dollars per year on expenditures for toxic cleaning and sanitizing chemicals.
Nestled in the serene woods of Dedham, Massachusetts, sits the opulent and stately Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Endicott House Conference Center and Hotel.
The property has always had an aggressive green initiative.
When General Manager Michael Fitzgerald read an article about electrolyzed water technology, he contacted Lynnfield Green Technologies (LGT), who was then involved in the design of an advanced electrolyzing unit.
The system was installed recently and is already saving the center money in their foodservice and housekeeping departments.
LGT and its West Coast affiliate, Pure Planet Water, market large electrolyzed water systems from Clarentis Technologies and Pathosans LLC, and a low-cost, handheld electrolyzer from Centrego LTD.
The acidic electrolyzed water is used as a sanitizer throughout the facility on toilets, sinks, faucets and urinals to eliminate pungent odors and to clean mirrors and other glass surfaces, handrails and any objects that come into contact with humans.
The hypochlorous acid is also used in place of bleach to eliminate soap scum in bath tubs and showers.
Eliminating exposure to toxic chemicals is also a benefit to those who require an allergen-free environment.
In the foodservice half of the operation, acidic electrolyzed water is used to sanitize all food preparation surfaces and is also effective as a hand sanitizer.
How It Works
The process is elegant in its simplicity: Tap water is passed through two types of chambers, some with a positive electrical charge and others with a negative electrical charge.
The resulting sodium hydroxide is an effective cleaner that is so versatile it can be used to remove dirt, grease and even printer toner in both foodservice and custodial applications.
In addition to saving thousands of dollars per year in cleaning chemical costs, MIT Endicott House has eliminated a major workplace hazard that sends thousands of hospitality and custodial workers to treatment centers each year: Caustic chemicals.
The alkaline stream alone — remember, sodium hydroxide is the alkaline substance, while hypochlorous acid is the acidic substance — saves thousands of dollars per year, eliminating the need for detergents in floor care and carpet cleaning.
In fact, many users boast that, by using the sodium hydroxide to clean floors, carpeting and upholstery makes them cleaner over time because it dissolves soap residues left behind on the floors and in the fabrics by previous cleanings.
The Ecological Domino Effect
The MIT Endicott House is the first conference center in the U.S. to embrace this technology.
As a result of the wide range of cleaning and sanitizing applications electrolyzed water has to offer, the center will continue to harness the technology to eliminate chemicals from the facility and minimize its carbon footprint.
By making the cleaning and sanitizing solution on site from salt, water and electricity, the need for delivery trucks is reduced.
In the U. S. alone, two million gallons of petroleum are used each year to make plastic bottles that store and transport chemicals.
In addition, pallets to transport these bottles need not be built by utilizing electrolyzed water, saving our precious timber supply.
Lastly, the plastic bottles that are eliminated need not be recycled, nor will they lay waste in a landfill.
The ecological domino effect is impressive.
The system at MIT is capable of producing almost 60 gallons of each alkaline and acidic solution every hour for less than two cents per gallon.
Despite the high rate of production, if the device ran for a 24-hour period, only four cups of salt would be consumed.
All of this occurs while creating a greener environment by eliminating chemicals and the effluent that results from their disposal.
Although there have been advances in our industry, there has not been a true paradigm shift in cleaning and sanitizing since 1847.
It’s been a long time coming, but that shift has finally arrived.