Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online
August 2012 Fact-based Management

Cleaning Without Chemicals?

With emerging technologies and innovation, it's fair to ask: "Does this stuff really work?"

August 22, 2012

I'd like to share the questions and answers I've received from manufacturers, end users and studies in the field.

This article is intended for those who have open and healthy questions about the emerging toxic-free, chemical-free technologies and ideas.

I am firm in the conviction that the scientific and field experience basis for the chemical-free cleaning model must be valid if it is to be accepted.

So, I am searching for the proof of the efficacy of chemical-free cleaning products on behalf of building owners, managers, occupants and workers everywhere, as well as our fragile, at-risk environment.

Here are some of the questions I have explored — so far:

  • Cleaning with water; you're kidding, right?

Through the innovative set of chemical-free cleaning technologies, water molecules are activated, charged, ionized, ozonized and empowered so they can clean away dirt, grease, grime, soil and oily residues as well as or better than conventional, synthetic cleaning chemical solutions.

The short answer is: Yes, they do appear to work as advertised.

Keep in mind that these water-based strategies are a minor percent of the full chemical-free cleaning construct.

Nonetheless, they seem to be a major focus of the emerging technology conversation.

  • Why should I bother; I'm already green.

Being green is a remarkable achievement and much better than the traditional, more toxic system.

Yet, being green is not the same as being non-toxic: They just contain lower chemical doses or other chemical alternatives.

Chemical-free cleaning is a paradigm shift beyond today's green in terms of the impact on our safety, health and our environment.

Chemical-free cleaning means moving from low-toxic chemicals to no harmful chemical residual in the air or on any surface after the cleaning process, which seems better for all of our buildings.

  • What do you mean by chemical-free cleaning?

Chemical-free cleaning means there are no toxic or harmful chemical residues in the air or on any surface after the cleaning process.

The toxic-free, chemical-free cleaning concept means that, at some point after the cleaning event, there is nothing harmful left to contaminate our bodies or our environment.

  • Does chemical-free really clean as well as what I'm doing today?

Clinical studies seem to suggest that not only is chemical-free cleaning as effective as most toxic chemical cleaning solutions in achieving high levels of hygiene and sanitization, but some of the technologies actually achieve higher kill rates of microorganisms than bleach and ammonia.

Chemical-free cleaning is a fundamental shift in the way we think about how we clean our buildings, based on the advanced technologies emerging and continuing to grow.

  • Who says it works?

Many of the world's leading health and welfare organizations such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) and many others have certified a number of chemical-free technologies as effective.

The third-party evidence seems to support manufacturer claims of germ inactivation rates of well over 99 percent, with some reaching an astronomical 99.995 percent.

  • Am I going to pay more?

Over the life of a conventional commercial building, chemical-free cleaning products appear to be less expensive than constantly refilling your storerooms with thousands of gallons of cleaning chemicals.

Savings are financial, reduced health risks, safety gains, labor reductions and environmental protection; it's unusual to find another system that can provide so many types of savings in one strategy.

I recognize that some of the claims being made for chemical-free product manufacturers may cause some to wonder about their validity.

Therefore, I encourage you to challenge any and all claims in an open way.

I look forward to addressing any questions, queries or statements that help us all better understand this remarkable advance in our industry.


Vincent F. Elliott is the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Elliott Affiliates Ltd. of Hunt Valley, Maryland. For more information, visit 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. Elliott is also the founder of the Chemical Free Cleaning Network (CFCN). More information about that initiative can be found at www.CFCN.info.