Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Green Restroom Cleaning: Safer Sustainability

September 9, 2011

Business thought leaders like Peter Senge tell us that today''s successful organizations strive not just for profitability but also sustainability — meaning wisely using and re-using resources, as well as minimizing waste and negative environmental impacts.

Janitorial practices and procedures that protect personal health and the environment are great examples of this trend.

And, no part of your facility should be greener or cleaner than the restrooms.

Green restroom cleaning starts by developing strategies for purchasing products that do not harm the environment, reducing waste, maximizing safety systems, improving processes and measuring the results.

However, before you launch your green team, it''s a good idea to familiarize yourself with some essential concepts.

A successful program includes more than appropriate chemical and equipment choices.

It also calls for policies, procedures, training and shared-responsibility efforts.

Step One: The Proverbial Wheel Exists

Thanks to a number of leading industry associations, your green program need not start from scratch.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (EB: O&M) rating system, which sets out to achieve the highest operational efficiencies with the least environmental impact.

LEED-EB: O&M has emerged as a recognized, performance-based benchmark for building owners and operators to consistently measure operations, improvements and maintenance.

ISSA has developed a cleaning procedure certification called the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS), which aims to help service providers use general cleaning best practices.

The CIMS program also includes a Green Building (GB) option that was tailored to meet the green cleaning requirements of the LEED-EB: O&M certification system.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited standard development entity certifies hundreds of thousands of products using credible, science-based and transparent standards.

Their certification program meets IS0 14000, the standard set by the International Organization of Standards (ISO) and the organization belongs to the Global Ecolabelling Network.

Step Two: Buy Right

Analyze your product inventory:

  • Identify the minimum number of cleaning chemicals or chemical alternatives and check that all chemicals have been verified green by a reputable third-party certifier
  • Ensure that all chemical cleaners are dispensed through a system designed to prevent overuse
  • Use restroom equipment that operates on "no-touch" basis
  • Implement microfiber for dusting, wiping and mopping and keep them color-coded to ensure restroom use only, which reduces the risk of accidents arising from misuse in the wrong areas
  • Buy green-certified disposable products and rapidly renewable paper products that can quickly be recycled and reused.
Step Three: Clean Green

Develop and implement green cleaning procedures.

While the procedure needs to be tweaked to meet the nuances of your facility, a green cleaning approach typically consists of the basics of regular cleaning with emphasis on minimizing human and environmental health hazards, waste — be it time, equipment, or supplies — and other procedural best practices.

Always follow the recommendations of the chemical and equipment manufacturers whose products you are using, as they have extensively tested them.

Things like dwell time, dilution ratios, and other ergonomic advice are more than mere suggestions.

Everyone has a role in measuring effectiveness of your work.

Custodial staff should follow a simple inspection sheet that covers all assigned tasks.

Supervisors and managers should rely on a qualitative method of capturing inspection results.

Customer surveys offer another thoughtful way to understand what building occupants think of restroom cleanliness.

Monitor complaints closely, as these comments often pinpoint needed changes in products or processes.

Step Four: Get Better Every Day

Continuously improve what you are doing: Inspect, make corrections, implement change and inspect again.

Clearly, developing a green cleaning program will take some work.

You will have to assess your current cleaning program to determine where to make the appropriate changes and then strategically plan for implementation of comprehensive green cleaning strategies over time.


Pat McClure is the owner/president of HLH Systems, a business and industry cleaning consulting company headquartered in Dublin, Ohio. McClure has over 30 years'' technical, administrative and consulting experience and was a consultant to the telecommunications industry working in areas of human resources, information technology, procurement and many others. McClure is a CIMS-accredited assessor and a participant in first group of candidates certified to administer the Cleaning Industry Management Standard. A LEED Accredited Professional (AP), McClure is a member of the International Facility Managers Association (IFMA) and an adjunct faculty member at Columbus State Community College assisting in business and industry training services. For more information, visit www.HLHSystems.com.