Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Putting The Hype To The Test

September 19, 2010

I received a question from a reader about the effectiveness of scrubbing with ionized water — rather than chemicals — to clean floors.

After some searching, I found equipment that is filled with regular tap water that becomes electrically charged and is used to clean floors.

Could something like this really work?

We wanted to find a challenging floor care environment, one that''s been using a chemical scrubber to clean floors.

A soft drink bottling plant/warehouse in Baltimore was the answer: A 24/7 operation with bottling conveyor belts running nonstop, pallets loaded with cases of soft drinks everywhere and forklifts racing around all day to keep up with six active loading docks.

The resulting floor conditions include lots of sugary syrup residue from spills and leaks, petroleum-based grease spots, stains and residue from forklift wheels, track-in from busy roads and parking areas and residue from the equipment and conveyor belts.

The questions we asked were:

  1. Does the activated water scrubber deliver an acceptably "clean" floor in this extreme environment?

  2. Is there a difference over time between the results delivered by each machine?

  3. Are there advantages of using the ionized water method over the current system of chemical scrubbing?

We identified five different study areas in the plant and conducted testing in the same location over a three-day period: The pallet area, the corridor, the loading dock and the bottling area, which are unfinished concrete, and the cafeteria/break room, which is vinyl composite tile (VCT).

All areas were split in half and one side was scrubbed with the current chemical scrubber and the other with the ionized water device.

On both sides of each area, the cleaning was done using only one pass with each machine.

Testing protocol and measures were as follows:

  1. To monitor appearance, pictures were taken of the testing area

  2. For organic load, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) devices and swabs were used on 4-inch-by-4-inch sections following device instructions

  3. For bacteria, swab samples were taken adjacent to the ATP swab sample areas in each of the three test sections, again following manufacturer directions

  4. For gloss/shine, a luminometer was utilized in each section and three readings were taken and averaged for the section reading, as per manufacturer instructions

  5. For slip resistance, we used a tribometer in all three sections of the test area and measured the static coefficient of friction — the amount of force it takes to move an object

  6. Sustainability generally considers many things, such as electricity and water usage, impact on the environment, impact on people and cost.

The results of the study were collectively measured and then categorically broken down to determine where each device is preferable and where each falls short.

Be sure to check back next month for the results of the study and to see how each cleaning method measures up.


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.