Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Reader Inquiry On Ionized Water

September 19, 2010

I received a question from a reader about the effectiveness of the ionized water spray strategy for cleaning.

Recently, we conducted hands-on cleaning and testing in two Baltimore elementary schools.

We tested and compared two routine, general cleaning methods side-by-side in similar rooms.

A control group set of rooms was tested using the school''s current cleaning method, a hydrogen peroxide-based green certified product, mixed as a light-duty cleaner and used in conjunction with recommended cleaning cloths.

The ionized water device was also tested, using the manufacturer''s recommended procedure.

To test and compare the effectiveness of these cleaning strategies, two types of metrics were utilized: Visual cleanliness — a room with no cleaning defects would have a rating of 100 percent and a room with visible cleaning attributes on every item would rate 0; and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) testing was done on a variety of touch points in each test room — ATP measures the presence in living or once-living material and is measured in reflective light units (RLU).

According to Hygenia, manufacturer of ATP testing equipment, ATP ratings of 30 or less are considered acceptable for food contact surfaces.

School rooms were randomly inspected at the end of the school day, before any cleaning occurred.

Two measures were taken, one before and one after cleaning.

Once the visual cleanliness inspection was complete, each room was cleaned with only the all-purpose cleaner or with the ionized water device.

Two to four fresh cleaning cloths were used per room to reduce cross contamination.

Study Findings: Visual Cleanliness Performance

The ionized water and the current light-duty cleaner delivered excellent results, with visual cleanliness appearance improving from a pre-cleaning level of about 21 percent to a high of about 80 percent for both products.

In several rooms, such as restrooms, ionized water delivered superior visual results on certain items, including glass, whiteboards, stainless steel, wood and ceramic tile.

Because the ionized water device did not leave streaks, it took less time to clean and left no chemical residue.

The ionized water device and the light-duty cleaning product worked very well in removing spots from carpet and fabric.

A few days after cleaning, the spots had not returned.

ATP Findings

Overall, the ionized water device delivered similar reduction levels of ATP as the current cleaning method.

How successful were the two cleaning methods in reducing ATP levels based on before and after cleaning activities?

The ionized water device reduced ATP levels by 87.2 percent, compared to the light-duty cleaner reduction of 74.5 percent.

Further, while the ionized water device reduced ATP levels in every case, it reduced ATP below the 30 RLU level 50 percent of the time, compared to the current light-duty cleaner which reduced ATP levels below the 30 RLU level only 37 percent of the time.

ATP Levels By Room And Item

ATP levels were examined in different types of space.

On average, for all types of space tested, the ionized water achieved a greater ATP reduction than the light-duty cleaner on a room-by-room basis after cleaning.

The greatest ATP reduction occurred on serving line and corridor touch points.

Corridor findings were interesting due to an actual increase in RLUs from cross contamination from the current cleaning process.

In addition, this study examined 18 different common touch points.

Nearly 80 percent of the time, the ionized water device delivered lower ATP levels than the light-duty cleaning product after cleaning.

Beyond soil removal, the custodians noticed several aspects of the ionized water device that make it more appealing, such as less hand fatigue when using the trigger mechanism and the bottle can be refilled at any faucet, which means cleaners do not have to go back to a central closet or office to fill.

So to answer the original question, I must conclude that the ionized water device adds another valuable and effective tool to the alternative methods available to the cleaning industry.

Vincent F. Elliott is the founder, president and CEO of Elliott Affiliates Ltd. of Hunt Valley, Maryland, 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.