Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

The growth of green cleaning

September 19, 2010
People in the JanSan industry have been aware of the possibility of green cleaning for more than a decade, but its probability as the future of cleaning has become increasingly evident lately.

In reviewing more than 1,000 Google Alerts keyed to words like “cleaning” and “janitor” every week, I come across green cleaning stories literally every day.

Most of those stories do not end up in the CM/e-News Daily™, largely because they deal exclusively with the household market (e.g., several stories a week about how to make your own cleaning products from water, vinegar, baking soda, etc., plus press releases or local newspaper profiles about small maid services that are going green).

What’s new about green cleaning
Occasionally, there is something newsworthy about the household market that impacts the commercial market, like a recent CM/e-News Daily green cleaning story from May 27 ( about a new senior apartment building that restricts tenants (and presumably the building’s janitorial staff) to using only green cleaning products.

Reflecting the general popularity of green cleaning, tenants at this New Jersey apartment building had no problem with the unusual restriction, under which building management gives each tenant four bottles of cleaning products, then refills those bottles when empty for $1 apiece.

Where green cleaning is most applicable to the professional cleaning industry is in institutional settings (school, colleges, hospitals, government buildings, etc.) and less so, for now, in office buildings.

For example, two states, New York and Illinois, have essentially mandated green cleaning in all K-12 schools; other states are sure to follow.

Those stories generally get into CM/e-News Daily, because they show that, via government mandates, owner preferences or stakeholder demands, green cleaning is steadily expanding its reach in more buildings every day.

So, too, do stories about Green Seal, EcoLogo and Design for the Environment, because they help our readers understand what is really meant by green cleaning.

Seeing through the ‘greenwash’
One story that did not make CM/e-News Daily recently was about how some companies promote and market products as green when they are not all that green (so-called “greenwashing”).

The Boston Globe reported in the story that Simple Green, a popular household cleaner that is obviously marketed as green, contains a “toxic solvent” (butyl cellosolve) that is also found in traditional, non-green cleaning products.

That’s what third-party certification organizations like Green Seal provide for end users in the JanSan industry — a way to see through the “greenwashing.”

While the push for green cleaning began with health concerns about chemicals in cleaning products, it has evolved into a kind of ecosystem, touching on nearly every product and procedure involved in modern commercial cleaning.

These include, but are not limited to, recycled content in towels and tissues, concentrated cleaning products, controlled dispensers, waterless urinals, day cleaning, ergonomics, hiring and training, recycling, team cleaning, fluorescent lighting, microfiber mops, steam cleaning systems, marketing, etc.

New products are rarely featured in CM/e-News Daily, because if they were, there would be scant room left for the news, especially lately, with new green cleaning products coming on the market every day.

The more things remain the same
The earliest green cleaning story in the CM/e-News Daily archives was more than nine years ago, about how “Green Cleaning Guy” Steve Ashkin, then a Rochester Midland vice president, would be leading a workshop on a topic that sounds very familiar these days — “Environmental Stewardship in Facilities Management: Cleaning Buildings to Reduce Impacts on Health and the Environment” at the National Town Meeting for a Sustainable America.

Ashkin has continued to be the industry’s leading proponent of green cleaning, working for the past few years as a consultant/speaker for the eponymous Ashkin Group.

And the issue of “environmental stewardship in facilities management” has become ever more prominent, as green cleaning products and procedures have become more effective, both in costs and in results.

CM/e-News Daily will continue to search out and present to our 23,000-plus e-mail subscribers the latest news about green cleaning, so that they remain well-informed about this essential, multi-faceted fact of 21st-century life for the JanSan industry.

To sign up for the free CM e-News Daily e-mail, log on to