Green cleaning for small businesses
An overview of green cleaning basics for businesses based on the GreenSeal Standard.
Wed, Oct 26 2011 at 3:29 PM
CLEAN CARPETS, HEALTHY WORKERS: Vacuuming is crucial for getting rid of dust mites and other unhealthy particles that can pollute the office's environment. (Photo: Lars Plougmann/Flickr)
Green cleaning doesn’t mean undergoing a major paradigm shift, even in a small to mid-size business. The guidelines for green cleaning laid out by GreenSeal’s Commercial and Institutional Cleaning Services Standard are based on common sense, economy and health consciousness.
We’ve run through the basic categories of green cleaning for small businesses and summarized the major points that need to be addressed when keeping things environmentally friendly for employees and customers.
Cleaning Products and Supplies
This one’s a no-brainer. If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to switch to planet and human-friendly supplies. Per GreenSeal’s Standard, environmentally preferred brands should be used for cleaning supplies, floor finishes, soaps and paper products.
Reusable or microfiber cleaning cloths are typically more environmentally-friendly than paper products. Keep in mind, though, that these cloths must be laundered before reusing on a second surface. Disposable paper products should have the highest pre-and post-consumer recycled content available. Taking it a step further, consider keeping some real cutlery and dishes on hand for those who wish to rinse and reuse instead of constantly adding to landfills.
Removing Harmful Dust and Dirt Particles
Green Seal recommends a minimum of six to twelve feet of walk-off matting at entryways both inside and out of buildings. Mats should be vacuumed daily and professionally cleaned on an as-needed basis rather than at scheduled times.
Vacuuming is crucial for getting rid of dust mites and other unhealthy particles that can pollute the environment. Make sure your vacuums are cleaning green by following manufacturer’s instructions on bag fill levels, and go with bags that limit the user’s exposure to dust particles.
There are things you can do to extend the life of your vacuum and avoid having to shell out big bucks for new ones. When it is time to say good bye to an old friend, look for eco-friendly models with several of the following features: washable and reusable filter, pvc-free tanks and hose and chemical-free, paper dustbags.
Reducing Chemical Exposure
When deep cleaning for carpets or floor stripping and refinishing is needed, schedule these services for a time of minimum occupancy, and if possible, maintain a fresh source of air flow to expedite drying times and reduce chemical odors and exposure.
Maintenance staff should be trained in the safest method of chemical dilution to limit their exposure and avoid excess use. Disposable cloths used to wipe away chemicals should be disposed of within two hours in a sealed container to minimize evaporation of chemicals into the air. Whenever possible, replace chemical cleaners with safe and effective non-chemical cleaners.
Restrooms and Breakrooms
As two of the most crucial areas at any business, these hotspots require careful attention in their cleaning protocol. Greenseal requires that restrooms be cleaned daily, and that equipment used for restroom cleaning not be used to clean other areas. Trash in restrooms should be changed daily and receptacles disinfected, along with doorknobs, light switches, faucets and other areas of high exposure. Disinfectant should only be used where required (not for general cleaning) utilizing only EPA registered disinfectants.
A final and important aspect of restroom maintenance is to make sure drain taps are filled on a regular basis. For the plumbing-challenged reader, this means ensuring there is water in the pipe’s internal or external trap to prevent sewer gas from passing from drain pipes back into the building’s environment.
Dining and breakrooms follow pretty standard cleaning procedures. Surfaces that are used for food preparation need to be cleaned and sanitized on a daily and as-required basis. High exposure areas in this room also need to be disinfected daily, including faucet handles, drinking fountains, and cafeteria line implements. Food waste containers should be fitted with a lid, and emptied and sanitized daily.
Regardless of size, any business should be able to implement these clear and effective guidelines for switching to a greener cleaning process. And it goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway, that most employees and customers appreciate the opportunity to recycle their waste in clean, covered and clearly marked recycling receptacles.
Got other thoughts on green cleaning for businesses? Leave us a note in the comments below.