Two women clean an office floor


Getting commercial buildings like retail stores, office buildings, laboratories and manufacturing facilities clean and sanitized may require heavy-duty cleaning products, but that doesn't mean cleaners have to rely on toxic, environmentally harmful chemicals and solvents. Green industrial cleaning guidelines help cleaning companies determine how to choose products and methods that are safe, eco-friendly and effective.


Why choose green industrial cleaning? Standard commercial cleaning products contain volatile components that can be a hazard to cleaners, employees and visitors at the facilities being cleaned, and the ecosystem outside the building. These cleaning products can not only make workers ill, they can also decrease indoor air quality and pollute groundwater. Choosing green industrial cleaning products can also save money, because the products are highly concentrated and non-toxic enough to use at any time during the day, even when workers are present.


Green Seal, a non-profit organization that sets leadership standards for eco-friendly products, services and companies, provides a helpful list of guidelines (PDF) for commercial and institutional cleaning services that explains how to create a green cleaning program that protects human health and the environment. These guidelines can help a commercial facility craft a green cleaning program that is tailored to site-specific needs.


Here are some of the basic recommendations outlined by Green Seal:


Choose environmentally preferable cleaning products including general-purpose cleaners, floor cleaners, bathroom cleaners, carpet cleaners, floor finishes and floor strippers, liquid hand soap, toilet tissue and facial tissue, paper towels and napkins. Environmentally preferable products are certified with a third-party environmental label by Green Seal (U.S.), EcoLogo (Canada) or EUROPA Ecolabel (Europe). Plastic trash liners should contain a minimum of 10 percent post-consumer recycled content, and trash should be disposed of in external, covered containers away from the immediate exterior of the building.


Reduce chemical waste and use chemical products efficiently. This includes proper dilution, training workers to use products according to label instructions with the appropriate technology like spray bottles and dispensers, proper rinsing and disposal of empty containers and reducing, minimizing or eliminating the need to use cleaning chemicals whenever possible.


Reduce solid waste output by purchasing products and supplies in bulk, using reusable cleaning cloths instead of paper products when practical, instituting a recycling program and either disposing, rinsing or placing cleaning cloths in a sealable container within two hours of use to minimize evaporation of cleaning products into the air.


Emphasize proper sanitation and disinfection using only U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered disinfectants or disinfection devices, disinfecting surfaces in restrooms touched by hands and sanitizing surfaces used in food preparation and consumption areas on a daily basis.


Choose vacuum cleaners that meet the Carpet and Rug Institute Green Label Program requirements and ensure that all powered floor maintenance equipment is equipped with devices that capture and collect particulates. Propane-powered floor equipment should have low-emission engines and should only be used when the building is unoccupied. All powered cleaning equipment should operate at a sound level of less than 70 decibels.


Take special considerations for vulnerable populations such as children, asthmatics and pregnant women, and there are various standard operating procedures that must be met for specific areas of the building like high-traffic ares, entryways, laboratories and dining areas.


Institute a communication strategy with cleaning personnel and facility managers, which is essential to a green industrial cleaning program. Employees should receive on-site, site-specific, annual training and be given opportunities to provide feedback and suggestions. Employees should be directed to provide facility managers with lists of any cleaning products that may be used in the building.


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Photo: leezsnow/iStockphoto

Green industrial cleaning
Getting commercial buildings like retail stores, office buildings, laboratories and manufacturing facilities clean and sanitized may require heavy-duty cleaning