This article, Green Cleaning, Cost Savings, and Chemical Management Systems. was prepared for client Betco.
Transferring from traditional to green cleaning chemicals is traditionally the first step church administrators take when beginning a green cleaning program. However, administrators should be advised that green cleaning has several components and involves a number of different practices, starting with how those new green cleaning chemicals are mixed.
What is sometimes overlooked—or worse, not even considered—is that even a chemical that has been certified green by a leading certification organization must be used carefully. Many green cleaning chemicals are heavily concentrated, which means they must be diluted properly in order to work properly and safely as well as to help protect the environment.
Because of this, most green cleaning advocates suggest that along with selecting green cleaning chemicals, administrators also should choose an effective “dilution-control” chemical management system to be used with these chemicals. In fact, those churches seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification are required to have an “appropriate dilution system.” And, as we shall discuss, not only is a chemical management system crucial to certification and an effective green cleaning program, it can also prove beneficial in many other ways.1
What Is a Chemical Management System?
While chemical management systems, also referred to as auto-dilution systems, were developed several years ago, their importance escalated considerably as more and more facilities transferred to green cleaning strategies. In essence, what they do, according to Brad Betz, Vice President of Betco, a leading manufacturer of such systems and other professional cleaning chemicals, tools, and equipment, “is accurately and precisely mix chemicals with water based on specific cleaning tasks. This helps avoid waste, eliminates guesswork, and ensures predictability.” (See sidebar: “Why More Is Not Better.”)
By predictability, Betz suggests that if the chemicals are mixed the same way each time they should accomplish the same cleaning results. “This consistency helps maintain cleaning standards,” he says.
In addition to helping ensure cleaning uniformity, some of the other advantages of chemical management systems, according to Betz, include the following:
Inventory control. Selecting concentrated cleaning chemicals (instead of premixed or ready-to-use chemicals that have already been mixed by the manufacturer) can help free up valuable shelf space; in addition, working with less chemicals helps in monitoring product inventory.
One chemical for more uses. In many cases, one chemical can be used for many different cleaning tasks depending on how it is diluted; proper dilution can help consolidate the number of chemicals selected, helping to reduce costs and again save space.
Cost control. Concentrated chemicals tend to last far longer than premixed chemicals, which can be a significant cost savings. “Chemical systems can reduce cleaning costs by up to 30 percent by accurately diluting the proper amount of chemical,” says Betz.
Waste management. Chemical management systems help ensure that just enough chemical and water are used, eliminating waste of both; they can also reduce the amount of cleaning product–related waste (packaging, for example) that ends up in landfills.
Time savings. According to ISSA, the worldwide cleaning association, every time a cleaning professional refills chemicals manually, it can take as much as 20 minutes; using a chemical management system, this process takes just a fraction of the time.
Safety. When manually mixing chemicals, there is always the possibility the chemical will come into contact with the skin or splash into the worker’s eyes. A chemical management system helps to reduce such risks.
The Green Connection
According to Betz, many if not all of the traditional benefits of chemical management systems lend themselves to green cleaning. For instance, ensuring that only the necessary amount of chemical is used is key to a green cleaning program. “The goal [of green cleaning] is to minimize cleaning’s impact on the environment, so this helps ensure that no more [chemical] than is necessary is used.”
However, the big picture of using a chemical management system is that it helps reduce a facility’s overall environmental footprint. Selecting more concentrated chemicals means that fewer containers are typically required, which helps reduce packaging needs; there is a reduction in greenhouse gases because less fuel is needed to ship the chemicals; less waste ends up in landfills, as mentioned earlier; and the need for packaging materials is reduced, sometimes significantly.
In order to take advantage of these systems and their green benefits, Betz suggests selecting chemical management systems that have their own containers with sealed inserts to prevent spills and drips but that also can be used to dispense chemical into existing bottles, mop buckets, and automatic floor scrubbers. Also, because English is a second language for many workers in the professional cleaning industry, systems should have intuitive icons to help eliminate mistakes; this in turn can ensure the green cleaning program is implemented properly.
“Further, some ‘fast-draw’ chemical management systems use color-coding technology,” according to Betz. “Color coding helps ensure the right chemical is used for the correct cleaning task.” Not only does this help eliminate errors, some green cleaning advocates believe it should be required as part of an effective green cleaning strategy.
Robert Kravitz is a frequent writer for the professional cleaning and building industries. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
1U.S. Green Building Council, LEED credits: “Sustainable purchasing of cleaning equipment,” EQ3.4
Sidebar: Why More Is Not Better
It’s human nature. Many people think if a little is good, then more will be better. That may work in some cases but not when using cleaning chemicals. Overdiluting and underdiluting can affect a chemical’s cleaning performance. Using too strong a cleaning solution can damage a surface such as a floor or counter, leave a sticky residue on a surface and cause rapid resoiling. This is when the residue actually acts as a magnet, attracting more soils to a just-cleaned surface and significantly reducing cleaning effectiveness.