Using engineered-water cleaning systems means no cleaning chemicals need to be packaged in containers or boxes, saving packaging costs and resources (labor and materials)
No cleaning chemicals reduces transport needs and their environmental impact. Cleaning solutions are transported every day throughout North America. Transportation costs money, which is added onto the product cost, and requires fuel, which releases greenhouse gases
Because no chemicals are involved, there is no mixing or diluting of chemicals. Many cleaning worker injuries occur when mixing/diluting chemicals
Most engineered-water cleaning systems work using cold water, eliminating the need for hot water and its heating costs
Chemicals left on surfaces can often cause rapid resoiling of floors, carpets, and other surfaces. This is eliminated with engineered-water cleaning systems.
The Ashkin Group, the professional cleaning industry’s leading advocate for green and sustainable cleaning, is advising building owners and managers, jan/san distributors and facility service providers that as of January 2015, LEED has redefined the requirements for LEED-compliant de-icers.
This update is especially important for those facilities that are now LEED-certified, are seeking LEED certification, or follow LEED’s direction in maintaining a green and sustainable facility. What is likely the key update is that de-icers-used to help melt snow and ice to help prevent slips and falls must now contain essentially 100% calcium magnesium acetate (CMA).
This means that many of the de-icers that previously met LEED requirements are no longer permissible.
According to the update, de-icers that contain more than 5% of the following ingredients are no longer considered environmentally preferred:
• Sodium chloride
• Calcium chloride
• Magnesium chloride
• Potassium chloride
• Potassium acetate
• Ammonia-based products
These substances are permissible if they are in quantities less than 5%. Additionally, the new LEED updates require that facilities implement a de-icer quality assurance monitoring program.
This involves tracking such things as:
• When and where de-icers were used.
• If the de-icer was used prior to snow events.
• If areas were shoveled prior to de-icer application.
• Climatic issues such as the amount of snow over the season and the temperatures when the de-icer was applied.
While the update is effective as of January 2015, building owners and managers do have 3 years to phase out the use of de-icing products that are no longer environmentally preferred.
Mention cleaning clothes in cold water 20+ years ago, and most people would have thought you were slightly off your rocker. Mention cleaning facilities today using engineered-water, and most people would once again suspect you were missing a few marbles.
However, washing clothes in cold water is now very common in both residential and commercial settings. And while engineered-water cleaning, as it is often called, is just making its mark in the professional cleaning industry, it is getting far more attention and being implemented in many more ways than anyone might have thought just a few years back.
Engineered-water cleaning is, as the name implies, cleaning surfaces from floors to counters using water that has been transformed into an effective cleaning solution. This goes beyond Green Cleaning because Green Cleaning, for the most part, does involve the use of cleaning chemicals, albeit ones that have a significantly reduced impact on the user and the environment. With engineered-water cleaning, there is virtually no impact on the environment.
Other potential benefits of engineered-water cleaning include the following:
- Cost savings
- No chemical residue left on surfaces; chemical residue left on a surface can attract soil to the surface, increasing the cleaning needs of a facility.
- No fumes, no mixing of chemicals, and no impact on indoor air quality
- Greater safety; a large percentage of the injuries that happen when cleaning are due to accidents and exposure to chemicals.
- Reduce packaging including plastic bottles and cardboard shipping cartons and the reduction in the related environmental impacts from manufacturing these packaging materials.
While the benefits of engineered-water cleaning are obvious, the big question, of course is…does it work? Is the cleaning effective enough to protect human health and maintain an overall satisfactory facility appearance? Before we answer this question, let’s look at some examples of engineered-water cleaning.
A perfect example of engineered-water cleaning is one you may already be using: microfiber cleaning cloths. Whether used dry or damp with tap water, they have proven to be more effective at removing soils and contaminants from surfaces when compared to traditional cleaning cloths. Microfiber, when used in the professional cleaning industry, is sometimes referred to as “split microfiber.” This is because the actual microfibers are split and are as much as 200 times thinner than human hair. These splits make the fibers much better to absorb, trap, and hold microbes found on surfaces.
While you are likely familiar with microfiber cleaning cloths, you may not be that familiar with activated, ozonated, or electrolyzed water systems. While these are three different technologies, they are similar enough that we can discuss them here together. These technologies are designed to be used to clean restroom fixtures, counters, floors, and so on. A small electrical charge is passed through tap water used in the machine. The result is a mild yet effective all-purpose cleaner.
As to how well these systems work, studies are just now coming online. For instance, in tests at a middle school in Dade County, Florida, independent tests using an ATP monitoring system – which measures if potentially harmful microbes are present on a surface – and other measuring procedures proved the chemical-free systems the school was using were very effective. In one test, where a 0 percent meant surfaces were not clean and 100 percent meant all areas were thoroughly cleaned, this school received an 83 percent in its restrooms and a 90 percent in its classrooms. While not perfect scores, these are considered exceptionally high ratings, no matter what type of cleaning regime is used.