Floors, especially hard surface floors, cover a large percentage of a building and are areas that your cleaning workers will spend a lot of time maintaining. Take a look at the list of ingredients of many of the common floor care products that your cleaning company uses. You will no doubt see some of the following ingredients: Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), EGME (ethyelene glycol methyl ether), EGEE (ethylene glycol ethyl ether) and 2-butoxy ethanol. All of these common ingredients have harmful health and environmental effects. Switching to greener floor care products can reduce the hazards posed by traditional chemicals, and lead to cost savings.
The traditional floor care products have done the job for industry for decades, but these products are also some of the most powerful chemicals used by your cleaning employees. Many traditional floor care finishes contain heavy metals, such as zinc. Zinc helps the finish adhere to the floor, thus making the finish longer lasting. However, zinc is a neurotoxin (a substance that causes damage to nerves or nerve tissue) and toxic to aquatic life.
Today there are new choices and several high quality green cleaning finishes and strippers that perform just as well as traditional floor care products. These green products are safer for your employees and are better for the environment. How do you know if the product is truly “green” and not just being marketed as a safer alternative? Look for floor care products that are certified by Green Seal. Green Seal is an independent, third-party organization that only certifies products that meet specific environmental and performance criteria.
Cleaning companies can also select more environmentally preferred products by:
- Selecting products that do not contain heavy metals and known carcinogens
- Checking the VOC concentration and only buying products where the concentration is under 7 percent (when the product is diluted for use)
- Buying products that are in recyclable and/or refillable containers
- Using more durable products so you can apply floor finishes and strippers less often.
- Buying from manufacturers and/or distributors who provide good training on the use of the product
Proper employee training is essential to a “green” floor care program. Overall proper floor maintenance will lengthen the life of the floor finish. Make sure that employees use proper techniques in damp mopping and vacuuming floors and floor mats. Daily cleaning will help to maintain floors and decrease the number of floor care products needed to maintain the floor.
It is a common error to use more “green” products than are needed to clean, strip and refinish floors, especially when making the initial transition over to green floor care program. Train your cleaning employees on the proper use and dilution of all green cleaning chemicals used. It is important to use only as much chemical as necessary to produce a clean, shiny looking floor. Using too much chemical is not only wasteful, but can be harmful to the floor’s finish.
Another important factor in a green floor care program is the proper use of entrance mats. It is estimated by the ISSA that it costs $600 (mostly in labor costs) to find and remove one pound of soil after it has entered a building. Stopping soil by using mats concentrates soil in a local area making it easier and less expensive to remove. Stopping soil from reaching floors also reduces the need for extensive chemical cleaning, stripping and refinishing.
Encourage building owners to use high quality mats made of a material that will trap and hold soil, water and other contaminants. Mats with a bi-level construction provide an upper level for walking and a lower level that traps soil and water. Mats should be slip resistant so they do not move around on the floor. As with the other parts of a green cleaning program, you need to train your employees on the proper way to clean mats. The trapped soil should be cleaned from the mat and not spread on to the surrounding floor area.
There is no time like the present to switch to a green floor care program. Properly selecting chemicals and taking time to train employees will help to assure the transition to a green cleaning program will be successful. Your buildings will still have a high standard of cleaning and your employees, the building’s occupants and the environment will be healthier.