How to Provide Cleaner (and Greener) ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES

August 1, 2005

How to Provide Cleaner (and Greener) ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES

By Severine Zaslavski

A good cleaning program begins with
quality chemicals, then adds cleaning tools, the proper dilution of chemicals,
and proper cleaning practices.

Q: What should be cleaned?

A: Each infection control practitioner
and environmental services manager establishes cleaning and disinfection
schedules and methods according to the specific area in the facility, type of
surface to be cleaned, and the amount of soil present. In general, the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends procedures for two different
housekeeping surfaces: high-touch and low-touch. High-touch housekeeping surfaces in
a patients room (such as doorknobs, wall areas around the toilet, and the
edges of privacy curtains) should be cleaned with general-purpose cleaners or
disinfectants more frequently. Low-touch surfaces, such as hardsurface floors,
are horizontal surfaces with infrequent hand contact and should be cleaned on a
regular basis, when spills occur, and after the patient vacates the room. Clean
walls, blinds, and windows when they are visibly soiled. Remember that skin is
also a surface, so hands should be washed often.

Q: Is green cleaning appropriate
for a hospital?

A: A healthcare facility is the ideal
location for a green in other words, an environmentally friendly
cleaning program. Products with Green Seal certification contain no NTA, EDTA,
dyes, carcinogens, reproductive toxicants, fragrances, or endocrine disruptors
(e.g., phthalates). In addition, they ensure low aquatic toxicity; no or minimal
VOCs due to air-pollution regulations; no or minimal phosphates due to
wastewater treatment; and no alkylphenol ethoxylates due to emerging local
wastewater treatment regulations.

Q: Are green products just as
effective as other products?

A: Absolutely. Unfortunately, there is the
perception that environmentally responsible cleaning products are weak and not
effective. This may have been true for some products because there were no
universally accepted standards for green products prior to 2002. The chemical
cleaning industry has accepted guidelines established by a third-party
organization, Green Seal ( If you want chemicals just as
effective as or better than other products, be sure to look for the Green Seal
logo on the product packaging. There are clear, stringent standards for green
products for the following categories:

  • General Purpose Cleaners (GS 37)
  • Restroom Cleaners (GS 37)
  • Glass Cleaners (GS 37)
  • Carpet Care Cleaners (GS 37 October 2005)
  • Floor Care Products Finishes and Strippers (GS 40 November 2005)

Q: What
is the best way to clean a floor?

A: First, remove organic matter and
visible soils. Scrub the floor with cleaning chemicals that have been mixed at
the proper dilution ratio. Using general-purpose cleaners according to instructions and
rinsing with water will remove most particulates. New self-contained microfiber
mopping tools effectively eliminate cross-contamination. With a built-in reserve bottle added, the chore is easier,
saves time, and minimizes chemical exposure.

Q: Must I always use a disinfectant to
clean the floor?

A: No. Studies have shown there is no
advantage to using disinfectants over regular soap and water (general- purpose
cleaners) or microfiber-based mopping tools. It has also been shown to have
minimal or no impact on the occurrence of healthcare-associated infections. The CDC categorizes floors as environmental surfaces that can
be effectively cleaned using less rigorous methods.

Q: How often do I need to change my
mop head and bucket solution?

A: Bucket solutions, mop heads, and
cleaning cloths should be changed at a minimum of every three rooms or when the
solution becomes visibly dirty. Using the same tool from room to room
distributes contaminants and microorganisms even faster. Cleaning professionals
who inefficiently tote buckets of dirty water from room to room risk injury,
cross-contamination, and potentially unsafe, wet floors. Thanks to 100-percent microfiber technology, one floor-cleaning
tool can do it all and in a quick, environmentally friendly manner.

Q: How do microfiber tools work?

A: Microfiber mop heads have a positive
charge that attracts contaminants without redistributing soil around the room.
The fibers are absorbent so the mop holds sufficient water for cleaning without
dripping. The floor dries quickly because it is merely damp, reducing possible
slip and fall injuries. A 2002 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-sponsored
study indicated that cleaning with microfiber products can reduce cost and
reduce surface contamination by 99 percent. Note that not all microfiber
products are the same. Just like green chemicals prior to 2002, there is no
established industry standard for this item. Compare fiber type, weight, and
absorption rates and be sure to buy from an established, trusted source.

Q: Dont I use microfiber cloths
just like other cleaning cloths?

A: Cleaning with microfiber cloths
requires different cleaning practices. It is best to spray the solution on the surface, allow dwell
time (per product use directions), and wipe dry.

Zaslavski is the housekeeping platform leader for JohnsonDiversey, North