It seems everyone these days wants a little more green—and we’re not talking about money. In Restaurants & Institutions 2007 Tastes of America Study, about 45% of consumers surveyed said that it was very important that the restaurants they frequent use environmentally friendly cleaning supplies.
Green cleaning produces happy customers, improved employee productivity and reduced liability. And the benefits don’t stop there—green cleaners can even be more cost-effective than conventional products.
Risks Associated Traditional Cleaning Chemicals
Believe it or not, the bottles and sprays in your local cleaning aisle are often more dangerous than the germs they kill. Here are some things you may not have known about conventional cleaning products:
- Indoor air pollution is 2-5 times higher than outdoor pollution, on average, according to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).
- WHO (The World Health Organization) estimates that 30% of all buildings have problems with indoor air pollution.
- About 80% of cancers are related to environmental factors like toxins, according to WHO.
- At least 1/3 of cleaning products contain chemicals that are known to cause significant damage to humans or the environment.
Studies prove that chlorine bleach, ammonia and other cleaners release greenhouse gases and toxic vapors, many of which are suspected carcinogens. Hazardous chemicals stay around for hours and cause a variety of symptoms, both mild and serious.
Symptoms of Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals
- Chemical burns
- Skin and eye irritation
After enjoying a meal, the last thing you want is for customers to associate these symptoms with your restaurant. Furthermore, research shows that better indoor air quality will increase employee performance and reduce health problems and sick days for workers.
Are Green Products as Effective?
Many claim that green cleaning products don’t work as well as traditional cleaners. But in the words of Dwight Schrute, that idea statement is false. It’s a common misconception that environmentally friendly cleaning products don’t have as much muscle as chemical-based concoctions. In fact, a number of third party certifications perform tests to verify that the green products work as well as or better than similar conventional products.
Look for Certified Green Cleaning Products
These products use environmentally friendly ingredients derived from plants and minerals, are non-toxic and biodegradable. They include a combination of emulsifiers, surfactants, enzymes, wetting agents and fragrances. This gives you a balanced clean without having to mix your own ingredients. Green products may cost less, too, since you can use different dilutions of the same concentrate for multiple cleaning needs.
Make Your Own Green Cleaners
If you have time, there are a variety of ways to make your own green cleaning solutions. This is the most economical and eco-friendly way to clean, and you probably already have most of the ingredients you need.
Methods for Green Cleaning
Green cleaning goes beyond avoiding hazardous chemicals. In order to achieve a truly green clean, your methods should be green, too. Here are a few tips:
Avoid Single-Use Items
Cleaning with recycled cloth or reusable sponges works just as well. If you need paper towels, buy products made from recycled paper.
Microfiber mops and rags require less water and chemicals, clean better and are reusable. In fact, microfiber is designed to pick up dust and bacteria without any water or chemicals. Make sure it is real microfiber and not a fake, since the use of the term “microfiber” is unregulated.
Do not mix more cleaning solution than you need for the task at hand. When rinsing, keep in mind that green cleaners have fewer harsh chemicals that need to be washed away.
When possible, sweep instead of vacuum and use cold or warm water instead of hot.
Take Your Time
In rare cases, green cleaning may require more scrubbing time. Be patient. Do not become frustrated and turn to chlorine bleach. Remind janitorial staff that toxic chemicals are more hazardous than hard work.