Five eco-friendly floor care methods

by FM Media
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BRIDGET GARDNER of Fresh Green Clean shares some environmentally friendly floor cleaning methods that not only improve indoor air quality and reduce energy and water use, and waste, but also provide the best outcomes.

Approximately 30 to 40 percent of your cleaning budget may be spent on maintaining floors. As the imperative to operate facilities more sustainably grows, floor maintenance is an obvious place for facility managers to explore ways to improve indoor air quality, reduce energy and water use and waste.
In response, many so-called ‘environmentally friendly’ cleaning methods are now available. Given that not all such methodologies will clean all flooring and soiling types effectively, and not all ‘green’ claims will be legitimate, how do you specify the most environmentally sustainable floor maintenance method while ensuring the best outcomes for your building?

SPECIFYING GREEN METHODS
The focus of green cleaning encompasses a wide range of health and environmental impacts. The first step is to identify your facility’s key sustainability policy aims, and then define the outcomes floor cleaning should achieve accordingly.
Corporate sustainability reporting requires measurable outcomes. If a cleaning product claims it saves water, protects health or reduces energy, you need to question by how much and who says so.
Step two is to identify the standards and metrics by which to specify and monitor maintenance methods, thus ensuring your stated aims can be achieved, and your budget is spent on more than promises.

FIVE ECO-FRIENDLY FLOOR MAINTENANCE METHODS
With these two steps in mind, let’s explore the environmental benefits of five durable floor maintenance method examples:
1. Mopping with Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA) certified detergents
2. Steam cleaning equipment
3. Electrically converted water floor scrubber
4. Microfibre mops and water
5. Ceramic buffing pads
Their suitability for a range of flooring and soiling types is rated in the table below.

Floor surface/soiling type

Green maintenance method suitability^^ Highly suitable, or ^ In most situations

1

2

3

4

5

Internal durable glazed or sealed surfaces (vitreous ceramic tiles, sealed stone or vinyl flooring)

^^

^^

^^

^^

Internal durable porous surfaces (non-sealed and porcelain tiles, terrazzo or polished concrete)

^^

^^

^

^^

^^

Wooden or parquetry flooring

^^

^

^

^^

Washroom floors and urinal surrounds

^

^

^^

^^

^^

External stone, quarry tiles or concrete

^^

^

^

^^

Removing grease from commercial kitchen floors

^^

^^

^^

Removing mould from porous surfaces (tiling grout or wood)

^^

^

Removing chewing gum from concrete

^^

Removing industrial grease/grime from concrete

^^

^

^

1. Mopping with a GECA-certified detergent
Mopping floors with a diluted detergent is still the most common way to clean durable flooring. Although most claim to be biodegradable, only testing against AS:4351 for ready biodegradability ensures they break down rapidly and safely. Specifying that detergents be certified against a voluntary ecolabel standard, such as GECA 17-2007, ensures rapid biodegradability, exclusion of toxins and phosphates, and verification of all marketing claims. See GECA’s website for certified detergent brands. GECA has not yet developed a standard for disinfectants.

2. Steam cleaner equipment
Steam cleaner equipment provides a 100 percent chemical-free maintenance method with very low water use and zero packaging. While slow over large areas, steam removes industrial grease, bacteria and even chewing gum effectively, and it is ideal on commercial kitchen floors and for lifting mould from wet porous surfaces.

3. Electrically converted water floor scrubber
This technology is offered exclusively by Tennant. The company provides a wealth of third-party proof of the low environmental impact of the ec-H2O floor scrubber, which electrically converts water into a cleaning solution. Evidence includes a low eco-footprint, reduced energy, 70 percent less water, no chemicals or packaging and improved cleanliness.

4. Microfibre mopping
Microfibre mops can effectively clean lightly soiled surfaces using water only; however, a vast difference in quality exists between high-end technology and the cheaper brands flooding the market. All the environmental advantages of other chemical-free methods can be achieved if three requirements are specified and supported:

  • quality equipment with evidence of efficacy and longevity
  • adequate replacement quotas and custom-designed carts, and
  • on-site laundering facilities.

5. Ceramic buffing pads
This final method is a floor maintenance system for all non-sealed durable surfaces, such as stone, porcelain and terrazzo, that negates the need for chemically sealing floors. Apart from the chemicals and packaging waste saved, the messy, water-hungry process of stripping is now eradicated. Buffing pads impregnated with ceramic dust are cheaper than previous diamond pads, and still obtain good results.

Bridget Gardner is the director of Fresh Green Clean, an independent consultancy in sustainable cleaning practices for the facilities cleaning and management sectors.

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