Green Cleaning: Taking Stock

Green Cleaning: Taking Stock

Conducting an audit for green-cleaning success.

Whether starting a new green-cleaning program or looking for opportunities to improve an existing one, schools and universities should start with an audit. Unfortunately, many audits focus solely on cleaning chemicals and miss many opportunities for improvement. With the appropriate information, education institutions can identify and prioritize opportunities based on importance, costs, risk factors and other criteria.

This column is the first of two addressing chemicals, equipment, liners and other products, along with some of the typical “red flags.” Next month's column will look at training, procedures and other components for an effective green-cleaning program.

  • Cleaning chemicals

    Note the complete product name and manufacturer to gather Material Safety Data Sheets to determine product hazards. In addition, note the location of the product, especially if it isn't in a primary product-storage area.

    “Red flags” include: ready-to-use products; dilution equipment; aerosol cleaning products; chlorine bleach, especially when found outside a laundry area; ammonia; products labeled as “dangerous,” “flammable” or “poisonous;” products that occupants have brought from home; unlabeled or mislabeled containers; and damaged or leaking containers.

  • Paper products

    Note the recycled content, size of rolls, and if hand towels are roll or multifold. For roll products, note the size to see if it can be replaced with larger rolls. Also make note of dispensers.

    “Red flags” include: multifold towel dispensers; and dispensers that are broken, damaged or otherwise incorrectly dispensing products.

  • Trash-can liners and receptacles

    Note liners' recycled content, type and thickness. Multiple sizes of liners typically means a lack of standardization in the size of trash cans and frequently results in bags that are excessively large, wasting resources and money.

    “Red flags” include: trash cans requiring multiple liners; and trash cans with liners that are too large or too small for the can.

  • Janitorial equipment

    Note the manufacturer's name, model number and size, which then can be matched to equipment spec sheets. Assess the condition, noting damaged switches and cords.

    “Red flags” include: visible damage, such a bare wires or frayed cords; vacuum cleaners that do not contain disposable filter bags; vacuum cleaner bags full to the top; floor burnishers without vacuum attachments; floor scrubbers that leave tracks because of damaged or misaligned squeegees; and floor scrubbers and carpet-extraction equipment with water left in the solution or recovery tank.

  • Entry mats

    Note size, condition and whether the mat is appropriate for the location.

    “Red flags” include: short mats (mats should be 10 to 12 feet long); curling corners and edges; old, worn or loaded mats that cannot capture soil or moisture; mats that move when you walk across them.

  • Other products (e.g. mops, mop buckets, recycling containers, carts)

    Note their state of repair, size and if they are appropriate for the task.

Ashkin is executive director of the Green Cleaning Network, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit educational organization. 

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