Stephen P. Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Gro necessity of sust

Typically, when cleaning professionals, carpet cleaning technicians, and building owners and managers hear the word ‘sustainable’ or ‘sustainability’ in reference to cleaning, they think of the use of green cleaning solutions. This is not entirely correct. The key aspect of green cleaning solutions that makes them more sustainable is the fact that they are typically made from renewable resources, and no petroleum byproducts commonly found in traditional cleaning solutions.

However, sustainable cleaning is much more. One of the first aspects of sustainable cleaning comes from simply asking: does this cleaning task need to be performed, or does this space need to be cleaned?

For instance, the requests for proposals (RFPs), also known as ‘tenders’, often specify that hard surface floors be stripped and refinished twice per year. But refinishing a floor involves the use of very powerful cleaning solutions – many of which are not environmentally preferable – as well as considerable amounts of water, two or more mop heads, and the use of low-speed floor machines.

By taking steps to stretch refinishing cycles to 12 and even 18 months, we are reducing the use of cleaning solutions, which not only may be made of non-renewable resources including petroleum, but also require energy when manufactured. They may also possibly be packaged in non- recycled paper, and require fuel to be delivered, which likely is releasing greenhouse gasses.

It will also reduce the need for water in cleaning, which can be a crucial concern in areas of the world now experiencing water shortages, helping protect vital natural resources.


The mops must be manufactured, requiring materials and energy, shipped requiring fuel, and delivered, again likely releasing greenhouse gasses.

Floor machines require electricity to operate and, when stripping a floor, the amount of energy necessary would likely be more than the amount used when polishing the floor.

The same is true of carpet cleaning. For instance, all too often the RFP requires carpet in the C-suite to be cleaned every two or four months. But the C-suite typically has the fewest number of people working in it, and these people are often traveling, so they are frequently away from the office. In many situations, the carpet in the C-suite will remain clean and healthy even if cleaned just once per year.

BEYOND NEED Determining what tasks and what areas of a facility need to be cleaned and how often is a significant step in reducing cleaning’s impact on the environment as well as bringing sustainability into the cleaning process. Here are some additional ways to do this:

Cold water carpet extractors: At this point, several effective cleaning solutions work well with cold water. Using a cold water extractor is effective and reduces energy consumption considerably.

No-chemical cleaning systems: The use of ozone- generating systems and engineered water to clean surfaces eliminates the need for cleaning solutions. This eliminates the need for packaging, shipping, and fuel.

Hybrid or electric cars: While the price of gasoline in Ireland has recently come down, most of the year it’s been a

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