Preportioned Chemicals: Why BSCs Prefer Them
By Lisa Ridgely, Deputy Editor of Contracting Profits
RD Industries, Inc.
Specializing in Liquid Containment
and Dispensing Solutions
Preportioned chemicals come in a variety of forms — premeasured liquid packets that are added to containers and buckets of water, concentrated flakes and powder caplets surrounded by water-soluble film. This makes it easy for building service contractors to choose what type of preportioning will work for them, based on their staff, purchasing preferences and chemical needs.
Contracting Profits talked to three BSCs about why they use preportioned chemicals.
Y. Rene Tuchscher, COO, KBM Facility Solutions, San Diego
KBM has used preportioned chemicals for about 10 years, Y. Rene Tuchscher says, and there is no going back to the old days of environmental waste, questionable dilution practices and complicated ordering and purchasing.
“One big thing that we like about it is, as a company, as a culture, we have a huge commitment to the environment and sustainability, but also a huge commitment to our employees — keeping them safe and also simplifying the cleaning process” she says. “We find that the prepackaged chemicals fit both of those bills for us.”
From an ecological standpoint, product packaging has been dramatically reduced, which also reduces disposal costs and landfill space.
Instead of having to dispose of RTU containers and drums or plastic containers full of concentrate, small polyethylene packets are all that needs to be disposed of now.
There is very little waste of the chemicals themselves, and the spray bottles used are made out of recycled milk cartons and last from a year to 18 months on average, she says.
Employee safety is improved with the products as well. Ratios are easy for employees to be trained on and to remember.
“The dilutions are all a one-to-one, so whether I’m using one packet for a spray bottle, or I’m using one packet for a bucket, it makes it much safer,” Tuchscher says. “The employees don’t have to remember it’s 28-to-one for the bucket or six-to-one for the spray bottles.”
Preportioning has simplified the cleaning process on other levels as well, Tuchscher says. It has enabled KBM to greatly reduce the number of chemicals used by janitors at a typical account.
“We’ve really simplified purchasing and in many circumstances we’ve gone from 15 chemicals at a site to maybe four,” she says.
Now, many accounts need just a general purpose cleaner, window cleaner, disinfectant and floor cleaner, she says.
“It’s really reduced it and we get more buying power that way and also have to inventory less — again, simplifying the system.”
Though the chemicals themselves aren’t less expensive than traditional products, the system has allowed KBM to save money in shipping, inventory, space, labor and time.
Aside from slight challenges regarding initial employee buy-in and customer education, there are only benefits to implementing preportioned chemicals, she says — particularly in performance.
Don Zerivitz, President, Pro Clean Building Maintenance Inc., Altamonte Springs, Fla.
Many BSCs cite improper dilution as a major problem that, despite training and employee education, can be difficult to fix. Too often in the cleaning industry, janitors are trained in the field and when left to their own devices, some janitors have trouble accepting that adding more chemical to a solution does not actually equal a better clean.
Preportioned chemicals are a great way to solve the problem, says Don Zerivitz, whose company made the switch years ago.
“The biggest factor for us to change over was to control the improper dilution,” Zerivitz says. “We wanted to ensure there was accuracy.”
The system Pro Clean uses is simple, with four chemicals (all-purpose cleaner, germicide, window cleaner and floor cleaner) that are in worm-shaped water-soluble film and dropped into containers, where they dissolve with warm water.
The training is very straight-forward with these chemicals, he says, and the cleaning problems that are associated with improper dilutions — sticky or hazy surfaces — have gone away.
Inventory control is easy as well. When workloading accounts, Pro Clean calculates usage and assigns inventory accordingly, and it typically can be controlled within five percent, Zerivitz says.
While the cost of chemicals isn’t going to be significant for most BSCs, it is important to know that valuable product isn’t being wasted.
“If we look at the main reason why we changed over, which is to have accurate dilutions so that you get appropriate cleaning, then the job’s accomplished,” Zerivitz says. “I would say that chemicals overall, for any contractor, are not going to be a significant cost.”
Labor time, however, is saved by using preportioned chemicals, he adds, eliminating the extra time spent by employees going back to supply closets to refill chemicals. Employees simply drop another capsule into a bottle or bucket and add water to keep cleaning during that shift.
“We’ve run for years with it and don’t seem to have any issues,” he says. “It’s effective in operations, meaning that, when you get the right dilutions and it’s easy to train with, why change?”
Toney Edmonds, President, Edmonds Business and Residential, College Park, Md.
Toney Edmonds doesn’t run a huge cleaning company, so making sure his accounts are stocked with the right chemicals, and making sure those chemicals are used and diluted properly by his employees are paramount to his operation running smoothly.
“I’ve tried a lot of things over the years — the squeeze bottles with a measuring cup at the top, which is not always accurate because people will squeeze twice” or even just take the cup off and pour chemical into a bucket or bottle, disregarding the proper ratio, he says.
A year ago, he switched to liquid packs that dissolve in warm water — and he’s glad he did. Edmonds Business and Residential now largely uses just four chemicals: window cleaner, disinfectant, bowl cleaner and a heavy-duty bowl cleaner.
“I don’t buy anything from anybody else,” he says. “Once I made the switch, it was a done deal.”
Employee safety is another reason Edmonds is a huge fan of the preportioning. Because the packets dissolve in water, employees do not come into contact with the concentrate.
“You don’t have to worry about spillage, you don’t have to worry about anyone splashing themselves in the eye or their hands — they don’t come into contact with the chemical at all,” he says.
Training, too, is easier. No one has to measure anything, and it’s as simple as dropping one pack into a bottle and shaking it. Whereas Edmonds used to make the rounds to accounts himself, measuring out solutions from chemical concentrates in bottles in his truck, this system saves him time running around to his accounts and peace of mind knowing he doesn’t have to worry about improper dilutions.
“There’s 50 packets in a tub, and there are 50 days [of work]. There’s no room for error. When I drop off chemicals for them to use, I know when I have to come back,” he says. “And if you’re calling me in 10 days saying that you need more mop soap, I can say, ‘How? What happened to the other 40 days of it?’”
On top of that, the cost savings and storage benefits have been well worth the switch, he says.
Since the packets come in containers ranging in size from small peanut butter jars to something the approximate size of box of cereal, they can be stacked on shelves in storage closets and don’t take up nearly the amount of space gallon containers used to.
“It may be a little more expensive but you save money in the long run,” Edmonds says. “You save money in shipping, and you save money when people aren’t wasting it.”