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When put on the spot, most cleaning personnel are often at a loss for words when asked if they know how to accurately dilute concentrated cleaning chemicals.

"They'll say, 'Of course we know how to mix chemicals, it's simple,'" says Randy Neumann, vice president and general manager of Chicago-based Daley International. "But then I'll ask, 'If I gave you a gallon of product, how would you mix this at a ratio of 128:1?' I usually just get a blank stare.

"That tells you that the Average Joe out there using chemicals probably isn't doing a very good job of properly mixing them. If they don't know, they're going to guess and they're going to employ the 'glug-glug' method."

Fortunately for custodians, the guesswork required to manually mix chemicals to each product's dilution specifications can be eliminated with the implementation of today's feature-laden wall-mount chemical proportioning systems, which guarantee that the mixing of chemical and water are at the appropriate ratio.

Fitted with dials, knobs and push buttons, wall-mount chemical proportioning systems give end users the right balance of chemicals every time, without having to handle chemicals.

"As an end user, you can be rest assured that the product is going to dilute out at whatever the stated dilution ratio is," says Neumann.

Traditionally, chemical proportioners have been about saving end users money as well as promoting safety for custodians and building occupants. Today's systems still follow that same premise, but recent advancements are making them even more attractive and functionable for any facility's needs.

Tuning The Bells And Whistles

During the last decade, recent advancements to wall-mount systems allow for more ease of use for end users. Bottle activation, where a custodian is able to fill a spray bottle by inserting it into the dispenser without touching the unit, is one of the more recent advancements, says Bradley Drury, vice president of marketing and new industry development for Hydro-Systems Co., Cincinnati. With this function, all end users have to do is insert the bottle to receive proper chemical dispensing.

"You can use the system with one hand vs. having to use two," Drury says. "It's sort of like filling a soda cup at a fast food restaurant. By pushing the cup into the dispenser, the valve opens and product flows automatically — one handed operation."

So, as custodians go from job to job and run low on chemical, they can quick make a stop to the janitor's closet and replenish their spray bottle with fresh chemical without much disruption.

Filling mop buckets and automatic scrubbers have also gotten easier. Recognizing that wall-mount dispensers are typically located in crowded janitor closets, manufacturers have released remote filling options that allow for gun triggers, which attach to the end of a hose connected to the dispensing unit, to fill buckets and machines outside the closet. So instead of moving the bucket or autoscrubber to the dispenser, the end user is able to take the dispenser to the port of use, just like pushing a button on a wall mount, and the pull of a gun trigger dispenses the proper ratio of water and chemical.

"It's not always possible to get mop buckets and autoscrubbers close to the dispenser," says Drury. "Traditional systems require the operator to push a button on the dispensing system to activate it. This means that one hand is always on the dispensing unit during use, which in turns means your maximum reach to fill the receptacle is the span between one hand operating the dispenser and the other hand holding the discharge tube in the receptacle. Imagine trying to fill your car with gas if you had to keep your finger on a button on the actual pump vs. controlling the fill at the gun, you would need to park your vehicle close to the pump."

Cleaning kitchens and foodservice areas can be a time consuming task wiping down the numerous large surfaces. However, foam wands make it easier to clean the large areas in minimal time. The wands, which get attached to the end of a hose, broadcast spray foam onto the stainless steel surfaces in food prep areas and also give cleaning personnel the ability to have a fresh water rinse and a final sanitizing rinse.

"In these cases, it's not really practical for people to be filling spray bottles and trying to spray a whole room," says Bill DeCristofano, general manager of SEKO Dosing Systems Corp.'s North American branch located in Tullytown, Pa. "So it gives the ability to broadcast spray a big area and do so while controlling the chemical usage to the label designated dilution ratios."

Besides fine-tuning systems to make them easier to use and reduce the time it takes to clean, manufacturers of chemical proportioning systems have also made aesthetic advancements to the units themselves.

Wall Appeal

Besides introducing more functional and sleek systems, manufacturers have also given end users and distributors the ability to display their own artwork on wall-mount systems. For end users this can be helpful in relaying directions to custodians, and for distributors, it's a way to promote their private-label chemicals, say manufacturers.

Installation of wall-mounted units, often a time-consuming and difficult task, especially for those who have never installed a unit before, have also been improved with upgraded wall-mounted brackets.

"We've made a big push with modularity, ease of installation, to take some of the complexity out of the hands of the installers. This allows a broader base of potential customers," says DeCristofano. "If you can remove the complexity of the installation and the setup, then you've increased the number of people who see it as a feasible option."

On top of the many advancements to wall-mount dispensers during the last decade, manufacturers say they only see more improved technology for these units in the near future.

Coming Soon?

One possible technology that may come to fruition is radio-frequency identification (RFID). In fact, manufacturers say RFID may soon be implemented into these dispensing systems if the cost of the technology continues to come down and more and more industries use it.

By utilizing RFID technology, where barcodes recognize the correct concentrate and item being filled, there would be no more worrying on the part of the end user using the wrong product.

"So you only hook up the right bottle of concentrate up to the dispenser and on the dispenser side, on the trigger spray bottle, the dispenser will know if you're trying to put the right product in the right bottle. You can imagine the benefits of that from a safety point of view," says Drury.

As manufacturers continue to dive into new technology and fine-tune wall-mount chemical proportioning systems, the ease of use will only continue to get better — something end users with strict cleaning budgets can truly appreciate.

Dilution Control On The Go

In some facilities, storing gallons of chemicals, let alone a wall-mount chemical proportioning system, is not feasible in a cramped janitor closet. Thus, jan/san distributors are offering end users alternative means when it comes to dilution control with portion control packets and portable dispensers.

Portion control packets provide pre-measured chemical to be added to a specified amount of water. This method, like a wall-mount dispenser, delivers the correct portion of chemical, ensuring that cleaning is performed to the specifications and that chemical is not wasted.

"Minimal storage space requirements of portion control packets is an attractive feature," says Bill McGarvey, training manager for Philip Rosenau Co., a Warminster, Pa.-based jan/san distributor. "On the down side, we're still counting on the technician properly measuring water levels and dropping the correct number of packets in the bucket."

With packets, chemical usage can be eaily monitored, as a certain number can be assigned to janitors each day.

Portable dispensers are also a good fit for a wide range of facilities, from small to large. These products feature self-contained dispensing systems, so the dilution-control mechanism is built into the product. Users can carry them along to any location, hook the bottles up to a water source, and fill buckets or bottles easily.

"With portable dispensing units, portability is key," says McGarvey. "A building service contractor, for instance, can carry the unit from building to building or job site to job site. They don't have to drill holes in their customers' walls. If they should lose the account, they take the unit with them. These units ensure proper dilution and are typically recyclable when empty."

Portable units simply attach to the mouth of a bottle specially fitted for the dilution control system, and dispense chemical to either buckets or bottles according to the setting chosen by the custodian.