Understanding chemicals and using them safely is of vital importance to any custodial operation. The day of each worker choosing their own products and mixing them in proportion to their own experience are long gone.   

A well thought out dispensing system, measuring cups and thorough training is essential to avoiding injury and needless damage. And today, every custodial closet and cart needs to be thoroughly inspected with the goal of identifying the chemicals that should be allowed and promptly disposing (as per local and federal laws) of all the rest.  

Most custodial carts should have between three ad five color-coded, numbered products including an all-purpose cleaner, a glass cleaner, a dust polish product and a disinfectant.  Many workers will use the all-purpose on a microfiber cloth to dust and not even have a polishing product thereby eliminating one more product.  

Each bottle should be clearly identified by either a factory made silk screen process or a so called “crack and peel” label that gives the OSHA required information on the container.  Glass cleaner should always be  in an original or new bottle since it is too easy to contaminate the liquid if it is placed in a bottle even if it has been rinsed.  Disinfectants should be in opaque bottles and used promptly (within 24 hours) after being dispensed since they oftentimes tend to lose their efficacy when mixed with tap water and exposed to light, heat, etc.  Check with the distributor for guidance on your specific products.  

Chemicals that should not be in the custodial closet or on the cart include bleach (or bleach water mix), pine scented cleaners and sprays (which seldom have any real disinfecting value unless mixed 8/1 or stronger).  Other products to avoid are high acid (skull and crossbones) bathroom cleaners, high pH stripper/cleaners and most aerosols containing high VOC chemicals.  Can you think of any others?  

Over time, make a concerted effort to go as green as possible since heightened compliance is coming sooner than you think.  Simply avoiding one injury or not damaging a surface unnecessarily will more than pay for any additional costs you encounter.  

Your workers should all be versed in the safe use of chemicals, should understand the basics of pH and know when to ask for help.  

I hope to hear from you soon. Until then, keep it clean...


Mickey Crowe has been involved in the industry for over 35 years. He is a trainer, speaker and consultant. You can reach Mickey at 678.314.2171 or CTCG50@comcast.net.