A lot of machines promote the use of less water and/or less chemical usage. How are these machines achieving the same cleaning results as traditional machines but using less product?

Cleaning employs four main elements: chemicals, heat, agitation and time. Newer technologies use these same principles, but address the chemical and agitation components differently to enable the use of fewer chemicals and/or less water.

Companies have found that water has inherent cleaning capabilities “built-in” to its molecular structure. One way of “enhancing water” to act as a cleaning solution is through electrolysis. Water-electrolysis technology is a well-established science that has been known for over 150 years. It has been used in a variety of industries and cleaning applications. In electrolysis, an electric current is applied to water, separating it into its acidic and alkaline components. This technology is a significant advancement over traditional automated floor-scrubbing methods that have historically required the addition of general-purpose floor cleaning chemicals, which add cost and complexity.

There are also systems that actively try to contain the solution in the scrub head area longer before it is sent to the machine’s recovery system. This is often done through a series of squeegees around the head or around the brushes themselves.

Companies are also using different types of agitation to achieve improved cleaning results. This is done with equipment that agitates in different motions (disk rotation, cylindrical or orbital revolutions) or via the use of new pad or brush materials. Recent enhancements in pads include the use of diamonds or special “foam like” materials and micro-fibers.

Equipment manufacturers continue to develop innovative ways to clean floors that require less water and chemicals, but must continually balance these efforts with need to minimize floor degradation. 

Kyle Strait, category marketing manager, Tennant Commercial Products, Minneapolis

Building service contractors continually tell us their No. 1 goal is to delight the customer by consistently delivering the product their customer demands — a clean floor. But they also tell us that they need to do this as efficiently and in the most cost-effective manner possible. One advancement in recent years that allows the use of less water and less chemical while maintaining superior cleaning effectiveness is orbital scrubbing technology.

High-speed orbital scrubbing with small, high-speed orbits keeps the water and chemical under the pad longer for effective cleaning. Less water and chemical use not only means a lower cost to clean by reducing chemical usage but also increases productivity and reduces labor cost by extending the time between dump-and-refill cycles.

In a traditional scrubber, a low-water setting or option lets the contractor use less and waste less whenever they can while still satisfying their customer. If the floor just isn't that dirty, why would someone use excessive water and chemicals or use chemicals at all?

The key point here is that no two buildings are the same from day to day or from front to back. That is why it's important to look at a machine that offers both low moisture cleaning, yet has the capability to increase water and chemicals at the touch of a button for those dirtier areas.

Brian Simmons, product manager, Nilfisk-Advance Inc., Plymouth, Minn.

Most equipment manufacturers understand the importance of going green as it pertains to decreasing water and chemical usage throughout the cleaning cycle. The best way to achieve this is by damming the water and chemical under the scrub deck to allow the chemical to do its job. By doing this, you’re able to decrease the water and chemical consumption while allowing the chemical to have enough dwell time to get the desired results and also increase your productivity because of decreased "dump and refills."

Bob Christensen, director of education & training, Windsor Industries, Englewood, Colo.

What types of surfaces and dirt does electrically-activated water work best on?

There is only one onboard scrubbing system that electrically activates normal tap water by blending the two “species” of water (acid and alkaline) to perform the cleaning. This system is best suited for common commercial soils like dirt, sand and some food-soils.

There are also systems that use tap water, a small amount of salt and electricity to create an effective multi-purpose cleaning solution that works with most existing cleaning equipment and methods. This method effectively cleans most soils, including fats, proteins and organic oils to offer a new world of non-harmful cleaning solutions that can be created.

Kyle Strait, category marketing manager, Tennant Commercial Products, Minneapolis

Independent third-party testing has shown that floor scrubbers using electrically-activated water clean the same as that same scrubber using plain tap water. Water can clean a wide variety of soils but cannot really clean animal fats found in food courts and cafeterias. The same is true for petroleum oils and grease that gets tracking from parking lots. That's why contractors look for machines that can clean with plain water for virtually chemical-free cleaning and then at the press of button, start dispensing chemicals only when and where it's needed. This is the kind of flexibility contractors look for to control their costs, environmental impact and still clean the floor very well.

Brian Simmons, product manager, Nilfisk-Advance Inc., Plymouth, Minn.