The final part of this three-part article examines the obstacles of cleaning with activated water.

After ABM began documenting positive results from the on-site generators at its test facilities, France says the company began placing the machines in various buildings across the country, sticking mostly to facilities with 500,000 square feet or more. At more than 1 million square feet, the company typically invests in a second machine, says France.

“These machines cost money, and so we have to be able to make sure that all of this comes together from a cost-effective perspective,” he says. “For us, having the innovation on site and not having to worry about the storage of chemicals, or having a truck delivering it, it’s very cost-effective in the right situation.”

Getting clients and janitors to wrap their heads around the cleaning technology, however, presented a bit of a challenge — especially with two visually indistinguishable, clear solutions.

“Our clients were like, ‘What is this?’” says France. “People got used to using a blue color liquid or purple, and pink means ‘cleaning the toilet bowl.’ They have this ‘I’m cleaning with water’ thought process. Anytime we have something radically different introduced to our world, you’re going to have that. So, there is still a challenge.” 

As with any new technology or product, education is key, says France. ABM janitors receive comprehensive training on how to use the generator and are also informed as to which solution is appropriate for each cleaning task.

Once janitors are used to cleaning with the OSG solutions, training is simpler, because there are fewer products to learn and use in the program.

As for convincing clients, France says he points to third-party resources to back up the machine’s claims and lets the results speak for themselves.

“[The manufacturer] did ESTM soil removal testing, but we’re more of a final test,” says France. “We couldn’t lose a contract based on theory.”
According to the manufacturer, the oS3 is Green Seal GS-37 certified as an environmentally responsible multisurface cleaning product; NFSI (National Floor Safety Institute) certified for slip resistance; certified by the NSF International as acceptable for use as a general floor and wall cleaner in and around food processing areas; and is certified by other third-party seals.

The technology also received a stamp of approval from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), says France.

“We started out with clients who like to be on the forefront, on the cutting edge,” says France. “We also had clients who are very concerned from a safety and environmental side.”

France says building service contractors and facility management companies should be upfront about an on-site generator’s cleaning capabilities and effectiveness to eliminate any confusion or misrepresentation.

“Clients always want to know how many pounds of toxic chemical we’re taking out. That’s not the way it works,” says France. “It’s not like just eight years ago we were killing people (with cleaning chemicals) — chemistry has come a long way.”

What OSG technology does do is reduce risk of chemical exposure. For example, both solutions are dye and fragrance free, and the multipurpose solution is completely odorless (the sodium hydroxide has a slightly chlorinated scent often associated with the idea of “clean.”). And since there are fewer refills and less packaging waste, it’s helping the environment, too. 

ABM found combining the solution’s cleaning power with reusable microfiber cloths to be the most effective strategy for cleaning surfaces in restrooms, classrooms, lobby areas and floors. Because the solutions are free of synthetic substances, they don’t leave behind sticky surfactants, chemical residues or dyes, leaving surfaces cleaner for longer.

Although the solutions dispensed from on-site generators have largely replaced ABM’s roster of general cleaning chemicals in many of its facilities, they won’t eliminate the facility management company’s need for chemicals entirely, says France.

“This will never replace the waxes, heavy-duty carpet cleaning (chemicals) or chemicals used during an outbreak,” says France. “But OSG brought us to a whole new level that isn’t taxing on the environment. This is evolution, this is the next step.”

Stephanie S. Beecher is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee. She is a former Assistant Editor of Contracting Profits.

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Activated Water And On-site Chemical Generation