Green cleaning is more than buying environmentally responsible chemicals, paper and machines — it also means improving a facility’s indoor air quality (IAQ). Good IAQ provides a healthier and more productive work environment for building tenants. The best way for building service contractors to protect IAQ is by capturing debris and pollutants at their source.

BSCs should use a vacuum that meets the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Seal of Approval/Green Label program. These vacuums meet stringent standards for soil removal, carpet fiber retention and dust containment. The last point is most important for good IAQ. Green vacuums must not release more than 100 micrograms of dust particles per cubic meter of air. When dust and dirt escape a vacuum, they are released back into the air where they can be breathed by building occupants. In addition, vacuums with a HEPA filtration system will capture 99.9 percent of dust, pollen and other airborne particles.

Matting is another means of source capture. Proper entrance matting can prevent up to 80 percent of dust, dirt and soil from entering the building where it can become airborne, creating problems for building occupants. A matting system should consist of 15 feet of outdoor scraper mats, scraper/wiper mats and indoor wiper mats to ensure that each foot will make contact with the system at least three times. Matting should also be cleaned regularly to prevent it from becoming a source of contaminants.

BSCs also need to be conscious that they are not contributing to a building’s poor IAQ. Products listed with a low volatile organic compound (VOC) content level can still emit high and unsafe levels of VOCs. Instead, BSCs should purchase chemicals with low-emitting VOC formulas. It’s also critical that chemicals are used according to their instructions. Janitors should be trained not to overuse, which will increase the amount of VOCs being emitted from the product. It is also recommended not to apply the chemical directly to the surface as some of the cleaner will become airborne where it then can be inhaled by workers and tenants.

Excerpted from the April 2008 issue of Housekeeping Solutions.

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