With the popularity of green cleaning products, oxygen and bio-based products are becoming more prevalent in the cleaning industry. Made from natural sources such as oxygen, citrus and soy, these products are proving their mettle in some of the toughest cleaning settings: industrial, institutional and medical. As viruses, cross-contamination and bacteria such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) cause great public concern, the ability for bio-based cleaners to do an effective job is more important than ever.

Hydrogen peroxide cleaners in particular, hailed for their ability to disinfect in various dilutions and without releasing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), are being used successfully by building service contractors as part of their green cleaning programs. A number of oxygen and bio-based products have been third-party certified as green by organizations such as Green Seal.

Move over, oxy, citrus, soy

Chemical manufacturers are now using all sorts of natural derivatives in addition to oxygen, soy and citrus for green products.

“The trend these days is on natural products or things that are considered sustainable or environmentally preferred and it’s much more a bio-based issue than it is soy or citrus because a lot of things come from sunflower, or other things as well,” says Bill Griffin, industry expert.

In fact, there is so much being invested in creating bio-based products, petroleum-based products could become obsolete someday, he says, due to petroleum’s toxicity and price. As chemistry and technology improves, the industry will also see more “hybrid-type” products — those that use enzymes, or living organisms, to clean.

One product, many uses

Oxygen- and bio-based products can be used in a number of applications throughout a facility, and many BSCs are trading in a multitude of other chemicals and consolidating to greener cleaners that can get the job done with less hassle, cost and confusion.

Aetna Building Maintenance in Columbus, Ohio, is about to roll out a green cleaning program that includes bio-renewable and earth-friendly chemicals, says President Paul Greenland. The BSC uses a lime-based product in the place of butyl-based cleaners in heavy industrial applications, and soy-based cleaners for one customer. A hydrogen peroxide-based cleaner is taking over much of the daily floor, desk and restroom cleaning, Greenland says.

“It’s simple to use — one product can do a multitude of tasks. There’s less chemicals we have to store in our warehouse. It’s safe for employees, safe for the environment, safe for our customers. And finally, we’ve hit a point where green products are as good as regular cleaning products and are, give or take, the same price as the regular cleaning products,” he says.

As part of a manufacturer’s green program, Bee Line Building Service and Supply, Schaumberg, Ill., uses a hydrogen peroxide cleaner — and it’s been very effective, says Jamie Van Vuren, president.

“It’s very good. You can control it with a dilution ratio so if you need a stronger concentrate for something that’s more stubborn and needs a deeper cleaning you can do that,” Van Vuren says. “So we’ve found it to be very effective and safe.”

In environments such as schools and medical centers, there have been no questions as to its effectiveness against viruses and bacteria, she says.

Another benefit of using the hydrogen peroxide cleaner is the odor.

“This is very neutral, it’s not unpleasant,” Van Vuren says. “It’s not one of those where you walk into the room afterwards and you’ve got a strong smell and people knew that you were there.”

The journey continues

Many in the industry are struggling to stay on top of the latest developments while cautiously developing their cleaning programs.

All customers would like to be green, Greenland says, but at the end of the day, they just want their facilities clean.

It’s taken some time to become confident about a program, he says, because of having to sift through all the information out there. For a while, not all the right products were available, and those that were didn’t perform as well as expected. On top of performance issues, the bio-based products of yesterday were not cost competitive and customers weren’t asking for them.

“Right now it’s kind of the Wild West when it comes to green,” Greenland says. “So the government really hasn’t defined it, the chemical manufacturers really haven’t come up with it. There are two or three chemical certifications out there. We’re just trying to find out which is going to be the sustainable program. I don’t want to be jumping on the beta Macs of the green cleaning programs. I’d like to be getting on the Blu-ray.”