For years, building service contractors have relied on traditional butyl-based chemicals. While effective, these products could also damage surfaces and be detrimental to worker health when used improperly. Some BSCs are looking to alternative cleaners such as oxygen-based products to provide a safer work environment.

One type of oxygen cleaner is an oxygen-based bleach cleaner that uses sodium percarbonate as its main ingredient. However, the more common oxygen cleaners in today’s market are hydrogen peroxide-based.

Hydrogen peroxide molecules are comprised of two atoms of hydrogen and two atoms of oxygen. Surfactants and orange oil are added to the hydrogen peroxide to help it penetrate the surface and reach the embedded soil. When the cleaner comes into contact with the soil, the hydrogen peroxide releases oxygen to boost the cleaning power of the surfactants. The only by-products of the reaction between the cleaner and the stain are oxygen and water. Little to no residue, which can lead to re-soiling, is left on the surface.

Hydrogen-peroxide cleaners are designed to remove proteins and other stains and soil of organic nature. They work well on dried tannin stains, such as coffee, red wine and cola. Diluting the product to either a heavy-duty cleaner or light-duty cleaner should address the majority of general cleaning needs in a facility. The cleaners are effective on both porous and non-porous surfaces including marble, stone, wood laminate, white boards, desktops, tile, grout, plexi-glass, glass, carpet, leather and porcelain.

Oxygen cleaners deodorize the surface in addition to cleaning it because the hydrogen peroxide actually destroys the organic source of odors.

However, it is important to note that oxygen-based products will not clean everything. They do not work on mineral or petroleum-based soils and stains such as oil and gum.

Since oxygen cleaners can be used on a variety of surfaces and for a number of stains, BSCs don’t need to stock a multitude of products and can reduce the possibility for error. If a chemical is misused on a surface, or even used correctly on the wrong surface, it can cause serious damage. Fewer products will create less confusion for employees.

Oxygen cleaners are also safer for employees and the environment. They contain low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and are non-irritants to skin. If a worker accidentally spills or sprays the product on himself, it will not cause serious injuries.

Excerpted from the May 2006 issue of Contracting Profits.