Some of the most promising technologies convert ordinary tap water into an effective cleaning solution using machines or dispensers that fill bottles, buckets and floor machines. Consultants agree that these technologies are best used for light to medium duty cleaning of surfaces, windows, floors and carpets.

Early in the development, many people referred to the technology as “chemical free.” But experts now agree that it should be more accurately referred to as engineered water because what is produced is ultimately a chemical.

“Water is a chemical, so the term ‘chemical free’ is misleading,” Ashkin explains. “Engineered water suggests that something’s been done to change the performance of the water — and it doesn’t disparage chemicals, which are a part of the green cleaning movement.”

Electrolyzed or oxidized water is water with a small amount of sodium chloride added to it and electricity conducted through it. The process creates a gentle, but potent antimicrobial solution.

“Not only can you use electrolyzed water as a general purpose cleaner, but you can use it to do windows, metal polishing and shining — and the beauty of it is it doesn’t leave streaks,” notes Elliott.

Aqueous ozone is another innovative technology that converts tap water into an effective cleaning solution. Nichols is a distributor of wall-mounted aqueous ozone dispensing systems, which have been well received by facility cleaning executives.

“The customer hooks it up to their water supply and then feeds the water through the system,” explains Ranae Hesselink, Nichols vice president of sustainability. “This creates ozone at a safe level with the cleaning properties needed to eliminate contaminants. You can then dispense it into spray bottles, mop buckets or into automatic scrubbers.”

Another technology that creates a highly purified form of water is reverse osmosis deionization (RO/DI). Deionized water is particularly suited for window cleaning because it eliminates streaking often associated with the use of unfiltered water and detergents.

“If you’re a window cleaner using deionized water, you don’t have to deal with the chemicals, so there are environmental benefits,” notes Hesselink. “And, you can easily reach multiple stories from the ground with [water-fed] poles, so it has ergonomic benefits, as well.”

Steam cleaning and pressure washing are actually chemical-free options that rely exclusively on water. Steam is able to reach into areas that traditional chemicals can’t reach, such as the pores of carpet and wood, to loosen dirt and make it easier to remove. Pressure washing uses a high-pressure mechanical sprayer to remove loose paint, mold, mud and dirt from surfaces.

Although both methods are effective, some experts question whether or not these technologies are green.

“Steam and pressure are proven technologies that have been around a long time,” says Ashkin. “But we have to also consider energy and water consumption when considering a green program.”

For applications such as mold and mildew removal, steam or pressure washing may still be preferable to traditional chemicals such as chlorine beach, despite the fact that they use more energy and water.

If excessive water use is a concern, other chemical-free options, such as a liquid application of titanium dioxide, can be used to replace pressure washing for building exteriors, according to Elliott.

“Titanium dioxide repels dust, so the ultraviolet light hits it, charges it, and dust — being a different charge — is repelled by it and won’t adhere to the surface,” he explains. “The rain then washes away the dirt, reducing the frequency of window or surface cleaning.”

Of course, no discussion of water technology is complete without the mention of microfiber, one of the most widely accepted methods of cleaning.

“We marry these technologies with microfiber, so microfiber becomes a partner in that strategy,” says Elliott. “They work well without the application of any chemicals by trapping particulates. Once the microfiber cloth is full, it can be laundered or shaken outdoors.”

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Fitting Engineered Water Into Cleaning Programs
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