Almost every facility manager can remember a time when workers would manually mix chemicals with the assumption that the more product they use, the better the cleaning result. Today, managers understand that this method of mixing is inefficient, inaccurate, unsafe and can result in soaring chemical costs.

As a result, custodial departments, such as the one at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kan., are opting for chemical dispensing systems in place of the "glug-glug" method.

"I used a dilution control system at my previous college and inherited a similar system when I started at Johnson County Community College in 2007," says Gary Cook, R.E.H., manager of housekeeping services and Hazmat coordinator.

Dilution control systems like the one in use at the college are not new to the industry, but they are growing in popularity.

With shipping costs on the rise, both chemical manufacturers and jan/san distributors are trying to reduce the weight of products by supplying chemicals in a concentrated form. Because concentrated chemicals don't include water like the ready-to-use counterparts, they are lighter and come in smaller packages. The end users then dilutes the concentrates on site using the chemical dispensing system.

These systems have not only saved on shipping, but they promote proper cleaning and safety, and control chemical usage.

What Is Dilution Control?

A dilution control dispensing system is designed to automatically mix concentrates with water, after which it is dispensed into secondary containers such as spray bottles and mop buckets, or equipment such as carpet cleaners, autoscrubbers or foam applicators — all the while never exposing workers to the chemical.

Using the system will improve safety by eliminating chemical exposure, but it will also take the guesswork out of diluting chemicals. At the push of a button, precise amounts of concentrates are diluted for end user use.

"The system is very simple to use," says Cook. "Turn the water on, turn the dial to the chemical you want to use, and then fill your flat mop reservoir, floor machine or spray bottle. The concentrate bottle label color closely matches the chemical color and spray bottle label, so there is no confusion."

Dilution Control Benefits

Cook comments that this method of controlling — and ultimately reducing — chemical usage is the main reason why dilution control systems were first implemented at his facility. And he's not alone, say chemical manufacturers, who cite chemical reduction as one of the most common reasons departments initially implement the system.

Instead of pouring chemicals directly into buckets, the system used at Johnson County Community College mixes concentrated chemical and water properly every time. Mechanically controlling chemical quantities has eliminated the potential overuse of products and controls the frequencies of chemical purchases, both of which have saved money for the department.

Using a chemical dispensing system has also improved safety at the college. As many industry veterans can relate, when mixing with the "glug-glug" method, splash back from chemical exposure can leave permanent burns or rashes on workers arms and legs. Using dispensing systems at the college, chemicals are fully contained and the threat of exposure has been eliminated.

"Unless someone purposely punched a hole in the concentrate bottle, the workers have no contact with concentrated chemicals," says Cook.

Tampering doesn't happen at the college, but there are times when workers take it upon themselves to determine proper dilutions and try to adjust the system accordingly. Thankfully, the system in use is tamper-proof and locks prevent workers from altering the chemical dilutions.

In addition to product usage and safety, Cook recognizes a somewhat unique benefit to the chemical dispensing system used on campus: improved cleanliness.

Workers that don't use a dilution control system often clean with an exorbitant amount of chemical. In doing so, they often leave chemical on the surface. This can result in a film on surfaces and could actually attract more dirt.

"Because we are using proper chemical proportions, the building is actually cleaner," Cook says.

He also appreciates that the system can accommodate different chemicals in one compact and virtually tamper-proof unit.

"We use the dispenser for all of our chemicals, except the acid toilet bowl cleaner, resilient floor finish and stripper," Cook says. "We also run our carpet cleaning chemicals through the dispensers."

Support System

Chemical dispensing problems have been few and far between at Johnson County Community College. But when problems do arise, Cook reaches out to his distribution vendor or the manufacturer representative for support.

Over the last 5 years, Cook has developed a good rapport with both his distributor and manufacturer representative. Both have been quick to offer any necessary preventative or restorative maintenance to the dilution control system on site.

"We have to keep our eyes open for maintenance issues with these dispensers, just like any other equipment we use," he says. "If we think we have a problem, we contact our local vendor or the local manufacturer reps for repair. They are always happy to supply their expertise if needed."

With strong support from vendors and a responsive custodial crew, Cook has seen successes from using dilution control systems at Johnson County Community College. Not only has it controlled chemical usage, it has simplified cleaning, improved safety and streamlined purchasing.