According to Hengsperger, saving money is the primary goal of most custodial managers when switching to chemical-free cleaning technologies.

“They say they’re doing it to go green and be more sustainable, but the biggest thing they are looking for is the cost savings,” he says.

Managers, Hengsperger says, could cut departmental chemical costs by 20-50 percent, not to mention see savings in labor costs, reductions in slip-and-fall liability, and more with water-activated solutions.

Experts agree that the initial cost of the technology can be high, but once purchased, all that is needed is a consistent water supply. Managers will see a return on investment over time.

The average general cleaning chemical costs approximately 15 cents per ounce, while a gallon of water (the only ingredient in activated water cleaning technologies) costs an estimated 8 cents per gallon. According to Hengsperger, these savings will add up over time. Not only that, but custodial operations can reduce the cleaning chemicals needed from 10-20 chemicals to as few as three by using these solutions.

“When you reduce the number of chemicals, it means shipping costs, storage and waste all go away, and your carbon footprint can be greatly reduced,” says Elliott.

But cleaning products are just one area of savings for departments using these technologies. Managers can also shave off some dollars from their largest budgetary line item.

“The biggest cost for any cleaning process is the time it takes and the labor involved,” says Rick Hoverson, principal of Advanced Vapor Technologies in Everett, Wash.

With these technologies, custodial workers can be more efficient. Instead of using six different chemicals to clean, workers have just one bottle, unit or piece of equipment to clean with, minimizing the back and forth to custodial carts or closets for every application.

Liability can also be reduced as these systems eliminate worker injury due to potential chemical exposure.

“When these products get on your skin or in your eyes, there is no harm done at all,” says Hengsperger.

Similarly, he says, users of these technologies report up to a 70 percent decrease in slip-and-fall lawsuits.

Consider that it’s recommended that the static coefficient of friction (COF) for a floor should be 0.8, but most chemicals leave the floor at 0.9. Activated water technologies, however, leave the floor at a 0.7 range, which reduces the potential for slip and falls.

“This is due to the reduction in chemical residue on a surface,” Hengsperger explains.

Educated Decisions

Education is the biggest hurdle to getting the jan/san industry to widely implement this technology, says Hengsperger.

“The biggest problem we have is getting people to stop thinking they are only using water to clean,” he says. “Though it is a form of water, these technologies alter the water to make it a cleaner, sanitizer and a disinfectant.”

Hoverson agrees that educating the jan/san public about what this technology is, and how and why it works can be challenging.

“I think safety and effectiveness in cleaning is what we’re trying to achieve here, and do it with less chemistry, less toxins and less surface residuals,” he says.

Experts agree that custodial departments will always need chemicals for certain applications. But when used in conjunction with those chemicals, enhanced water technologies can provide the cleaning results managers are looking for.

RONNIE GARRETT is a freelance writer based in Fort Atkinson, Wis.

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