This is part two of a three-part article.

The second priority in any good cleaning program is to find the most effective procedure for using the new products. All products, green or not, have manufacturer recommendations for proper use; not using any product correctly will decrease efficacy. This is an important point, as this is a mistake many maintenance people make — they change the product without changing the procedure. Often, when green products are not effective, the cause is the failure to alter cleaning procedures.

Cleaning products in general, and disinfectants in particular, are often over-used and over-applied. Identifying the best procedure includes identifying the most appropriate approach based on the objective.

If the goal is to remove soil, use a cleaner, which is designed to work as a surfactant, to break up and remove soil. If the intent is to sanitize, use a peroxide-based product or ionized water to decrease the germ loads. If the goal is to disinfect, use the disinfectant with the proper kill claim for the issue identified. And when training on the use of these products, always stress the correct dilution rate specified by the manufacturer.

It should be noted that the improper use of any cleaning product can adversely affect the health of students and staff. For example:

• Disinfectants are not surfactants; never disinfect without first removing soil from the surface.

• Failure to first remove soil from a surface will lead to greater exposure to germs long-term than not disinfecting at all.

• Disinfecting without first cleaning is similar to placing calcium chloride on top of three inches of snow without shoveling first.

• Sanitizing or disinfecting without a product approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — to act as a two-in-one cleaning and sanitizing solution — can be harmful to building occupants.

Using products incorrectly can also have an adverse effect on custodial budgets. And the success or failure of a new program can only be determined if both products and procedures are evaluated.

So, once our program began to take shape, we began to evaluate the cost impact the revised cleaning program had on our district. While our program was designed to be the most effective possible, cost was still a consideration.

Our plan was to evaluate all products and procedures, in a comprehensive way, to see if it was possible to obtain the most effective green program as part of a cost-neutral approach. Product-to-product the unit cost of green products, at that time, tended to be higher, and we did not want that to have a negative impact on our taxpayers.

Fortunately, to our surprise, as procedures changed, overall costs decreased, and we were able to conservatively identify major savings for our taxpayers. Then as green cleaning gained a larger share of the market, unit costs decreased and product-to-product green choices became cost effective, and we started to see savings from the program.

Secondary Environmental Impacts

Savings identified were entered back into our program with a wide focus on indoor environmental quality. Inside, proper matting and scheduled preventative maintenance became essential. And floor maintenance occurred in evenings when buildings were unoccupied, limiting exposure of VOCs and other airborne contaminants around building occupants.

Outside, natural turf fields were only maintained by use of organic solutions. This is not only required by the state of New York, it also eliminates the off chance of chemicals being tracked into buildings and affecting air quality. Chemicals used in traditional lawn treatment programs have been identified as a concern by several state regulations and various peer-reviewed medical journals.

But outdoor playing fields, whether natural grass or artificial turf, are a large concern.

The current debate regarding artificial turf is whether or not low-level exposure to known carcinogens is hazardous. Known carcinogens are present, according to the Safety Data Sheets of the components used.

The science is focused on what level of exposure is safe, but does not address the wisdom of taking an area that did not contain carcinogens and replacing it with a non-natural surface that does. As a result, artificial turf will not be a part of our program in East Meadow.

previous page of this article:
Perfecting Cleaning For Health
next page of this article:
Growing A Green Cleaning Program