Vince Elliott, president and CEO of The Chemical Free Cleaning Network, Baltimore, Md., and author of “Extreme Green Cleaning,” is no stranger to water-activated cleaning solutions; he’s been studying their efficacy for some time.

Recently, Elliott connected with a custodial cleaning executive overseeing a high-traffic facility to examine the following questions:
•    Do the various water-activated sanitizing technologies actually reduce Reflective Light Unit (RLU) levels as measured by an ATP meter?
•    How do the differing technologies compare to each other? Does one perform better or worse, or are they all basically the same?
•    What differences in efficacy are there between plain tap water and water-activated technologies?

While Elliott’s research is ongoing, he has tested 760 surfaces in the facility so far and has learned a thing or two about the sanitizing products being used.

The goal of the study is to compare and contrast the efficacy of the more popular water-activated sanitizing products in a working environment, says Elliott. But based on an ATP test model of surfaces in the facility, the technologies just don’t match the efficacy findings outlined in the lab tests.

He explains: “Lab findings are highlighted on the websites of the various technologies, which generally report a 99.9 to 99.999 percent effective rate for common germs. Our study, based on an ATP testing model, resulted in an effective rate of 71 to 85 percent.”

The findings from the study, he notes, are obviously lower than the laboratory-based results being reported for these technologies. However, he’s quick to add that no one is exaggerating their effectiveness.

“I’m not saying their results are wrong, because in a lab they are right,” he explains. “What I’m saying is that out there where workers are scrubbing through the dirt, and may or may not be following instructions, these are the results — this is what is happening in the real world. Our data suggests that if the lab-based studies were repeated in the field, under everyday working conditions, the lab-based efficacy findings could be lower then the 99.9 percent.”

Elliott adds that even if the real-world results for water-activated technologies aren’t as high as those achieved in stringent lab-based testing, it is still a sustainability option facility executives should not ignore.

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

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