Magnifying lens over background with text Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), with the blurred lights visible in the background

Contributed by PathoSans.

It’s been said that if you’re not cleaning, you’re polluting. Cleaning is the removal of unwanted substances from the environment. These include common soil, dust, grit, grime, microbial and chemical contaminants. Polluting is adding harmful matter to the environment.

Cleaning happens at two levels. The first is the physical process of cleaning, which is also known as “labor.” Applying labor effectively is called workloading.

A popular form of workloading is specialist or task-focused cleaning, in which workers function as specialists. Each specialist does just a few tasks that are completed with focus, skill, speed, and safety, increasing cleaning quality and production.

Workloading using specialists helps to make spaces cleaner and healthier in less time and at lower cost; along with other benefits. Rotating positions helps cross-train the workforce and prevent monotony. Replacing a specialist is easier given the limited task scope.

An example is a restroom specialist with dedicated tools. This specialist uses flow- charted techniques to become an expert in restroom cleaning. A simple, area- and task-specific toolset enables greater job proficiency and less cross-contamination to non-restroom areas.

Task specialization shines in larger facilities where increased production speeds result in significant savings.

The best methods are part of soil removal systems, as opposed to haphazard approaches that rearrange or add contaminants. Removal systems include:
• Clean microfiber cloths folded into quarters to apply eight consecutive fresh surfaces for wiping with water,
• Spray-and- vac technology to apply and agitate solution then remove the liquid, and
• Reduced chemistry techniques that do not add chemicals of concern such as VOCs (volatile organic compounds) to the workspace.

The second level of cleaning involves the chemical process. Chemicals used in cleaning should aid the soil removal process and be harmless to people. However, according to Air Quality Sciences, this is not true of many “cleaning” and disinfecting products that emit VOCs−in effect, polluting not cleaning.

Indoor air quality is a growing concern, especially in energy-efficient buildings. While tight, well-insulated spaces save money and are better for the outdoor environment, they may trap harmful indoor pollutants inside. VOCs are carbon-based ingredients emitted into the air by facility products, materials, furnishings, and other sources.

Symptoms of VOC exposure include fatigue, headache, dizziness, nausea, irritation of eyes, nose, and throat, and more. The severity of the risk depends on amount and duration of exposure, but long-term exposure to even low pollution levels may have far-reaching health impacts.

Exposure to fragranced products and air fresheners are especially concerning, per Dr. Anne Steinemann, University of Melbourne, Australia. These products release a range of VOCs and semi-volatile organic compounds associated with harming health; yet labels don’t disclose ingredients.

Her research urges limiting exposure to fragranced products, pending more study on which ingredients or combinations of ingredients are harmful.

But there is a better way. On-site generation of ElectroChemically Activated (ECA) solutions enables fragrance-free, non-polluting cleaning and disinfecting.

According to Laura Louis, lean process consultant and field advisor to PathoSans, cleaning professionals should “look for a system that uses no petrochemicals, no fragrances or dyes, and makes products that are Green Seal Certified or EPA-registered.”

Using water, salt and electricity, on-site generation of cleaning and disinfecting chemicals also reduces the need for product ordering, shipping, inventory, and disposal; keeping up to 95 percent of conventional chemical packaging out of landfills — and saving money.