As building service contractors and in-house custodial departments continue to seek effective cost-cutting measures, some are giving up ready-to-use (RTU) cleaning products in favor of chemical dilution systems. Some are purchasing preportioned packets of chemicals, others prefer concentrated chemicals to use with a wall-mount or portable dilution system. With the switch, end users are realizing significant savings — both in costs and in storage space.

“Customers convert from RTU to proportioning [chemicals] on an ongoing basis,” says Jerry Garbett, president of Arkansas Bag & Equipment in Little Rock, Ark. “They see the advantages of chemical management systems where you can buy a small case of four two-liter bottles that can do the same things as 20 cases of ready-to-use cleaner.”

Garbett has seen some customers save as much as 30 percent on chemicals by switching to chemical proportioning systems. He is also seeing customers implement chemical management programs in response to smaller storage spaces.

“A lot of my customers are telling me that when they get new buildings the janitor closet is something that architects are forgetting to put in,” he says. “There’s just no room for storage. So people are looking for something that doesn’t take up as much space.”

Convenient Chemical Dilution

Shrinking budgets and janitorial closets aren’t the only drivers for adopting chemical proportioning systems. Customers using RTU chemicals are also concerned about the environmental impact of excess packaging. According to distributors, switching from RTU products to chemical proportioning systems can drastically cut waste.

“Because [chemical proportioning] is a concentrate, and it’s in smaller packages, there’s very little packaging waste,” says Garbett.

“Reduced products mean reduced waste in the waste stream,” adds Gary Lynch, business development manager at Central Sanitary Supply in Modesto, Calif. “So for customers, it’s environmentally preferable to go with proportioning systems.”

Besides being better for the environment, chemical proportioning systems are convenient and easy to use — benefits that all customers can relate to. Garbett sells both wall-mount and portable dispensing systems that use the same refills, which are not only convenient for customers but popular choices for those with limited storage space.

“You have one dispenser, and you can slide in up to 30 different products,” he says. “It’s a small footprint, so it doesn’t take up a lot of room, but it gives you the option to control many different products.”

According to Lynch, wall-mount systems are popular in large facilities with central locations for janitorial supplies, while portable units are favored by project crews because they can hook up to any water faucet in the facility, as well as outside.

Customers with custodians that are constantly moving from one location to another prefer preportioned packets.

“Packets are more selective in their use,” says Lynch. “Building service contractors are the ones that would benefit the most from them because they go to different facilities throughout the night. They don’t have a central location for a dispensing program.”

Adam Uselman, COO of Bruco Inc. in Billings, Mont., favors preportioned packets of chemicals because they allow managers to track product usage.

“Packets give you so much more control,” he says. “You know what’s being used, how often it’s being used, and it allows you to forecast out as far as you like how much product you’re going to need. For example, if ‘Suzie’ doesn’t use more than three packs of glass cleaner today, you know something didn’t get cleaned. Or if she uses 10 packets, you know some of it’s going somewhere else besides this building.”

Chemical Dilution Done Safely

Safety is high on the list when it comes to the benefits of chemical proportioning systems.

“It takes the chemistry out of the user’s hands,” says Garbett. “You’re not coming in contact with the concentrate, so it’s much safer for your employees to use.”

And although RTU chemicals don’t require mixing, there is still the possibility of chemical exposure or spills when trigger sprayers are removed or inserted.

“Even with RTU products, you have to open them up to put the trigger sprayers in,” says Garbett. “People can still mix things together, and that can be a problem with ready-to-use.”

Customers aren’t likely to choose chemical proportioning systems over RTU chemicals based solely on safety concerns, but they are an attractive selling point.

“Safety is usually one of the benefits that go undefined because it’s hard to put a cost on that,” says Uselman. “So many times distributors and customers get caught in the dance of trying to figure out price. If you can have the discussion about taking exposure to chemicals away from your custodial staff, so many other things don’t matter because you realize this will reduce the amount of mistakes and accidents, and make it safer for our custodians and building occupants.”

By taking the guesswork out of mixing cleaning products, chemical proportioning systems not only protect custodians’ health but also ensure consistent product usage, which can be a money saver, too.

“In our industry, products that are over-diluted usually cost more in labor because they can leave behind a film, and the custodian has to do more rinsing to remove film buildup,” says Lynch. “On the reverse side, if you under-dilute a product you’re going through the motions of cleaning, but you’re not actually doing the cleaning.”

Kassandra Kania is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, N.C. She is a frequent contributor to Sanitary Maintenance.