chair with finger and palm marks on it

For decades, electrostatic machines have been used to spray industrial parts with paint and agricultural crops with pesticides. Now, the janitorial industry is beginning to follow suit with systems designed to spray cleaning and disinfecting chemicals on hard-to-reach surfaces. 

Before the advent of electrostatic technology, traditional sprays had problems with transfer efficiency: The measure of how much products makes it onto the surface being coated versus the percentage lost to the floor and surrounding environment.

“[In painting applications], that was typically close to 25 percent paint adhering to the surface and 75 percent that was lost,” says Jeremiah Gray, COO of EarthSafe Chemical Alternatives, Braintree, Massachusetts.

Outcomes were similarly dismal in the agricultural industry, with approximately 50 percent of pesticide wasted and/or posing a threat to the environment, says Gray.

Fortunately, the introduction of electrostatic technology has, in Gray’s words, “flipped the efficiency equation on its head”— and the janitorial industry is taking notice. 

Electrostatics At Work

Manufacturers have successfully downsized industrial electrostatic equipment into compact, easy-to-use systems for the cleaning industry — think backpacks, handheld units and standalone equipment on rollers. But the technology is essentially the same: As the chemical exits the electrostatic sprayer, it is atomized and given an electrical charge. The charged droplets then travel toward the targeted surface and become attracted to it. 

“The spray will seek out a neutral surface to cover, and the droplets will repel each other because the charge on each droplet is the same,” says Keri Lestage, COO for ByoPlanet International LLC, Sunrise, Florida. “What this means is, if you have a droplet that has landed on the surface and a second droplet follows behind it, it will recognize that it doesn’t want to be close to the first droplet, and it will seek out surface that hasn’t been covered yet.”

In so doing, the chemical not only reaches visible areas but also reaches beyond the front surface to coat the underside and backside of objects. 

“The attraction you get with the electrostatic spray droplets creates a 360 degree wraparound effect on surfaces, as opposed to just coating the front side of an object,” says Gray. “So it’s pretty easy to see how that’s a massive benefit to cleaning processes.”

Using an electrostatic sprayer, janitorial staff can quickly and efficiently disinfect and sanitize hard-to-reach surfaces that are too time-consuming to clean using conventional methods. 

However, electrostatic sprayers should never be used as a substitute for cleaning, says Mike Tarvin, vice president of Multi-Clean, Shoreview, Minnesota. 

“It’s just another tool in the infection control toolbox to ensure proper sanitation,” he says.

Manufacturers encourage facilities to focus on manual cleaning during the day and supplement this with an electrostatic system after hours. 

“You still need to use your sprays and wipes for high-touch surfaces and areas that you want to keep disinfected regularly,” says Katherine Velez, a scientist at Clorox Healthcare, Oakland, California. “Then use the electrostatic machine for an end-of-day disinfection to provide that extra layer of protection.”


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