Concerns Mount Over Green Guidelines for New York Public Schools

April 21, 2006
Cleaning with cold water creates controversy

Recently, the New York State Office of General Services (OGS) posted for public comment its proposed guidelines and specifications for the procurement and use of environmentally sensitive (green) cleaning products for all public and non-public elementary and secondary schools in the state.

The Green Cleaning Guidelines and Specifications cover a variety of topics, including how to determine if a product is green and properly use them, all in a much-needed and admirable attempt to protect the health of children, teachers, staff, as well as the environment.

However, one section of the proposed guidelines - regarding the use of cold water when cleaning - has developed considerable controversy. 

The proposed guidelines recommend that schools use only cold water in cleaning, including for carpet cleaning, instead of hot water for carpet extraction, because “hot-water melts and spreads soils that are dissolvable by water, and those soils are likely to cling to the colder surface being cleaned.”

Yet, this advice is not supported by many jansan industry organizations, cleaning consultants, and experts, including: 

  • The Carpet and Rug Institute, based in Dalton, GA.
  • The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification, headquartered in Vancouver, WA.
  • Mohawk Carpets and Shaw Industries, two of the largest carpet manufacturers in the world, both based in Dalton, GA.
  • U.S. Products, Coeur d’Alene, ID; Clarke® Floor and Carpet Machines of Phoenix, and several other manufacturers of carpet extraction equipment.

“All of these organizations, as well as many others, have done extensive research on the use of ‘heat’ when cleaning carpets and all report that hot water accelerates the molecular activity of chemicals and aids in the removal of soils from carpet fibers,” says Stephen Williams, senior vice president for U.S. Products, Coeur d’Alene, ID. “Indeed, some studies go back nearly 100 years.”

Mix or Clean
Williams suggests the guidelines may be confusing the mixing of cleaning chemicals with the actual use of them. “Many of the major Green certification organizations recommend that cleaning products be mixed using cold water to help protect the user from the possibility of fumes being released during in the mixing process,” he says. “This does not mean that the chemicals should be used with cold water.”

According to Williams, virtually all manufacturers of portable and truckmount carpet cleaning-equipment heat the water or cleaning solution. “Again, because it is well-documented that heat improves cleaning effectiveness,” he says.

The public comment period on the proposed guidelines ends on May 3, 2006.  Williams asks that others concerned about this recommendation make their voices heard. Comments may be sent to one of the following addresses:

  • By e-mail: ([email protected]). Place “Comments on Guidelines and Specifications” in the subject line.
  • By mail: New York State Office of General Services, Empire State Plaza, Corning Tower, Environmental Services Unit - 39th Floor, Attention: Guidelines and Specifications, Albany, NY, 12242.

For more information on the legislation, visit the OGS Website at ( and click on the "Environmental Services Unit: Green Cleaning" link.

This information was reprinted with permission from Coeur d’Alene, ID-based U.S. Products, a manufacturer carpet, drapery, upholstery, restoration, and ceiling cleaning equipment for more than 25 years. For more information on the company or its position on this topic, contact Steve Williams at (800) 257-7982, visit (, or e-mail ([email protected]).

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