DIY Green Cleaning Products

July 21, 2014

Use electricity to turn salt and water into janitorial sanitizers.

Does your green cleaning program need a jolt? If you want to lower your carbon footprint and make your own eco-friendly chemicals, switch to electrolyzed water. Also known as on-site generation (OSG), the process turns salt and water into cleaning solutions.

The benefits? No transportation emissions, questionable formulas, or wasted packaging. Learn more about how this technology could be an electrifying addition to your janitorial closet.

Chemistry 101

Electrolyzed water is generated by a mineral activator, explains Alan France, director of sustainability and environmental services for ABM, a facility management services provider. Electricity alters the molecular structure of the salt water to produce two solutions:

Sodium hydroxide is an alkaline agent that can replace many traditional cleaners. It is typically used on general surfaces and for mopping.

Hypochlorous acid has disinfectant properties and is useful for bathrooms, glass, food prep areas, and contact surfaces.

“Electrolyzed water simplifies daily operations, training, and inventory management. FMs can make their own glass cleaner, all-purpose cleaner, sanitizer, disinfectant, and floor cleaner,” explains Brandon Carlson, a project leader for research, development, and engineering with Ecolab’s Institutional Business, an OSG manufacturer.

Sustainable Advantages

Creating in-house cleaning chemicals offers many benefits.

“Electrically activated water squarely addresses the most pressing concerns for facility managers – cost savings, cleaning efficiency, staff training, and consistent results. Instead of paying to order, package, transport, and inventory cleaning chemicals, you can simply generate them on site,” says Jeff Johnson, director of product management and marketing at Orbio Technologies, a manufacturer of OSG technology.

Unlike bleach or other harsh chemicals, the solutions won’t stain surfaces or fabrics. They’re gentle enough that cleaning crews don’t need personal protection, says France. They can contribute to IAQ as the cleaning agents are free of synthetic chemicals, fragrances, or dyes.

“You also produce an EPA-registered disinfectant that promotes healthy environments by combating public health threats like influenza, norovirus, and the common cold,” Carlson notes.

Operational Considerations

Switching to OSG won’t radically change your cleaning routine. In addition to a cold water and electricity source, you will need a backflow preventer as a safety measure and a drain for excess liquids, notes France.

Staff will need to be trained on how to run the machine, he adds, but this is fairly minimal. They also need to be encouraged to see how effective the cleaners are. Sometimes maintenance crews (or tenants, for that matter) may not feel a surface is truly clean if the solution doesn’t foam or have a fragrance.

The machine produces approximately 1.6 gallons per hour. Unlike conventional cleaners, these solutions have a shorter shelf life and generally retain their potency for 7-10 days, says France.

Because of ongoing maintenance requirements and upfront costs, these machines are typically leased. Monthly rental, which includes upkeep, is an average of $400, France notes. For the upgrade to be financially successful, you need to be offsetting hundreds of dollars of cleaning chemicals, which is realistic for many large operations.

Beyond tackling dirt and grime, OSG allows you to green your O&M and responsibly manage your carbon footprint.

About the Author

Jennie Morton

A former BUILDINGS editor, Jennie Morton is a freelance writer specializing in commercial architecture, IoT and proptech.

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