The Green Cleaning Journey Starts in the Closet

Green Cleaning starts in the janitorial closet and for this reason, many facilities must begin their Green Cleaning journey with a janitorial closet makeover.

First, we remove all cleaning solutions, tools, products, and equipment from the closet. With them out in the open, our next steps are as follows:

  • Remove and properly dispose of any cleaning solutions that have not been used for a year or longer. Most cleaning chemicals do have a shelf life and while it can vary, after one year the chemical ingredients may start to decompose, which means the product will begin to lose its effectiveness.
  • Determine what to do with the old, conventional cleaning products. In some cases, a distributor or manufacturer will offer a “take back” program if the chemicals are exchanged for Green equivalents. If not, and if the quantity of cleaning solutions is large, the most cost effective thing to do may be to use the products and then switch to Green cleaning solutions once that is completed.

With everything removed, we want to thoroughly clean the closet, and examine the interior walls and ceiling. Check that vents are working properly and clean as necessary; check that drains are clear. Make sure that lighting is installed—that it is adequate and, preferably, that it turns on as soon as the door is opened. Now is a perfect time to paint the closet—a light colored paint is advised because it lifts the user’s spirits, is easier to keep clean, and makes finding product quicker?

Additionally, the shelving should be inspected. Shelving for a Green janitorial closet should be affixed to the wall, which helps the shelves securely hold the chemicals and products. Having sturdy, grill- or rack-type shelving is preferable because it helps improve air circulation and ventilation, plus it allows spills to fall to the floor, making clean-up easier.

Organize, Prioritize, Code

Organization of the closet as it is being re-stocked is very important and different aspects require attention. First, we want to store no more chemicals in the closet than can be used in about a week’s time. If possible, gallon and larger containers should be stored separately from the daily-use janitorial closet. This improves safety and helps prevent fumes from being released in the closet.

Next, items should be organized based on how they are used. For instance, all restroom products would be on one shelf, separated from floor care products. Related to this, it is often recommended that some sort of color-coding system be developed as part of the product organization. For many cleaning workers in the U.S. English is a second language and in many cases they may not speak or understand English at all. For safety reasons, to speed up the cleaning process, and to ensure that the right chemical is selected for each cleaning task, some facilities will place a red-colored label on the shelf and on all products used for cleaning restrooms, as an example. A blue label can apply to all products used to clean food service areas, etc.

Additionally, it is often helpful to prioritize certain cleaning solutions. We can have one shelf area where only products used on a frequent or daily basis are stored. This helps eliminate errors and speeds up the cleaning process – the cleaning worker does not have to search for cleaning products used frequently.


Off the Floor

Finally, when organizing the janitorial closet, it is important to keep all cleaning-related products off the floor as much as possible. This should also apply to equipment such as vacuum cleaners. It is very important to keep the floor of the closet as clean as possible and this is facilitated by keeping everything off the floor.

Now, with our Green janitorial closet makeover complete, what is most important is to keep it that way. What is often recommended is to have the janitorial closet included in regular facility inspections. In fact, it should be the first thing inspected because as we mentioned earlier, the appearance of the closet often sets the stage for how well the facility is being maintained. Clean and organized…expect the rest of the facility to follow suit.


Sidebar: LEED-EB (existing buildings) and Green Janitorial Closets

Until recently, facilities seeking LEED-EB certification could earn one credit for having and maintaining a Green janitorial closet. In order to get this credit, the closet had to be:

  • Structurally sealed (or isolated from the rest of the facility)
  • Include an independent ventilation system, separate from the facility’s ventilation
  • Be equipped with hot and cold water and plumbed for proper disposal of liquid waste
  • Be organized in such a way that it minimizes the cleaning staff’s exposure to cleaning chemicals
  • Have adequate lighting
  • Have readily accessible Safety Data Sheets, formerly known as MSDS
  • Be properly maintained, cleaned, and organized on an ongoing basis