Water and Cleaning

Did you know that a leaking faucet dripping at the rate of about one drop per second wastes approximately 26,700 gallons of water per year. Most people are astounded by this measurement.

Cleaning professionals might also be surprised to realize they are wasting thousands of gallons of water annually without even realizing it simply by diluting chemicals. Manually diluting cleaning chemicals with water invariably results in water waste, including water released from the tap that is not used in the dilution process and water that overflows while mixing.

To address this waste, auto-dilution systems, once found only in large facilities, should be used in all types of facilities, both large and small. Not only do they accurately mix just the right amount of chemical with water, they ensure that just the right amount of water is used as well, eliminating waste. These systems make fixing this issue quite easy, and can also enhance cleaning efficacy and safety.

Other areas where water usage can be more efficient—or eliminated entirely—include:

Commercial kitchen floor care. The traditional method of hosing down kitchen floors uses about 10 gallons of water per minute. That is no longer sustainable. Mopping is not an ideal cleaning method either, since it can spread contaminants as the mop is used. One alternative is the use of trolley bucket systems that dispense water directly onto the floor. These systems keep the cleaning solution fresh, and they often make use of brushes to “deck down” the floor, providing the agitation necessary to remove grease and soils that can then be squeegeed into floor drains.

Hard surface floor care. Newer automatic scrubbers have been reengineered to use less water than older systems. Selecting newer equipment therefore reduces the amount of water used for cleaning. Cleaning professionals should also consider cylindrical floor machines, which use brushes instead of rotary pads. These brushes do more of the “leg work,” so less water and chemical are generally needed.

Carpet care. More water is used in carpet care than in any other cleaning task—as much as 1.5 gallons of water per minute if using a portable machine. Selecting a more advanced, low-moisture extractor will reduce this water consumption to less than a gallon per minute. But the two most essential keys to reducing the amount of water used in carpet care is to clean carpets only when needed, rather than on a set schedule, and to use interim carpet cleaning methods such as dry and bonnet cleaning more frequently. In one North American hospital, for example, the carpet cleaning routine includes using a dry encapsulation method twice as often as the extraction method. This cuts water consumption for this task by two-thirds.

 

Stephen P. Ashkin is President of a consulting firm specializing in Greening the cleaning industry and CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, which offers a cloud-based dashboard that allows organizations to measure, report, and improve their sustainability efforts. He is also coauthor of both The Business of Green Cleaning and Green Cleaning for Dummies.