Get Started with Green Cleaning

Many companies discover that cleaning sustainably improves working conditions, contributes to building longevity and reduces costs, while also demonstrating environmental stewardship.

Editor's Note: This article is the second part in a two-part series on the benefits of green cleaning. For more information, take a look at the first part: Why Green Cleaning Makes ‘Cents’.

Whether you’re working toward LEED certification or just want to establish best practices, there are three basic components to a floor-cleaning program: chemicals, equipment and policies/procedures. Establishing practices for these three components will help ensure a successful outcome. Here are some green standards that have been established for each of these components:

1. Chemicals

Cleaning chemicals get the most focus in any discussion of environmentally sound cleaning practices. Over 6 billion pounds of cleaning chemicals are used each year in the performance of cleaning tasks (“The Business of Green Cleaning,” International Facility Management Association). Reducing the environmental harm done by these substances is the goal of several product-certifying organizations, including Green Seal, EcoLogo and EPA Design for Environment.

Green cleaning programs nearly always mandate use of chemicals certified by one of these organizations. An often-overlooked component in chemical use is the equipment in which chemicals are used. A machine that can switch between water-only cleaning and detergent cleaning meets variable cleaning needs without excess use of chemicals.

2. Equipment

Floor-cleaning equipment can make a significant contribution to a facility’s green cleaning program. New equipment for hard floors — such as automatic scrubbers, floor buffers and burnishers — is designed to minimize chemical and energy use, operate quietly and maximize the life of floor surfaces. Examples of green cleaning equipment may include:

  • Automatic scrubbers should offer low-flow dispensing to minimize chemical and water use and allow for water-only cleaning and the use of green-certified chemicals.
  • Burnishers and buffers should be designed for energy efficiency, operate quietly and maximize the life of floor surfaces.
  • Multi-purpose machines such as sweeper-scrubbers help reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing equipment by replacing two machines with one.
  • Outdoor cleaning machines that reuse water can drastically reduce water consumption during outdoor surface cleaning and aid EPA stormwater runoff compliance.
  • Sweepers that provide dust control can help maintain healthy levels of indoor air quality for building occupants.

The most frequently used standard for green cleaning equipment is LEED-EBOM IEQ credit 3.4. This guideline defines the specific attributes of floor equipment required for a green cleaning program, addressing equipment design, features, performance and noise levels.

3. Policies & Procedures

Green floor-cleaning policies and procedures specify when and how cleaning activities are performed. Most useful for managers of industrial facilities is LEED-EBOM, which includes a green cleaning policy as a prerequisite to the six green cleaning credits. The prerequisite stipulates sustainable cleaning and hard-floor and carpet care products that meet various certifications and requires standard operating procedures for addressing how the cleaning program will be managed and audited.

Cleaning Suppliers: “Practice What You preach”

Just as these companies are establishing their own sustainable practices, they expect their suppliers to do the same. According to Christian Cornelius-Knudsen, president and CEO of Nilfisk-Advance, “It’s not enough to design and build green cleaning equipment; we need to live green as a company in order to be true environmental stewards.”

The sustainable goals of Nilfisk-Advance, a leading manufacturer of floor-cleaning equipment, include designing products with the lowest possible environmental impact for customers; practicing environmentally responsible purchasing; using production processes with the lowest environmental impact; and operating facilities using sustainable methods and practices.

A green cleaning program is one part of the larger picture of a sustainable building. Many companies have discovered that cleaning sustainably improves working conditions, contributes to building longevity and reduces costs, while also demonstrating environmental stewardship.

Use of cleaning chemicals and equipment that meet green requirements laid out by various independent organizations is a first step, as is establishing a green cleaning policy that can be measured and audited for effectiveness. With these systems in place, managers will contribute to their company’s bottom line and have the satisfaction of being better stewards of the world.

For an up-to-date list of the green certifications that Advance equipment has earned, contact a local Advance equipment dealer or visit

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