A Quick and Not-So-Dirty Guide to Safe Cleaning Solutions

A Quick and Not-So-Dirty Guide to Safe Cleaning Solutions

It may be tedious, but floors need to be swept, surgical instruments need to be sterilized, and the places we live and work need to be sanitary. While allergens and microorganisms are always going to find a way through the cracks, we have to minimize their presence to keep ourselves healthy and comfortable. In every industry from construction to food service we rely on professional cleaners to keep our spaces safe, and they for better or worse rely on many harsh, caustic chemicals to get the job done. Unfortunately, many of these products end up being harmful to the worker, and the cleaning industry has recently been rated by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as a leading source of workplace injuries. [1] Is there anything you can do to keep you and your employees safe from harmful chemicals while still keeping your countertops spotless? Luckily, the answer is yes; there are many safe alternatives available that are equally effective, eco-friendly, and affordable.

Today, we’ll examine three things that can help you stay safe: 1) Chemicals to avoid, 2) Safe, non-toxic alternatives, and 3) Chemical-free cleaning processes.

Chemicals to Avoid:

Rather than typing a mile-long list of dangerous, impossible to pronounce chemical compounds, let’s focus on the more common, easily remembered worst offenders. These chemicals are known to cause respiratory issues, birth defects, cancer, and reproductive disorders. Avoid them.

      -“The –ates” like phosphates, phthalates, and ethoxylates.

      Generally, the “if you can’t pronounce it, be wary of it” rule is a good one to follow, though it’s not an absolute.

Non-toxic Alternatives:

      This territory can be tricky to navigate, as deceitful marketing tactics can lead you to believe that a product is safer than it really is. Many “natural” or “eco-friendly” cleaners are simply the same product in a biodegradable container, or still contain carcinogenic chemicals alongside the natural compounds. Many of these compounds are petroleum based, and thus derived from oil, which also conflicts with any “green” labeling claims. Studies found that the only products that consistently tested negative for these chemicals were USDA Certified Organic. [2] If you must use chemicals or solutions keep an eye out for that seal, and you’ll be avoiding chemicals harmful to yourself, your workers, and your planet.

Chemical-free Cleaning Solutions:

      The best way to maintain a safe work environment regarding cleaning products is to not use chemicals at all. With the push for safe alternatives and eco-friendly processes, there are now a wide variety of proven, effective cleaning methods to choose from, even in environments as demanding as hospitals. [3]
      -Steam Vapor
           Uses extremely hot water to sanitize and break up soils. Safe even for hospitals.
      -Electrolyzed Water
           Separates tap water into positive and negative streams that attract soils and render harmful bacteria inert.
      -Ultraviolet Light
           Uses a specific spectrum to neutralize microorganisms.
      -HEPA Filtered Vacuums
           Capture and prevent recirculation of allergens
      -Ozone Odor Control Systems
           Oxidizes compounds in the air to neutralize odors
      -Chemical Free Refinishing Machines
           Scrubs away floor finishes using abrasive pads rather than solvents.

      It’s very clear that we now have the technology to move towards completely green cleaning solutions, allowing us to move past carcinogenic, caustic chemicals that harm our workers while still meeting the standards of a clean work environment. Chlorine or Ammonia by the gallon may seem like cheap options now, but steam vapor cleaners are relatively inexpensive, one-time purchases that then only require water to run, and you avoid harming your workers while simultaneously protecting the planet. It’s a win for your workspace, a win for your planet, and a win for your workforce.

[1] http://www.cmmonline.com/articles/232963-the-evolution-of-chemical-free-cleaning
[2] http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2008/05/24/how-safe-are-green-cleaning-products.aspx
[3] http://www.cmmonline.com/articles/232963-the-evolution-of-chemical-free-cleaning

Shawn Shawn Steele is a freelance writer for Insured Solutions as well as a musician. He currently lives in Louisville, KY with his wife.


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