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It’s not easy being green

It’s not easy being green

While cleanliness is important in all areas, it crucial in the washroom environment. The standard of cleaning and hygiene in washrooms serves the dual purpose of ensuring surface cleanliness and infection prevention and control. In this article CHT takes a look at how best to keep your washrooms spotless whilst staying environmentally friendly.

Germs such as MRSA, E-Coli and more can be spread incredibly quickly and reach harmful, even lethal levels before you’ve even realised there is a problem. Constant, and effective cleaning is essential if we wish to prevent these germs harming people in their homes and their offices. 

In many, if not most, washrooms people are constantly using bleach, disinfectants and anti-bacterial cleansers to keep infections at bay in their washrooms. But these products can actually do more harm than good….

Conventional cleaning products are complex mixtures of chemical ingredients and those ingredients are not always harmless. Many of these ingredients are known to be associated with asthma and other respiratory disorders. Some are even associated with dermatitis, neurological disorders and cancer.

In addition to these terrible consequences for humans, there is mounting evidence that some cleaning product ingredients harm the environment, harming ecosystems in the air and in the water. Also if and when you pour two chemicals down the same drain then you are at risk of creating an even more dangerous compound.

These dangers apply both to cleaning staff and employees in the buildings being cleaned. The companies employing cleaning contractors and the contractors themselves have a responsibility to carry out risk assessments to determine what risks arise from the use of cleaning machines, techniques and materials.

Changes have been made to the way in which chemicals are classified, including newly designed hazard symbols, called ‘pictograms’, and new wording to help those who need to know, to understand the hazards that are in the chemical they are using and how to use it safely.  People with responsibility for assessing risks from cleaning chemicals should obviously read this information.

So how can we keep our washrooms clean whilst remaining environmentally friendly? Well, plenty of green cleaning products have been developed over recent years. Products which can aid humans and the environment whilst remaining cost effective.

It is a lot more sensible to use, where possible, the latest cleaning systems that remove the risk of aggravating existing health problems or creating news ones, while achieving an extremely high standard of hygiene.

Green options
Many people still think that natural or green cleaning products aren’t as effective as chemicals. Yet there are several organisations which have researched and developed perfectly reliable, environmentally friendly cleaning products using plant-based enzymes, fatty acids, alcohols, esters, chelators and saponifiers derived from things like palm kernel, soy, peanut, corn, sunflower and canola.  All of these are non-toxic, non-harmful, non-hazardous, readily biodegradable and extremely cost effective.

More research and investment is of course still needed. Sustainability means leaving the world for future generations in a state we would want to inherit it ourselves. The whole cleaning sector has a responsibility not to do anything that will damage the environment, or harm the people in it.

All well and good of course, but how exactly do we do this? Well, let’s take this one step at a time, starting with the most obvious example, the toilet. When cleaning a toilet most people’s first instinct is to reach for their bleach. This might leave it clean and sparkling but no-one would claim that bleach is green. But there are homemade, environmentally friendly options available that are apparently just as effective. Half a cup of vinegar perhaps, mixed with a bit of baking soda, poured into the toilet bowl once a week before scrubbing is reportedly a eco-friendly and efficient solution.

Next we can turn out attention to the shower and the bath tub. There are plenty of all natural soaps out there, by mixing these with our ever trusty baking soda you can create a paste (at least according to innumerable websites and articles) which is the equal of any chemical cleaner or equivalent. Apparently you can use this to clean shower doors, water and rust stains and ceramic tiles.

To remove build up and mildew from the corners of your shower you should attack the effected areas with vinegar. Vinegar is one of those all-natural options which is claimed to be just as successful as chemical alternatives.  Let the vinegar dry, then wipe it clean, repeating as many times as required. The acid contained within vinegar helps kill bacteria by splitting up the aprticles contained within it.

As with so many things, prevention is better than cure when it comes to showers so try and keep the area as clean as possible after each time you use it. Even a simple wipe of the curtain or doors is better than nothing.

So far, so pleasant, relatively. But if you want to keep your washrooms healthy and clean then you can’t afford to ignore the drains. Nobody wants to pull out clogged hair by hand but the fact remains that most drain cleaners are incredibly toxic, containing the sort of chemicals that are unpronounceable by clearly deadly.

So, instead of employing literal poison you can consider using a homemade solution containing (yes, you guessed it) baking soda and vinegar. Pouring a fair amount down your drains will break down gunk and help clear out your pipes. 178505344

Mirrors might be more pleasant to clean but they certainly aren’t easier. Anyone who has ever tried, in either a professional or domestic context to leave a mirror spotless knows it is next to impossible. In fact many chemical cleaners seem to leave it even worse than it was before. The most commonly sighted green option is a warm water-vinegar spray wiped away with a lint free cloth.

Then we can turn our attention to the floors. Both tiles and mats can get very dirty, very quickly.  Never leave a wet mat laying on the floor; after every shower, hang it over the shower rod so it can dry out. With tiles there are (as always) a multitude of chemical cleaners available but if you want to go green then warm water mixed with lemon juice can be just as useful. All you need is a mop.

Last but not least, something you do not want to neglect is water. Even if you are using as many environmentally friendly products as possible but if you end up wasting water then all your good work will amount to nothing. With the world’s population increasing constantly there are even news outlets predicting literal wars over water in the years to come.

Most people have no clue how much water we use, we just turn on the tap and take it for granted whenever we wash up, brush our teeth or take a shower. Something as simple as switching to low-flow fixtures can save colossal amounts of water.

Act now
Simply put It is time for those in the cleaning business to put on the pressure for alternative ways of cleaning that do not use or disperse dangerous substances. Regular reviews of the cleaning chemicals that are used in the washroom setting are needed and checks whether safer and greener alternatives are available.

Equally obliged are those manufacturing cleaning equipment and materials to divert a major part of their research and development budgets into achieving green techniques and equipment to make cleaning safer for everybody. Changes to reduce the harmful effects of cleaning must entail alternatives that provide effective infection prevention and control as well as being healthier, safe, and environmentally sound.

Not many procedures in any industry sector are the same today as they were decades ago, so why tackle cleaning the old way?  Advancements in green cleaning mean that ecological methods can prevent infection and guarantee hygiene in the washroom while setting high standards of cleanliness.

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