Posted in Business Articles, Housekeeping

There’s no such thing as a “green” disinfectant, says the EPA

600600p3069EDNmain94toilet with cleaners 300x250There’s no such thing as a “green” disinfectant, according to the EPA. Disinfectants are designed to kill and so do not meet “green” expectations.

There’s no such thing as a “green” disinfectant, according to the EPA. Disinfectants are designed to kill and so do not meet “green” expectations.

Except for the EPA-established TANCS system used exclusively in the Advanced Vapor Technologies Ladybug…the only EPA-recognized disinfection device to date and which meets both the EPA standards for disinfection AND all green expectations! The TANCS system is the ONLY device that the EPA has validated as a disinfection device!

Even more important from this article: the EPA will not accept green-certified products for registration as disinfectants, nor will the EPA allow green certifications of products to endorse product claims about disinfection.

Lesson: there’s a HUGE difference in being an EPA-registered disinfectant and “meeting EPA standards for disinfection.” Make sure your company’s marketing claims don’t overstep their bounds!

The following appeared in various research studies and reports through May 2011, as reported at CleanLink:

Disinfectants are designed to kill, hence, they are not considered “green.” Disinfectants, however, are necessary in specific applications, such as an operating room. This is where product usage and facility priorities come into play. The BSC needs to work with the facility to identify what kill claims are necessary and determine what types of products carry those claims. From there, the BSC can try to find the “greenest” product.

The “greenest” option may include a neutral pH (safer for the worker than something highly alkaline), low or no VOC (improves the indoor air quality for building occupants), or no phosphates (that can be harmful to aquatic life).

BSCs should also consider the intended product use. Infection control through disinfectant use is important in high contact areas (door handles, faucets, etc.). Low contact areas, like floors, may be better served with a good cleaner. The BSC should be willing to discuss these alternative cleaning options, as well as alternative chemical options, with the facilities they service.
— Rebecca S. Kaufold, chemist, Spartan Chemical Co., Inc., Maumee, Ohio.
Even though in the United States there are currently no green certified disinfectants (as not allowed by EPA), BSCs should review and compare the following attributes in disinfectants and advise their customers of that fact and why they are using a particular disinfectant.

First, look for disinfectants that do not contain Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPEs) or octylphenol polyethoxylates (OPEs) and have a pH value close to 7. Second, compare level of detergency (cleaning ability and more is better). Third, look at the parts per million (PPM); the higher the better. Fourth, look to ensure the disinfectant has any required kill claim. For example, if the customer is concerned about swine flu (H1N1), ensure that specific kill claim is on the label. Lastly, look for a disinfectant with very broad kill claims.

More importantly, advise the customer that you will not be overusing disinfectants (just because they are usually less expensive than a quality cleaner), and when you do use them, it will be with proper procedures — pre-clean, apply disinfectant, allow required dwell/wet time, rinse or wipe dry as per label instructions.
— Mike Sawchuk, vice president, Enviro-Solutions/Charlotte Products, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.

The US EPA office responsible for registrations is not allowing certification of disinfectants or sanitizers by organizations such as Green Seal or EcoLogo. Similarly, they are not letting companies claim their disinfectants are “green” or “environmentally preferable.” The reasons are complicated and are based in the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The bottom line is companies can’t claim their products are green due to FIFRA.

BSCs should use the right product based on their needs. Killing bacteria, viruses, and mold is an important part of a sustainable cleaning service. Work with your supplier to get the right product for the job.
— Dan Daggett, Ph.D., manager, Corporate Sustainability, Diversey Inc., Sturtevant, Wis.
Interestingly enough, a recent article published by Infection Control Today, indicates the mechanical removal of germs was more important than the chemical or actual disinfectant, when cleaning hard surfaces. Even when disinfectant and/or sanitizing products are used, the proper dwell time isn’t allowed. Nothing can replace a good general cleaning program and choosing safer cleaning products with low VOC’s with a minimal to no impact to the user and environment is the best solution.
— Brent Crawford, president, Core Products Co., Canton, Texas.

Originally published October 15, 2013 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.

Posted in Business Articles, Housekeeping

And the Toxie Goes To…

600600p3069EDNmain633toxiesPhysicians Battle Toxic Cleaning Chemicals with a Hollywood Twist

For four years now, Californians for a Healthy Green Economy (CHANGE) and Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles (PSR-LA) have grown their multi-media campaign “The Toxies” to educate consumers about the hidden yet pervasive toxic chemicals that surround us every day at work, in the home, and outdoors. By putting an awards-show, red-carpet glamor on the annual awards event, the campaign gains both on-site public attention as well as a larger reach online to both the professional industries and the consumer.

 

Each year, at least one Toxie winner – often more – have come from the cleaning world, and the 2013 awards was no exception. Three rise to the top as major offenders among the various segments of the cleaning industry:

Yellow Soap – a powerful degreaser found most commonly in car wash operations, Yellow Soap is blamed for causing inhalation and contact-based chronic illnesses among professionals using the product.

 

Because Yellow Soap is not required to follow the US Hazard Communications standards – that is, Yellow Soap has no MSDSheet – the cleaning industry is having a difficult time identifying the specific toxins in the product. Worse yet, Yellow Soap is omitted from the currently Safe Chemicals Act under consideration by Congress, which means neither professionals nor consumers will be protected from it. Read more about Yellow Soap.

BPA – while the potential for damage by BPA to the reproductive system is increasing as common knowledge, the continued pervasiveness of BPA still catches many off guard. Many manufacturers have switched to BPA-free containers for their chemicals, but often equipment manufacturers don’t have that luxury.

 

BPA remains a common ingredient in many of the large containers, plastic handles, hand-held tools, and mechanical equipment used in the cleaning process. Read more about BPA that will surprise you.

Flame Retardants – Certainly our fire restoration specialists will be quite familiar with the dangers of flame retardants in their segment of the cleaning industry, but all segments that come into contact with fabric-based and upholstered furniture, draperies, and pre-fab furniture. Why? Because nearly all of it has been treated with flame retardant chemicals.

 

While adding a toxin may make it less likely that these items will contribute to a fire, that same flame retardant toxin is a regular hazard to the cleaning technicians and upholstery specialists charged with keeping those items maintained. Read more about the hidden dangers of Flame Retardants.

Other Toxie “winners” include several classic contaminants like Lead and Mercury as well as some emerging stars like the Fracking Chemical Coctail and the new pesticide Chloropicrin.

 

Click here to watch all of the 2013 Toxies Webisodes.

Originally published August 19, 2013 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.

Posted in Business Articles, Housekeeping, Small Business Tips

Quantum Sweep: How to Choose Service Software for Your Cleaning Business

600600p3069EDNmain605quantum-sweep-300-x-250Because the ability to grow your cleaning business rests on your ability to deliver the customer service your client expects, and scheduling (or field services) software is a necessary component to knocking down barriers to growth.

JOIN ANY CLEANING INDUSTRY DISCUSSIONboard on LinkedIn, and chances are you’ll find scheduling software and cleaning job management programs among the top ten questions. Why? Because the ability to grow your cleaning business rests on your ability to deliver the customer service your client expects, and scheduling (or field services) software is a necessary component to knocking down barriers to growth.

Why Invest?

Pen-and-paper systems aren’t going to grow with your business or create efficiencies. They won’t help you drive growth and sustain the level of customer service you want to be known for. Most cleaning businesses seem to start off with simple, convenient and low-cost methods of scheduling jobs for clients. Even with the simplest calendar book, you might squeeze in three teams cleaning at the same time before you run out of room. Several online calendars, such as Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar, allow you to automatically schedule recurring clients, which is the ideal in establishing a regular and predictable cash flow.

But the ability to get a client on the calendar correctly is just one small piece of the massive responsibility of “scheduling.” When you’ve selected the best software for your business, you can:

  • Enable planned and sustained growth by expanding your capacity to service more clients
  • Enhance customer service by reducing scheduling mistakes, overbookings, missed jobs, changes in day/time of services and or scope of work
  • Improve efficiency and save time by tracking customer information and running standardized work orders

We all know that time is money. That’s why making the investment in a piece of software designed to improve customer service is a critical investment that every business owner must make. It’s a leap of faith and finances, but one with thorough internal evaluation and realistic projections. Let’s look at five areas of analysis you need to invest time in before buying new scheduling software.

1 Function: What do you need the program to do?
Let’s get the price question out of the way with a hard reality: If the program can’t do what you need it to do, then it doesn’t matter how cheap it is; you’ll get what you pay for it. As CBT columnist Marilou Butcher Roth wrote in the May issue, “Take some time and evaluate what you truly enjoy and/or want to get done”. That’s perhaps the most important thing you can do in the process of choosing any tool to help you grow your business.

Start out by listing all of your complaints about your current way of tracking jobs, scheduling customers and keeping track of the responses:

  • What can’t it do?
  • What is more difficult than it should be?
  • What parts take more time than others?

Set yourself a time limit so you don’t dwell too long in the negative, but usually this transitions pretty easily into the wish list – the things you want an ideal program to do for you.

Armed with both lists, step back and prioritize your needs and your wants. Start with deal-breakers – functions you can’t live without – and branch out into the ideal wants from there.

If you have employees who do any part of scheduling and customer service, it’s essential that you involve them in this process as well. Their perspective can show you other places a program falls short or excels and can illuminate possibilities. This step will set you up for a more efficient program review.

2 Features: What can this program do?

The key to comparing a huge list of features is to figure out which ones are standard and which are truly special. Place your priority needs side-by-side with the features offered. CBT invited twelve field services and scheduling software providers to respond to a survey about their programs, and six responded: MaidBooks, Maid Easy, ScheduleView, Service Autopilot, ServiceCEO, ServiceTask and Thoughtful Systems.

The trickiest part of evaluating the features based on a checklist or comparison is that you still don’t know how good a program is until you’ve seen it and used it. But it’s reasonable to narrow the field for deeper testing.

Tip: don’t let sales hype on standard features be your decision maker; don’t let them sell you on standard features. These are basics that all field services software should be expected to have.

Whenever possible, try out a free trial of a program. Without your own actual customer data in there, it’s still just a test. You want to confirm that essential features are both part of the program and that they operate in the way you need them to.

Tip: don’t forget to test the reporting capabilities of a program. Check how deeply the reports dig for information that is useful to tracking costs, verifying ROI, calculating payroll, and more!

3 Fit: Does it match your specific needs?
No industry has a true “all-in-one” system that meets both function and business needs. But then you might want a program that is just okay at everything instead of superb in its area of expertise. That’s why “Fit” is such an important area of analysis: how will this new system integrate with your other process and programs?

If you started out with a thorough examination of your own business activities and systems, then you’ve already made your “Fit” analysis a little bit easier. Ask the software representative very direct questions about integration with programs that assist with:

  • Sales/Marketing
  • Customer Records and CRM
  • Accounting
  • Inventory
  • Employee Records
  • Online Survey Tools

Probably the most requested and expected integration is that with Quickbooks or a similar true accounting system, but there are any number of other programs you may be using that could integrate to improve efficiency. If you don’t see something listed, ask if an integration exists or if one can be created. Knowing a provider’s ability to grow in that direction can jump start your analysis of the future possibilities of the software.

4 Future: Where is the industry going?
With the rapid rise of technology-enabled workflows and business growth, there are two main areas of the future of the cleaning industry that you cannot afford to ignore. In business today, we are seeing two major leaps enabling better customer service and service delivery.

The first area you should consider is the shift from installed desktop applications, where you have to be on a specific computer to operate the program, to cloud computing, where the program and the data are online. When a program offers both an on-site and a cloud version of their platform, try to test both. Look for differences in functionality and features between the two versions, and weigh that against ease of information access and cost (fees PLUS employees’ time using the programs).

Related to cloud computing, mobile technology is increasingly used in nearly every aspect of business operations. Consider programs that already have an operational mobile application for your smart phone or tablet, as they are also looking toward the future. This also serves as an indication that a program is in constant development and is responding to the needs of the industries they serve, but you still want to ask about what changes and updates they’ve got in queue for continuous development and improvement.

If you’ve made the decision to go “cloud,” then you’re setting yourself up for the new opportunities and applications enabled by mobile devices: smart phones, tablets and more. Be sure to think through the impact this will have on your total investment and budget accordingly.

5 Funds: Does it fit your budget?
While a few options offer a one-time fee to purchase the software, most are based on a monthly subscription, which may be friendlier to your cash flow and allow you to make the investment more easily. As you consider the financial cost, look beyond the advertised pricing for other regular or periodic costs, such as upgrades, service fees, support fees and early cancellation fees.

Your time should also be accounted for, so ask what set-up services and support is offered and at what price. Be realistic about your ability to invest time in learning and setting up the system. Document those processes . That way you will be able to train a leadership employee to help you when your business has grown so much that you can’t handle all of the calls and support by yourself. After all, that is the goal, right?

Final Thoughts
Though it’s tempting to ask the open question on LinkedIn, “What’s the best scheduling software for a cleaning business?” and to think you’ll select whatever the industry superstars are using, it’s ultimately the wrong question. Best can only be determined by looking through the lens of your business goals, which are unique.

Originally published July 9, 2013 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.
Posted in Business Articles, Housekeeping, Lighter Topics

Beware “The Cleaning Fairy”

600600p3069EDNmain299cleaning-fairyNew method for getting new clients isn’t exactly legal.

For a little over a year, independent house cleaner Susan Warren has been breaking into empty homes, doing some light cleaning, and leaving a bill. Her philosophy: many homeowners just don’t know how good it can be to have a house cleaner, so she feels they need to know first-hand; that will lead them to call her back and hire her officially to be their house cleaner.

 

 

Her biggest regret is that she didn’t prepare and leave a more professional invoice for her services.

Originally published June 22, 2013 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.

Posted in Being Healthy, Content Marketing, Housekeeping

First Attempt at Comprehensive Database of Household Cleaning Products

healthy cleaningThe Environmental Working Group has been teasing us for about six months about their new Guide to Healthy Cleaning. EWG scientists have examined in the laboratory and rated for safety over 2000 household cleaning products, from laundry detergent to bathroom cleaner to air freshener. And, yes, some of these include the professional products used by the elite cleaning companies around the country.

So how does this new guide and database add value to the professional cleaning industry?

VALIDATION: Many in the cleaning industry have been citing medical and chemical studies that suggest the effect of cleaning products on the increased frequency and severity of many mutagenic diseases such as cancer and reproductive disabilities.

CONSUMER AWARENESS: The more a consumer feels he/she has control over purchasing and lifestyle decisions, the better decisions that consumer can make. One of those “better” decisions is to trust and employ the cleaning company who’s been saying this all along!

CHEMICAL FREE CLEANING: We’ve been advancing the study of safety and efficacy of many cleaning products and equipment toward the development of Chemical Free Cleaning…where no one would need a database like this because the only ingredient is tap water!

REFERENCES: When you search for a specific product or product line, not only do you get EWG’s safety ratings; you’ll also see a list of the ingredients and the various regulatory and/or scientific sources that list their effect on humans. These range from surface irritation to reproductive interruptions to known cancer effects.

CAVEAT: Just because the data revealed through the guide came largely from the science laboratory doesn’t mean that the recommendations come from cleaning professionals. We’ve already spotted a few recommendations that do more to advance home cleaning myths than scientifically validated cleaning or disinfecting methodologies. Here are two reminders just about vinegar…or maybe some new information for those who haven’t yet taken the IICRC House Cleaning Technician Certification class:

Vinegar doesn’t clean or disinfect: vinegar’s use in the cleaning procedure was born of the need to rinse clean the residue left from an alkaline cleaning solution, which is more commonly needed than an acidic cleanser. Vinegar’s acidity neutralized and rinsed clean the residue, leaving a nice, clear shine. Thus was born the legend of the vinegar cleaner.

Vinegar as a disinfectant is based on scientific supposition, not any actual disinfection studies; to be a preservative, vinegar must have some positive effect on keeping bacteria at bay, but as yet, no studies have shown that it actually sanitizes or disinfects to the level of making your counter safe from chicken juice bacteria.

Originally published June 10, 2013 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.

Posted in Being Healthy, Business Articles, Content Marketing, Housekeeping

Profile of the Ideal Chemical Free Cleaner

600600p3069EDNmain83profile_seitzScientists and health professional still seeking the “perfect” disinfectant.

The healthcare profession has long held a reasonably common set of criteria for the ideal disinfectant:

  • be fast acting, even in the presence of organic substances, such as those in body fluid (resistant to inactivation)
  • be effective against all types of infectious agents without destroying tissues or acting as a poison if ingested (broadly active)
  • easily penetrate material to be disinfected without damaging or discoloring the material (not poisonous or otherwise harmful)
  • be easy to prepare and stable even when exposed to light, heat, or other environmental factors (penetrating; not damaging to non-living materials)
  • be inexpensive and easy to obtain and use (stable; easily prepared)
  • not have an unpleasant odor (not unpleasant to work with)

(quoted from the lecture outline of Stephen T. Abedon [Ph.D., Microbiology] of Ohio State University for Microbiology 509)

Veterinarian Dr. Shawn E. Seitz agrees in his 2012 white paper “The Ideal Disinfectant,” citing the same six plus a few more (highlighted) to consider:

  • Neutral pH (preferably 6.5 – 7.5)
  • Excellent cleaning ability
  • 1:64 concentrate (2 oz per gallon of water)
  • Cost effective
  • One-step functionality
  • Facility sparing – compatible with the composition of the surfaces you are cleaning
  • Hard water compatible
  • Ability to function in an organic load
  • Environmentally friendly – specifically friendly to the indoor environment and the air we breath
  • Safe – specifically safe in the face of accidental ingestion, inhalation, or absorption through skin
  • Ease of use
  • Pleasant fragrance
  • Spectrum of activity

The common thread – scientists, specifically health scientists, have developed a pretty clear goal that the evolution of cleaning and disinfecting products should keep in front of them. That’s why when Modern Cleaning began researching and testing products claiming to achieve cleaning and disinfection without chemicals, we developed this profile of the Ideal Chemical Free Cleaner:

  • Cleans as effectively as a well-tested and proven traditional cleaners using chemical detergents, surfactants, and/or disinfectants
  • Poses minimal risk to humans, indoor pets, and the indoor and outdoor environments
  • Has a small (or smaller) carbon footprint (from manufacturing through  disposal)
  • Rinses clean, leaving no residue
  • Quickly reverts to inert elements
  • Manufactured on site (at the cleaning event)

Despite the continual evolution of products and equipment that come closer and closer to meeting these ideals, to date “the ideal disinfectant doesn’t actually exist because the extremes of safety and efficacy are often at odds with one another in usage applications and during product development,” according to Dr. Seitz. What we know about particularly the manufacturing and shipping impacts on product development and what we know about the effects of the disposal process on our outdoor environment is largely speculative, as few have made such scientific inquiry a priority.

What we can test and measure is the influence of reduced chemicals on how clean the products and tools can leave the indoor environment and how much “less dirty” that same environment becomes from week to week when a chemical free cleaning procedure is used.

Originally published June 10, 2013 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.