Cleaning Without Chemicals

Although the EPA is currently revisiting its position on disinfectants–in and of itself an important breakthrough–it could take months or even years before Green disinfectants can be marketed in the U.S.

In the meantime, park and recreation administrators and their custodial workers have at least three other options when it comes to disinfecting surfaces without the use of chemical disinfectants.

The first is vapor technology. Steam vapor systems use no chemicals, but instead heat water to an extremely high temperature–from 150° F to as much as 300° F–which studies indicate is enough to kill quickly a variety of pathogens, including fungi, viruses, and even antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Vapor systems can be used on all types of surfaces, from tables and chairs to countertops and restroom fixtures.

For example, gymnasiums often use these systems to deep-clean workout equipment, specifically the vinyl coverings of the machines.

Sadly, however, these systems can be slow to work with and, with the current budget cutbacks and financial constraints facing many municipalities, some facilities can only afford to use these systems when there are specific public-health concerns impacting a facility or community.

Another option is the use of spray-and-vac, or “no-touch” cleaning systems.

Unlike vapor cleaning, these systems are very fast; in addition, recent tests conducted by an EPA-approved laboratory report that, when used properly, some systems can effectively sanitize surfaces (meaning they reduce the bacteria count by at least 99.9 percent) with water alone. (See sidebar.)

This is done by effectively removing contaminants from surfaces, usually requiring a machine with 500 pounds per square inch (psi).*

The third option is a new type of cleaning technology referred to as a flat-surface cleaning system. These systems combine a chemical-injection system, microfiber, and a window squeegee to wipe surfaces.

Although chemical cleaning agents can be used with these systems, studies by an EPA-approved lab also indicate they can be classified as sanitizing devices when used as directed, even when only water is used.

The Bottom Line

To protect both the environment and human health, park and recreation facility administrators and custodial workers must focus their cleaning energies on particular disease-transmission points.

However, this does not mean skipping the cleaning of toilet bowls just because they aren’t touched. What it does mean is giving more attention to those high-touch areas that can become disease-spreading transmission points.

Further, although disinfectants play a significant role in keeping facilities clean and healthy, alternatives that use no chemicals are now available. Since these options are far safer for both people and the environment, they should be explored whenever possible.

* According to EPA regulations, in order to qualify as a sanitizing device, the no-touch system must be able to sanitize without chemicals, produce 500 psi (powerful enough to loosen and remove contaminants), and have a three-stage vacuum motor.

John Richter is the Technical Director for Kaivac, Inc. He is an author and presenter, discussing hygienic cleaning issues and related topics. Richter has both a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio, his emphasis being thermal sciences and fluid dynamics.


Disinfecting And Sanitizing: What’s the Difference?

A disinfectant is a chemical agent that completely destroys all organisms on a surface within a set period of time, usually 5 to 10 minutes.

A sanitizer is a chemical or system that reduces the number of microorganisms on a surface to a safe level within about 30 seconds.

Sanitizing devices must be proven to reduce microbes on a test surface by 99.9 percent or more. This is typically accomplished by either removing the contaminants or killing them without chemicals.

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Related posts:

  1. Clean, Sanitize, Or Disinfect
  2. Wipe Away Germs
  3. Cleaning Restrooms
  4. The Future Of Cleaning
  5. Park Bathrooms

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