Other than sustainability, are there concrete reasons for facility managers to switch to green chemicals? How does their ROI compare to conventional cleaners’? Why aren’t they being used more widely? And is there anything they can’t do?
Clean India Journal spoke to three experts to get you all the answers.
Lifespan of surfaces
Conventional cleaning chemicals can damage the surface on which they are used, affecting the transparency of glass, removing the shine of granite and decreasing the durability of any surface. “After repeated application, surfaces start looking old and worn out, and need to be replaced”, said Girish Avhad, MD, Grenove Services Pvt Ltd. On the other hand, eco-friendly cleaners do their job without affecting the surface. By using them, facility managers can maximise the lifespan of their floors, furniture and fixtures.”
Going a step ahead, Kshitiz Chaudhary, MD, Cizar Hygiene Care Pvt Ltd explained: “Cleaning a surface with a pH-neutral cleaning agent is like cleaning it with water. Like water, it does not damage any surface. Hence, using it will extend the life of the surface.”
Conventional cleaning agents dislodge contaminants without breaking them. These contaminants stick to the cleaning tool or machine used to wipe them off; all or part of the equipment needs to be replaced earlier than expected. Enzyme-based agents break down oil and grease; there is no adhesion.
In a lighter vein, one of our respondents narrated a consequence of this: “A distributor of cleaning machines, who also started to supply our green floor cleaner, called to say his business has been adversely affected. Oil no longer gets stuck in the scrubbing brush; when he goes for maintenance, clients tell him the machine is working fine, and there is no need for spare parts!”
We already know that green chemicals are environment-friendly. Ensuring longevity of surfaces and cleaning equipment are two other ways in which green chemicals can contribute to an organisation’s sustainability efforts.
Cleaning efficacy is based on four factors: amount/strength of chemical, temperature, time and mechanical action. If one factor is reduced, the other three need to increase to achieve the same effect.
Green chemicals do not contain harsh raw materials; as they are relatively less abrasive, more amounts may need to be used to maintain the balance described above. Hence, some facility managers choose to use green chemicals in combination with conventional cleaners.
Chaudhury begs to differ: “‘Our enzyme-based cleaning agents require to be used in one-fourth the proportion of conventional cleaning chemicals. Facility managers can save on 50% of their cleaning agent procurement costs.”
He went on to add that by using green chemicals, facility managers can save on more than 50% of their expenses on cleaning agents.
There is a widespread perception in the FM industry that green chemicals are prohibitively expensive. Avhad explained this: “In the relatively small green chemicals industry, much of the cost of some green products goes to pay for expensive third-party certification. Getting those certifications is a lengthy and expensive process. The manufacturer who gets a product certified is most likely to pass along that cost to the customers who use it.”
If an FM service provider is committed to using third-party green certified products, they should also expect to pay more upfront.
Another widespread perception is that green chemicals work for mild soiling; when there is major or deep cleaning required, heavy duty chemicals need to be brought out.
Chaudhury claims this is a myth: “There is no cleaning task for which truly green chemicals are not already available. Our products are in use even in heavy industries like steel”.
Since enzyme-based chemicals work on oil itself, the stain can be easily wiped off. With conventional cleaners, oil remains oil, which takes more effort to scrub off. Green chemicals can hence save on overall cleaning time.
At a time when waterless cleaning solutions are on the rise, enzyme-based solutions actually require water for activation. However, unlike conventional cleaners, which can pollute water, the water discharged after cleaning with green chemicals can be used for horticulture. By preventing water from being polluted as well as ensuring a second usage cycle for water, water is saved in more than one way.
Sandeep Sharma, Product Marketing Manager, Aquapharm Chemicals Pvt Ltd tells it like it is: “The market penetration of green cleaning chemicals is quite small. When every conventional cleaner has a green alternative, and performs as well, there will be economies of scale and green chemicals will become affordable and widely used”.
There may be other reasons for their painfully slow adoption. The required dilution of most conventional cleaners is the same; housekeeping personnel have become habituated to this over decades of cleaning. And as they say, old habits die hard.
Still, a new dawn is rising, and in a few years, we can expect green chemicals to be everywhere.