Question: Hi there. I’m a restaurant owner and I want to find the best cleaning product on the market. My customers love the idea of our using eco-friendly products, and I’m ready to jump an board, if it’s the right decision for my business. Can you help me understand why I should, or shouldn’t, make the switch?

Answer: Great question, and in order to answer it, we want to share this great article posted by our partners over at LEAF that outlines the ins and outs of using green cleaning products in your kitchen.

For those in the food service industry, cleanliness and sanitation are prime concerns. Many products used by restaurants for cleaning and pest control are toxic to the environment and unhealthy for both employees and customers. These traditional cleaning products are often more hazardous than the germs they are killing.

As Canadians, we spend close to 90% of our time inside; at home, at work and in recreational environments. Most people, however, are unaware of the effects that poor indoor air quality can have on their health. Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) has been linked to a variety of health issues, including many respiratory problems, such as asthma. At least one-third of cleaning products contain chemicals that are known to cause significant damage to humans and the environment.  According to the World Health Organization, in addition to an unhealthy lifestyle, physical inactivity, radiation and some infections, exposure to occupational or environmental carcinogens are a common risk factor for developing cancer.  Currently no Canadian law requires manufacturers to disclose the full list of ingredients in cleaning products or warn about chronic health and environmental hazards.

Know your product

Restaurants use a variety of cleaning products which contain chlorine (toilet bowl and drain cleaners), caustic soda (in oven cleaners), ammonia (window and floor cleaners), and volatile organic compounds (typically in the fragrances added to products). When these toxic materials are flushed down drains, they enter the sewage system and ultimately affect water quality. Prolonged contact with these harsh cleaners can cause skin problems. Studies prove that chlorine bleach, ammonia and other cleaners release gases and toxic vapors, many of which are suspected carcinogens. Hazardous chemicals have been known to remain on surfaces and/or airborne for hours, causing mild to serious symptoms including headaches, fatigue and asthma, and skin and eye irritation. Chemicals in cleaning products can also enter our bodies by absorption through the skin or through ingestion of dust and chemical residues left on dishes and cutlery.

Research shows that better indoor air quality increases employee job performance and reduces health problems and sick days for workers. Packaging of cleaning products can also have a significant environmental impact. For these reasons, practical alternatives to conventional chemicals should be carefully considered.

It is a common misconception that green cleaning products do not work as well as traditional chemicals. In fact, a number of third- party certifications perform tests to verify that the green products work as well as or better than similar conventional products. Environmental Choice (Ecologo) is an organization based in Canada that offers third-party certification of many different products including cleaners and janitorial paper products. This is a great logo to look for to assist with green product selection.

As not all green cleaning products are created equal, it is important to do your research to guarantee that you have chosen the best products to suit your needs. In addition to being clean and safe, any cleaning product should be sustainable. A sustainable cleaning product is one that performs and has a reduced negative effect on environmental and human health when compared with competing cleaning products that serve the same purpose.

The products you select should meet the following criteria:

• Performance – The product works quickly but effectively, ensuring the clean appearance of your food service operation.
• People – The product is non-toxic and supports the health and safety of your employees and customers.
• Planet – Any raw materials in the cleaners should be biodegradable and meet the highest environmental standards for safe storage, transportation and disposal. Materials used should be safe on our water systems and aquatic life.
• Price – The price should be competitive when compared to conventional cleaning products with the same functions.

The difference between biological and chemical cleaning

As people have become increasingly concerned about health and safety issues, businesses have come under significant pressure to take active measures in order to safeguard the health and safety of their workers, customers and the surrounding environment.  Biological and chemical technologies each provide a sustainable solution for effective green cleaning.  When choosing green cleaning products, it is important to be aware of the different options on the market, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

Biological Cleaning: A biological cleaning solution for cleaning and maintenance uses biological decomposition to clean and deodorize without harming workers, customers or the environment. These products use nature’s own process to recycle waste into simple and essential substances. When a biological product is applied to a surface, the microbial enzymes eat at the grease – turning it into water and carbon dioxide. Biological cleaning products use natural processes in order to meet today’s demands for cleaning, odor control and waste elimination without the use of potentially harmful chemicals.

Chemical Cleaning: Chemical- based products can also offer an environmentally responsible method for effective cleaning. These products use the chemical properties of hydrogen peroxide to break up organic matter and then prevent grease from sticking onto the surface.  Hydrogen Peroxide turns into water/oxygen; it is one of the most environmentally desirable chemicals available, in addition to being versatile, safe and dependable, hydrogen peroxide fights germs and bacteria — without staining.

Although biological and chemical cleaning technologies differ from one another, they can safely complement each other. An ideal sustainable cleaning program will take advantage of the advantages of each technology to help obtain an effective and more complete clean.

Green cleaning products are better for the planet and for the human body.  Today’s informed consumers also prefer that restaurants and food outlets use environmentally friendly and safer cleaning supplies. Green cleaning results in contented customers, improved employee efficiency and reduced liability. Last but not least, green cleaners can even be more cost-effective than conventional products. An all-inclusive green cleaning program involves more than just the use of non-toxic chemicals and covers all areas of cleaning, from maintenance and recycling to training.

image credit: Zoomart Design