Making the Case for Green Cleaning

All schools have a responsibility to create healthy learning environments. Custodial staff are often the first line of defense in protecting the health of our students and staff. By cleaning a building effectively, they are ensuring that schools and learning centers are free from germs that spread disease, and improve air quality within a school.

However, many traditional cleaning products and equipment are not as safe as we once assumed. They smell, release chemicals into the air, and can cause burns or injury to staff if they are not handled properly. Green cleaning can be a great addition to a maintenance program because it implements practices, products, and equipment that have two goals: to protect human health, and to protect the environment. Green cleaning is effective, safe, environmentally-friendly, and cost-effective.

Green Cleaning is Effective

In trials between traditional cleaning and third-party certified green cleaning products, green cleaning products performed just as well as traditional ones. Green cleaning equipment, such as microfiber cloths and electronic sprayers for disinfectant, allow custodians to clean more efficiently by covering a bigger area in less time – an important consideration.

Green Cleaning is Safer

Janitors are injured on the job more than twice the average injury rate for all workers. By using less products through green cleaning, janitors can reduce their risk of injury on the job.
The University of Georgia compared the absences of their custodians before and after implementing
green cleaning and found a dramatic decrease in absences. When injuries did happen, they were
less serious in nature. In the San Diego Unified School District noticed less illness and allergies among the maintenance staff after they switched to green cleaning. They attributed it to safer cleaning chemicals.

Green cleaning can also protect the health of students. After Pennsylvania’s Blackhawk School District began a green cleaning program, they tracked school absenteeism. Six months into the program, they documented less absenteeism and fewer asthma attacks.

Green Cleaning is Environmentally-Friendly
By considering pollution prevention early on in the purchasing process, green cleaning programs emphasize a need to consider the waste produced by cleaning products, much of which is non-recyclable. Green cleaning also prioritizes reducing the amount of chemicals in products, using less toxic chemicals, and using chemicals that can easily be diluted with just water.

Green Cleaning is Cost-Effectiv


Green cleaning programs have proven, time and time again, to be cost-neutral if not more cost-effective for schools. When Columbia Public Schools in Missouri started their Green Cleaning program in 2009, they reduced the amount of cleaning products used, made simple changes to their cleaning practices, and modified floor finish products (which make up a lot of cleaning budgets). They saved almost 30% of their budget, and reinvested that money into purchasing green cleaning equipment such as microfiber cloths and wet mop systems.

In San Diego’s Unified School District, their budget was reduced by 20% after they negotiated a 2 year contract with their vendor to lock in prices. They switched to using products from one line of chemicals, and implemented a dilution control system to reduce the waste of products.

Final Thoughts   

When schools aren’t cleaned properly, we accelerate the deterioration and reduce the efficiency of the school’s physical plant and equipment. Investing in green cleaning programs can help us maintain our school buildings, as well as protect the health of the people who work, learn, and play in them.

Many schools are already using some aspects of green cleaning as part of their maintenance practices. Making the switch to green cleaning is the smart choice – it reduces the toxic chemical burden of traditional cleaning products with more efficient, safer, and effective products, practices, and equipment.

Want to start a green cleaning program at your school but unsure where to start? Send us an email – we’re happy to help!



Promoting Green Cleaning in Healthy Schools

Maryland Environmental Health Network: Green Cleaning in Schools Toolkit