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Cleaning products: sustainable cleaning leaves a clean conscience and a clean room

It is enough to read the comments that show up all over the web: hygiene is one of the most important topics for hotel clientele. From the room to the common area, everything is scrupulously evaluated. The different sanitary crises in recent years have increased pressure on hoteliers to ensure that every corner of their property reflects irreproachable cleanliness. The war against bad smells (street, kitchen, sewer, smoke...), meanwhile, remains a constant battle. And cleanliness has now entered a new dimension, that of environmental respect.Maintenance products today are thus the fruit of deep reflection. Each major supplier has developed a full chemical and sometimes mechanical range, that takes into consideration all the public and private areas of the hotel (including very fashionable spas and other wellness areas). In exchange, it is becoming difficult to determine what is best for a property. Asking a consultant specializing in the field becomes an almost unavoidable step for reconciling pragmatism and ecological and social responsibility.Contrary to what one might believe, there are many innovations in terms of cleaning products. At the manufacturers’ laboratories, leading edge chemists are developing ever more sophisticated, safe and specific solutions. To the laudable concern for absolute cleanliness must be added two unavoidable points, that alone are changing the entire evolution of the supply: security and ecology.Safety measures are necessary because cleaning a hotel means handling dangerous products. This is a problem for both personnel and employers, who run the risk of workers compensation all too easily. The risk of cleaning products falls into specific classifications: “irritant”, “corrosive”, “harmful” and at the top of the ladder: “toxic”. The immense majority of products are no stronger than “corrosive”, while the products classified as veritably “toxic” have no place in the hotel sector. Thus the challenge lies in achieving the same efficiency while moving down the danger scale. Through its “safe kitchen” program a brand such as JohnsonDiversey is trying to systematically replace “corrosive” products with equivalents that are simply “irritant”. The question is not anecdotal. The stiffer legislation and the multiplication of audits by the Labor Inspection requires hoteliers to scrupulously chose their suppliers. This is also true for subcontractors that hotels are turning to increasingly often after a trend towards internalization.And yet, some areas such as kitchens require handling substances that are potentially very dangerous to the health. Deep cleaning necessarily implicates the use of powerful solutions such as caustic soda. The solution lies in working on the container more than on the contents. “We package the dangerous product in a hermetic container that so it is self-diluting. Concretely speaking, the user does not come into contact with the product except in correctly dosed quantities, eliminating the risk of error. This is the aim of ranges such as J-Flex,” explains Yann Bancourt marketing director of JohnsonDiversey. Another important player on the sector, Ecolab developed a color code that allows the user to easily associate the right products with the right sprayers for each use. The company also favors “foam” sprayers that reduce vapors.Everything is done to make the work easier for personnel and spare them all risks of misuse. But even before that, it is their training that helps prevent accidents. This is why the sector’s leaders have all developed a “services” division. Thus, the 200 sales people of JohnsonDiversey are able to better guide hoteliers. Ecolab has created methodology classes.The other great incontestable theme is the environmental question. Professionals are reacting massively to this new deal. They are now federated under a common banner: the A.I.S.E (Association Internationale de la Savonnerie, des détergents et des produits d’Entretien – International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products). This organization unites leaders in the field such as Ecolab, JohnsonDiversey or Werner & Mertz... the goal: to create synergies with the European Commission to establish the rules for tomorrow. The organization also coined the term “sustainable cleaning”, which marvelously summarizes the state of mind that currently reigns. There is even a sustainable cleaning charter. Joining it entails submitting to the audit of an independent auditor who ensures that the key environmental principles are respected within the hotel. Each supplier is going in this direction with their new “green” ranges. This qualification may be achieved by following very precise specifications.Specifications vary from one continent to the next, in connection with the different “greenguard” and “greenseal” labels in the United States and with the “eco-label” in the European Union. Due to a marked interest in these questions, the supply of ecological solutions abounds, and is even taking off in all directions. Opinions as to what is most dangerous for the environment abound: phosphates, nitrates... resulting in the arrival of a vast array of propositions. It is difficult to determine what is best for one’s hotel. Worse yet: if a green product is used wrong, it can totally cancel its virtues for the environment. “The supply will take shape,” remarks Sylvie Polge of Ecolab. “We are only at the beginning. But it is a mistake to focus only on the petrochemical industry when the packaging and the methodology are equally crucial.”Limiting the impact on the environment will thus go beyond the composition of products, as Yann Bancourt also confirms: “our factories are certified ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. A safe, non-polluting product produced in dangerous and polluting factories makes no sense.” In the same way when efficiency necessarily means the use of polluting substances, it is possible to get around the problem by inventing highly concentrated solutions that reduce water and energy consumption. “Twothirds of today’s innovations involve self-sealing systems and other procedures used in the battle against over-consumption,” explains Yann Bancourt. Moreover, concentrating the product considerably lengthens the lifespan of a single container, meaning less packaging thrown away on a daily basis. In this regard, some examples are spectacular. “JFlex puts the equivalent of 200 sprayers in a single 1.5 liter package. Since it is one hundred times more concentrated than a classic product, it reduces the quantity of daily packaging waste from 23 kilos to 430 grams”. Another example is the low-temperature laundry program by JohnsonDiversey that reduces water consumption by 30%, energy by 35% and wear and tear on laundry by 50%. At Werner & Mertz, another giant in the sector, the environment has been an important concern for 20 years. But a new stage have been entered with its “Green Care” range that minimizes packaging or even makes it immediatly recyclable, reduced harmfulness of the products themselves, for both the environment and the end user, with, once again, ISO 14001 certified factories further up in the chain.But don’t all these improvements in the chemistry of the products and the sophistication of their container, require costly research that is reflected in the purchase price? In other terms, does cleaning a hotel cost more in 2007 than it did 10 or 15 years ago? “Not necessarily,” affirms Yann Bancourt. “A jug may cost more, but if it lasts longer, the client comes out on top.” In some cases, the concern for profitability also influences the amount of time spent preparing a room. On the upscale segment where expectations are very high (not a drop left on the floor, care over the last detail) the operation is estimated at 15 to 20 mn per room. It's a tough call to go below that without losing out on perfectionism. But suppliers nonetheless develop certain tricks for optimizing the job of the housekeeping crew. Ecolab thus offers carts outfitted with a basket that the housekeeper may detach and carry into the bathroom: reducing trips back and forth to the hallway. “We recommend a certain amount of methodology for rationalizing the time spent cleaning,” details Sylvie Polge. “First empty all waste bins and throw away all refuse. Then apply the toilet and bathroom products that require a certain amount of activation time. This time may be used for making the bed and then, back in the bathroom just a little scrub and it’s done”.The last war horse: odor elimination. A current problem. “With smoking prohibited in restaurants and public areas becoming widespread from county to country, the use of tobacco in rooms will grow,” prophesizes Sylvie Polge. “We thus offer odor destroyers that do not simply mask smells, but directly attack the responsible molecules. These products are also tracers, meaning they leave behind a pleasant olfactory signature that means the room has been treated”.Maintenance products today are thus the fruit of deep reflection. Each major supplier has developed a full chemical and sometimes mechanical range, that takes into consideration all the public and private areas of the hotel (including very fashionable spas and other wellness areas). In exchange, it is becoming difficult to determine what is best for a property. Asking a consultant specializing in the field becomes an almost unavoidable step for reconciling pragmatism and ecological and social responsibility.

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