Responsible Purchasing Network

Cleaners: Cost, Quality & Supply

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Although early users experienced variability in performance and price between environmentally preferable and conventional cleaners, These issues have largely been addressed. institutional users now report that, in general, green cleaners are cost competitive and perform just as well as
their conventional counterparts. Hundreds of Green Seal and EcoLogo certified products are available through conventional suppliers.


In general, green cleaning products do not cost any more than other cleaners. In fact, some organizations have discovered significant cost savings by switching to green cleaners as part of an overall green cleaning program. TriMet, the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area’s municipal bus and light rail system, experienced cleaning chemical cost savings of up to 70% by switching to a green cleaning program (IEHN, 2008). Switching to green cleaners lowers costs associated with potentially hazardous chemical cleaning products.

With an average of 6 out of every 100 janitors injured on the job when using harmful chemical cleaners, organizations are likely to incur financial losses through workers’ compensation incidents. Data from the State of Washington show that losses from work-related incidents reach as high as $725 per claim including lost work time (SPN, 2007). Many state, local and federal regulations
require the safe handling and storage of hazardous chemicals. However, although regulations like these guarantee better safety for workers, they also shift increased operational and disposal expenses to end users. Green cleaners increase worker performance through improved air quality and better worker safety See the Social and Environmental Issues section for more on this topic.


The EcoLogo and Green Seal standards for cleaners include performance criteria based on ASTM standards. These standards help ensure that green products meet or exceed the same performance standards of more harmful products. In numerous tests conducted by a group of large volume purchasers, all of the green products bought by the group worked as well as or better than other cleaners (MA, 2003). Santa Monica, the Chicago Public School System, TriMet and others have reported similar successes using green products in controlled on-site evaluations. Green cleaners, like all cleaning products, work best when used as directed. The following resources ensure the highest efficiency and quality performance from green cleaners:

  • Advanced cleaning equipment will hamper the release of harmful particulates
    and toxic substances into the environment. For example, microfiber dust mops
    are more effective at gathering dirt, soil and other particulate matter than dust
    pans and brooms.
  • Automatic dispensing systems ensure proper chemical dilution ratios, minimize
    use and exposure to chemicals, and prevent waste of chemicals and water.
    general purpose cleaners eliminate the costs and inefficiencies of specialized
    cleaners and have proven in some cases to be just as effective.
  • General purpose cleaners eliminate the costs and inefficiencies of specialized
    cleaners and have proven in some cases to be just as effective. General purpose
    cleaners are typically good for light soils. TriMet reduced its number of cleaning
    products from 22 to four by switching to Sustainable Earth cleaning products
    (IEHN, 2008). They now use a floor stripper, a disinfectant, a glass cleaner and a
    tub and tile cleaner. However, TriMet has also learned that the “dwell time” time
    needed for these cleaners to be effective is longer and more “elbow grease” is



Green cleaning products are readily available. Green Seal, an independent, thirdparty certifier of green cleaners and other environmentally preferable products, certifies over 600 cleaning products from 155 manufacturers. EcoLogo certifies over 1,200 green cleaners from over 100 manufacturers. The DfE program recognizes over 350 qualified products. One simple avenue of access to the marketplace of
green cleaners is through the U.S. Communities contract with Zep Manufacturing, a supplier of Green Seal and EcoLogo certified cleaners. The contract is open for use by local and state governments, non-profits, and public educational institutions and was competitively bid by the County of Dallas, TX.

Creative Commons License This work by the Responsible Purchasing Network is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.


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