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Fewer cleaning chemicals

Cleaning Services, together with other service units at LiU, were given environmental and quality certification in 2006. Certification requires keeping a check on emissions. But Cleaning Services goes further than that. Reducing environmental impact through cutting down on chemicals is something they’ve been working on for a few years now.

“Our operations have a direct impact on the environment,” says Sofie Alexandersson, head of Cleaning Services. “If we can cut down on the chemicals, it’s good for both the environment and for those of us working here. But the most important, perhaps, is added value – the feeling that we’re doing everything we can to reduce emissions.”

Gradually, more and more chemicals have been removed and replaced with better cleaning equipment and water. Floor cleaning is one example. When a form of floor polishers with minerals were introduced, chemical consumption decreased.
“The use of floor polish fell from 435 liters to 180 liters in just one year,” Ms Alexandersson says. “At LiU there are also a large number of entryways with stone floors. In 2013, we used 24 liters of stone soap. The year after – zero liters.”

Cleaning whiteboards is a major task for Cleaning Services. The agent used is so dangerous for both people and the environment that it is kept in a locked room.
“Here, we’ve gradually tried to reduce the used of cleaning agents through using only microfiber mops and water,” Ms Alexandersson says. “The individual task may be somewhat harder, and sometimes we still have to use cleaning agents, but its use is going down.”

Glass items are also cleaned with microfiber cloths, preferably with no window cleaner. Window cleaner often contains ammonia; according to Ms Alexandersson, the surface often just becomes greasier the more cleaner is used. Our window cleaners use ‘Yes’ brand dish soap for best results.
“It gets clean anyway. But perhaps there’s some sort of traditional sense that it should smell like something after cleaning so that it feels clean.”

Certain surfaces still require some form of cleaning agent.The wood floors in Key Building, for example, need to be oiled. But by not using as much cleaning agent, they’ve been able to push down the frequency. Now the floors are oiled every three years, compared with every year previously.
“If we could choose, we wouldn’t have wood or carpet floors at all,” Ms Alexandersson says. “They require more cleaning. Operating costs then also increase.”

A comparison of purchases of chemicals at Cleaning Services over the last three years looks like this:

2012: 7950 liters
2013: 4839 liters
2014: 4543 liters

“The reason for the large difference between 2012 and 2013 is that we started testing a floor cleaning system in which two products could replace 5 or 6 different products,” Ms Alexandersson explains.

The trend throughout society is in this direction – reducing the use of chemicals in cleaning. Other higher education institutions are also working towards this. According to Ms Alexandersson, more and more environmentally friendly and biodegradable products are coming onto the market on a pace with the increase in demand. Even regarding machine equipment, development is moving forward.
“But it’s also important that Cleaning Services is on board from the start when new premises are being planned, so that we can also take these aspects into the planning.”

Elisabet Wahrby 2015-09-16

Page manager: elisabet.wahrby@liu.se
Last updated: 2015-09-28