Now that you've taken on all of last month's tips and made your home
or office environmentally friendly, make sure your maintenance practices
by Lynn M. Froeschle, AIA, copyright 1997
ne of the simplest ways to create a more environmental
home or office is to maintain your living or working environment in a healthful
and ecologically friendly manner. How we clean and maintain our built environment
can either positively affect or adversely impact indoor air quality. We
can improve the indoor air quality of the built environment by cleaning
for human health. In addition, healthful cleaning methods tend to also be
Keep in mind that cleaning products often contain
chemicals that emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) along with hazardous
ingredients that may also be toxic. Not only can cleaning products add to
indoor air pollution, some cleaning products may also be detrimental to
human health. In addition, petroleum-based masking fragrances are often
added to cleaning products. These fragrances can also emit VOCs and odors
that add to indoor air pollution.
Many manufacturers' are saying that their cleaning
products are "environmentally friendly" or have all "natural"
ingredients. Environmentally friendly may simply mean the product Is biodegradable
or packaged in a recycled container. Keep in mind that hazardous ingredients
can still be biodegradable. A product that contains "natural"
ingredients does not necessarily mean that the product is healthful.
The following are 12 Criteria for Healthful
The author is the principal of Lynn Froeschle, AIA, Architects which
specializes in sustainable architecture, environmental design, and ecological
construction methods. Ms. Froeschle has also received a number of environmental
design awards and has authored several published articles on sustainable
architecture. For further information on sustainable and environmentally
friendly architecture please contact Lynn Froeschle, AlA at (619)571-2858.
By cleaning and maintaining the built environment for human health, the
desired appearance will generally follow. Healthful cleaning methods tend
to be ecologically friendly cleaning methods.
Try using natural and benign methods of cleaning such as a water-dampened
cloth for dusting, vinegar for removing mold or cleaning glass and baking
soda as a scrubbing compound prior to using low VOC cleaners.
Low-VOC cleaning products should be water-based and have minimal chemical
emissions. Least-toxic cleaners should be low-odor and biodegradable, containing
no petroleum solvents, formaldehyde, chlorine, dyes, fragrances, or other
chemicals that are detrimental to human health and the environment.
The MSDS lists all hazardous ingredients and should indicate toxicity
as well. However, the MSDS may not list all the pertinent ingredients of
the cleaner. Contact the manufacturer for more information.
Use the minimal amount of cleaner needed to thoroughly clean an area
and get the job done. The use of more cleaner than recommended is not necessarily
better and will most likely leave a chemical residue. Use cleaning products
correctly by following manufacturer's instructions and recommendations.
Thoroughly clean and remove chemical residues with water. Avoid using
too much water or to leave standing water which can be a breeding ground
for biological contaminants.
Frequently use cleaning methods that remove particulates and dust. Avoid
cleaning methods that spread particulates or simply moves dust to another
location. Vacuum with equipment that can be outfitted with a HEPA (High
Efficiency Particle Arrestance) filter which can filter out fine particulates.
Have a maintenance schedule where cleaning occurs often enough to ensure
occupant health and healthy indoor air quality. Bathrooms, kitchens, break
rooms and high traffic areas will require more frequent cleaning.
Perform cleaning and maintenance in well ventilated areas, not only for
the health. of the person doing the work, but to exhaust any possible cleaning
fumes from the building.
Provide routine maintenance for your heating, ventilating and air conditioning
system. Change air filters regularly and remove any standing water which
can provide an unwanted habitat for mold, mildew or other biological irritants.
Deodorizers and air fresheners contain fragrances and chemicals that
add to indoor air pollution. They are usually high in volatile organic compounds
and simply mask the real problem. Do not use deodorizers. Instead, identify
and address the actual problem.
Recycle cleaning product containers and purchase products with recycled
content in the packaging. Some products are available in concentrated form
so that mixing containers and spray bottles can be reused.