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The ARCSI Tech Corner: Green Cleaners

Q: I hear multiple terms used to describe ‘green’ cleaning agents. So I have to wonder, is organic better than natural? How about sustainable? I’m confused.

A: You have every right to be confused. Marketers use words that sound warm and fuzzy but often have no real meaning. Let’s take a look at just a few of the terms in use.

GREEN: Ideally, ‘green’ means that a product has less negative impact on the environment or on people’s health or hopefully both, than similar, traditional products in the marketplace. Some products are self-certified, i.e. a manufacturer says this product is greener than their regular line. Others are certified by a third party. The three most recognized third party certifiers are Green Seal, EPA’s Design for the Environment (DFE) and Canada’s EcoLogo. Each has slightly different criteria for certification.

NATURAL: This normally means that the chemicals used to make this product exist in nature in the form used. It can also refer to natural substances that are altered through what are considered natural processes. An example would be apple juice fermented into vinegar. It is very important not to confuse natural with safe. Remember that curare is a natural toxin used by certain indigenous peoples to create poison-tip arrows, giving the hunter using that substance a surer kill. Natural can be quite unsafe.

ORGANIC: The term organic has taken on a connotation of ‘healthful’ from the food industry. However, it has a different meaning in chemistry. Organic chemicals are simply chemicals containing carbon. These chemicals often originated in life forms but may have changed significantly since. Thus vinegar is an organic chemical, or more accurately, a combination of organic chemicals, but so is oil, gasoline, etc. To say our cleaning agents use organic ingredients sourced from nature may sound good, but is not particularly meaningful.

SUSTAINABLE: At its most basic, ‘sustainable’ means that the cleaning agents are from renewable sources such as plants that can be grown, harvested and re-grown. The term ‘sustainable’ is evolving in some cases to reflect more extensive environmental and social issues.

So if you’re confused, join the club. It truly can be a jungle out there. It’s up to you to check out the claims, sort through the verbiage and find the best resources for your operation.

Here’s to your success and prosperity!

Bruce Vance is a 20-year veteran of the industry and holds the IICRC Master Textile Cleaner certification. He also holds industry certifications in Stone and Tile care, Hard Floor care, and Applied Microbial Remediation. He is the current chairperson of a national cleaning industry’s Technical Advisory Committee. The opinions expressed above are those of Mr. Vance and not those of ARCSI.

What is the ARCSI Seal of Excellence?

What the Residential Cleaning Seal of Excellence means to the consumer

ARCSI Seal of Excellence

ARCSI’s Residential Cleaning Seal of Excellence is awarded to residential cleaning companies who meet a rigorous set of industry and business standards.

As the not-for-profit international trade association representing the residential cleaning industry, ARCSI believes that in documenting and verifying information before awarding our prestigious seal, we are providing consumers a level of expectation and confidence regarding the professionalism, ethical business practices, and commitment to continuing education from company they are considering giving access to their homes.

To earn the right to display the seal a residential cleaning company provides the following documentation to ARCSI:

Proof of Insurance, including liability and workers compensation and proof of bonding
Proof that they preform background checks on prospective employees as part of their hiring process.
Documentation that company has participated in on-going industry and business educational programs in the past year.
Documentation that the company has been in business at least two (2) years.

In addition, the company ownership and management agrees that they accept and will strive to adhere to the ARCSI Code of Ethics which states the company will:

Operate constantly in accordance with the best and fully accepted ethical and business practices.
Comply with all federal, state, and local laws and regulations.
Provide employees with professional equipment, proper training, and direction.
Contribute to the overall growth of the industry by being actively involved in activities that will enhance the overall perception of the residential cleaning industry.
Work to meet and exceed the needs and expectations of customers.
Provide courteous and prompt handling of all requests and complaints.
Strive for the continued improvement of the image and reputation of the industry by good business practices and enlightened public service in the community.

Consumers should look for those residential cleaning companies who have earned and proudly display the Residential Cleaning Seal of Excellence.

Identifying Your Competition and Your Ideal Client

Do you know your competition and where their strengths and weaknesses lie? How does your competition determine how you operate?

Are you willing to take any job that comes along or are there clients you would turn down? How do you determine which clients are your ideal and how do you find more of them?

ARCSI Ambassador Dee Strickland of A Zing Zap Cleaning Service in Minneola, FL, will discuss her experiences and moderate this discussion.

August 9, 2011 Hot Topic Tuesday Call
1:00 pm EDT/ 10 am PDT

Sign up here for the call: http://www.arcsi.org/events/event_details.asp?id=174906

ARCSI 2011 Las Vegas National Convention, October 18-22

“ARCSI is about members helping members… no matter what I need, I can call or email just about anyone and they will have sound advice for me. I’ve even been welcomed to visit members’ companies who are willing to talk and share just about everything.”

— Dee Strickland

Owner, A Zing Zap Cleaning Service

I’m an ARCSI Ambassador for the southeastern United States and the 2010 Orlando National Convention Chair. I can honestly say that ARCSI members are top-notch business owners. This year, we are all meeting in Las Vegas for five days of non-stop action such as residential cleaning professional education, networking, and problem-solving all in one place. The ARCSI Convention Committee has put together an amazing slate of speakers to educate and entertain attendees. It’s Vegas, baby! Headquarters hotel is Bally’s. Sign up today because A Zing Zap Cleaning Service from Minneola, FL, wants to meet you … it’s going to be so much fun and informative!