With the door continuing to open wider and wider for Green
carpet cleaning, many technicians will likely have questions about what Green
carpet cleaning encompasses, the differences between Green and traditional
carpet cleaning methods, and, more specifically, what it means when a carpet
cleaning chemical has been designated with Green certification.
What Certification Means
First, we need to understand what it means for a product to
be labeled “Green-certified.” For
carpet cleaning technicians, it should be clear that using environmentally
preferable cleaning chemicals is just one component of Green carpet cleaning.
For instance, if the carpets are cleaned using an extractor that has a high
moisture recovery rate, drying speed is enhanced with air movers or
low-moisture carpet cleaning products and equipment. Typically, these are
considered a part of the Green carpet cleaning arsenal.
Additionally, some Green experts suggest that carpets be
cleaned using cold water rather than hot water. They believe that cold water
will help minimize the possibility of chemical fumes from becoming airborne.
Further, the Greening of carpet cleaning also applies to other products, such
as spotters. The bottom line is that Green carpet cleaning should be viewed as
a chain: the program is only as strong – or in this case, Green –as its weakest
With that, we can move forward discussing what it means for
a product to be Green-certified, also known as “proven Green.” The certification
organizations that have had the greatest impact on the professional cleaning
industry include EcoLogo, Green Seal, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s
Design for the Environment Program, which goes by the acronym DfE, and,
specifically for carpet products and equipment, the Carpet Rug Institute’s Seal
of Approval program.
In all cases, accredited, independent laboratories are used
to analyze a cleaning chemical and all ingredients must be revealed in order to
evaluate their impact on human health (user and building occupants), the
environment, as well as how well they perform. This third-party analysis
provides the necessary credibility to the certification process. There may be
over a dozen criteria and standards that must be met-or exceeded-in order for a
product to be certified, such as:
- The product does not contain ingredients
known to be harmful to human health and the environment; there is also limited
toxicity for aquatic and other organisms
- The product does not contain ingredients likely to
have specific environmental impacts that will harm, for instance, indoor air
quality or ground-level ozone formation
- The product is readily biodegradable and non-toxic
- The product is packaged in recycled materials that
are also recyclable
- The product meets indoor air quality criteria.
- The product demonstrates that it is as effective
as comparable, conventional brands used for the same purpose
It should also be noted that Green cleaning and
sustainability are becoming more and more intertwined. Sustainability involves
several issues, but for our purposes it means using natural resources-from fuel
for trucks and vans to tools and equipment necessary in the cleaning process-in
such a way that we meet our own needs (economic, social, and environmental)
while protecting the needs of future generations.
The Certification Journey
One of the easiest ways to understand the certification
journey, and it definitely is a journey, is to use a fictional product as an
example. In our case, let’s call our fictional carpet pre-spray cleaning
chemical GreenWay Pre-spray, which is manufactured by GreenWay Chemicals.
First, GreenWay Chemicals selects a certification
organization. The organization will want to know which product category
GreenWay Pre-spray falls under. Is it a window cleaner? A floor stripper? A
The company informs the certification body that GreenWay
PreSpray is a pre-spray cleaning agent used for cleaning carpets. This product
would likely fall under the category “cleaners and shampoos to remove soils
from carpet fibers and fabrics.”
GreenWay Chemicals then sends the product, or formulation,
to the required independent labs to conduct the necessary tests. The product
and all its ingredients are analyzed to see if it meets the specific health and
environmental standards and criteria for that product category. If the tests
are positive, the results are forwarded to the certification organization,
which verifies the results.
Then the “site audit” begins. In addition to verifying that
specific standards have been met, the site audit goes one step further. This
audit examines the entire manufacturing of GreenWay PreSpray from start to
finish, reconfirming that the product contains only the ingredients listed on
the label. If these results are positive, GreenWay PreSpray is certified and
the manufacturer is allowed to proudly bear the Green label or “mark” of the
certification organization on the product’s label and in marketing materials.
Time, Costs, Surprises and Performance
The certification process can be rather slow and tedious. In
the past, it could take several months for a product to be proven Green. Today,
it often moves along a bit faster.
The manufacturer must pay the certification organization and
the laboratory to evaluate its product, which can cost several thousand
dollars. Because of the time it takes to certify the product and the costs
involved, most manufacturers are fairly certain their product will meet the
necessary Green criteria before starting the certification process; however, it
is not uncommon that changes may need to be made to the product.
Once the product has been certified, the manufacturer may be
subjected to a surprise audit. During a surprise audit, the certification
organization revisits the manufacturing site and verifies that the same
ingredients and processes used to manufacture the product when it earned Green
certification are still being used. And, the product is not certified forever.
Usually the certification is for annual periods and/or until the criteria is
changed – typically 24 to 36 months. If the standards and criteria have changed
for this product category during that time the product may only be re-certified
if it can pass the new criteria.
It is important to repeat that the product must meet
performance standards. Although the performance standards of Green cleaning
products can vary, just as with conventional cleaning products, in order to
achieve certification, the product must also be effective. According to Mark
Petruzzi, Green Seal’s vice president of certification, this is “first and
This also means that carpet cleaning technicians may need to
try different Green-certified products to select the ones they believe work
best and meet their specific needs. Working with an astute distributor, who is
well-versed in Green cleaning, can be invaluable during this selection process.
Further, the manufacturer of the product should be
questioned. Some manufacturers treat Green cleaning products as a “sideline” of
their business, filling out their product lines. Others focus primarily on
environmentally preferable cleaning products and place more of their time,
energy, training, and resources into developing these products. This can make a
difference in quality and performance, and how well the products work for you.