Green Cleaning with Floor Pads

by Lawton Brothers | May 24, 2016

floor pads, green cleaning

There are more facilities using green cleaning products than ever, and their customers’ sustainability criteria is at the height of importance. Similarly, manufacturers of these products are responding to the increase in demand by implementing new technologies that satisfy the trend toward cleaning for health and reducing environmental impact, without forfeiting quality or increasing costs.

There is a sense of responsibility among facility executives and their businesses to help their community. Distributers are demanding eco-friendlier products, and more facility managers are establishing sustainability programs.

Recently, green floor pads have become more popular, due to the increase in the amount of end users seeking green products. This subset of floor pads includes those made from recycled content, such as soda and water bottles; natural fibers, such as hogs’ hair; and plant-based fibers, such as sugar and corn.

Sure, many customers want green products, but the reality is that they are not typically willing to budge on price or performance. Clearly, quality and cost are not what customers are willing to sacrifice.

Somewhere around 90 percent of floor pads are made with petrochemical polyester, which is made using fossil fuels, and remains in the landfill indefinitely after users have tossed them away. The industry is making a huge effort to recycle polyester fiber, mostly from soda bottles and water bottles, in order to get a second run at the product.

Recycling water and soda bottles is one of the most successful ways to produce floor pads. They are readily available because everyone uses them, and are definitely more accessible than virgin material, which might be cleaner but is harder to come by.

Interestingly enough, the floor pads themselves are not recyclable despite the fact that the plastic bottles used are. The polyester can be melted and reformed over and over again when it is pure. However, it can no longer do so once resin systems and mineral abrasives are added.

As a result, manufacturers place importance in creating floor pads that last and are disposed of less frequently. Some offer floor pads that use plant-based fibers, such as those derived from sugar or corn. Some plant-based polyester fiber pads are equivalent to the performance of virgin polyester pads. They can also be used for polishing, stripping, scrubbing, buffing, and burnishing.

Some manufacturers are using natural fibers, like hog hair, or a blend of hog hair and recycled content polyester fiber, that are often designed for burnishing. Hogs’ hair is an effective material for floor pads because it has small splits in it, which makes it different from man-made synthetic fiber, which is truly smooth. The fiber splits allow it to polish more effectively.

When it comes to floor pads, there is controversy surrounding the word “ambiguity.” While there are those who believe that natural-fiber pads biodegrade at a faster rate than synthetic pads, there are also those who believe that because the process taking place in the landfill is unseen, no floor pad can truly be considered biodegradable. There is a standard test that is used to determine both the degree and rate of biodegrading of plastic materials in an oxygen-free environment, called ASTM D5511.

 

There are certain parts of the United States where regulations make biodegrading claims more difficult or even impossible. The state of California, for example, does not recognize biodegradation claims on plastics; this limitation has affected the decisions of some manufacturers.

When products end up in the landfill, they need air and water in order to biodegrade; it’s not easy to accomplish this if the products are not exposed to air and water. Questioning what the fibers are made from and whether or not they eliminate the need for chemicals is a step in the right direction, and a way to pursue environmental sustainability.

No matter what type of green floor pad a company sells, manufacturers urge and users to look for third-party testing to substantiate all product claims. A growing number of janitorial/sanitary and food service distributors are responding to end user demand by stocking these green floor pads. The facilities that are high in demand and driving the trend include buildings seeking LEED certification, K-12 schools, higher education, healthcare, and even government facilities.

There is no sacrifice in functionality or affordability when it comes to choosing green floor pads to meet their sustainability initiatives. It is without a doubt that these pads perform just as well as traditional pads, if not better, and there is no real difference in price or design.

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