Greenwashing windows?

25 September 2017

How can facilities managers be sure that their cleaning contractor isn’t just paying lip service to their environmental concerns? Chris Parkes, operations director at Julius Rutherfoord, considers what sustainability means when it comes to window cleaning

There are award-winning manufacturers out there working hard to produce new window cleaning tools that reduce the chemical impact of window cleaning while increasing productivity, safety and efficiency at the same time. The best commercial cleaners will use these latest and most up-to-date technologies for window cleaning, both indoor and out. So, if a window cleaning contractor is still using conventional detergent sprayer and cloth methods, it is important to ask why.  

As well as innovative modular pole systems and new shapes of head designed to maximise access and versatility, many of the latest indoor and outdoor window cleaning tools use substantially less chemicals, or rely on pure water systems to clean. Pure water has had all impurities such as minerals removed through processes including deionisation and reverse osmosis, and gives windows a streak-free clean by absorbing and flushing away the grime that the brush head loosens. 

Windows can be cleaned with pure water in just one step, without the need for further scrubbing or drying, and it is a completely chemical-free clean. Ladderless pure water fed pole systems are available, boosting health and safety by cutting down on the time operatives need to spend working at height. Keeping operatives on the ground and using reach poles also maintains privacy and reduces disturbance.

In addition, new designs and materials for sponge head surfaces are laser targeting the application of cleaning solutions like pure water, to minimise wastage and spillage. For instance, triangular head design with microfibre cloths help maximise the surface area being cleaned with each pass.

A green business model

Commercial cleaners should also go above and beyond using the latest equipment and chemical-free cleaning methods, and make protecting the environment part of their business model. Transparency is key when it comes to backing up claims of sustainability, and cleaning companies making green statements should expect to come under scrutiny from discerning clients. 

The independent standards and accreditations that facilities managers should look out for when outsourcing include reputable third-party accreditation, such as Carbon Smart certifications, which demonstrate that entire business models are geared towards sustainability, not just the window cleaning arm. 

Techniques for cleaning at height vary from traditional reach and wash methods and the use of poles for difficult to reach places, to abseiling down the exterior of buildings, or using access platforms and cradles. A window cleaning contractor must be versatile, and able to offer a site-specific solution to each façade being cleaned. Before starting any job, the best cleaning contractors will go through rigorous health and safety checks. All environmental, quality and occupational health and safety management systems used by the contract cleaner should be independently assessed. 

A partner in best practice

Partnership approaches are also becoming more and more important for outsourced cleaning services. The best commercial cleaners work with their clients to implement environmental initiatives, and will offer transparent documentation to back this up. This type of partnership approach can help both parties reach sustainability goals, and boosts the reputational status of the facility being serviced as a true champion of best practice. 

Window cleaning companies that take the initiative in this authentic, open and measurable way will become the partner of choice for discerning facilities management clients.