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Cleaning Supplies (Janitorial)

Navigation: Minimum Sustainable Recommendations | What are the Issues? | What are the Options? 

PLEASE NOTE: The recommendations below are for general cleaning supplies and does not include disinfection requirements related to COVID-19.

Did you know...“General-purpose cleaning products have been shown to contribute approximately 8% of total non-vehicular volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions in California, which contribute to smog formation, retard plant growth, and can cause respiratory distress in some people.” (EPA742-B-01-002, December 2001)

Minimum Sustainable Recommendations

For cleaning products specify the following:

  • Cleaning products used in cleaning services, include all purpose/hard surface industrial cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, floor cleaner/degreasers, dishwasher detergents, floor strippers, disinfectants, glass cleaners, carpet and upholstery cleaners, spot and stain removers must be EcoLogo or Green Seal certified.
  • EcoLogo and Green Seal products must be requested for any odour control, drain and grease trap additives used in the cleaning process.
  • Any adhesives, shellacs, finishes, varnishes, coatings, required for the cleaning service must been the California Code of Regulations maximum allowable Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) for Specific Product Category.  

For cleaning products such as graffiti remover and drain cleaner the bidder shall disclose information regarding the following:

  • Hazardous ingredients present
  • Biodegradability of total product
  • Percent VOC in product
  • pH
  • Fragrance
  • Type of dye
  • Oral toxicity of product
  • Presence of optical brightener
  • Third party certification (if available)

Further the product must not contain:

  • Any known or suspected carcinogens/teratogens/mutagens as per The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH)
  • Endocrine disrupters
  • Phosphates
  • Substances listed on Canadian Environmental Protection Agency’s (CEPA) toxic substance lists.

NOTE: Bags required for garbage, recycling and compost bins may also be included when tendering for cleaning supplies. For sustainable recommendations on garbage, recycling and compost bags please see “Garbage, Recycling and Compost Bags (Bin Liners)” under the Building Maintenance, Repair & Operations section of the Goods & Services Tab.

Other things to consider

The Province of Manitoba has partnered with Lake Friendly to promote the use of Eco Logo and Green Seal cleaning products in an effort to protect Lake Winnipeg.  In a Manitoba Provincial Government news release the province stated that it has environmental requirements in place for procurement of cleaning supplies recognizing the need for the Provincial Government to take the lead in efforts to reduce nutrient input and rehabilitate Lake Winnipeg.

Additional environmental benefits can be achieved if a cleaning product can be:

  1. Used for a variety of cleaning jobs, thus reducing the total number of cleaning products required in inventory.
  2. Purchased in concentrated form thus reducing the transportation of water and reducing storage space requirements for products in inventory.

Finally, in keeping with provincial commitments to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste production, the vendor is encouraged to develop sustainable delivery strategies

  1. Product delivery consolidations
  2. Efficient logistics and proper route planning
  3. Ensure no idling of vehicles during product delivery
  4. Request fuel efficient delivery vehicles and alternative fuels.
  5. Minimize packaging and use re-usable blankets to protect items during shipping.


What are the issues?

Many organizations, after a quick review of the products and services procured, choose cleaning supplies as their first procurement to “go-green”.  Why? Because a quick Google search of “environmental impacts associated with cleaning products” gets you about a million hits!

Environmentalists and scientists evaluate risk by assessing the pollutants associated with how a product is manufactured, transported, used and disposed of.  They look at the type, magnitude and duration of each pollutant’s impact on land, water and air to determine which may result in significant degradation of our ecosystems and human health.

Since World War II, more than 70,000 synthetic chemical substances have been developed with little to no testing on their long term environmental and health effects.  A large number of manufacturers put these chemicals in cleaning products.  Some of these chemicals are carcinogens, endocrine disrupters, sensitizers, high in nutrients and some are caustic, etc. Often these chemicals do not degrade in the sewage treatment plants and eventually enter our water ways and bio-accumulate in plants, fish and other animals.  Cumulatively the residents and businesses in cities such as Winnipeg, discharge significant amounts of chemicals into our waterways and this has resulted in a degradation of our ecosystem.

During the manufacture and use of cleaners, many of the chemical components can enter our bodies by inhalation and skin absorption. Cleaning staff are often exposed to chemicals on a daily basis and this exposure can lead to significant human health effects.   Many of the chemicals result in a degradation of indoor air quality.


What are the options?

Substituting with “green” cleaners is one of the most effective ways to reduce or eliminate exposure to chemicals that pose environmental and human health risks.

As purchasers we can’t possibly be expected to be environmentalists but we are expected to find credible information sources to develop our product and service specifications. The EcoLogo website and the Green Seal website have used the environmentalist approach to pollutant assessments and provide science-based environmental certification standards that are credible and help purchasers make responsible procurement choices. 

Each website provides a list of cleaning products that are certified.   The websites also provide the strict certification criteria for a variety of cleaning product types (e.g., glass cleaners, all purpose cleaners, degreasers etc).  These criteria must be met in order to carry the third party logo.  The criteria includes proof of performance (the cleaner must work), and restrictions on pollutants such as phosphates, endocrine disrupters, chelating agents etc.  Reduced packaging, strict limits on aquatic toxicity and biodegradability is also parts of the criteria.

Lake Friendly, a non-profit organization supports the purchase and use of EcoLogo and Green Seal cleaning products to reduce the impact cleaning supplies have on the health of all of the Province’s waterways including Lake Winnipeg.


Last updated: January 2019

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