It’s easy cleaning green

Not to argue with Kermit the Frog, but these days it’s easier than ever to be green, particularly when it comes to your options in cleaning products. If you want to green up your whole operation, there are two main certification organizations that can help (see “Getting Your Green Card” in the January, 2010, issue). But even if you’re not ready to go the full route and get certified, there are a number of steps you can take to start making your everyday cleaning procedures a little more eco-friendly.

Start small

At this early stage in their development, most green cleaners still command a higher price point than their standard counterparts. Particularly for smaller operations, where a case buy can represent a hefty investment, testing out a bottle or two makes sense. Options for Life, for example, offers a “starter kit” of four of its natural concentrated cleaners, including its ammonia-free Glass and Window Cleaner Concentrate, in gallon pump jugs for about $80. Some distributors also sell a sampler pack of Misco’s Elements products, with a peroxide-based cleaner, non-ammoniated glass cleaner and organic restroom cleaner, for around $25.

Almost good enough to eat

Instead of adding fragrances or dyes, many natural products replace chemical compounds with natural, food-based compounds, which have the added benefit of giving off a pleasant aroma while they aid in cleaning. Cleanline Products’ H202 Citrus Concentrate combines citrus oils and hydrogen peroxide in a concentrated base; once diluted, it can be used to clean glass, stainless and other surfaces. Earth Friendly Products’ Parsley Plus is a multi-surface cleaner for kitchen and bathroom usage. As the name implies, it contains organic parsley essence and other natural ingredients, like biodegradable coconut-based surfactants. Made for cleaning glass, porcelain and tile surfaces, Betco’s Green Earth Natural All Purpose Cleaner combines citrus, soy, pine and coconut derivatives with biodegradable surfactants.

Water, water everywhere

One of the more unusual technologies for green cleaning today comes through the use of ionized water. Although the details vary slightly from product to product, the basic process starts with ordinary tap water to which a slight electrical charge is applied. The result is a blend of positively and negatively charged water, which attracts dirt from a surface and lifts it away, leaving no residue. Within a minute, the now-dirty ionized water converts back into regular water, which is discarded. For floor cleaning, Tennant makes a selection of ec-H2O walk-behind scrubbers using the ionized water technology. For surface cleaning, Activeion’s Ionator is a hand-held, spray bottle unit with the ionizing converter inside.

Cleaning “au natural”

We asked some operators who are currently using green cleaners to give us their thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages.

At Mormon Lake Lodge, near Flagstaff, Arizona, natural products are used for cleaning dishes, floors, windows and bathrooms. Scott Gold, General Manager, not only likes the fact that these products are better for the environment, he feels they are “also safer for human contact, therefore reducing potential chemical exposure-related incidences in the workplace.” In comparing these products with their standard counterparts, Gold says that “some products, such as window cleaners, are very comparable,” while others are not as effective.

Mark Doskow, Head of Business Development for New York’s Candle Café and Candle 79, also cites the fact that green products are biodegradable and cause less harm to the environment. The downside—“they don’t clean quite as well and cost is a bit higher,” he claims. The Tayst restaurant and wine bar in Nashville takes a different route—it makes the most of its own cleaners. Chef-owner Jeremy Barlow “noticed little to no difference in performance” with the green cleaners he had previously been using but found a large price differential, which got him thinking about making his own gly-cerin-based cleaning products. “The downside to making your own products,” he says, “is that you do have to use a little more ‘EG2000’—elbow grease.”

What makes a cleaner green?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, there are six attributes that define whether a cleaning product should be considered “green”:

  • No added fragrances
  • No added dyes
  • No chemicals that can cause skin irritation
  • No volatile organic compounds, which may escape to the atmosphere and react to form smog
  • Use of reduced or recycled packaging
  • Minimal exposure to harmful concentrates

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


Older brands try new tricks in their quest to stay relevant

Reality Check: A number of mature restaurant chains are out to prove that age is just a number.


At Papa Johns, delivery shifts from its own apps to aggregators

The Bottom Line: The pizza delivery chain’s business with companies like Uber Eats and DoorDash is thriving while its own delivery is slowing. But this isn’t the beginning of the end of self-delivery, CEO Rob Lynch says.


How the shift to counter service has changed Steak n Shake's profitability

The Bottom Line: Sardar Biglari, chairman of the chain’s owner Biglari Holdings, details how the addition of kiosks and counter service has transformed restaurants.


More from our partners