Putting the Hype to the Test

Testing using with ATP

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I received a question from a reader about the effectiveness of scrubbing with ionized water — rather than chemicals — to clean floors. After some searching, I found equipment that is filled with regular tap water that becomes electrically charged and is used to clean floors.

Could something like this really work?

We wanted to find a challenging floor care environment, one that’s been using a chemical scrubber to clean floors. A soft drink bottling plant/warehouse in Baltimore was the answer : A 24/7 operation with bottling conveyor belts running nonstop, pallets loaded with cases of soft drinks everywhere and forklifts racing around all day to keep up with six active loading docks.

The resulting floor conditions include lots of sugary syrup residue from spills and leaks, petroleum-based grease spots, stains and residue from forklift wheels, track-in from busy roads and parking areas and residue from the equipment and conveyor belts.

The questions we asked were:
  1. Does the activated water scrubber deliver an acceptably “clean” floor in this extreme environment?
  2. Is there a difference over time between the results delivered by each machine?
  3. Are there advantages of using the ionized water method over the current system of chemical scrubbing?

We identified five different study areas in the plant and conducted testing in the same location over a three-day period: The pallet area, the corridor, the loading dock and the bottling area, which are unfinished concrete, and the cafeteria/break room, which is vinyl composite tile (VCT).

All areas were split in half and one side was scrubbed with the current chemical scrubber and the other with the ionized water device. On both sides of each area, the cleaning was done using only one pass with each machine.

Testing protocol and measures were as follows:

  1. To monitor appearance, pictures were taken of the testing area
  2. For organic load, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) devices and swabs were used on 4-inch-by-4-inch sections following device instructions
  3. For bacteria, swab samples were taken adjacent to the ATP swab sample areas in each of the three test sections, again following manufacturer directions - See the related article What the Numbers Mean?
  4. For gloss/shine, a luminometer was utilized in each section and three readings were taken and averaged for the section reading, as per manufacturer instructions
  5. For slip resistance, we used a tribometer in all three sections of the test area and measured the static coefficient of friction — the amount of force it takes to move an object
  6. Sustainability generally considers many things, such as electricity and water usage, impact on the environment, impact on people and cost.
  7. The results of the study were collectively measured and then categorically broken down to determine where each device is preferable and where each falls short.

    Study Results

    Appearance: The testers and employees of the plant were very impressed by the performance of the ionized water scrubber. Given the nature of the residue on the floors, everyone was a little skeptical that water, even ionized water, would be able to remove any soiling as effectively as a chemical.

    It was immediately apparent that those fears were unfounded: The ionized water method quickly removed even the toughest greasy dirt, leaving the concrete floors dry and residue-free.

    Organic load: For removing ATP, the ionized water machine delivered superior results overall, reducing ATP by an average of 90.1 percent.

    The chemical scrubber reduced the ATP load by an average of 84.2 percent. Bacteria removal: In removing bacteria, the ionized water scrubber also outperformed the chemical scrubber, reducing the presence of aerobic bacteria by an average of 95.1 percent.

    The chemical scrubber also removed a significant amount of bacteria from the floor at an average of 89.7 percent. It is interesting to note that the ionized water system seemed to perform more consistently in all areas than the chemical scrubber.

    It also outperformed the chemical scrubber by a large margin in the cafeteria area, the only room that had a VCT floor instead of a concrete floor, reducing bacteria by als disposed of in landfills and the impact of transporting the product

    We did not evaluate all of the possible factors, just the ones most apparent in the study.

    • Gloss: For both floor cleaning systems, there was no distinctive, definitive pattern of improvement or reduction in gloss levels. For the four areas with concrete floors, the ionized water system appears to have reduced the gloss levels more than the chemical scrubber did. The only area that showed a distinctive pattern was the cafeteria, which was the only VCT floor surface tested. Both systems showed decreasing gloss reduction over the study period.
    • Slip resistance: The change in slip resistance was not remarkably different from one system to another, as neither system showed a definite pattern of improved or decreased slip resistance over the course of the study. They both showed similar results by area — the average slip resistance of the bottling area declined by 9.4 percent with the ionized water system and 9.8 percent with the chemical scrubber.
    • Sustainability: “Green” is defined by Presidential Executive Order 13101 as “products or services that have a lesser or reduced effect on the health and environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose.

    As such, it is imperative to consider both environmental impacts and human health issues when considering a change in products or equipment.

    Another factor to consider when it comes to “green” or sustainably preferred processes is the triple bottom line: Economic, environmental and social.

    • Economic bottom line: Profitability
    • Environmental bottom line: Reducing or removing pollutants from the environment, using fewer raw materials, energy and water, decreasing materials disposed in landfills
    • Social bottom line: The impact on people, both those who use a product and those who come in contact with it or the results of its use.

    Conclusions

    Our study clearly shows that the ionized water floor scrubber method delivered greater ATP and bacteria reduction and higher appearance than the floor scrubber using a designated chemical cleaner did. So, to answer the original question, I must conclude that the ionized water device adds another valuable and effective tool to the alternative methods available to the cleaning industry.

    Beyond soil removal, the custodians noticed several aspects of the ionized water device that make it an effective alternative that is easier and more appealing to use.

    • The trigger mechanism on the unit makes it easier to spray than traditional spray bottles, which results in less hand fatigue
    • The nozzle dispenses the ionized water in a consistent, round pattern that results in a more even spray than traditional spray bottles
    • The bottle can be refilled at any faucet, which means that cleaners don’t have to go back to a central closet or office to fill up, saving travel time. CM 92.2 percent instead of the 77.9 percent reduction by the chemical scrubber.

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