Best Practices


The most successful green cleaning programs consist of more than just procuring better products, stresses The following Best Practices, as detailed by the group on its website, help to structure and implement green cleaning programs that are flexible and designed for long-term success.


The first step in addressing the environmental and human health effects of cleaning products is to assemble a dedicated team to make improvements to your cleaning program. The team should include representative stakeholders, including procurement staff, managers, custodians and facility staff, building occupants, and others affected by the cleaning program. Together, the team will design and implement an overall cleaning program, including decisions regarding procurement, and the use and disposal of cleaning products, and will measure and report results over time.



Inventory your consumption and measure your environmental impact. Which cleaning products are currently used and in what quantities? Which hazardous chemicals do they contain? How much packaging waste do they produce? Use the Green Cleaning Pollution Prevention Calculator to project environmental benefits of improving practices and switching to Green Seal certified cleaners.



Critically examine the baseline data and identify areas for improvement. Set specific targets for cost reductions, the number and volume of cleaners used, and the human health and environmental consequences associated with the goals. Common goals include reducing employee absences due to health issues associated with cleaning chemicals, eliminating or limiting the use of specific hazardous chemicals, reducing packaging waste, improving indoor air quality, and lowering cleaning costs.



Adopt a policy that formalizes the institution. Adopt a policy that formalizes the institution’s commitment to purchasing cleaning products that minimize effects on human health and the environment. The New York State Green Cleaning Law of 2005 requires the purchase of green cleaning and custodial products in all state agencies, departments, public benefit corporations and public authorities. See the Policies section for examples.



After establishing the baseline and setting goals, draft specifications that meet criteria intended to help achieve those goals. Rather than developing product qualifications from scratch, save time by referring to existing standards and specifications used by other institutional buyers. Requests for bids should require that products meet or exceed standards such as EcoLogo and Green Seal. See the Specifications section ( for examples of model specifications.



Cooperative contracts decrease the administrative costs of contracting and attain lower prices by leveraging the buying power of a large group. One large group purchasing organization is U.S. Communities, a non-profit entity that provides a national purchasing forum for local and state government agencies, school districts, higher education and non-profits and pools the purchasing power of over 87,000 agencies. U.S. Communities administers a competitively bid contract for Green
Seal and EcoLogo certified cleaners from Zep Manufacturing. These products are all included in the database in the online version of this Guide, along with links to the U.S. Communities contract documents. See the Products section  ( for a complete listing of products.



There is more to green cleaning than just switching products. Training custodial staff and modifying cleaning protocols can make a big difference in the effectiveness of a green cleaning program. (See separate article, IMPROVING CG PRACTICES, for more info.)



Use the Green Cleaning Pollution Prevention Calculator ( to measure reductions in hazardous substances by switching to environmentally preferable cleaning practices and products. Schedule regular assessments to measure the program’s success, checking to see if predetermined benchmarks are being achieved. Reward or recognize the stakeholders responsible for achieving success. Identify and address any obstacles that may be limiting the program’s success.