Ask the Building Maintenance Experts
Solutions for Your Toughest Problems

ICAN  Q & A  Home

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Is it possible to have a plan for cleaning schools with no voc chemicals?


Answer #1:
Yes, VOCs are not necessary for custodial operations in schools.

John Walker, President
ManageMen, Inc.
Founder, Janitor University
Former ISSA Director of Education and Training

Answer #2:
Your concern with your schoolís IAQ is commendable. However, this may be yet another instance where the cleaning community commits itself to action when the bulk of the problem lies elsewhere.
Consider, for example, the VOC source list provided by the EPA:
Paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions.
As you will note, cleaning supplies are only part of the equation. Remember the scent of paint and paste from art class? Are markers being used on white boards? Chemical erasers? Are there copiers in the office or library? Any sewer gas from dry floor drains traps in rest or locker rooms? Is an outside air intake bringing school bus exhaust into the building? Ever been in a chemistry lab class? And donít forget the toxic gym locker.
If you go to, you will find a wealth of resource material including a comprehensive HealthySEATv2 Checklist and Guidebook, along with free software to provide a worthwhile overview of your schoolís environment without focusing unnecessarily on one or two minor issues.
You will note the emphasis on ventilation, which is the key to reducing indoor air pollution. Sooner or later, you will have to paint the classroom walls, or strip and refinish the floors, and some VOCs will need to be vented out of the building.
Total avoidance of VOCs in a school or anywhere else is not possible. Reduce them as much as you can by using low VOC emitting products and extending the times between uses of heavy contributors. Always ventilate properly.
Do what you can as a conscientious cleaner, but donít volunteer to solve any problems not under your control.

Lynn E. Krafft, ICAN/ATEX Editor

Answer #3:
Yes it is. The trend over the last few years has been away from petroleum based chemicals to green and bio based products. The current and future trends are headed towards the use of limited amounts of water only and to avoid whenever possible the use of chemicals of any kind during the cleaning process. You should also expand your search to include information on green cleaning processes as well as green chemicals.
I would advise looking into the CIMS-GB standard and the Green Cleaning University and resource center at
and the GS-42 Environmental Standard for Commercial Cleaning Services at
You can read and print out the standards free of charge on the mentioned websites.
Other good sources of information include (LEED Program) and your local JanSan Distributor, some of which have completed training as Cleaning Industry Management Standard ĖGreen Building (CIMS-GB) consultants.

Bill Griffin, President
Cleaning Consultant Services, Inc