Should You Offer Green Cleaning Services?
Green cleaning started out as a way for cleaning companies to set themselves apart from competitors. Now, with more companies doing it, green cleaning is becoming a mainstream service.
But what is it? Why does it matter? Most importantly, should you be doing it, too?
We’ll answer all those questions and more. If you decide it’s right for your business, whether you’re new or established, you’ll even learn how to start a green cleaning service of your own.
Here’s everything you need to know about green cleaning services:
Every type of business has some kind of environmental effect. A cleaning business is no different. Synthetic chemicals, water use, paper and plastic waste—it all goes back into the environment.
Green cleaning is a way to change that. It’s more than just a service offering. It’s a belief that your cleaning business should actively help the environment, or at least reduce the harm you might cause.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), synthetic cleaning products and detergents can contain harmful ingredients, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
During cleaning, VOCs are released as gas and become part of the air you and your clients breathe. This can cause a wide range of mild health problems that become much worse if you’re using these products every day.
If they aren’t properly disposed of, VOCs can also pollute the air, soil, and water.
Green cleaning, on the other hand, uses natural cleaning products and non-synthetic chemicals. These don’t affect air quality and aren’t harmful to flush or wash down the sink.
By using green cleaning supplies, you’re protecting your clients, yourself, and everyone around you.
READ MORE: Learn how to land more cleaning contracts
Green commercial cleaning and residential cleaning companies only use natural cleaning products. This could include products that are:
- Made from plants or recycled materials
- Reusable or have less packaging waste
- Recyclable or biodegradable
- Energy efficient or cold water compatible
- Fair trade and produced sustainably
- Non-toxic, fragrance-free, and without certain ingredients
- Home recipes (e.g., vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda)
- Suited for multiple purposes (e.g., castile soap, dish soap)
- Green certified
These products will do less harm when they’re thrown out, recycled, or flushed down the drain. You can also use products that are considered eco-friendly, even if they aren’t actually green.
For example, microfiber costs twice as much energy to manufacture up front, so it doesn’t meet the criteria for being green. But it also needs less water and is reusable, unlike single-use paper towels, so it’s still good for the environment.
PRO TIP: If you only want to use green-certified products, look for an Eco-Scale, EcoLogo, Green Seal, or Safer Choice (formerly DFE) label on your cleaning products. They’re all recognized green certifications.
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Using green cleaning products is good for the environment, but they aren’t a perfect fit for every business. Here are a few reasons why professional cleaners might choose not to use them:
- Price: The price tag for green cleaning products can be higher than many common products. However, this gap has lowered in recent years. You can also charge a little more for your services to make up the difference and make it a net-zero expense.
- Effectiveness: Green cleaning supplies may not be as effective at disinfecting surfaces as harsher synthetic chemicals. You might have to put in more elbow grease, or you may not achieve the same sparkling clean look your clients love. Not all green products can sanitize, either, so make sure you choose the right products if you offer sanitization.
- Corrosion: Some types of natural products, like vinegar, shouldn’t be used on metal or rubber. You’ll probably need to find another natural alternative or still use a synthetic cleaning solution for appliances like a stove or washing machine.
As people become more aware of the harsh ingredients in synthetic cleaning products like ammonia and bleach, more cleaning businesses are moving toward green cleaning products.
But whether or not you become a green cleaning company depends on your clients. Some may want eco cleaning services, and some might not. The only way to know for sure is to ask them!
READ MORE: How to promote your cleaning business
1️⃣ Green Residential Cleaning
One in three people will choose a company based on how it helps people and the planet. They may also appreciate the benefits to human health that come with using less harmful chemicals.
If you put your green cleaning philosophy front and center in your marketing materials, potential clients will notice—and they may be more likely to choose you over a competitor.
That said, some residential clients might not like the higher price tag that often comes with green cleaning services. They may also prefer the cleaning supplies they’ve always been using, especially if they’re used to providing their own.
2️⃣ Green Commercial Cleaning
Some commercial clients actively look for a company that provides green office cleaning services. They might value sustainability, or there might be local legislation that requires it.
On the other hand, some clients just aren’t interested in eco-friendly office cleaning. They might even be required to use certain cleaning products, depending on the services they offer.
For example, a medical office needs harsher chemicals so it’s properly sanitized, free of germs, and safe for patients. That’s why it’s a good idea to check with clients before you switch to green cleaning products.
3️⃣ Green Carpet Cleaning
If carpet cleaning is one of your services, you might want to think about upgrading to green carpet cleaning.
This can be especially important to residential clients who have kids, pets, allergies, asthma, or chemical sensitivities. Synthetic chemicals in their freshly cleaned carpet might do more harm than good.
Green carpet cleaning products can be just as effective as synthetic stain removers. Extra-tough stains might need a second pass, but you should still get the great results your clients are looking for.
- Review your cleaning supplies inventory. Go through your cleaning products and see which ones you can replace with green alternatives. You may even be able to cut down on material costs if you can get multipurpose items, like a single green all-purpose cleaner.
- Shop around for the right green cleaning products. Talk to your cleaning product supplier and see which green products are available in your area. Make sure to check ingredient lists and research interactions—chemical mixing is still a concern with green products, not just synthetic chemicals.
- Test your new green cleaning products. On your own time, test your green supplies to see how they compare with your synthetic cleaning products. Your green products will need to get the same results within the same amount of time. You’ll also need to train cleaners to use these new supplies.
- Tell your clients about your new services. Your clients should know change is coming—as well as higher prices, if you’re raising your rates to accommodate the new products. They may also want to be sure that your green products will be as effective as the old synthetic chemicals.
- Make the switch to green cleaning. Use up the rest of your synthetic cleaning products. When it’s time to replace them, start using green products. Remember, you might need to keep offering both green and synthetic products if not all of your clients want to make the switch.
- Get certified to clean green. It’s easy enough to claim you’re eco-friendly without backing it up. But if your business is green certified, that helps build an extra level of trust with your clients. Make sure to include your certification in your marketing materials, too.
PRO TIP: Want to be extra green? Donate a portion of your profits to nonprofit organizations—for example, groups that plant trees or pick up litter. A potential client might be more likely to work with you knowing their business helps the environment!
Whether you’re just starting a cleaning company or you’re a well-known business with years of experience, you can start making the switch to green cleaning if it feels like the right move.
If you do choose that route, going green doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Starting with small environmentally friendly changes is a step in the right direction—and your clients might just take that journey with you.
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Originally published May 2016. Last updated September 8, 2021.