Value in Being “Green Spirited” Rather Than Being “Rules Green” in the Field of Coatings, Sealers, and Cleansers

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When “Natural” doesn’t necessarily mean “Green”.When being “Rules Green” (Certified) may not be as good as being “Green Spirited”- caring about the quality of what you use in your life and Hotel. Just because a material is natural doesn’t mean it is good for the environment. Consider that every spring millions of pounds of peat is used as potting soil and garden ground cover. Did you know that 1) harvesting peat releases carbon dioxide, a known greenhouse gas? 2) Peat bogs have amazing ability to remove harmful impurities from water? 3) Peat bogs hold 10% of the worlds fresh water? Using peat may make you feel good using a natural material but does it mean it is good for the environment?

Do you get the idea of being ruled by “rules” or governed by the “spirit” of being environmentally friendly.

Also consider the trend to grow corn and soybeans for fuel. Growing more requires more tonnage of petro-chemical derived chemical fertilizer/pesticides. Fuel efficiency is less than the old alternative and oil is still consumed to produce the “natural” byproduct used in fuel. I lived in Iowa and still did not use this fuel for my car! It has a lower BTU value so you get less miles per gallon. Am I belaboring the point? Probably but please read on.

It matters also the company you keep and support when considering being “green”. This is why I have chosen to represent the Richard James Specialty Chemicals Corp. and the products they produce for stone, tile, concrete, and a host of other substrates. I hope you will agree with me that they have some of the finest products anywhere in the world. Let me explain why I say so in regards to environmental issues.

The term environmentally friendly is a widely used and poorly defined cliché’. RJSC cleansers & sealers and finishes have all three elements to qualify as “environmentally friendly”…..absence of toxic compounds: short bio degredation time: and “rinse-ability free”

All these advantages come with when you choose their StoneClean™ Concentrate line of cleansers for all your regular cleaning.

First is the absence of toxic compounds in RJSC products.  Surprisingly many cleansers make you believe they are eco-safe by using the grapefruit extracted concentrate d-limonene [orange or lemon smell] that is actually quite toxic. It is first cousin to kerosene and is not biologically friendly at all. Its bio-half life is very long and it is amazingly toxic compared to many other cleaning agents. It gets good press value since it is extracted from grapefruit rinds. Look at some of the labels and warning about “orange” type cleansers- “If skin contact rinse with water for 15 minutes” sounds like a dangerous product to me!

Secondly, RJSC cleansers have short bio degradation time AND [very important] none of the degradation products are themselves toxic. RJSC’s StoneClean“104”, for instance, may have the shortest degradation time of any heavy duty degreaser. The chemistries of industrial cleansers are typically VERY high impact. StoneClean “104” is not only fast in environmental breakdown, it is also truly neutral pH and low toxicity, while at the same time unusually effective in capturing oils/grime and transferring it to the  mop head to be rinse away in a bucket. One client asked me if “104” had polishing agents for their polished granite floor. He said the shine “popped up right away after the first use of  the product”. I then told him that now he was seeing the granite without the soap scum haze that has been left behind by inexpensive cleansers that use either sodium or potassium phosphates!

Another earth friendly spirited way it is crafted is the fact that is a salt free cleanser! Excess salts in our waterways are creating havoc with water treatment centers. ( typical water softeners that use salt should be outlawed!- for a whole house water filtration that does not use salt please ask me!!) This means that being green “spirited” also means to consider whether a product is “drain friendly”! Look at the label of ingredients and if sodium or potassium are in the names of the cleaning agents then are you really green in spirit or intent?

Third, and importantly, is the “free rinse-ability” of RJSC products.  If a product leaves a scum on the floor it will also leave a scum on the environment it contacts.  Many cleaners require multiple rinses whereas RJSC cleansers float free with the first rinse. (this also saves in labor time as well)

Soy derived cleansers leave behind residues that by definition provide food for fungal growth. This starts another important point to cover: the control of mold and mildew environmentally! Lawsuits and litigation experts agree that this is a “cash cow” of legal proportions. Problematic,is that often solutions to cleaning mold are also toxic in themselves, and that by definition add to the overall “problem” of mold concerns. A mouthful of words to say, “let us look at a different way to control mold.” – Chlorine bleach has a VERY short lived anti-mold activity. The dirty environmental fact is that chlorides and chlorine derivatives react “downstream” with organics in the water to produce carcinogens. This is why straight bleach is no longer used in many drinking water systems. –

Safely removing mold without resorting to using any type of chloride chemical is key to protecting the environment of the drain and waterways. StoneClean™ Plus is an excellent product for the specific purpose of making surfaces resistant to discoloration, odor and degradation by microbial and fungal contamination. Itbreaks down the chitin shell of the fungal growth makes it a much safer way to remove mold/fungal growths. It also contains Vantocil IB for an FDA approved antimicrobial for food service use. Many are fooled into believing that for such a nasty job you need nasty strong chemistry. Looking at the labels of such strong chemicals proves they are not good for the environment and also the end user. One such label says to avoid any skin contact and to flush your skin for 30 minutes if it comes in contact with your skin! A friend of mine uses such a cleanser in his cleaning and mold remediation service. Look at the kinds of bathroom cleaners used for the hotel guest room floors and showers.


RJSC designs their sealers and cleansers with the specific thought of bio-half life and toxicology of all inclusions. Biodegradability of surfactants and de-foaming additives is a concern as these are usually not regulated except in the case of fluorocarbons and heavy metals. A farmer friend of mine thinks that some agricultural chemical surfactants never really break down environmentally.

I think you will actually be shocked to find out how the combination of right chemistry and environmental safety can outperform ones that claim “Rules Green” / certified! Safely cleaning floor grouting without resorting to acids or strong pH cleansers is another way to test how well they clean! They are all safe for delicate substrates like polished marble as well.

The next area of concern being dealt with in the article is the chemistry of sealers/ finishes. Solvent borne coatings have been around for over a hundred years. Only recently did science come up with acrylic and polyurethane resins that were solvated in various hydrocarbon solvents to produce widely used coatings that are still applied today (albeit illegally in many states).

As air quality concerns elevated to new awareness in the 70’and 80’s, there was an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the vapors, inherent toxicity and flammability of solvent coatings. The letters “VOC” became a more recognizable standard to judge whether a coating was toxic and to which degree. VOC then became the newest regulatory datum.

RJSC was the FIRST manufacturer (1992) in floor coatings/treatments to open its business exclusively with waterborne coating and sealers. Since that year they have developed a host of other products for virtually every kind of flooring/ substrate! They have a menu of at least 9 industry standards to measure their coatings. They consistently meet or beat solvent systems in virtually every performance dimension!! This is especially true for abrasion resistance, flexibility, tensile strength and of course flammability.

Among the first products introduced by RJSC in the early 90’s was StoneLok™ “MLT Plus”. The first big application was in 1993 at Penn Station in NYC (with traffic of 500,000 people a day). It was selected because it was the only product MTA management could find that met their stringent air quality tests. It saved them several hundred thousand dollars that would have been spent venting the fumes from this 24- hr/day facility.

The flamed granite is still easily cleanable to this day. StoneLok™ sealers are now specified for installations from museums, hotels, retail spaces, and finer homes.

The real spirit of “Green” is much more complex than the current idol of VOC, or volatile organic content. Most resin systems other than 100% epoxy need some solvents to gain required performance. Most state VOC requirements are generally in the low 200 g/liter level but there are several areas where 100 is the max and we can only see this trend being amplified lower.

Low Impact Green in Spirit (Low Environmental Impact) must therefore consider appropriate VOC for air quality, PLUS low bio-toxcity, low contact irritation and fast bio-degradation.

Small amounts of solvents are found in almost all sealers including waterborne products. Many pose no air quality threat and are low in toxicity. Some solvents are higher in impact. Ethyl-group glycol ethers (butoxy ethanol) are used in waterborne coating, and “EB” was the solvent in original Windex and 409. This chemistry is metabolized in the body with some by-product liver retention.

RJSC uses Glycol Ether Acetate that has a safety rating of “1” (safe) without DOT toxic shipping. Glycol Ether Acetate is generally metabolized and passed thru the body with no retention.

It is interesting to note that they supplied product for a job at The National Bureau of Technology and Standard (nuclear lab). They had to demonstrate the uniquely “safe” catalyst chemistry. The officer was totally unconcerned with the Glycol Ether Acetate. The product was also cleared for use by an equally stringent safety officer for a major airplane manufacturer.

RJSC has not undertaken the time and expense to gain “Green Rules” for their sealers since when the coating system is cured, it is chemically inert and therefore does not emit, exchange or degrade into biologically hostile chemistries. Also, unlike high- and petroleum- solvent sealers that emit “volatiles” for months, RJSC sealers emit the low-level biologically acceptable propisols only until full cure (usually four days).

As chemically inert system, they do not provide nutritional basis for microbial growth, and with its overall chemical resistance, it can be cleaned with a variety of microbial cleansers!

This sort evaluation of being “Green Spirited” as opposed to being “Green Rules” shows that it is what a company does, not what it says, and pays to have advertised that matters most! RJSC rarely advertises and for that reason sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of big business contracts and deals. It is the hotel GM, building manager, janitorial supervisor/owner that truly wants to be “Green Spirited” that will sort thru all the hype, read the documentation and choose the best overall products for their facility. I hope you will contact me for further direction into how this special, low key company, can help you also to become not only green compliant, but go further and become green spirited in nature of your business or home!

Stan Zimmer