By Marc Ferguson
December 16, 2019
Beginning January 1, 2020, the State of Illinois has made the cultivating and marketing of cannabis legal for both recreational and medicinal purposes. This follows eleven states and the District of Columbia, which have also passed similar laws and statutes. Furthermore, other states now allow the growing and marketing of cannabis for medicinal purposes only.
This is interesting, but how does this effect cleaning professionals? In a cannabis growing or marketing facility, surfaces must always be kept clean and well-maintained. The critical problem involves the resin that the plants produce. All too often it ends up on floors and other surfaces.
But over time, the resin drips down on floor surfaces where it has the potential to cause slip-and-fall accidents.
The resin does play an important role for cannabis plants. It protects the plants, repels some insects while welcoming others to foster pollination. But over time, the resin drips down on floor surfaces where it has the potential to cause slip-and-fall accidents.
But that’s not all. Once the resin collects on the floor surface, it begins to attract germs and bacteria, which can harm the health of the plants as well as the indoor growing environment. The issue is such a concern that at least one manufacturer has developed special, seamless floors that help resist the resin. However, these specially manufactured floors may not work in all settings.
So, how can the resin be removed to keep floors clean and protect the plants. Here are some steps cleaning workers should take to clean cannabis facilities in general, with an emphasis on cleaning floors:
Make sure all cleaning solutions are green certified.
These products should be certified by a recognized green certification organization. Certification means they have less impact on the environment when diluted and used correctly.
Make sure cleaning products used do not release VOCs.
Green certification organizations put emphasis on volatile organic compounds (VOCs), requiring that the product not release ozone-depleting VOCs. This protects the ozone layer covering the earth. But other certification organizations take this a step further. They certify that the product does not release ground level VOCs. These can negatively impact the air we breathe and are the ones cleaning professionals should select to protect their health and the health of cannabis plants.
Types of Ozone
There are two types of environmental ozone, one bad and one good. Ground-level ozone is “bad” and the one we breathe—this is pollution and can be harmful. “Good” ozone, on the other hand, refers to ozone in the stratosphere, protecting life on Earth.
Avoid the use of buckets.
Buckets are used not only when mopping floors, but when manually cleaning a wide range of surfaces in a cannabis facility such as counters, ledges, desks, etc. Typically, they are filled with a cleaning solution diluted with water. As cleaning progresses, however, contaminants collect in the bucket and on the cleaning cloths. We know now these are then transferred on to surfaces in the cleaning process. Worse, filled buckets may be allowed to sit for long periods, allowing for contaminants to proliferate. Instead of buckets, spray surfaces and then wipe clean. Also, when disinfecting, always remember the surface must be cleaned first and then disinfected.
Use microfiber cleaning cloths.
One problem with cotton cleaning cloths is that they can deposit lint on to surfaces surrounding the cannabis. The fiber may contain chemical residue from cleaning solutions. As the plants are irrigated, the residue can be absorbed into the soil and consumed by the plant, potentially harming the cannabis.
Avoid the use of mops.
Similar to what was discussed about buckets, mops can result in what is now referred to as “custodian-induced cross-contamination.” This happens when mops and buckets used in the cleaning process collect infection-causing contaminants. Once again, these can be redistributed to surfaces in the cleaning process. As this happens, it is a health risk for the cleaning worker, others working in the cannabis location, and the cannabis plants.
Most of these suggestions are relatively easy for cleaning professionals to follow. The one that can be a concern is how to clean floors without the use of mops and buckets. One option is to use automatic scrubbers. Workers must be trained to maneuver these machines over the floor. With scrubbers, the cleaning solution is applied to the floor, the floor is agitated, and soils and moisture are vacuumed up all in one step.
Cannabis facilities are often high-density locations, with small aisles, corridors, and walkways.
However, automatic scrubbers are costly, can frequently breakdown, and typically work best in large open areas. Cannabis facilities are often high-density locations, with small aisles, corridors, and walkways. In many cases, an automatic scrubber will simply not work.
Another less costly option is the use of “auto vac” floor cleaning systems. These systems require very little training and tend to work well in “tight” floor areas. With attachments, it can get under tables and growing equipment for more detailed cleaning. This system is similar to a scrubber in that cleaning solution is applied to the floor, the floor is agitated, removing deeply embedded resin, and then soils and contaminants are vacuumed up. In terms of effectiveness, independent tests report cleaning results are as good if not better than those attained using automatic scrubbers.
One more thing that is important to mention is that it is necessary to wear protective clothing when cleaning cannabis facilities. This is to protect both the plants and the cleaning worker. “Street” clothing can contain pathogens that can be transferred to the plants, impacting their health. Furthermore, pathogens can collect on clothing and hands when working in cannabis areas. Both situations can have adverse outcomes.
Marc Ferguson is Vice President of Global Sales for Kaivac, developers of the No-Touch Cleaning® and OmniFlex™ cleaning systems. He can be reached through his company website at www.kaivac.com.