San Francisco Department of the Environment

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Custodial Green Cleaning


On average, a custodian uses nearly 23 gallons of chemicals per year.  25% of these chemicals are considered hazardous. Custodians, janitors and cleaners have high rates of work-related asthma and relatively high injury rates such as chemical burns, much of which are due to toxic chemicals found in cleaning products.

Many traditional cleaning products contain chemicals that are carcinogens, reproductive toxicants and hormone disruptors. Exposure can lead to health impacts for employees as well as increased health care costs, liability and insurance cost for the company.

San Francisco’s Green Cleaning Program

San Francisco’s Department of Environment received pollution prevention grant from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 9, to conduct a green cleaning pilot program. Under this grant, San Francisco’s Department of Environment:

1)Developed a Green Cleaning Curriculum
2)Created a pilot program
3)Created Green Business standards for custodial companies

Green Cleaning Curriculum

San Francisco’s multilingual green cleaning program covers the benefits of green cleaning, green cleaning products and procedures as well as proper disposal of waste and hazardous waste. The Green Cleaning training includes multilingual training videos (English, Spanish, and Cantonese), flashcards and factsheets on best green cleaning practices. Modules covered are: Dusting & Polishing, Floor Care, Cleaning, Floor Care, Resurfacing, Carpet Care, Kitchen/Food Areas and Restrooms. 

Green Cleaning Videos in EnglishCantonese and Spanish
Green Cleaning Flashcards in EnglishCantonese and Spanish
Green Cleaning Factsheets in EnglishCantonese and Spanish

An extensive green cleaning product list can be found at SF Approved, which helps San Francisco City Staff, San Francisco Green Businesses and other organizations choose environmentally preferable and green products. While greener products are important, it is equally important to follow safer cleaning practices. Studies have shown that nearly half of the benefits of using green cleaning products result from the process in which they are mixed and used, which speaks to the tremendous need for education and training.

Green Cleaning Pilot Program

As part of the pilot program, employees of 6 custodial companies were trained. A post pilot study showed that access to green cleaning products was very high at 97%. Furthermore, 97% of the custodians liked using green cleaning products and 80% thought they worked as well as traditional products.

Green Business Standards for Custodial Companies

SF Environment created a Green Business standards checklist for custodial companies wanting to go through the Green Business program. This checklist covers employee training, pollution prevention, purchasing and conservation practices. 

In San Francisco, the following 5 custodial companies are recognized Green Businesses:

Aim to Please
Japan Janitorial
Signature Cleaning

If you are a custodial/janitorial company interested in becoming a Green Business, please register and apply here.

If you are interested in learning more, contact us at (415)-355-3700

Our home. Our city. Our planet.