Green Cleaning Definitions

If you are just starting out on your green cleaning journey, we've put together a list of terms that you might find helpful. The purpose of this page is education and awareness.

Terms used in green cleaning:

Antimicrobial - A chemical which is capable of killing or inhibiting the growth of pathogenic microorganisms.

Aerosol - A liquid placed under pressure and released as a spray. Droplets are typically larger than those released in fogging.

Bacteriocide - Kills a specific group of bacteria.

Bacteriostat - Inhibits growth of a certain group of bacteria.

Biocide - A chemical substance or microorganism which kills all life forms.

Cleaner - A product or process which removes contaminants such as dirt or microbes.

Disinfectant - A chemical that destroys all of the organisms for which it is labeled in less than 10 minutes. This includes bacteria, fungi and viruses.

Dwell Time - The amount of time you must leave a product on a surface for it to do it's job as specified on the label. According to the EPA standards, for example, you must leave most disinfectants on the surface for 10 minutes to achieve stated results.

Fogging - Dispersing of a liquid in the form of microscopic droplets. The average size of droplets is 10-15 microns. Fogging of disinfectants is not approved by the EPA.

Fungicide - Kills mold.

Fungistat - Reduces or prevents mold growth.

HEPA - High Efficiency Particulate Air. A type of air filter capable of trapping minute particles. These filters must meet the standards set by the United States Department of Energy. In order to qualify as HEPA it must remove 99,97% of all particles greater than 0.3 microns from the air that passes through it.

Germicide - A substance which destroys a wide variety of microorganisms.

Green Cleaning - The act of cleaning without harming health or the environment. It is not only the products used to do the cleaning, it also includes the methods employed to do the cleaning which minimize the impact on building occupants and the environment.

Greenwashing - A public relations stunt in which a company deceptively advertises a product or service as 'environmentally friendly' when in fact, the true purpose of the campaign is to capitalize on the movement towards healthier products.

Micron - A unit of measure equal to one-thousandth of a millimeter or about 0.000039 inches. Just for comparison, the average human hair is about 200 microns thick.

Microorganism - A microscopic organism, especially a bacterium, virus or fungus. Also referred to as microbe or germ.

Mycotoxin - A toxic chemical product released by fungi to help in the digestion process of organic compounds.

Organic Matter - The remains of anything that was once living. Organic matter is always based on carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen.

Outgassing - Release of a gas that was trapped, dissolved or absorbed in another material. Often used to describe the action of harmful VOC's such as formaldehyde.

Particulates - Tiny pieces of solid or liquid matter suspended in the air. They can adversely affect health or cause allergic reactions.

Pathogen - An infectious agent. A microorganism capable of causing disease.

pH - A figure indication the level of acidity or alkalinity of a solution. A pH of 7 is considered neutral.

Sanitizer - A chemical that reduces the specified bacteria count by 99.999% within 30 seconds. Sanitizing is not entirely effective against viruses or fungi.

Spore - A one-celled reproductive unit capable of asexual reproduction.

Sterilize - To make something free of all microorganisms leaving behind a sterile microbial environment.

Surfactant - A compound, such as soap, which lowers the surface tension of a liquid. Surface tension allows; liquids to form droplets and particles heavier than water to float.

Volatile Organic Compound - (VOC's) Organic compounds that have a low boiling point. The boiling point of these chemicals is much lower than room temperature. This causes them to evaporate and fill the surrounding air. A good example is formaldehyde, with a boiling point of -2 degrees Fahrenheit.