User-friendly cleaning chemicals

22nd of July 2020
User-friendly cleaning chemicals
User-friendly cleaning chemicals

In an ideal world, all our chemical cleaning products would be pleasant to look at and easy to use. But how important are such factors in the great scheme of things? Ann Laffeaty asks chemical manufacturers and cleaning companies whether user-friendliness is a high priority as far as they are concerned.

Using a chemical cleaner can be a somewhat scary affair. The safety warnings, PPE recommendations and complicated dilution instructions one often encounters on the product label can be daunting for the user - particularly if none of these happen to be in his or her native language.

Safety caps on bottles and other containers can cause frustration and annoyance if they are too hard to take off. And if a product has a caustic colour or a pungent smell, this will only add to the overall unpleasant experience.

But do any of these things really matter, provided that the product does what it says on the tin? Apparently so according to Greenspeed’s marketing manager Floor Loos.

“Products that come with warnings and hazard pictograms can easily scare people off,” she said. “Customers are not keen on products that are difficult to use. And they want to be sure that their chemical cleaning agents will harm neither their health nor the environment, and that they are safe to use on the surfaces to which they are applied.”

The colour of a product can also influence the user’s opinion, says Loos. “If a detergent has a vivid or fluorescent colour, people will automatically make the association that it is hazardous or unnatural,” she said. “Smell is also important: a customer might make a connection between a product that has a strong chemical smell with unhealthy ingredients that are not plant-based.”

A pleasant fragrance will help to make cleaning more enjoyable for the end-user, she says. “This is why we ensure that our products either smell good or have no perfume at all.”

Dilution difficulties can be another issue, according to Loos. “Easy dispensing systems are a definite plus for the user, which is why a simple system such as a dosing cap or pump is a good solution,” she said.

It is important to Greenspeed that people like using the company’s products, she adds. “For this reason we provide clear labels on our packaging and do our best to make them look attractive and easy to read,” she said. “We also have our own icons to indicate the function of each product and we use icons in our dosing instructions.”

Greenspeed uses colour coding on its labelling, websites and in brochures to allow users to tell at a glance which product should be used where.

“It is important that the information on our bottles is easy to read and that the user is fully informed about the ingredients,” says Loos. “Our customers should also be aware of the product’s function and how they should use it because this will save time before they actually start cleaning. And detergents should be safe to use and harmless to health, so it is better if they are free of hazard symbols.”

Said to be completely safe to use is the company’s Greenspeed Probio which is colour coded and comes with clear labelling with pictograms. It has a neutral pH and uses probiotics to remove organic pollution from surfaces.

Simple dilution

Ease of use and simple dilution systems are also both important factors for Jangro customers, according to the company’s ceo Joanne Gilliard.

She claims the company’s Enviro range of water-soluble cleaning and sanitising sachets to be particularly user-friendly. “The operative simply has to drop the unopened sachet into the water and then mix it in,” she said. “Each sachet contains a measured dose which means there is no waste or overuse. And the user is never exposed to the concentrated product which removes any health and safety risks.”

One company that takes a pragmatic approach to chemical use is Insider Facility Services according to the company’s marketing and purchasing manager Thor Nielsen.

“We have strict rules regarding the use of chemicals, and we ensure the products we employ are particularly easy to use,” he said. “All agents employed for daily cleaning carry an ecolabel and our operatives are thoroughly trained in their use and dosage.”

Training is particularly important for staff members asked to perform periodic cleaning tasks where stronger chemicals may be required, he said. “Whenever we use a product for the first time, those people using it will have undergone a course with either the manufacturer or supplier,” said Nielsen. “We also often have a specialist representative from the supplier on site when using the product for the first time – particularly if the task is of a complex nature.”

He says masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment are always worn when potentially hazardous products are used. And he has adds that he has received no complaints from cleaners regarding long and complicated instructions on products – though the company does choose user-friendly products where possible, according to Nielsen.

“For daily cleaning we use non-hazardous products in bottles that are easy to open,” he said. “And these containers can be completely emptied to ensure there is no waste.”

He said it can be helpful when cleaning products come with their own integrated dosing system. “However, we tend to buy our own ‘dosage lids’ and insert these into the bottles,” he adds.

Availability concerns

Client reactions to factors such as safety warnings, complicated instructions and hard-to-open bottles depends very much on the customer concerned according to Frank Ritscher, Kärcher’s development manager for detergents and manual tools.

“Some clients would actually prefer to buy products that carry a safety warning because they perceive these to be more powerful than products without them,” he said. “But conversely, other customers prefer products that come with a low-level warning or with no warning at all in order to minimise any risk of injury caused by incorrect use.”

He adds that some customers are more concerned with the local and rapid availability of products than with other factors. “This applies in particular to large customers such as building cleaning companies who are active across wide geographical areas,” he said.

According to Ritscher, customers can be either attracted or repelled by a product on account of its appearance or smell. “The most obvious properties that a customer perceives first are its colour and fragrance,” he said. “Here the manufacturer needs to have a level of market know-how in order to meet the taste of customers.”

Kärcher attaches great importance to its packaging design, he says. “To ensure that the customer can ascertain how to use the product correctly, our labels include both application illustrations and a picture of the area to be cleaned,” he said.

“We try to think our products through holistically starting with the user and the task in hand, and then on to the chemistry, the packaging and the labelling right through to the actual application. This is described on the label using pictograms which are self-explanatory and very clearly arranged. And where possible we dispense with any excessive wording.”

Kärcher offers a range of high concentrates plus ready-to-use detergents that come in small containers with spraying attachments.

So it is clear that customers can be attracted by a pleasant smell, an attractive appearance and user-friendly packaging when buying their chemical products.

But how important are such refinements in the great scheme of things compared with the basics – in other words, ensuring that the product is safe, effective and fit for purpose?

Purchase decisions

Efficiency is usually the customer’s top priority according to Greenspeed’s Floor Loos. “However, factors such as the packaging, labelling and the product’s ease of use will contribute to their final decision to purchase,” she adds. “It is therefore important for a company to listen to user feedback and to improve on the product where necessary.”

Safety is of paramount importance at Kärcher – but other factors matter too, says the company’s Frank Ritscher. “Before a detergent is put into production its application is thoroughly tested and factors such as safety in use, product performance, labelling, packaging, containers, potential connection to devices and disposal after use all feature high up on our list of priorities,” he said.

But Insider Facility Services’ Thor Nielsen believes the look, feel and ease of use of a product has little relevance at the end of the day. “Price and quality are always more important,” he said.


Our Partners

  • ISSA Interclean
  • EFCI
  • EU-nited