Many cleaning contractors and building owners/managers have limited or stopped selecting ready-to-use (RTU) cleaning products over the years. However, most cleaning chemical manufacturers continue to make these products. In fact, since the start of the pandemic, some manufacturers and distributors report sales of RTU products have increased considerably.
Why do ready-to-use products remain popular?
Why the staying power? What value do RTU cleaning products bring to the table compared to cleaning solutions stored in one- and five-gallon containers that must be diluted with water before use? And one more question, why have sales actually gone up since the pandemic?
Before answering these questions, let’s look at why many facilities stopped using RTU products. Likely at the top of the list is cost.
Although products that need to be diluted before use will generally cost more initially, with use, they likely will cost less than selecting the same product in an RTU formula.
RTU products, in general, still cost more to use than concentrated cleaning solutions.
However, the other reason involves the environment. For instance, as the professional cleaning industry has become more environmentally responsible, manufacturers have developed more heavily concentrated green cleaning solutions. One gallon of a green cleaning solution may last months, whereas one can of an RTU product may last only a few days or weeks.
Due to the longer life span of the concentrated green cleaning solution, the entire process—from manufacturing and delivering it to cleaning professionals, to using it and disposing of the container—has a reduced impact on the environment, which is what green cleaning is all about.
Further, while there have been improvements, the aerosol propellants in some RTU products are still potentially dangerous to human health.
To address this, many RTU cleaning products are available in refillable trigger sprayers. This eliminates the propellant and refillable containers help reduce waste.
So, with these reasons explained, we can return to our questions: Why do RTU products remain popular; why do manufacturers continue to make them; and why have their sales increased since the pandemic?
Michael Wilson, vice president of AFFLINK, a nationwide distribution organization that markets cleaning solution in bulk size and RTU, provides us with the following answers to these questions:
No mixing—“Ready to use means just that. The product is ready to use right out of the box. It does not require mixing or dilution.”
No language issues—Instructions on how to mix concentrated cleaning solutions can be complicated. “In some cases, the manufacturer will suggest one set of instructions for certain types of cleaning and another set for other types of cleaning. This can cause confusion, amplified if the cleaning worker is not proficient in English.”
Time saving—“RTU products also save time, which can improve worker productivity. With no chemical and water mixing, all that is necessary is to aim and spray. In all forms of commercial cleaning, time is money. RTU products tend to reduce cleaning times and improve work productivity. Together, this can be a major cost savings.”
No rinsing—“Some concentrated cleaning solutions and disinfectants need to be rinsed off a surface after use. If not rinsed properly, they will leave a chemical residue that can cause rapid resoiling. Most RTU products are engineered so that rinsing after use is not necessary.”
Consistent performance—“Especially when mixed manually, the user may add too much or too little water to the concentrate. Either can impact how well the product performs. RTU products are already mixed by the manufacturer to provide optimal [cleaning] performance.”
Reduced chemical waste—“There is often a ‘more is better’ mentality when it comes to cleaning. Many users believe more cleaning solution means more effective cleaning. The truth is invariably the opposite. More cleaning solution does not improve cleaning performance. This means using more concentrate is wasteful, which also ends up being costly.”
Safe to use—“When cleaning solutions, green or traditional, are heavily concentrated, they can be more dangerous to use. Should the concentrate splatter into the user’s eyes, onto their skin, or even the fumes inhaled, it potentially can cause serious harm. These concerns are typically eliminated with RTU cleaners.”
Reduced risk—“Speaking of safety, access to large amounts of heavily concentrated cleaning solutions in any facility can pose a risk to building users. Intentional or unintentional misuse of these concentrates could harm others. Further, concentrates may release fumes, especially in warmer weather, that can negatively impact indoor air quality.”
RTU disinfecting wipes—“Due to COVID-19, many facilities are now using RTU wipes, and they are proving to be highly effective. The manufacturer properly dilutes RTU wipes to work effectively. The disinfectant does not become absorbed into the wipe as it could with a cleaning cloth. This absorption is referred to as quat binding and it reduces the effectiveness of the wipe.”
As to why sales of RTU products have increased during the pandemic, Wilson believes it is for all the reasons mentioned. “Due to the pandemic, cleaning contractors were in a rush to find ways to prevent the spread of this disease and to do so safely. In most cases, RTU cleaning solutions helped them accomplish this.”
However, Wilson says be sure to select RTU cleaning products that are specific to your cleaning needs. Consult an astute janitorial distributor who can advise you on what is available in the marketplace and which RTU products will work best in each situation. “Especially when dealing with COVID, we have no time for trial-and-error purchasing,” he says.