Vishal Patel

Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges last semester began using cleaning solutions produced by Orbio Technologies, which manufactures greener alternatives to conventional cleaning products.

Orbio sells machines that use electrolysis to convert water and salt into diluted sodium hydroxide and hypochlorous acid — which can be used as a general multisurface cleaner and disinfectant, respectively. Murray and Benjamin Franklin are the first residential colleges to buy machines for on-site generation of those cleaning solutions. One Orbio unit, located in the Murray basement, will service both colleges.

Mark McCloud, Yale’s director of facilities services and grounds, explained that the process to create and distribute Orbio cleaning solutions is much less wasteful than those for other types of cleaning agents. Whereas other cleaning products must be purchased, placed in containers and shipped on trucks, the Orbio cleaning technique can happen anywhere using just salt water and electricity.

“[Yale] has slowly transitioned to using green products, but they’re still not completely harmless,” McCloud said. “We want to get the product that’s the least harmful as possible. … Orbio is that next generation.”

In addition to the new unit at Murray, Yale has six other Orbio units on campus. These units service 21 buildings in total, including Sterling Memorial Library, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Kline Biology Tower and the Law School.

Yale installed its first Orbio unit in 2014 as part of an effort to transition to more sustainable cleaning processes.

Jacqueline Gaetano, a facilities superintendent at Sterling who has conducted research on Orbio products, said Orbio cleaning solutions are also less harmful to humans than conventional cleaners. Other products can aggravate people’s respiratory systems, irritate skin and bother some people with allergies, but Orbio solutions have none of these effects.

In addition, Gaetano said, the products have little to no scent, while some conventional products have fragrances that some consider bothersome.

Orbio technology is Green Seal certified, and, according to director of the Office of Sustainability Virginia Chapman, it complies with the recently updated Yale Green Cleaning Standards, which “aim to reduce the exposure of faculty, staff, students, and visitors to chemical, biological, and particulate matter that may be harmful to human health, and the built and natural environments.”

Orbio also aligns with goals outlined in the Yale Sustainability Plan 2025 to implement standards and protocols for the maintenance and operations that promote sustainability.

McCloud emphasized that in many cases, the greener solutions have been “even more effective” than conventional products, which often leave residues that can harbor bacteria. Chapman added that the Orbio cleaner was able to remove a carpet stain in the School of Management that a regular product could not clean.

While the general feedback to Orbio has been positive, Gaetano said, the technology requires more training for custodial staff because the Orbio solutions have a limited shelf life. Since the compounds will break back down into salt and water over time, the multisurface cleaning solution must be used within 90 days of being dispensed and the disinfectant solution must be used within 30 days. Custodians have to keep track of the dates on cleaners, she said, which poses a logistical challenge.

Over the next several years, the University hopes to install 19 additional Orbio units and 17 additional stations for storing the solutions, which would cover most of Yale’s three campuses.

McCloud said that Branford College could be the next college to receive an Orbio unit or a storage station.

Alice Park |