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Sno-Isle Libraries sustainable cleaning practices ensure healthy indoor environments

MARYSVILLE, Wash. — Sno-Isle Libraries is the first library system in Washington state to use Green Seal-certified cleaning practices.

That’s no small feat, given that a library is much more demanding to clean than an office building, according to Chris J. Andersen of Mukilteo-based ServiceMaster Building Maintenance. The typical office doesn’t have 1,200 to 1,500 customers coming through every day. Nor is it open for extended hours, six or seven days a week.

“On top of that, you add in a lot of children,” Andersen said of the challenge of cleaning libraries. “And lot of high-touch points, whether it’s the computer keyboards in the technology area … whether it’s just handling the doorknobs or the faucets in the restrooms.”

Rey Mosuela and other custodians take green approach to cleaning Sno-Isle Libraries

Green Seal is a nonprofit organization that certifies products and services as sustainable. ServiceMaster Building Maintenance has GS-42 certification, which is based on waste minimization, cleaning procedures and effective custodial training for commercial and public buildings. It also requires the use of cleaning products with limits on human and environmental toxicity—in other words, “green.” 

“We really wanted to be green,” said Brian Rush, facilities manager for Sno-Isle Libraries, of the decision to hire ServiceMaster. “We also wanted to be fiscally responsible.”  

To save money, managers of the tax-supported library district decided in 2013 to consolidate custodial services rather than continue to hire separate cleaners for each building. ServiceMaster landed the contract in large part because it is certified by Green Seal. The company cleans 19 of the 21 community libraries in Snohomish and Island counties as well as the library district service center in Marysville.

“We saved $100,000 a year by consolidating cleaning services,” said Rush, adding that some of those savings are being spent on healthier but pricier cleaning supplies. Case in point: divided mop buckets, which cost twice as much as the regular kind. After each swipe of the floor, microfiber mops are rinsed out on the “dirty” side of the buckets. They are rinsed again on the “clean” side before being used again.

Restrooms are cleaned twice a day with washable microfiber cloths that are either green or red.

“The reason for the color coding is so the cleaners don’t mistake the towel they use on the toilet with the one they use on the sink,” explained ServiceMaster account manager Ryan Kelley.

Carpets are cleaned every three months with a low-moisture system so visiting toddlers won’t be exposed to fungi that grow in damp carpet.

Special entrance mats capture dirt before it comes in the door. Trash bags and toilet paper are made from recycled materials. High-suction HEPA-filter vacuums have largely replaced the beater-bar technology that throws dirt back in the air. Gone is the familiar pink, pungent liquid hand soap—which, Rush noted, is so caustic that it damages plumbing. It’s been replaced with white, unscented foam.  

All the cleaning products are scent-free, which is good news for people who are allergic to those added chemicals.

“We want people to come in and not worry about getting sick,” Rush said, adding: “If you have to cover up a smell, it isn’t clean.”

For more information about Green Seal, visit or

Watch the companion video story here.


About Sno-Isle Libraries

Sno-Isle Libraries serves 687,680 residents through 21 community libraries across Snohomish and Island counties, as well as through online library and mobile library services to childcare, preschool and senior centers.


For more information, contact:

Brian Rush, Facilities Manager
Julie Titone, Communications and Marketing Manager


Libraries are the concert halls of the finest voices gathered from all times and places.
- Jean Paul Richter