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How water, salt and electricity are transforming cleaning technology

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Technology in cleaning is swiftly evolving, with new product development and innovation across the sector. From new technology in product hardware to increased efficacy of products – the rate of R&D is rapid. The technology behind the Toucan Eco range, while not new, has been combined with manufacturing innovation to develop a range of products — using nothing but water, salt and electricity — that have the ability to transform cleaning technology. What’s more, it’s recently received EN certifications 14476 and 16777 proving its virucidal efficacy against coronaviruses.

The Toucan Eco range uses a form of electrolysis — passing an electrical current through water and salt to change their structure — creating hypochlorous acid. It’s one of the compounds the human body naturally produces itself to help fight infection, so there’s no adverse reaction.

The Toucan Eco makes a very powerful, but extremely safe sanitiser, disinfectant and cleaning solution. The key is that you make it yourself with an Eco unit, a small amount of salt, tap water and an electrical current. By passing the electric current through the saltwater solution, the cells are restructured and create hypochlorous acid, an effective sanitiser. The pH is around 8, so the aggressive nature of commercial bleach is replaced with a gentler solution without losing any of the efficacy.

It’s a completely safe, odour-free and hypoallergenic solution that can be used in both domestic and commercial environments to deliver exceptional results.

Speaking at a recent webinar as part of Robert Scott’s #AskTheCleanTeam series, Robin Turner, CEO at Centrego Ltd which manufacture Toucan Eco, explained: “As everybody will remember from their physics and chemistry school days, electrolysis is where you place a positive electrode, an anode, and a negative electrode, a cathode, into a solution; you pass the current across those and the electrolysis changes the structure of the compounds and the elements that you have in that solution. So, you’re not adding or getting rid of any elements – you’re changing the way they’re structured, and you end up with a different solution.”

The story behind the technology
“The base technology has its roots in wartime. Hypochlorous acid was used as a wound treatment in the first world war, before the advent of antibiotics caused it to fall out of fashion in the western world. During the Cold War, the USSR began using a version of this technology to develop possible responses to biological warfare,” explained Robin. “About 20 years ago that technology started to migrate from Russia to South Korea and to the West and, at that point, the technology became far more robust and scientists started to take an interest in the properties of the solutions that were generated.”

Dr Darren Reynolds, Professor of Health and Environment at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), focuses his research on electro-chemical activation in water. He added: “The reason hypochlorous acid is such a fantastic anti-microbial solution is in part because of its chemistry. Hypochlorous is a neutral compound. Therefore, it’s not charged and that is a really fantastic quality to have if you’re an anti-microbial, because you can sneak past all sorts of things as a result of being electrically neutral, which means a lot of elements don’t pick you up, including bacteria.

“Hypochlorous acid is so effective because it can do two things. Firstly, it can attach and do some damage to the wall of a bacterial cell and, secondly, it can actually diffuse through the bacterial cell wall and attack DNA on the inside, so it has a double-pronged approach. Hypochlorite (bleach), on the other hand, is so reactive that it generally has done all of its work by the time it reaches the outer cell of the bacteria.”

Sustainable cleaning
As well as being a hugely effective disinfectant solution, Toucan Eco offers a much-improved environmental approach to cleaning. Traditional chemical-based solutions have a much higher ecological impact – via raw materials and energy used in their manufacture, the single-use plastic containers they’re stored in, and the fuel used to make millions of weekly journeys to deliver them.

Because this cleaning tech is made from nothing more than salt, tap water and electricity, much of that is made redundant, making it an ideal choice for those seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. And, the solution itself relaxes back into salty water over time, or when it is used and comes into contact with organic matter, so it poses no risk to waterways.

“We all have a part to play,” Dr Reynolds adds. “In the UK alone, we consume and dispose of 7.7 billion plastic water bottles, just for water, every single year. So, we’re reaching a stage where plastics should not be an option if there are clear alternatives.”

Plastic waste is a very real threat to our planet. From single-use water bottles through to cleaning chemical containers – reducing our contribution to single-use plastic waste should be a priority not just for businesses but for every individual at work and at home.
The question on everyone’s lips right now is Covid-19 and the role cleaning technology plays in fighting the spread of this disease.

Hypochlorous acid is shown to be 99.99% effective against coronaviruses. Following independent accredited laboratory testing, Toucan Eco has been validated for use to EN standards and is certified to kill more than 99.99% (or >4-log) of viruses. Both certifications are virucidal tests targeted at a broad spectrum of enveloped viruses including coronavirus, against which many chemical disinfectants have not been certified.

14476 – the more widely known certification – is a suspension test where the efficacy of the solution is tested in vitro. EN 16777, which is a certified surface test, proves that this efficacy can be applied in the real world of surface disinfecting and other cleaning processes.

This ground-breaking achievement is believed to be the first hypochlorous generator that uses just water, salt and electricity to be certified to both standards, making Toucan Eco the most effective hypochlorous acid solution currently on the market.
Easy to use
The Toucan Eco comes in a range of unit sizes and specifications depending on the requirements for use. All it needs is tap water, normal household salt and a supply of mains electricity. Once charged, the solution can be dispensed into a spray bottle or other container to clean with. It boasts a week-long shelf life, too. “The shelf life depends on a number of things – such as the exposure to air. If you keep it in the spray bottle, then the solution will maintain its efficacy for seven or eight days,” says Robin. It can then either be safely discarded into mains waterways or reactivated once more for further use.

As all that’s needed for reactivation is to pass a further electrical current through the saltwater solution, the Toucan Eco is one of the easiest to use high-performance solutions available on the market. What’s more, it can be used either as a liquid disinfectant solution, or to fog or mist large areas, making it completely versatile.

Steve Courtney, Toucan Eco product specialist at Robert Scott, added: “The innovation behind Toucan Eco is something that we’re incredibly proud to be the UK’s only distributor of. We’re firm advocates of sustainable cleaning and are committed to supporting technological developments that enable increased sustainability. With such a robust product efficiency record and the added benefits of a minimal environmental impact, the Toucan Eco has the potential to transform the cleaning market.” 
You can watch the sustainable cleaning revolution webinar about how hypochlorous acid is transforming the way we clean and disinfect click here.