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Regular Maintenance / Autoscrubbing / Hard Floor Care
August 2013 Feature 4

Enhancing Sustainability In Hard Floor Care And Cleaning

New options reduce energy consumption and water usage and diminish the need for detergents.

August 15, 2013
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Faced with cleaning requirements that become stricter every day, facility managers are under pressure to find effective cleaning solutions that also save money.

On top of that, the environmental aspect is playing an increasingly important role as well.

So, finding a cleaning solution that offers productivity, effectiveness and sustainability benefits seems to be something like the Holy Grail of cleaning.

Today, cleaning equipment suppliers offer different products and technologies that allow cleaning professionals to achieve these goals, ranging from reduced or chemical-free cleaning to cleaning path extension and multi-purpose cleaning machines.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Recent developments now offer cleaning solutions that save natural resources by reducing energy consumption and water usage and by diminishing the need for detergents, thus also reducing the waste stream.

In addition to enhancing sustainability, these technologies also offer many benefits, including reduced costs, improved indoor air quality and enhanced safety.

A new cleaning solution on the market can replace many daily use conventional cleaning chemicals.

This multi-surface solution is created on-site using tap water, a small amount of salt and electricity, and can be used in floor scrubbing machines, automated carpet cleaning equipment, spray-and-wipe cleaning, touchless cleaners and more.

On-site generated multi-surface cleaning solution can provide environmental advantages by reducing the need to transport, store and dispose of conventional cleaning chemicals and packaging.

And, because it leaves no chemical residue, floors retain that polished look with simplified ongoing floor maintenance.

Innovations in chemical-free cleaning include orbital scrubbers with the power and performance to provide greater down pressure to remove acrylic floor finish without the risks of chemical strippers.

The rectangular scrub head easily reaches into corners and hard-to-reach areas for even floor finish removal across the entire cleaning path to provide a chemical-free floor finish removal alternative for VCT floors.

Finding Effectiveness

Image in high-visibility areas is important of course, but there are certain other aspects that require specific cleaning solutions.

In terms of effectiveness, a number of elements play a role in achieving the expected cleanliness on hard to clean floors.

Floors without a protective layer or coating are generally harder to clean because their open structure allows dirt and grime to set in.

Luckily, cylindrical brushes on scrubbers can deal with this tough task.

Sometimes, however, double-scrubbing may be necessary in which the cleaning solution is allowed to work on the dirt before pick up.

With industrial floors, cleaning involves dealing with industrial dirt as well, such as tough oils and fats.

In food and beverage production or handling environments this will mean stubborn sugary or syrupy spillage.

These challenging cleaning applications require robust and heavy-duty cleaning equipment such as scrubbers.

Essential, however, is a systematic maintenance in order to avoid large buildup of tough dirt.

Cleaning regularly is always a better option than having to do a deep scrub and restore in terms of time and labor savings.

In areas where tire marks are an issue (e.g. from forklift trucks in warehouses), even glossy finished floors might need something extra to remove the marks although “normal” dirt is easily removed.

When tire marks are burned into the floor, a more thorough approach is often needed with spot cleaning using the right chemical and aggressive disk brushes.

In some extreme cases, this may not succeed however, and then the only option is to strip and re-coat the floor.

In more commercial flooring, grout cleaning is a challenge because residual detergents will build up in the grout lines and retain dirt.

Also, old tile floors from which the top layer has been worn off, allow dirt to infiltrate the porous surface making it very hard to remove.

Very often a protective wax or finish coating is applied, but that only seals the dirt underneath a transparent layer and does nothing to make it look less old and worn.

New chemical-free technologies are available now that don’t leave behind chemical residue and so can help restore the floor’s original clean and bright appearance.

Health And Safety

The implementation of an effective floor maintenance program is a very important step in the prevention of various health and safety issues.

Not only do slippery floors present hazards, indoor air quality and noise can affect the well-being of operators, staff and residents as well.

Slip and fall accidents can account for a large number of lost days of work, high medical costs and even higher insurance rates.

Besides actually cleaning, ensuring the floor is slip-resistant is one of the additional aims of a floor maintenance program.

Obviously, it starts with daily cleaning that should include dust sweeping, wet cleaning and spot cleaning.

In most cases a walk-behind or ride-on scrubber is used for the wet cleaning.

Very often, chemicals are used to remove dirt from the floor.

However, these chemicals involve a number of extra steps in handling them that, if not properly managed, can have an impact on the health and safety of the cleaning staff and the facility residents.

Chemical overdosing can leave a residue that can make the floor slippery.

Mixing and manual dosing of chemicals will also present the operator with the risk of spillage and hand and/or eye contact if proper procedures are not followed.

Some recent chemical-free technologies offer the advantage that little or no training is required, thus increasing operator confidence, productivity and safety.

Indoor air quality greatly benefits from an appropriate cleaning program as well.

Ensuring no dust particles become airborne by effectively sweeping and scrubbing the floor positively impacts workers’ and residents’ health.

Apart from this aspect, avoiding unpleasant odors from dirt buildup or residue can also enhance building occupants’ feeling of well-being.


Although faced with a plethora of challenges in hard floor cleaning, facility managers now can choose from a wide range of flexible solutions tailored to their specific cleaning applications.

These allow them to still live up to rigorous expectations of cleanliness, effectiveness and budget constraints all while enhancing sustainability without sacrificing image and safety.


Karin Overstreet is the director of product management for Tennant Company. For more information, visit

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