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April 2014 Cover Feature

Ahead Of The Curve

Floorcare tips and trends that offer operational advantages.

April 01, 2014
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Hard floor care is one of the most pressing JanSan challenges facing facility managers and building service contractors (BSCs) today.

Proper floorcare covers a lot of ground — both figuratively and literally — and it is an increasingly important process for a number of reasons.

First, facility appearance is an obvious but serious consideration.

Every building occupant will notice when a floor is dull, sticky or slippery, and building managers today expect the attractive shine of an impeccably maintained floor, no questions asked.

Sanitation is another growing area of floorcare concern.

Dirty, unkempt floors in restrooms, kitchens and classrooms can contribute to “sick building syndrome” and encourage dangerous cases of facility cross contamination.

Finally, floor safety is absolutely paramount.

As legal liability concerns have increased, floor technicians in commercial facilities must call upon their entire skill set to help reduce the occurrence of slip-and-fall accidents.

The demand for attractive, sanitary and safe floors is almost as old as the cleaning industry, and matting, equipment, chemicals and employee training are all integral parts of a modern floorcare program.

The following tips were gathered from respected industry sources who have working knowledge of today’s most effective hard floor care process and procedures.

Starting Outside

Catch it at the door: The first step facility managers can take to keep interior floors clean actually starts outside the building.

According to Bryan Smith, marketing manager with Tennant Company, studies show that 70 to 80 percent of dirt actually enters the facility through the doorways.

While sweeping exterior spaces regularly can reduce incoming soil by 66 percent, Smith notes, some innovative facility managers have taken an extra measure to reduce the incoming dirt even further by keeping a small battery scrubber near their main entrances to periodically clean and catch the dirt at its source. 

“If you can catch it at the door, it will allow the rest of your facility’s floors to stay cleaner and brighter between scrubbings,” Smith explains.

Measure the matting: In addition, utilizing a matting system at facility entrances is another step to ease incoming dirt and floorcare program requirements.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has recognized that preventing soils and contaminants from entering a building is one way to keep facilities healthier and cleaner.

Currently, USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification calls for 10 feet of walk-off matting at all building entrances.

Further, the American Institute of Architects states that 25 feet of matting can capture 100 percent of debris entering a facility.

Maintenance That Matters

Battle the buildup: Professionals clean floors on a daily basis, working to remove buildup and improve the appearance of the room, says Randy Zielsdorf with Advanced Vapor Technologies.

Managers and contractors should remember to frequently review a facility’s corners, cracks, indentations in the floor and even transition areas to see if they can pass a more careful inspection.

Here, Zielsdorf specifically mentioned restrooms and kitchens.

“Areas like this can be a spoiler for rooms that at first appear clean,” he notes.

These areas may reveal rooms where workers have quickly cleaned for appearance only, and this can leave occupants and management wondering how clean a room or building actually is.

Cleaning these corners and cracks using a steam vapor system can take just minutes, but for operations like restaurants or medical facilities, it publicly shows concern for patrons’ health and comfort, Zielsdorf concludes.

Replacing squeegees and brushes: Next, Smith offers an upkeep tip for hard floor care equipment squeegee and brush replacement.

Today, equipment manufacturers design their machines specifically to work with quality original equipment manufacturer (OEM) squeegees and brushes.

Using look-alike aftermarket suppliers for OEM replacement parts can significantly diminish the performance of equipment, Smith warns.

“Just like you wouldn’t put old, bald tires on a Ferrari, help your investment in quality cleaning equipment go further by making sure you use the manufacturer-recommended parts and consumables,” Smith recommends.

Complete concrete maintenance: Though many facilities have installed beautifully-polished concrete floors due to their attractive durability, some owners also selected these floors based on the promise of “maintenance free” polished concrete, according to Smith.

“This is simply not the case,” Smith says. “Polished concrete requires a very specific cleaning protocol.”

In fact, if these floors are not cleaned with the right equipment, chemicals and process, it can create significant problems.

Improperly kept concrete floors can become prematurely dull or even damaged, and they may require expensive restorative efforts to bring back the original shine, Smith states.

Floor Stripping Formulas

Decrease the need for strip outs: Rebecca Kaufold, a floor care chemist with Spartan Chemical Company Inc., said floorcare technicians should scrub and recoat a floor before it reaches “the point of no return.”

Kaufold reveals that low-foam, alkaline products and pads that are designed for screenless wood floor preparation can work together to provide an easily rinsed, perfectly clean floor ready for recoat.

“A quick pass with the autoscrubber, followed by a clear water damp mop rinse, and the floor is easily recoated to restore appearance and performance,” she says.

This process using the proper recoating frequency and technique can easily double the time between floor strip outs, Kaufold states.

Look for low odor: Though they include the power and convenience of traditional floor strippers, new low-odor stripper formulations eliminate the strong, unpleasant odors, says Curtis Gregg, brand manager with National Chemical Laboratories Inc.

The absence of odors makes these strippers more user-friendly for educational and healthcare environments.

Here, students, staff, patients and facility guests will all benefit from this newer product, Gregg notes.

Follow dwell times: When floor stripping is necessary, dwell time proves to be pivotal — especially with these low-odor strippers.

According to Kaufold, new low-odor strippers have better solvency than low-odor strippers of the past.

The low odor means the stripper can dwell longer in facilities without disrupting building occupants in the vicinity of the floor crew.

“Allowing proper dwell time eliminates repeat strips by ensuring a thorough strip on the first pass,” Kaufold notes.

No-rinse stripper options: Finally, Gregg states that new innovations in floorcare products often are met with some skepticism.

“That was the case when it came to high performance, no-rinse floor strippers,” he recalls. “While not having to dedicate time to rinsing was a positive, their quick drying nature and strong objectionable odors were negatives that at times offset the positives.”

According to Gregg, the new category of high-performance, low-rinse and low-odor speed strippers which are appearing on the janitorial market achieve the positive attributes of no-rinse technology without the negative aspects.

Yet, it is not a case of sacrificing power for increased convenience.

A mixture of specialized surfactants, solvents and alcohols means these strippers can deliver the results that managers and contractors may be accustomed to with added benefits.

“The specialized surfactants slow down the evaporation process to reduce dry spots, while the fast penetrating action attacks the entire surface area,” Gregg concludes. “These specialty free rinsing surfactants remove from the floor easily, leave no damaging residue behind, and quickly get the floor ready for refinishing.”

As these tips show, vendors in the cleaning market are always creating new equipment and formulas to address the needs of the hard floor care professional.

For operations and staff performing daily floorcare tasks, find more valuable tips like these in this month’s Tech Tip pages and the following hard floor care spotlight features.

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