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Hard Floor Care

Balancing Clean, Green And Lean

March 23, 2011
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Today''s in-house cleaners and building service contractors (BSC) can feel like they are reeling from one demand to another.

They are being held to high standards for cleanliness, while also being asked to contribute to environmental sustainability goals within their facilities — all the while having to keep costs under control.

It can seem like an impossible combination — finding the right solution for each cleaning challenge in a facility without increasing equipment costs and labor time.

Fortunately, new hard floor scrubbers with flexible cleaning modes are available to help cleaning professionals meet every floor cleaning challenge without having to invest in or maintain several pieces of expensive equipment.

Manufacturers of automatic scrubbers recognize that flexibility is the key to facility cleaning today.

In a typical commercial building, 80 percent or more of hard floors require only light cleaning on a regular basis.

Often, these surfaces can be cleaned with a good quality scrubber using only water to release dirt.

But, at least occasionally, these same floors require a little more effort — detergent to cut through petroleum-based or other difficult soils or more down pressure from the scrubber to remove heavy soil or stains.

Any facility will have a variety of floor scrubbing needs, from the more lightly used areas to heavily trafficked entryways, meeting and eating areas and even kitchens where food stains and spills are a regular occurrence.

Technology To The Rescue

Adaptive new automatic scrubbers can handle these differing needs with one piece of equipment and do it without lengthy, expensive operator training.

For instance, some automatic scrubbers provide separate tanks for water and detergent.

An operator can use water only on lightly soiled hard floors and add detergent to the solution when encountering heavier soil.

Push button controls adjust water flow and detergent ratio, eliminating the need to pre-mix the cleaning solution before scrubbing.

This flexibility helps avoid locking in to one detergent type and dilution, allowing operators to make adjustments when and where they are needed.

At St. Michael-Albertville High School in Albertville, Minnesota, head custodian T.J. Zerwas uses an autoscrubber that offers these flexible performance capabilities.

“The onboard detergent system has saved us a ton of time and allows us to really stretch our detergent use a lot further,” Zerwas said. “Not only is the system saving us money on detergent costs, but it has helped us clean with less impact to the environment.”

In fact, Zerwas'' crew now uses just one gallon of detergent a week at the school, versus five gallons per week with their previous scrubbing routine.

And, not only does the school spend less on detergent now, Zerwas'' staff no longer spends time pre-mixing detergent and water, saving the school labor costs as well.

Also available at the touch of a button is instant cleaning power.

This burst of power allows an operator to apply the added strength needed to clean heavily trafficked areas or difficult stains.

Randy Britton, an operations manager with cleaning contractor Service Management Systems, noted: “We have to approach entryways differently because these areas typically have the dirtiest floors in a building. The scrubbers we use with [flexible performance capabilities] minimize downtime so that we can make adjustments with little time or effort.”

With these simple controls, cleaning professionals are able to use the same machine across a wide variety of hard floor cleaning challenges within a facility, applying different solutions for differing needs.

Going Where No Autoscrubber Has Gone Before

The trend in automatic scrubbers is moving toward smaller equipment that uses less water, less storage space, is easier to operate and can get into narrow aisles and tight spaces like elevators.

Even some walk-behind scrubbers can be too cumbersome for these places, thus some manufacturers are developing “micro-riders.”

While these agile machines pivot easily to clean and clear tight corners, they also incorporate the power of their larger counterparts along with large tanks to keep solution refilling time to a minimum.

Since labor contributes up to 90 percent of the cost of cleaning, reducing machine maintenance is a big priority.

A new micro-rider introduced in Europe and available soon in the U.S. features a swinging deck that keeps trailing water in the squeegee''s path, eliminating the need for troublesome side skirts that often require adjustments during operation and need to be replaced periodically.

Users of this equipment have been happy to eliminate the consumable skirts, which have a tendency to leave wet trails behind when not perfectly adjusted.

New orbital scrub technology introduced on some automatic scrubbers exceeds 2,000 revolutions per minute (RPM), as opposed to 200-300 RPMs on conventional disc scrubbers.

This scrubbing technology produces deep, even pressure in tiny, circular orbits for consistent cleaning with less water.

Plus, the orbital scrubbing pattern does not sling water to the sides like disc scrubbers, reducing the hazard of wet floors.

But, the amazing capacity of this technology is when it is applied to floor stripping.

With the simple change of a pad, an orbital scrubber can be turned into a heavy-duty, environmentally preferable stripper that uses only water.

While stripping is an occasional need, an orbital scrubber/stripper in a fleet can be used day in and day out — for scrubbing or stripping.

Savvy BSCs have been quick to adopt this technology as a strategic piece of equipment.

Besides the savings in equipment purchases and storage, this scrubber does not require specialized training or caustic chemicals for stripping.

And, users of this technology avoid the inconvenience of having to barricade floor areas and redirect traffic for long periods of time.

The cleaning profession, like most, has become more complicated and demanding.

Both in-house staffs and BSCs should look to their suppliers to help them meet these demands.

Today''s technology has introduced better floor care solutions than ever before, while meeting and even exceeding customer expectations for green, clean and cost control.


Lance Hartmann has spent his career around equipment from payloaders and road pavers, to his most recent tenure in the cleaning equipment industry. Initially, he put his engineering degree to work designing assembly lines for Nilfisk-Advance Inc. before moving into product management, where he was in charge of developing a number of the company''s commercial and industrial products. In 2010, Lance completed his Master of Business Administration (MBA) and was named manager of Nilfisk-Advance''s Americas Product Management Team, responsible for development of Advance, Clarke, Kent and U.S. Products. Hartmann has been with Nilfisk-Advance since 2003.

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