Hard floor cleaning, maintenance and restoration procedures are evolving quickly due to new technology and an increasing awareness of environmental concerns.
Building managers, occupants and customers have higher expectations today than in the past, and demand that hard floors not only shine and be clean, but also be safe and easy to maintain.
Manufacturers are providing innovative chemicals, equipment, processes and surfaces to meet these changing demands.
Industry trade associations are establishing standards and providing certification and training programs backed up with testing, measurement and validation.
Due to the risks and liability involved in maintaining buildings, we are seeing changes in cleaning specifications and contract language that indicate it won''t be long before manufacturers and insurance companies require cleaning workers and firms to be certified by an independent, third-party organization.
New Surfaces And Coatings
Densified and decorative concrete, semi-permanent urethane and factory-applied mineral coatings are becoming commonplace on wood, laminate and laminated vinyl flooring.
Along with these new surfaces that require less maintenance, we are seeing less wall-to-wall carpeting and more stone, wood, ceramic and porcelain tile in homes and offices.
From a maintenance standpoint, this means lower costs because frequencies for stripping, burnishing and refinishing can be reduced, and in some locations eliminated, thus reducing floor care costs by up to 50 percent.
New Equipment Hits The Floor
The tools of the trade are evolving and changing every day.
Equipment is being designed for easy, one-button operation, computerized for easy diagnostics and prompting and with modular components for fast repair.
There are many cutting-edge and environmentally-friendly processes and equipment on the market today.
Diamond impregnated floor pads can polish marble, terrazzo, concrete and VCT tile to a shine, and permanently eliminate the need for stripping, burnishing or refinishing.
Also, an autoscrubber and floor machine that uses a square oscillating head and an aggressive floor pad for chemical-free stripping and scrubbing is available.
Bucketless mopping eliminates the need for a mop pail and wringer while reducing water use and disposal by up to 90 percent.
Micro autoscrubbers with the footprint of a 14-inch upright vacuum cleaner will replace the damp mop for daily cleaning of most hard surface floors. They are ideal for use in small restrooms and classrooms as well as patient rooms or an operating suite in a hospital.
Another example of a newer innovation on the market is a high-production walk-behind system for large areas that can scrub 30,000 square feet per hour and strip 15,000 square feet per hour.
Further, microfiber flat mops are more productive and do a far better job of capturing and removing soil from all types of flat surfaces (floors, walls, glass and stainless steel) than a string mop. If you want to truly clean a floor — remove soil — you must use some type of wet or dry vacuum recovery system.
Backpack vacuums with a high-production wand that handles like a dust mop is the most effective way to remove dry soil from a hard floor.
Spray and vacuum floor and wall cleaning systems remove up to 40 percent more soil and bacteria from surfaces than string or microfiber mops.
Activated dry-vapor cleaning systems can kill microorganisms and mold, thereby eliminating the need for detergents, sanitizers and disinfectants.
Utilize super-concentrated detergent cartridges that provide enough product to clean 1 million square feet of flooring before they need replacement.
Interchangeable battery packs for riding and walk-behind scrubbers, sweepers, burnishers and extractors allow the equipment to be at full capacity on all three shifts, eliminating the need for additional equipment purchases and long downtimes for recharging.
Fast-fill systems for large capacity autoscrubbers reduce refill times to 15 minutes or less, compared to up to 45 minutes per refill, allowing for higher equipment and staff productivity on each shift.
Stand-up riding autoscrubbers, burnishers, vacuums and extractors increase visibility, production and quality as compared to sit-down equipment.
Several companies have introduced a hard floor wand that incorporates a spinning power head and vacuum attachment that uses a pressure washer, portable or truck-mounted carpet extractor as a power source.
The specialty tools are very effective for cleaning grouted or uneven floors such as concrete, ceramic or porcelain tile, and in locations where large amounts of water will cause damage or problems.
Robotic autoscrubbers and vacuums are available that free up the operator for more demanding tasks and often require less than 30 minutes of human intervention per shift.
The machines are best suited for areas that are eight to 26 feet wide with well-defined walls.
In addition, a systems approach is required.
An effective floor care program must include processes that deal with prevention, initial, daily or routine and periodic maintenance as well as restoration.
Entry matting, along with regular maintenance of high-traffic, high-soil areas, are critical aspects of capturing and removing soil before it gets tracked throughout a facility where it can damage surfaces and become time-consuming and expensive to remove.
Look for low maintenance. New flooring materials require regular dust and grit removal and scrubbing to remove topical soil, but stripping, burnishing and recoating are fast becoming processes from the past.
Training And Certification
Today''s cleaning standards and a competitive marketplace require that workers receive training in the latest and most efficient and effective techniques for floor care.
The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) has taken the lead in writing standards and providing industry-wide certification programs for cleaning professionals.
For more information on Floor Care Technician (FCT), Stone Marble and Tile Technician (SMT) and other certification courses and standards, visit www.iicrc.org.
Science is also coming into play.
It''s no longer good enough to say you cleaned a surface.
Testing processes and equipment from other industries is now being used to measure and validate cleaning effectiveness.
Particle counters, gloss and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) meters, film thickness gauges, resistance meters, microscopes and other testing, inspection and measurement equipment, protocols and standards are working their way into contracts and specifications for custodial departments and buildings around the world.
For more information, visit Integrated Cleaning Measurement (ICM) at www.ieha.org.
Industry Standards Becoming The Norm
If you do cleaning work in any type of facility, there is a written industry standard that deals with the work you do, and if there isn''t one today, there will be one in the future.
Green Seal, the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA), the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) and the International Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), as well as approximately 20 other industry groups, have published standards that deal with everything from green chemicals and cleaning, to management processes to carpet cleaning, water damage restoration and mold remediation.
Green floor care focuses on the use of preventative measures, less toxic and odor-free finish, strippers and detergents, portion control chemical systems and modern equipment, along with processes that reduce the need and frequency of more hazardous and time-consuming restoration procedures such as sanding, grinding, burnishing, stripping and refinishing.
Another goal of an effective green floor care program is to reduce the use of water, chemicals and waste disposal related to cleaning processes.
Green cleaning chemicals contain less or no petroleum-based materials and use less toxic, naturally derived extracts from plants such as soy, corn, citrus or seeds and trees.
Low-odor, water-based products are quickly replacing solvents containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in chemical formulations.
This is an exciting time for the floor care professional.
We are literally seeing the dawn of a new era in floor care.
The processes, products and surfaces we clean, maintain and restore are evolving rapidly right before our eyes.
More importantly, the value of proper cleaning and maintenance of today''s floor coverings is being recognized as a necessary component of a safe, healthy and well-run facility.
This is all good news for cleaning professionals who seek advancement and are willing to invest the time and money needed to continue their education.
In order to stay current with changes taking place in the field of floor care, it is necessary to constantly be on the lookout for new materials and processes that will improve quality while reducing costs.
This includes attending supplier and manufacturer seminars, industry conventions and trade shows, reading industry publications and monitoring Internet forums, chats and boards related to cleaning.
In most cases it is not that a product doesn''t exist, or that something can''t be done, but simply that we don''t know where to find the information we need.
Ongoing education and continuous process and quality improvement are your keys to future income and success in today''s changing world of cleaning.
Wm R. Griffin is the president of Cleaning Consultant Services Inc. For more information, please visit www.cleaningconsultants.com.