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Don't be floored by floor care

September 19, 2010
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The saying goes, “If your floors shine, your facility shines.”

Thus it’s easy to understand that floors play a pivotal role in determining the impression building users have of a facility.

The hotel industry learned many years ago how important it is to have a high-gloss lobby floor to greet guests.

Clean, shiny floors, they found out, are simply good for business.

Facilities of all kinds are also realizing their importance and are following the hospitality industry, making sure their floors have a high-gloss, “wet-look” appearance that greets building users at the door and is found throughout.

Floors in busy buildings have specific needs that make it difficult to maintain a high gloss. They endure heavy foot traffic, especially at entries; a variety of weather conditions; and soil and debris “walked in” to the building.

A facility’s floors must be cared for properly to keep their high-gloss appearance, or they can become costly to maintain and even dangerous to users.

Select a system that works
James Hlavin, director of business development for Tornado Industries, suggests that facility service providers (FSPs) establish a floor care maintenance system that includes the type of equipment, products and glosses used to help keep floors clean, shiny and safe.

Busy facilities often specify that high-traffic floors be scrubbed and burnished nightly and that secondary floor areas, such as aisles or hallways, be scrubbed and burnished weekly, according to Hlavin.

Smaller facilities usually require similar services, although less frequently — such as on a weekly, monthly or even quarterly basis.

In both cases, at least once per year, floors usually have all the old finish removed and new finished applied.

FSPs should regularly review their maintenance program to determine the most cost-effective way to maintain their floors, taking into account the different tools, finishes and procedures available.

Canals in floors
Traditionally, when a VCT (vinyl composition tile) floor is scrubbed with a rotary floor machine and scrubbing pad, small scratches, similar to hundreds of microscopic canals, are cut or scratched into the floor surface.

These small canals, which are also caused by normal wear and tear, can become filled with soil and moisture, and over time, dust from the building’s HVAC system and soil tracked in by building occupants further damage the floor’s appearance.

When this happens, according to Hlavin, the floor’s gloss and luster are seriously diminished.

Restoring a floor’s luster
This “scratching” can become a major problem for many floors. To restore the floor — if it can be fully restored — requires floor care professionals to deep scrub the floor again, repeating the same procedure that created the problem in the first place, and then refinish the floor.

This procedure is not only costly and labor-intensive, but can also be harmful to the environment. This is because traditional floor care chemicals comprise some of the strongest cleaning agents found in the industry.

Breathing their vapors can be unhealthy for the floor care worker.

In addition, pouring the chemical residue generated from floor care maintenance down the drain affects waterways and the environment.

If the scratches can be prevented from occurring in the first place, building owners can save money, reduce the workload of the floor care technician, and have less impact on the environment.

To accomplish this, FSPs may want to consider taking the following steps:

  • Vacuum rather than sweep or damp mop floors to better capture and remove dust and surface debris as thoroughly as possible.
  • Use floor care machines with automatic or controllable dilution systems to regulate the amount of solution applied to the floors. This minimizes wasteful use of cleaning chemicals and resulting residue, minimizing the technicians’ workload and lessening the impact of cleaning chemicals on the environment.
  • Instead of always using traditional floor care chemicals, consider environmentally friendly alternatives that often work just as well, but are safer for building occupants and floor care professionals.
  • Consider using a floor scrubber/ polisher that has soft brushes on each side of the machine, which may help alleviate the “scratching” problem.
  • Apply high-quality floor finish. A superior quality floor finish, though more expensive initially, pays dividends. In addition to producing a higher-gloss shine, better-quality floor finishes help shield and protect the floor, keeping it looking its best for a longer period of time.

Protecting floors
When an FSP takes such measures, floors can look great for several months. However, public facilities are still subject to all of the environmental conditions mentioned earlier that can hamper the floor’s appearance.

That is where implementing a floor care maintenance system can pay dividends.

Such a program is the best way to stay on top of a facility’s floor care needs while heading off bigger and more costly problems down the road, according to Hlavin.

FSPs should start with written floor care standards and procedures for maintaining those standards.

Such a plan should include proper matting, strategically placed trash receptacles, and “floor patrolling.”

Mats collect soil, sand, snow and debris from occupants’ shoes and should be vacuumed and cleaned regularly to keep these contaminants from coming into contact with the floor.

Staff should also regularly patrol a facility’s floors, addressing and mopping spills and stains as quickly as possible.

Finally, an ongoing general surveillance of the floor for wear and tear, being prepared for and ready to handle floor care emergencies, having the right equipment in good working order, and having a thorough knowledge of floor care chemicals, tools and products are musts.

With all of these steps in place, following a floor care maintenance system keeps the building looking its best.

The end result, according to Hlavin, is that real sense of pride building managers and occupants feel when their floors are looking great, greeting users with a high-gloss shine.

Robert Kravitz is president of AlturaSolutions Communications, a Chicago-based communications firm that serves the professional cleaning and building industries. Kravitz is a former building service contractor and author of four books about the JanSan industry. He can be reached at

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