In North American markets, the level of shine on a floor reflects the performance of the custodial crew, with high gloss perceived as superior.
Interestingly, in many European markets, more of a matte finish is preferred.
According to Bill Griffin, president of Cleaning Consultant Services Inc., it is a matter of differing opinion.
"We polish it to a shine and, in Europe, they would shoot you for destroying the historic integrity of the floor if you patched it or made it shine," proclaims Griffin.
So, you want a shiny floor because it looks great, is more durable and, last but not least, you feel a sense of pride from gazing at a mirror-like finish.
But, how do you get from a dull floor to one worthy of reflection?
It is all in the ongoing, daily maintenance.
However, the process begins with selecting a finish that will withstand a constant onslaught of foot traffic and detergents.
Choosing The Proper Finish
There are two basic camps regarding floor finish — what longtime industry veterans would refer to as wax.
High solids finishes, which have a greater concentration of polymers, and low solids finishes, which contain more water.
Solids content is what remains on the floor surface after a finish has been applied and the water contained therein fully evaporated.
Generally, high solids finishes dry more quickly and are more resistant to scuffing, marring and other degradation.
Low solids finishes are typically less expensive and require an area to be out of commission longer due to increased curing times.
As one would imagine, a low solids finish — roughly 18 percent to 22 percent polymer content — is more susceptible to discoloration and will not react as positively to frequent burnishing as will a high solids finish of roughly 22 percent or higher polymer content.
However, the higher the solids percentage in a finish, the more difficult it will be to spread out evenly on a floor, opening the door to uneven gloss, mop swirls and worse if proper procedures are not followed.
Depending on the type of traffic your facility receives and the amount of resources at your availability for daily maintenance, your choice of floor finish will vary.
A general rule of thumb is that high solids finishes require fewer coats to achieve a protected shine while lower solids finishes require increased stripping and refinishing cycles.
But, regardless of how many coats you apply — four to six thin layers of finish, with five being ideal — and notwithstanding the types of polymers present in your finish and their concentration, your success hinges on your maintenance.
Dry particulate soils are detrimental to floor finish.
Dirt, sand, stones and other soils can etch the finish over time, causing yellowing and other blemishes that require restorative maintenance to correct.
But, by removing these substances daily — either through manual sweeping, using a rider-sweeper or with the help of a backpack vacuum — you greatly reduce the risk of premature degradation and can extend strip and refinish cycles.
After sweeping to remove dry soils, mopping should commence.
Mopping — with a microfiber mop or an autoscrubber — will remove any greasy soils or remaining dry soils that take away from the appearance of floors.
Since harsh detergents and solvents — anything too acidic or too alkaline — can harm floor finish, it is recommended your daily procedure utilize neutral formulations — as close to 7 on the pH scale as possible — whenever applicable.
"Outside of areas that require high level disinfection, there is no real reason to use chemicals at all," states George Clarke, chief executive officer (CEO) of umf Corporation. "In the majority of cases, water, what chemists refer to as the universal solvent, is all that is really needed for routine or daily cleaning."
Of course, there are instances where more powerful chemistry is required.
In such instances, a neutralizing agent or water-only rinse is beneficial, as it will ensure no harsh chemical residues remain, which can leave a dull haze and promote resoiling.
Because upwards of 90 percent of soils are tracked-in to buildings, proper matting is another aspect of daily maintenance.
Roughly 18 to 20 feet of matting — enough to allow for eight to 10 steps per foot — will remove some 95 percent of soils from shoes, reducing cleaning loads and helping surfaces last longer.
Because refinishing floors is a time-consuming process, not to mention the budgetary constraints associated with frequent refinishing, many look to spray buffing as an interim process to help maintain an exquisite shine.
"Scheduling spray buffing is contingent upon your capabilities," notes Matt Moberg, training specialist with the Cleaning Management Institute (CMI). "It could be done daily to help maintain shine but, realistically, it''s more of a weekly task depending on the facility demands. Obviously, spray buffing requires more resources like chemicals, equipment and labor hours. However, it is still considered the best way to restore a floor to maximum shine."
Spray buffing is not a technique used by everyone, and it is not entirely necessary, but it does achieve — with proper technique — great results; it is something that should be considered during the evaluation of your floor care program.
According to Moberg, spray buffing removes dirt, scratches and scrapes that are embedded in the top layer of finish with a two-part formulation.
The solvent in the solution helps to breakdown and remove a small amount of finish and dirt, then the polymer in the solution rejuvenates the finish and restores luster.
Spray buffing is not the only technique employed to maintain high shine between refinishing cycles.
In addition, there are dry scrubbing techniques using specialized pads that achieve similar results, though they might not restore the shine quite like a spray buff will.
There are also a large range of mop-on restorers available that are designed to help bring life back to floors when stripping and refinishing is not feasible.
Each facility is different, and within each facility, unique floors exist.
Scheduling for the White House Grand Ballroom will undoubtedly be different than your average machine shop.
So, regardless of what types of floors you are tasked to maintain and where, good results and great shine are achieved through proper and astute maintenance.