Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Mirror Image

September 19, 2010

Have you ever wondered just how marble and other interior stones get so shiny?

They have been polished with abrasives to produce that mirror-like image you see on the floor.

This process of polishing stone with abrasives dates back centuries, with the Greeks and the Romans seemingly perfecting the craft in the days of antiquity.

Because of the great shine, how long the flooring lasts and the perceived and real value of the product, stone is one of the most sought-after floor coverings in the world today.

As professional cleaners, it is our job to understand the maintenance needs of each stone variety and be able to develop a comprehensive cleaning program to meet the needs of that particular variety.

Stone identification is a complex series of questions to be asked by the cleaning professional culminating in a diagnosis of the stone''s likely maintenance needs based on the stone''s characteristics, the real and potential soiling conditions and the maintenance practices currently utilized by the customer.

As professionals, we need to recognize how the stone will behave when placed in a cleaning situation.

We need to fully realize how wetness will affect the stone material.

Other ideas to generate are how the stone will act when encountering detergent application and how damaging abrasive soils could be to the stone finish.

With a polished finish, the light reflection could be compromised with shallow or deep scratches marring the flat, shiny surface, causing it to appear dull where everyone walks.

A simple way to find potential problems before we begin is to perform a comprehensive surface inspection, which consists of three basic tests.

By placing distilled water on the surface and watching if it enters the stone''s pores, we will know if the stone is porous or not and if it could possibly stain with liquid spills.

To check if the stone could be harmed by cleaning detergents, we simply place any potential cleaning product in the proper dilution on the back of an uninstalled tile and view either the chemical reaction or lack thereof.

The last test we need to perform is an abrasion resistance test, which will show how "hard" or "soft" the stone is compared to other mineral-based substances.

Sand and grit from outside the building can scratch softer stone like some marble or limestone, while harder stone like granite may be much more difficult for this grit to scratch.

The softer the stone, the less abrasion resistance it has; the less abrasion resistance, the more shine maintenance it will require.

In other words, the more scratches the floor receives, the longer the entry mats need to be, the more dry soil removal is required and the more often the stone will have to be polished with abrasives.

Restoring stone to its original factory luster used to be a much more difficult process until the invention of synthetic abrasive pads.

These diamond pads will correct minor scratches and light etches by abrasive polishing,

Etches on stone happen when acidic products are used on calcium-based stone and the acid dissolves the calcium component.

When that happens, the stone appears to be dull in the areas where the acid made contact with the surface.

In the past, only skilled artisans performed stone restoration — and only after years of apprentice work under a master mason.

Bringing stone to a mirror finish is still not simple, but if you know how to use a floor buffer and are willing to practice, you could easily create a new shine that could look as good as the factory finish or perhaps even better.

With the new synthetic abrasive pads, the grit pattern follows the old rules of a lower grit number being a more abrasive pad.

Be sure to find a system that will employ a grit size higher than the original shine to eliminate the potential of duller stone after restoration services.

Stone does not have to be mysterious any longer.

Use the techniques outlined and then find a good training program to instill confidence in everyone associated with the stone.

Your building will shine as brightly as the stone flooring.

If you are looking for different ideas to foster better relationships with customers, contact Dane Gregory, a business consultant and trainer specializing in working with companies in the professional cleaning industry. He currently trains technicians in the use of cleaning protocols for stone, tile and masonry surfaces for Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) certification. He also presents a consulting program for industry veterans as well as newcomers in the cleaning industry to help their company''s reach the next level of success. He can be contacted at