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The challenge underfoot

September 19, 2010
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Dirt. Grime. Muck. They can completely change the appearance of any building, making it unappealing and driving people away.

While many people will notice a dirty floor, few recognize the time and effort it requires to keep a floor surface clean.

Cleaning regimens and systems must be multi-faceted and include a variety of different elements, such as entryway design, matting, and various techniques to clean surfaces in specific rooms and areas.

Floor maintenance can be outlined in three easy steps, which can dramatically improve the look and feel of a building and its floors.

Efficient entryways

Industry experts estimate that 58 percent of soils and particles are tracked in through entryways.

Maintaining an efficient entryway is the first step to controlling soils and preventing them from dirtying hard surface floors.

Entryways should be cleaned more frequently than other parts of a building and should be evaluated thoroughly in order to provide the maximum benefit in controlling soils.

Exterior walkways should be composed of stone, brick or concrete, and surfaces should be textured so soils are inadvertently scraped off of shoes before people enter the building.

The most effective entryways are pitched so they can easily drain during a rainstorm and not collect water and liquids.

Additionally, entryway designs vary by region and according to climate.

In regions with a high frequency of inclement weather, such as the northwestern United States, architectural gratings are often used for high-traffic entryways in an attempt to control some of the incoming dirt and mud.

While some methods may work in certain areas of the country, they may be ineffective in others — and may even compound the problem of dirt and soil!

Matting for maintenance

The matting system of a building has a significant impact on the lifespan of a building''s floor systems.

An effective matting system can preserve hard surface floors, and cut down on costs associated with floor maintenance systems (see The Best Line of Defense, pg. 14).

As with entryway design, matting systems differ according to region and climate.

Buildings in the Southwest U.S. must be protected specifically against sandy particles, and thus should be outfitted with walk-off mats — preferably mats of synthetic materials that are recessed into the floors — both inside and outside the building.

Walk-off mats help to reduce the spread of gritty sand that can scratch floors and shorten the life of carpet or other flooring.

Hard floor cleaning

After entering the building and crossing the matting system, we come to the main event: The hard surface floor.

Vinyl, marble, stone and porcelain floors can give a building a modern and professional look, and are frequently the materials of choice in specific areas of a building.

Hard surface flooring is used in many areas of the facility, but not all surfaces can be cleaned in the same way.

In order to effectively care for hard surface floors, one must first examine the type and grade of floor material so the proper cleaning program can be implemented.

Upkeep is everything

Typically, hard surface floors require an annual strip and wax, as well as a quarterly scrub and recoat.

The type of flooring, as well as the amount and consistency of soils (which varies by region), will determine the frequency of these treatments.

Interim floor care, such as burnishing, should be completed using a burnisher equipped with a dust control feature, so as to decrease the volume of airborne particles that can attach themselves to walls and room furnishings.

Break rooms and restrooms are the areas that most frequently have hard-surface floors.

While controlling dirt in break rooms is typically easier than in restrooms, it is important to note that they are still high-traffic areas that must be cleaned regularly.

First, it is important to consider the type of furniture that is included in the break room.

Metal chairs often occupy these areas, and can severely scratch and damage floor surfaces.

If metal chairs populate the area, it is important to outfit metal chair legs with nylon or plastic protectors to minimize floor damage.

In areas that contain desks, matting systems should be used as a barrier between the flooring and the chairs.

Restrooms require considerable effort in order to maintain an acceptable level of cleanliness.

Therefore, restroom maintenance should occur several times daily, depending on the traffic.

Mold and mildew often grow in restrooms, and these organisms can enter air systems and produce an unpleasant odor, as well as an unsanitary appearance.

It is important to always use the latest agents when cleaning restrooms, as the typical lifespan of a cleaning product is six months, after which a new and improved cleaning agent usually appears on the market.

Important weapons: Know your products

It is a common misconception that all cleaning products are created equal; this is not the case.

Frequently, organizations skimp on cleaning products, providing their staff with the most inexpensive materials in an attempt to cut costs.

In order to effectively clean and maintain floor surfaces, cleaning personnel must be armed with the best tools available.

It makes no difference the amount of time and effort a cleaning crew dedicates to scrubbing or waxing a floor surface if they are working with sub-par materials.

Quality cleaning agents have a halo effect; they allow personnel to do a better job the first time and prevent dirt from collecting and embedding itself before the next scheduled cleaning session.

Remember — dirt will always return. Better it does more so on a clean surface than a dirty one.

Patricia Grady is director of Operations at Coverall Cleaning Concepts, a leading commercial cleaning franchising company based in Boca Raton, FL. As a 32-year veteran of the commercial and industrial facility operations, maintenance, and management fields, Grady has earned her recognition through her tireless efforts as a housekeeping executive, instructor, author, and developer of numerous environmental, health, safety and productivity programs.

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