Baseboard Cleaning: The Hidden Cost Of Floorcare

In order to win a cleaning contract for a new job, a local building services contractor (BSC) offered to provide the initial cleaning of the facility at no charge — a common tactic in the competitive world of commercial cleaning.

The strategy worked, however not thoroughly inspecting the property added significant cost to that “complimentary” cleaning.

When thinking of floor maintenance the first things that come to mind are mopping, stripping, refinishing … keeping the floor clean and looking good.

What the BSC missed in his inspection was the condition of the baseboards.

The previous contractor had left a considerable amount of soil and floor finish on the baseboards which caused excessive staining, leaving an unsightly appearance.

Baseboards provide a visual transition from floor to wall and also protect the wall from damage that may occur when floor maintenance is performed.

Keeping baseboards clean should be considered part of any comprehensive floor cleaning plan.


Before attempting to clean baseboards, it is important to determine what they are made of.

Baseboards are made from a variety of materials including different types of wood, vinyl, rubber, resilient or specialty material, and even concrete, stone and clay.

Using the wrong chemical can discolor the baseboard, strip off coatings and otherwise damage the baseboard.

Always test your chemical in an inconspicuous area before cleaning.


Because baseboards are horizontal it can be difficult to keep cleaning chemicals on the surface long enough for them to dissolve soils and emulsify floor finishes.

The best method is to work on a small, manageable section of the baseboard and reapply cleaning agents frequently.

The goal is to give the chemicals enough time to dwell on the surface of the baseboard, allowing them to work effectively.

While cleaning baseboards, always protect the floor below the baseboard from run off.

Along with applying cleaning solution to the baseboard, cleaning techs will likely need to use agitation to loosen and remove soils and finish.

If the build-up is minimal, it may be possible to remove it using a terry cloth towel and aggressive scrubbing.

Apply a minimum amount of stripping solution on the towel, and scrub aggressively until the finish is removed.

Follow the scrubbing with a clean towel rinse to remove any remaining soil.

For more extensive build-up, use the least abrasive scrubbing pad possible that does the job, to avoid scratching the baseboard.

While scratches may not be noticeable while cleaning, once the area is dry, damage can become highly visible.


The first step in preventing baseboard soiling is to simply use extra care to keep them clean.

Since baseboards are connected to the floor it is very difficult to avoid them during maintenance.

They get bumped with the equipment, hit with wet mops and the worst cause of build-up – hit with the finish applicator or mop when floor finish is being applied.

All of this “cleaning” can cause damage to the baseboards and create a build-up of dirt and floor finish.

Whenever cleaning solution or finish gets on a baseboard, workers should stop and wipe the area clean immediately.

Another way to avoid baseboard soiling is to clean the outer edges of the floor first or, if refinishing the floor, “cut in” the floor by applying the first coat of finish to the edges of the floor.

This allows technicians to apply cleaning solution or floor finish to the rest of the floor without the applicator brushing up against the baseboard.

Another tip to make it easier to strip floors with minimal additional cleaning of baseboards is to only apply the first and last coat of finish to the edge of the floor.

The floors will scrub/strip out easier and labor cost on removing finish from the baseboards will be reduced.

Other options to avoid baseboard soiling include using a “splash guard” on the floor machine to prevent baseboard and wall splashing or using a cylindrical brush multi-surface scrubber or automatic scrubber that can be used directly up to floor edges and corner, effectively cleaning edges without releasing slurry that can soil baseboards.

Certain models of these machines have optional side brushes, designed for cleaning baseboards and floor edges.

The Winning Bid

Cleaning baseboards can be very time consuming and labor intensive.

By evaluating the condition of the baseboards when doing a preliminary inspection of a property for a contract, BSCs can more effectively bid the job.

After winning the contract, preventive care can significantly reduce the cost associated with keeping baseboards clean and well-maintained.

Posted On August 13, 2013

Mike Englund

Poduct Manager for Powr-Flite

Mike Englund is a cleaning industry veteran, trainer and product manager for Powr-Flite, a leading manufacturer for professional cleaning equipment including floor care equipment. He may be reached via his company’s website at


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Baseboard Cleaning: The Hidden Cost Of Floorcare
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