Perform A pH Test After Stripping Floors And Rinsing
If we have a prized classic car and are in the middle of restoration, we take special care in properly removing the old paint coating, then properly preparing the freshly cleaned surface for the new paint job. The same goes for a fine piece of furniture; would we sand it and refinish it without cleaning in between steps? No, we would take care to remove anything that could interfere with the new coat.
Let’s apply this same logic to our work on floors. Nothing in floor care is more strenuous than stripping a worn, dirty floor. And nothing is more satisfying in floor care than looking back on a freshly finished floor and admiring our work. Why then do we not apply a little bit of logic and science to the important step of rinsing?
Achieving a properly rinsed floor starts with planning the stripping procedure. In a recent column, we discussed how to perform a quick test to find out just exactly how strong the stripping solution needs to be to penetrate the old coating. If we do that test and use the mix we learned from the test, we have taken the first big step toward a properly rinsed floor.
How is that you ask? Simple science. The stripping solution is a chemical mixture we can think of as “X” amount of chemical energy. Use too strong a mixture and we have too much energy or chemical left on the floor, which can be difficult to rinse. We may rinse until the rinse water is relatively clear, but the floor may still have too much residual alkalinity (chemical energy).
Should we continue at this point, the floor finish will not last as long nor look as good as possible.
However, there are things we can do to make sure the floor is rinsed properly. As previously mentioned, the stripper test is a good first step. The next step is to change rinse water often, rinse multiple times, use a double bucket system, etc. I prefer to apply the rinse water directly to the floor, spread it with a clean mop, then wet vacuum it up.
Whatever rinsing procedure we decide to use, we can test the floor with pH strips. I like to carry a small container of phenolphthalein with me, which is another test you can use. This chemical is the primary ingredient in a popular laxative, so use caution should you decide to use it. It is a clear liquid, which turns pink to red when coming into contact with alkalinity.
Whether using pH strips or phenolphthalein, pour some clean water on the intersection of four tiles. Then, place a pH strip or a drop of phenolphthalein in the water. The pH strip should indicate a pH somewhere around 8, at most. The phenolphthalein should remain clear. Be sure and wipe up the spot of water, apply more water and wipe up.
Now you know you have rinsed the floor enough and are ready to apply that first coat of sealer or sealer/finish.
Skip Seal is a trainer and consultant with more than 30 years management experience in the cleaning industry. He is a LEED Accredited Professional and a Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) ISSA Certification Expert (I.C.E.). Seal and his team offer support across the country with sales and operation analysis, new market penetration, and sales training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.