Using Disinfectants On Finished Floors
A reader writes: “We have a customer who insists that we disinfect the VCT floors daily in a clinic using a mixture of one part bleach to four parts water. You thoughts?”
First, I don’t think we will ever get away from using the term “wax” when we should be referring to floor finish which is totally different from the old Carnauba paste wax of the 1950-60’s. VCT (vinyl composite tile) is one of the most common floors today, although it is being superseded by other flooring products that require less maintenance while still being durable. Note that the cost of a floor is not only what it costs to purchase/install but also the labor and chemicals necessary to maintain it over the 10-40 year design life.
Regarding the question above, the reader indicated that the customer wants the floor to have a high gloss, and also directed them to use a strong bleach solution, not allowing it to be rinsed afterwards.
The customer does not seem to understand basic chemistry as it relates to the pH scale. Floor finish has a pH of 7.5 (close to neutral) and, with sufficient coats, can give a high gloss, especially if it is kept clean and burnished on a regular basis.
Sweeping/dust mopping/damp mopping are required to protect the “shine” between burnishing with the correct pads. The industry recommendation is that a neutral pH detergent be used for daily cleaning. When one uses bleach or most other harsh disinfectants with a pH over 10, they are slowly damaging/stripping the floor, resulting in a loss of gloss and porosity with the finish being eroded in a short period of time.
This accumulation of damage cannot be buffed away once the finish has been damaged. The porosity is due to the disinfectant damaging the floor finish top coat, resulting in crevices for microscopic pathogens and soils to collect. The customer is actually helping to create an environment that can promote the pathogens they are trying to combat.
A final suggestion is to research EPA-registered disinfectants that are neutral while still cleaning the floor and not damaging the gloss. Remember that the most hostile environment for germs is to be clean, dry and exposed to light and air.
Your comments and questions are important. I hope to hear from you soon. Until then, keep it clean...
Mickey Crowe has been involved in the industry for over 35 years. He is a trainer, speaker and consultant. You can reach Mickey at 678-314-2171 or CTCG50@comcast.net.