glossy tile floor in hotel lobby with wet floor sign

Supplying proper products and equipment will guarantee successful floor care programs

Year after year, carpet’s popularity declines in the commercial sector, tumbling another 1.5 percent in 2016 (the most recent year for which statistics are available). Hard flooring, on the other hand, continues to find favor — luxury vinyl tile (LVT) was up 12.5 percent and ceramic was up nearly 10 percent. But hard floor comes with some cleaning and maintenance challenges.

Without the proper tools and training, cleaning staffs can cause major damage to hard floors. That’s why facility cleaning managers must create floor-maintenance programs that are inclusive of all surface types.

In addition to LVT and ceramic tile, polished concrete and hardwoods are gaining favor in certain commercial spaces. Marble, terrazzo and travertine are also showing up more frequently in Class A buildings. Rubber is the material of choice for gymnasiums and workout spaces. And vinyl composition tile (VCT) is still incredibly common in all sorts of facilities.

“Each of these flooring types has the potential to be extremely durable and aesthetically pleasing when properly maintained,” says Damon “Rett” Harris, general manager at Sarasota Chemical & Paper Supply, a jan/san distributor in Sarasota, Florida.

Maintenance Schedules

All flooring needs daily/routine, periodic and restorative cleaning maintenance. But when it comes to hard floors, routine maintenance is fairly universal, regardless of the type of surface.

About once a day, crews should vacuum walk-off mats (these should be inside and outside of each doorway to prevent debris from entering the facility). They should also dust mop using microfiber to remove dry surface dust. Finally, cleaners should wash floors with a microfiber mop or autoscrubber to extend the time between deep cleanings.

“The objective of the daily routine maintenance is to get rid of the dry particulate soil and some light to moderate soiling that comes in over a period of time,” says Stanley Quentin Hulin, president/CEO of the League of Hard Flooring Professionals, Oregon City, Oregon.

Although these daily tasks seem simple, they actually have the greatest room for error. In particular, improper mopping or scrubbing can cause major problems with hard floors.

“We don’t train janitors to mop correctly because we assume everyone knows how to mop a floor,” Hulin says.

But wet mopping is always a four-step process, he adds. First, apply cleaning solution. Second, agitate the solution. Third, remove the contaminated solution. Fourth, do a final rinse with a clean, damp mop to remove any excess soil or solution remaining on the floor.

“What happens too often, is someone dips a mop in a solution and drags it across the floor — and that’s all,” Hulin says. “If you’re only performing 25 percent of the procedure, you’ll only have 25 percent success. If there’s anything that needs to be taught about hard-surface floors, it’s how to mop correctly.”

Another common mistake is relying solely on daily maintenance for hard-floor care. While daily sweeping and mopping is essential, it’s not the entire battle. A proper maintenance program also includes periodic and restorative work.

Periodic maintenance includes tasks that are done regularly, but less frequently than daily (typically this means monthly, quarterly or annually). This includes things like buffing or burnishing polished floors for gloss maintenance, and abrasive scrubbing procedures to remove heavy scuffing and impacted soil.

Restorative maintenance includes tasks that are done annually, or even less frequently. They vary based on each type of floor, and include things like diamond polishing a stone floor or screening and refinishing wood floors.

“You want to perform restorative maintenance as little as possible,” says Hulin.

It’s important to note that it’s nearly impossible to make one-size-fits-all recommendations for maintenance programs. How a building is used, how much traffic it receives, and local weather all play a role in required cleaning frequencies and maintenance programs.

“The most important part of a program is the frequency, which is dictated a lot by the exterior environment,” Hulin says. “You may start your program in July and everything works fine until November when you have snow coming in the door. You can’t keep doing what you were doing in the summer; you need to step up your frequencies to achieve the same results and keep your floors looking good. Keep an eye on the weather because that’s going to impact your floor maintenance throughout your entire building.”

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