While routine floor care and adequate matting are essential throughout the year, facilities may need to take extra precautions or tweak their procedures in preparation for changing weather conditions.

According to Hulin, one of the biggest mistakes facility cleaning executives make is procrastinating.

“They kind of forget winter’s coming until it’s right on top of them, and then they’re running around in a mad dash to get everything together,” he says. “So make sure you have a fall and winter program in advance, and don’t wait until the last minute. Plan your work, and work your plan.”

Provisions should be made to increase the frequency of floor cleaning during inclement weather.

“Usually we step up our cleaning in severe weather, especially in the Midwest, and in the corridors because that’s where the main traffic is,” notes Spencer. “Sometimes in winter we’ll run a sweeper over those areas a couple more times a day, depending on the weather.”

Hulin recommends increasing the frequency of daily routine services, such as dust mopping and vacuuming, and incorporating a spot mopping regimen into floor care programs to pick up any moisture coming in from outdoors. He also suggests increasing periodic services, such as scrubbing and recoating, to stay on top of the soil.

“Usually the winter means you have to do more of everything,” he says.

Instead of using a mop and bucket to clean floors, Johnson recommends departments consider the efficiencies of an autoscrubber or a wet/dry vacuum.

“If you leave the dirty water on the floor to evaporate, then you’re only picking up a portion of the dirt,” he says. “So you need to use a wet vac or autoscrubber to get all the particulate matter off the floor.”

Johnson also advises facility managers to pay close attention to the cleaning chemicals they’re using.

“Are you using a chemical that’s appropriate for what you’re doing?” he asks. “Some chemicals react well with water, some don’t. If you use a high-detergent cleaner and you don’t rinse well with water then the surfactant that’s left on the floor when the water evaporates can become active again when someone drags water in from outside. Your floor care procedures must include adequate rinsing to remove the chemical so it doesn’t become a problem.”

Johnson recounts the story of a client who couldn’t figure out why there were so many slip and fall incidents on his restaurant’s floor. After auditing the floors, Johnson soon discovered the problem.

“They were using liquid dishwashing soap to clean their floors, and it was leaving a residue behind,” he says. “As soon as there was a spill on the floor, they had soapy, slippery floors.”

In addition to revising floor care programs, Johnson recommends facility cleaning managers have their floors audited, especially if hard surfaces are slippery, posing a safety hazard.

“You need to test your floors periodically to know if your program’s working,” says Johnson. “You can’t know for sure if floors are slippery unless you audit and test them. A good walkway auditor is invaluable, otherwise you’re just guessing. He can perform a coefficient of friction test to determine if your floors are slip resistant and guide you in better floor care methodologies and products.”

To address seasonal floor care challenges, Johnson emphasizes the need for best practices year-round.

“If you use the correct methodology and chemicals, and rinse well, you’re going to reduce the risk of damage and slips and falls no matter what the season,” he notes. “Whether you’re dealing with ice melt residue, sand or rainwater, you have to get it off the floor and keep it off the floor. It boils down to good maintenance.” 

KASSANDRA KANIA is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Protecting Floors From Snow, Ice And Sand