When it comes to floor care, it’s a matter of selecting the right combination of tools for the job. The fact is, nearly every facility requires a combination of floor care equipment, from brooms to vacuums, mops and buckets to walk-behind scrubbers and burnishers.

But getting the right mix of equipment requires custodial managers to assess the specific needs of the department and consider a variety of factors as they do. These considerations include the size and types of debris generated, the amount of dirt that builds up, the types of flooring in the building, the size of the facility, and the number of workers cleaning.

“Generally, there are two types of soil you have to clean: dry, loose soil and really sticky, greasy soil,” says Dan Ott, co-owner of Chicago-based Facility Supply Systems Inc.

The types of soil dictate the equipment required to remove it, he explains.

“Most daily activities are geared toward removing dry soil because it’s easy to remove and if you leave it on the floor, it will eventually turn into oily, sticky soil.”

Dry soil can be removed via dust mopping and sweeping in tight areas, or using sweeper vacuums in larger spaces.

“The square footage will determine what’s most cost effective and efficient,” says Ott. “If you have a few hundred square feet, you’ll probably use a broom and a dust mop. But if you have 1,000 square feet, you’ll likely use a walk-behind sweeper, vacuum or autoscrubber.”

For floors that have become sticky or oily, Ott suggests managers supply staff with traditional rotary machines or swing buffers.

“These are interim maintenance activities,” he says. “If you have tile with grout lines, you would use a floor machine with a brush on it. You’d flood coat the space, scrub with a floor machine or a brush, then use a wet-dry vac to suck up the slurry.”

Size Matters

Once the type of soil has been identified, managers must consider the size of the area needing cleaning.

Smaller areas will likely require a mop and a bucket. Here, a good microfiber flat mopping system is recommended.

Larger areas will require bigger — and more expensive — equipment. Autoscrubbers are widely used and may be electric, battery-operated and even propane powered. They also range between a 3-4-gallon capacity, up to 100-gallon riders.

A 10,000 square-foot building with 5,000 square feet of floor space does not require a ride-on scrubber or a 27-inch-wide burnisher, explains Chris Portera, president of Ocean Janitorial Supply in Islip Terrace, N.Y.

Keith Schneringer, marketing manager of San Diego-based Waxie Sanitary Supply, agrees. He points out that using a wide-area vacuum, for instance, to maintain an open banquet room or ballroom makes perfect sense, but using that same vacuum in a hotel guest room does not.

“This equipment cleans the floor in a larger space well and requires you to make less passes,” he says.

That said, the days of using less mechanical means of floor care, are likely behind us. Even the smallest facility might benefit from a 3-4-gallon autoscrubber a backpack vacuum, or one with a wider swathe, as opposed to mops and buckets.

Many benefits come from this equipment, quality of clean being one of them.

“A scrubber, for instance, gets the dirt out of a building, whereas a mop just pushes dirt around,” says Portera. “There is a definite improvement in cleanliness, sanitizing and appearance when going to ride-on or automized equipment.”

Departments that incorporate automated equipment into their floor care programs will also see improvements in efficiencies.

“The idea is that you want to get as much square feet done as possible with the highest technology possible,” Portera adds. “You always need to do the detail work. So if you can put a guy on a scrubber...what would take him eight hours normally, takes him an hour. That’s seven hours to do the detail work, which inevitably brings up the level of cleanliness in the building.”

RONNIE GARRETT is a freelance writer based in Fort Atkinson, Wis.

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