Cleaning and inspecting floor care equipment should be common practice — regardless of whether or not facilities are in the midst of a pandemic, say experts.

“As with floors, many facilities have overlooked the preventative maintenance and proper cleaning of their equipment, thereby impacting potential downtime and accelerating the spread of pathogens throughout the facility,” says Sawchuck.

In an effort to counteract these concerns, operators should perform a visual inspection of the machine prior to use. This may include checking the cleanliness and condition of filters, pad holder assemblies and tanks, as well as checking and adjusting misaligned side skirts, pads and squeegees.

“Make sure pads and brushes are the right color and size, and they don’t have any cuts in them,” says Sawchuck. “The same goes for squeegees. I’ve seen guys put the side squeegees on incorrectly, which causes them to act like a knife and gouge the floor.”

Floor machines fall into one of three categories: electrical, battery-operated and propane. Prior to storing electrical equipment, custodians should inspect the cord for abrasions, cuts or exposed wires. Last but not least, they should plug the machine in and turn it on to confirm that it works.

According to Scoles, corded floor machines that are seldom used or sit idle for extended periods of time are unlikely to have any issues once they are brought back into circulation.

“There’s really nothing that can go wrong with electrical machines if they aren’t being used,” he says. “It’s just a matter of what condition they were in prior to being stored. If you turn on the machine, and it only runs for 10 minutes, it may have been on the verge of an electrical problem prior to the pandemic.”

To be on the safe side, Scoles recommends custodial departments have a professional inspect all underutilized floor machines prior to operating them.

“If a machine hasn’t been used for a prolonged period of time, you never know what to expect,” he says. “We recommend taking it to your local service department or distributor to make sure it’s running at optimal performance, especially if it’s a battery-powered machine.”

Batteries that are inactive can weaken and become less effective over time, Scoles says. He recommends periodically charging the battery and running the equipment, even when it is not being used.

“If you’re using lead acid batteries, make sure you charge them fully and run them down completely before recharging,” he says. “And if you’re using water-based batteries, make sure that you constantly maintain water levels.”

Similarly, propane-powered equipment should be serviced by a professional prior to use.

“Propane is a natural gas, and the machine has an internal combustion engine, so you want to make sure the components and carbon monoxide meter are working correctly, and emissions are under control,” says Hulin.

Finally, custodians should be on the lookout for telltale signs that maintenance is long overdue.

“If your battery is fully charged, but it’s not running as long as it typically does, or your machine is losing speed, you may need a new battery — or the machine may need servicing,” notes Scoles.

Machines that fail to start on the first try could also signal a need for maintenance.

“With electrical equipment, most often, it’s the trigger switch that gives you trouble,” says Hulin. “If the machine doesn’t start, or you pull the trigger a few times before it starts, that could indicate that the trigger mechanism is faulty.”

Once floor care equipment is back in use, the appearance of the floor itself could signify a problem.

“If it’s a walk-behind or ride-on autoscrubber and it leaves water lines behind, it could be a sign that either the pad is ripped or the squeegee has dirt or a cut in it,” says Sawchuck.

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