Tips for Keeping Terrazzo Floors Looking Great
Contributed by Lauren Belskie, Imperial Dade
Known for its durability and longevity, terrazzo flooring is extremely common in schools, universities, office buildings, airports, retail outlets, and other public commercial facilities. Despite its popularity, terrazzo flooring is often not cleaned and maintained properly, leading to irreversible damage such as staining, cracking, chipping and other issues, all of which decrease the overall life of the floor and cost facility managers more money.
Luckily, one of the major benefits of terrazzo is that it is low maintenance and easy to maintain (with only a few simple procedures) when done properly. The problem is, that sometimes people assimilate low maintenance with no maintenance, and that’s not the case. Terrazzo flooring, while low maintenance, does require a few things to keep it shiny.
While highly durable, terrazzo flooring is susceptible to harsh cleaners and sealers. Facility cleaning managers must train staff to always use cleaning products with a neutral pH.
Products to avoid on terrazzo flooring include:
• Ammonia-Based Detergents
• Acid-Based Detergents
• Alkaline Floor Strippers
• All-Purpose Cleaning Products
With the precautions for cleaning and terrazzo at the forefront of cleaning decisions, below reviews how to maintain a terrazzo floor.
Like any other flooring type and maintenance schedule, terrazzo floors require daily, periodic (or interim), and restorative cleaning.
Daily Terrazzo Floor Care Requirements — Daily floor maintenance, as the name states, is designed to be performed every day. The goal of daily floor care is to keep floors looking great by reducing damage due to consistent foot traffic and outdoor soil.
For daily care, terrazzo floors should be dust mopped. Dust mopping removes sand, dirt and other soils brought in through foot traffic. It is a low-cost procedure that requires minimal labor but can have a profound impact on extending the life of terrazzo floors. Leaving behind abrasive soils, grit, and other grime can scratch and dull flooring resulting in costly and sometimes even irreparable damage.
This is the most important step in almost any quality floor maintenance program, not just when maintaining terrazzo floors. Here are a few tips for facility cleaning teams looking for success in dust mopping:
• Select the largest dust mop to accommodate the area. For example, in small, congested areas, choose a smaller mop such as the 8-inch or 12-inch dust mop. In large, open areas, select larger dust mops such as the 48-inch, 60-inch, or 72-inch dust mop.
• Microfiber dust mops provide increased cleaning efficacy over traditional dust mops by trapping and containing more soils and contaminants.
• Do not remove the dust mop from the surface of the floor during the procedure. Lifting and shaking the mop off of the floor can cause dirt and other particles which were removed from the floor to become airborne. It can also result in reduced soil removal.
During daily cleaning and maintenance, cleaning staff may also be dealing with stains or scuff marks. To remove stubborn stains and scuff marks, terrazzo should be spot cleaned with a neutral pH cleaner diluted in warm water. Tips to achive:
• Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper dilution and usage.
• Let the floor cleaner dwell for the appropriate amount of time. Allowing the cleaning solution to remain wet on the floor for the specified period of time will help penetrate and loosen soils.
If scuff marks are still present after cleaning, a floor machine with a buffing pad (white or bubblegum colored) can be used to remove the remaining scuff residue.
Depending on the floor finish applied to the terrazzo, it may also require daily burnishing. In general, floor finish is selected based on the building’s maintenance capabilities. This means, if the resources are available for daily burnishing, a softer floor finish is chosen.
For facilities with fewer resources, a harder floor finish is selected. These hard finishes do not need to be burnished every day and can still retain a level of gloss.
In addition to daily maintenance, terrazzo floors should be periodically maintained with more aggressive cleaning procedures.
Periodic (Interim) terrazzo Floor Care Requirements — Periodic maintenance, also known as interim maintenance, should be performed in addition to daily maintenance. This is not performed daily but on an as-needed basis.
Unlike daily maintenance, periodic procedures are intended to help bring back the shine of hard flooring. It is also used to reduce the need for more labor and time-intensive restorative care.
While it is common to believe that with daily maintenance, facility managers and cleaning staff can avoid restorative care, this is a false pretense. Even with the best daily care, interim maintenance procedures are needed to upkeep floor appearance and life.
To restore the shine of terrazzo floors, perform periodic scrubbing. To do this, use a floor machine and neutral cleaner or an autoscrubber.
The frequency in which a facility will need to scrub terrazzo floors will depend on the foot traffic in the facility and the appearance of the floor. If buildup is noticed, it is time to scrub the floors. For some, this will be every few days or once a week, while for others, this might be once a month.
After scrubbing, terrazzo floors can be buffed to increase shine. If scrubbing isn’t returning the desired look, it may be time to polish or restore terrazzo flooring.
Restorative Terrazzo Floor Care Requirements — Restorative floor care is the third and final component of a floor care maintenance schedule. It is performed to repair damage and restore floor finish once it has noticeable wear and tear that is no longer resolved with periodic scrubbing and cleaning.
Restorative floor care procedures are the most time-consuming and labor intensive, however, they are only performed once or twice a year. To restore terrazzo floors, there are two options: polishing or a strip and finish.
Like natural stone, terrazzo will benefit from periodic polishing.
Before polishing, any finish should be removed. Then polishing should be performed using a floor machine and a pad containing fine diamond grits. Pads developed with this revolutionary technology feature micro-engineered diamonds that swiftly cut and shine the natural beauty of the stone. Once the floor is polished, it should be coated with a floor protector.
Stripping and refinishing should be performed annually or semiannually depending on foot traffic and floor appearance.
During a strip and finish, the old sealer and finish are completely stripped from the floor. Then new layers of finish are applied. As mentioned, the finish type is based on the preference of the facility — typically based on maintenance capabilities. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for floor finish application.
Terrazzo floors can, and will, last a lifetime with the right products and maintenance procedures.
Lauren Belskie is a major contributor and the primary editor for the Imperial Dade Learning Center, a platform designed to answer common questions, provide insights on trends and offer creative solutions to help businesses create safer, healthier, and cleaner facilities. She is the Marketing Operations Manager at Imperial Dade, producing articles, videos, trainings, and other educational content targeted to the janitorial services market.