Davis photoWe continue our examination of the cleaning needs of vertical markets this month with the the educational market.

When I think about cleaning schools, I think about former principal Tom Smith. His school was always spotless. When I asked him about this, he told me, “If my floors are clean and bright, and the restrooms look and smell nice, parents think I am a great principal.”

I have shared Tom’s philosophy with many other administrators and encouraged them to follow it. All agree that cleaning is important, yet many do not have clean schools. The reason is that they don’t know how to make it happen. That is where jan/san salespeople come in.

Consider the two areas Mr. Smith mentioned: floors and restrooms. They help form people’s first impression of a school. We’ll start by discussing floors in this article. Next time we’ll look at restroom and classroom cleaning.

There are two important things to remember about floor care: first, always apply a sufficient base coat of finish, and second, remember daily maintenance. Schools usually strip and recoat floors during the summer, then try to maintain the look the rest of the year. This goal is compromised if custodians do not apply a sufficient number of finish coats. School custodians often tell me they apply only two or three coats. Because stripping and refinishing the entire campus can be a time-consuming task, they look for shortcuts. But short-cutting the process creates other problems. Two or three finish coats may produce an acceptable appearance, but the finish won’t be durable and the appearance will diminish quickly.

A coat of floor finish is thin. One may illustrate its thickness by holding up a piece of clear packaging tape. Several coats are needed to provide a base that will last all year. Exactly how many coats are needed is somewhat subjective, but a good rule of thumb is to follow the 100-percent fill method. This method determines the non-volatile content percentage of the floor finish and then adds the number of coats needed to equal or exceed 100 percent. For example, a 20 percent non-volatile solid finish would require five coats (20x5=100), while a 25 percent finish would require only four (25x4=100). (Non-volatile solid content in floor finish is the measure of the weight of material or residue that is left after the volatile materials have evaporated.)

To properly protect, and to achieve acceptable durability and gloss, enough coats must be applied to reach 100 percent non-volatile solids. For best results, apply seven to 10 coats. This amount of product will produce better gloss, enhance the ease of maintenance, and provide the durability necessary for nice-looking floors throughout the school year.

Daily maintenance is also important in order to keep floor appearance at a high level. Special attention should be paid to entrance areas and hallways because they are first-impression areas. Classrooms should be kept clean, but a high gloss is not as important.

The most important floor-maintenance procedure is dust mopping. A good, clean mop treated with a water-based treatment should be used as many times as possible during the day. Smith instructed his crew to mop during each class period and at the end of the day. Dust mopping keeps harmful grit off the floor — grit abrades the finish like sandpaper. Hallways should be wet mopped or autoscrubbed daily and buffed as needed to maintain the desired gloss.

The procedures necessary to have bright, shiny floors are not complicated; however, they must be followed consistently. Help your school administrators understand the importance of these procedures. If you do, they will have floors that even Tom Smith would admire.

Louie Davis Jr. is a 23-year veteran of the jan/san business, having worked on the manufacturing and distribution sides. He is currently director of sales for Central Paper Co., in Birmingham, Ala.