The addition of stone and porcelain tile flooring in entryways and lobbies of commercial and healthcare facilities are helping put a building’s best foot forward.

By choosing natural stone or porcelain tile, facility owners have made an excellent investment, as the flooring grants years of natural beauty and functionality. But many facility owners fail to take into consideration whether cleaning crews are prepared and well-versed on how to care for these types of floors.

Stone And Porcelain
Because of its natural variations, stone flooring in a facility’s entryway and lobby can easily lose its appealing aesthetic qualities due to damage resulting from the everyday wear of foot traffic, spills, harsh cleaners and weathering elements. Since stone is absorbent and rejects most conventional cleaners, proper chemical selection is important in successfully cleaning stone floors.

Distributors are forced to educate end users on the correct chemicals to use. Distributors say they often find cleaning crews using all-purpose cleaners instead of cleaners specifically formulated for natural stone.

Bill McGarvey, training manager for Philip Rosenau Co., Inc., Warminster, Pa., says most distributors educate their customers on the value of using a neutral pH chemical that is designed for specific stone types. Mostly, it helps end users avoid costly gaffes and unnecessary maintenance down the line.

Most all-purpose cleaners have a pH ranging from slightly acidic to an alkaline base with a pH of 8 to 10. Thus, the use of all-purpose cleaners gradually breaks down the stone’s sealer, removes its protective properties and makes the stone’s natural polish susceptible to dulling, discoloration and irreversible changes.

Stones vulnerability can be greatly minimized by using the correct chemicals and having the stone treated at the time of installation and manufacturer recommended intervals, says Jerry Hoffman, vice president of business development at National Paper & Sanitary Supply Co., Omaha, Neb.

“The first step after a new installation is complete, is to impregnate the stone with a durable sealer,” he says.

The main objective of an impregnator is to protect the interior of natural stone from staining. Impregnator seals help prevent fluids from penetrating below the stone’s surface and into the micro-pore structure. It also makes the stone’s surface easier to clean.

As part of a stone maintenance program, distributors recommend end users keep a record of when the stone was treated, the product used and its service life. Over time the treatment will eventually lose its effectiveness and the stone should be retreated.

Even though natural stone flooring has become a popular choice in facility entryways and lobbies, many facilities across the country are discovering porcelain tile to be a much cheaper alternative. These tiles are less expensive than natural stone and display a realistic appearance that mirrors high-gloss stone, marble and terrazzo floors, but require less maintenance.

Porcelain’s dense, low-absorptive body inhibits the penetration of contaminants and, therefore, is a tile that is easier to maintain than stone. Porcelain not only limits dirt and stains, but also prevents top sealers and most chemicals from penetrating the surface. Also, porcelain tile does not need to be sealed, but does need surface protection to impede dirt collection and improve ease of cleaning.

General maintenance and cleaning of porcelain varies depending on the surface texture and soil load.

Distributors say daily cleaning should be performed with non-oil, non-acidic and non-soap based neutral cleaners diluted to manufacturer recommendations.

Daily Maintenance
Daily cleaning programs are critical in prolonging the life and appearance of both stone and porcelain tile floors in entryways and lobbies. What’s being tracked in on the shoes of people entering a facility can ultimately damage a floor if not tended to on a daily or hourly basis.

A typical daily floor-care program for stone and porcelain, distributors say, requires dust mopping with an untreated dust mop, vacuuming, damp mopping, and if necessary, the use of an autoscrubber.

Allen Rathey, president of InstructionLink/JanTrain Inc., Boise, Idaho, says daily dust mopping is critical in removing abrasive substances, but says vacuuming takes the level of cleanliness a step further.

“The dust mop leaves a lot more fine grit and debris on the floor than a high velocity suction tool leaves on the floor,” says Rathey. “Vacuuming renders the floor cleaner, it actually takes less time and you don’t have to do as much damp mopping after.”

Because flooring in entryways and lobbies are exposed to high-soil load, it may also be necessary to scrub the floor once a day and wet-mop at intervals with a neutral pH floor cleaner. The use of an autoscrubber also ensures that grout is being cleaned appropriately. An autoscrubber will get down to the grout and loosen any soil that is missed during damp mopping.

Preventative Maintenance
The key to floor care is prevention. With that in mind, many facilities have found it to be extremely beneficial to invest in matting for their entryways and lobby areas.

Distributors say matting should run 12 to 15 feet long at a facility’s entryway. Distributors also suggest placing matting on the exterior leading into the facility as well as walk-off mats in high-traffic areas throughout the lobby.

Another preventative measure Rathey suggests is to sweep and pressure wash the sidewalks outside of the facility.

“Most of the stuff that’s being tracked in is the grit from the sidewalks, so if you can get that stuff off the sidewalks regularly, then the other things become easier,” he says.

Getting end users to follow these simple recommendations will help preserve the appearance and natural beauty of stone and porcelain tile flooring.