Winter can be extremely rough on floors. In fact, the unpleasant weather conditions that are associated with the season can put a wrinkle in a facility’s floor-care maintenance program if not properly equipped.

Snow, rain, slush and ice melt are certainties in the winter months. So, too, is the fact that countless individuals track these unwanted dangers onto finished floors via their shoes every winter day. And if the facility does not have a proper winter floor-care program in place, it is risking damaging their floor, which only leads to more costly expenditures down the road.

Jan/san distributors who provide the knowledge on how to develop a winter floor-care program will give customers the extra assurance they need to maintain their finished floor through a long, harsh winter.


The best preventative measure a facility can employ to keep its floors in good standing order throughout the winter months, distributors say, is a high performance matting system.

Matting systems minimize the tracking of contaminants such as ice melt, soil and moisture into a facility by stopping it at the door. High-quality matting systems also store soil for easier removal and help reduce slip-and-fall accidents that may occur on hard surface floors.

“The key is trapping the largest and most damaging grit and dirt in matting as it enters the building, leaving fine particles and dirt to be picked up and cleaned,” says Eric Cadell, vice president of operations for Dutch Hollow Janitorial Supplies Inc., Belleville, Ill. “It needs to be properly trapped before it causes damage.”

Matting manufacturers recommend that at least 15 feet of matting be used by a facility to remove the majority of dirt and debris from foot traffic that enters a building. Starting from outside the door, 15 feet of matting ensures that each foot will make contact with the matting at least three times, while providing adequate scraping and drying to stop any contaminants at the door.

“The basic rule of thumb is you want them to have at least three walk-off steps before they’re out of matting,” says Kevin Ervin, sales manager for Dee Janitorial Supply Inc., Chicago.

A high performance matting system is broken down into three distinct parts, distributors say. The first matting type in the system, scraper mats, are used outside of the entryway and scrape debris off of shoes as well as begin the removal of moisture. Following scraper mats are wiper/scraper mats, which clean shoe bottoms just inside the doorway and remove soil as well as any remaining moisture. Wiper mats, the final mat in the three-piece system, remove any remaining contaminants from shoe bottoms so that the first steps on a hard surface floor are clean, dry and safe.

Essentially, the goal is for no ice melt, soil or moisture to be left on footwear beyond the last mat, distributors say.

Not all facilities are built to hold the required 15 feet of matting, however. In these instances, distributors say to sell enough matting to properly safeguard the customer’s space.

“Work with your customers on matting needs making sure that matting does not stop three feet inside the door,” says Cadell. “There needs to be proper length to remove all moisture, dirt and debris.”

Even though some facilities are equipped with proper matting systems, the winter elements still manage to make their way into the building. That’s because routine cleaning of matting is often the most neglected task in a daily winter cleaning program. Distributors suggest changing out mats on a regular basis, as once they become wet, they are ineffective.

Without an effective matting system in the winter, distributors say facilities will be faced with higher maintenance costs, the floor finish will be more difficult to maintain and other areas in the building will have to be cleaned more frequently.


In a facility, a hard surface floor is the first area to be directly affected by winter weather. Snow and rain often means that ice melt, soil and moisture is most likely to be tracked in. An effective way to maintain and protect floors from these dangers is by mopping frequently with a neutral floor cleaner, says Cadell.

“The primary function of the neutral cleaner is to keep the floor clear of salt buildup and prevent damage to the actual flooring,” he says.

In retail stores or large office buildings, distributors say it’s typical for cleaning personnel to mop a facility’s entranceway once every two hours in the winter to remove moisture and other soils. When mopping, it is important to change out the cleaning solution in the mop bucket after every use to avoid re-depositing the soil back onto the floor or use a dual bucket system to separate clean and dirty water. If mopping doesn’t provide satisfactory results distributors say an autoscrubber is another effective means for removing soil from the floor.

Many areas of the country rely heavily on ice melt products during the winter months. When selling a floor-care program, it is also important to educate customers on the impact ice melts have on hard surface floors.

Sodium chloride is abrasive and can harm interior floors if it’s not trapped on mats or removed by cleaning. Calcium chloride, another form of ice melt, absorbs moisture, but when it gets tracked into a facility, it turns into a greasy film on hard floors.

Mopping and the use of an autoscrubber with a neutral floor cleaner is very effective in these situations because it removes grit and greasy residue left by ice melt.

It might be beneficial to bundle green ice melt products with winter floor-care products as they have less of an effect on finished floors compared to sodium chloride and calcium chloride.

Floor Finish

Despite cleaning personnel’s efforts during the winter months to keep a floor looking its best, the floor’s finish still takes a beating. Although the floor’s finish may not look very appealing, distributors say winter is not the recommended time to strip and refinish floors, as cold weather can affect how well the finish dries and adheres. Also, the floor is susceptible to winter elements and may only lead to more work.

Distributors say the best winter floor-care program is to continue to clean and maintain hard surface floors during the winter months and burnish when necessary.

“If a facility starts to notice that their floors are getting dull or there seems to be a salt film, then we would say increase your mopping or daily maintenance program and burnish with a good restorer to bring back the shine,” says Cadell.

If burnishing is required, distributors recommend that the floor is adequately cleaned before the process, especially in the winter months because grit and soil could get ground into the finish, changing its appearance and causing it to turn yellow.

John Pettinelli, sales manager for AmSan Eagle Maintenance Supply Inc., Pennsauken, N.J., advises high-traffic facilities, to do a deep scrub and build the floor up with a few additional coats of finish prior to the winter season. Then, come mid-March or late March — when winter weather starts to fade — is when stripping and recoating should be done.

“The ideal thing is to do the scrub and recoat process prior to the bad weather and build it up a little higher and get your wear and tear of the winter and bounce it back again,” says Pettinelli.

Winter floor care takes more time and attention than any other season. By increasing floor maintenance programs as much as possible, distributors say it will reduce the time needed to maintain floors, decrease labor costs and keep floors looking their best.