Canada’s roads and walkways will be coated with rock salt and other ice melt products throughout the winter months. These products were designed to prevent accidents and keep people safe during inclement weather, but they can also have some serious drawbacks.
Salt, ice melt, soils and other contaminants that collect on the bottoms of shoes are trekked into facilities all day long. As this potent mixture is deposited onto floors, it can eat away at the floor finish. If no preventive measures are taken, it can lead to costly repairs.
Fortunately, there are ways to protect floors and keep them looking their best. Andre Peters, chief executive officer at Swish, a Canadian distributor of floor care products and equipment, says there are five critical elements or components of floor care.
“Building owners, managers and custodial workers must address each of these components of floor care, not only to keep floors clean, safe and healthy, but [also to] reduce floor care costs,” he says.
Nearly 70 per cent of a typical cleaning budget for a commercial facility reflects floor care, he adds, most of which is attributed to labour.
“So, any steps we can take to improve efficiencies and worker productivity, especially in the winter months, can help keep [floor care] costs down.”
Here are Peters’ five critical elements of floor care:
Pre-routine floor maintenance program
With a pre-routine maintenance program in place, nearly 70 per cent of contaminants like soil and ice melt can be stopped at the front door.
This can be accomplished by adding:
- Powered parking lot sweepers. For indoor parking lots, it is faster and more effective to use these instead of manually sweeping floors.
- Entrance matting. As much as 80 per cent of soils and moisture can be captured and trapped if 15 feet of high-performance matting is installed at building entrances.
- The right floor finish, based on the soiling and foot traffic in your building.
- An effective ice melt program and regular snow removal from parking lots and walkways promotes safety.
Routine maintenance is essential to any floor care plan.
“This step in the program involves dust mopping daily and in some cases, several times throughout the day,” Peters says. “Always use a microfiber dust mop system. They provide superior soil and moisture removal.”
Floors also must be damp mopped, again using microfiber products. Microfiber is more effective and uses less water and cleaning solution. For larger floor areas, an auto-scrubber should be used. Scrubbers are much faster and help reduce labour costs.
One of the keys to the success of routine floor maintenance is the cleaning solution selected to mop or scrub floors.
“Always select a high-quality floor cleaner based on soil type,” stresses Peters. “For instance, when dealing with winter soiling, including salt and ice melt, a cleaning solution that neutralizes the residue will effectively clean and protect the floor and its finish.”
In other situations, selecting a cleaning solution specifically designed for light or medium soiling may be appropriate. Janitorial distributors can also help owners, managers and cleaning workers select cleaning solutions that best meet specific floor care needs.
Interim and partial restorative care
Interim maintenance primarily involves spray buffing floors, as well as burnishing and traction enhancement. This consists of spraying a solution on the floor and buffing it with a floor machine, which helps bring back luster. The solution also helps remove embedded soils that mopping or auto-scrubbing can’t eliminate. This complete process helps protect the floor and maintain the shine.
Partial restorative care is needed when floors are no longer responding well to spray buffing. The appearance of the floor begins to deteriorate, negatively impacting the slip resistance of the floor.
“Partial restorative involves scrubbing the floor to remove one or two coats of damaged floor finish,” says Peters. “One or two new coats of finish can then be applied. This is far quicker and less costly than a complete restoration of the floor, and much easier on the environment as well.”
Complete restoration of a floor can be costly, labour-intensive, potentially harmful to the environment and disruptive to facility operations.
The process involves stripping all the finish, rinsing the floor and then applying three or more new coats of finish.
“Once again, the products used should be of superior quality, especially the floor finish,” Peters emphasizes. “When it comes to floor care products, you do get what you pay for, but it pays dividends. Higher-quality products last longer, hold up better and can help reduce labour costs.”
An important part of any floor care program, especially when addressing harsh winter weather, is to ensure floors are sealed before applying floor finish.
“Look at it this way,” says Peters. “We want to build a foundation to protect the floor. A sealant is the first step in building that foundation [and] not only adds a significant amount of protection, but helps defend the floor against salt and ice melt, prevent floor staining and discoloration, promote walker safety and ensure a high-gloss shine on the floor.”
Robert Kravitz is a frequent writer for the professional cleaning industry.