Rubber is fast emerging as a high-quality, less expensive alternative to wood flooring for gymnasiums and athletic, fitness and multi-use facilities. It is also an increasingly attractive option for those looking to reduce maintenance costs as rubber is more durable and much easier to care for than wood flooring. However, it requires specialized care to keep it looking and performing at its best. In fact, maintenance requirements are often underestimated. Regular sweeping and washing is important but not enough.
Just like skin, rubber floors have pores that need moisture to keep them supple and resilient. When pores become overly dry, they will open and collect dirt, creating a dull and dingy overall appearance. Even with automated equipment use and daily cleaning, the floors can still look dirty and poorly maintained. Over time, they may even become so dry that they crack.
Fortunately, rubber floors that have been improperly maintained can be restored, and with the correct cleaning and maintenance program they will last many years.
A return to tip-top shape
There are eight steps involved in removing deeply embedded dirt and debris from rubber floors. This process is the best way to bring back the floors’ colour and shine, and leave them looking like new.
- To begin, select a high alkaline cleaner to pull the dirt out of the floor. Mix the product in a bucket with water, according to the manufacturer’s directions. Apply the cleaner liberally to the floor using a mop. Let sit for five minutes.
- Walk through and manually scrub any particularly prominent marks using an aggressive hand-held pad.
- Machine scrub the complete floor surface, ideally using a swing polisher with either a brush or pad.
- Make sure to pick up residual cleaning solution using a wet vacuum or auto scrubber.
- Then, rinse the floor with cold water using an auto scrubber.
- Once thoroughly dry, inspect the floor to ensure all visible marks have been removed. (If any remain, repeat steps one through six in those specific areas.)
- Next, use a finish or flat mop to apply an emulsion solution designed specifically to seal and protect rubber floors. Similar to the effect of lotion applied to dry skin, an emulsion solution will seal the pores in rubber flooring so that it can retain moisture. It also smooths the floor surface so that dirt and debris can no longer collect and it increases the floor’s flexibility, preventing the rubber from cracking. Do not rinse the emulsion solution following application.
- Let the floor dry thoroughly (approximately 30 to 60 minutes). Apply a second coat of emulsion solution, if desired, to achieve optimum appearance.
This eight-step process should be repeated as necessary. Frequency will depend on the volume of use. In recreational environments, it is typically repeated every two years.
To keep floors clean and preserve their finish, dust mop daily or as required. On a weekly basis, apply a high alkaline cleaner specifically designed for rubber flooring and clean with an auto scrubber or mop and bucket.
The case for caring for rubber floors
Implementing a proper cleaning and restoration process for rubbers floors is a smart investment. The cost to restore this type of floor (excluding labour) is about five per cent of the cost to restore a vinyl composition tile, linoleum or wood floor. An added benefit is that no hazardous chemicals are required either for daily maintenance or the restoration process, so facility downtime is significantly reduced.
David L. Smith is director of cleaning, hygiene and sanitation at Bunzl Canada. With more than 30 years’ experience in the cleaning and hygiene industry, David is a recognized expert in facility maintenance for both aesthetics and health. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.