Though seldom truly appreciated, the floor beneath our feet tends to be an important barometer of the overall cleanliness of a facility. Whether in a school or a hospital, the visual appearance of the floor often shapes our perceptions of how clean and sanitary the entire building is. Floors that appear dirty, scuffed or dull can convey the impression that the facility’s cleanliness standards are lacking. That is why it is important to maintain bright and shiny floors, which can create a lasting impression that a facility is clean and well maintained.
As institutional facilities face budgetary constraints, facility managers are being asked to keep finished floors looking their best with ever diminishing resources. The “Cleaning in a Down Economy” survey, conducted by Procter & Gamble Professional in 2009, revealed that 76 percent of cleaning professionals have been under pressure from upper management to keep operating costs down.
Doing More With Less: Smart Floor Maintenance
To overcome shrinking budgets and reduced staff size, cleaning professionals must be smarter in the way they clean. The P&G Professional survey found that 85 percent of cleaning professionals have adopted a “doing more with less” approach, placing greater emphasis on achieving improved staff productivity and greater cleaning efficiency.
The most effective way to maintain the look of any finished floor is by sticking to a regular maintenance schedule and using cleaning products that require the least amount of labor. The following are some smart cleaning tips to use as part of your maintenance routine for keeping floors looking their very best, while lowering overall costs:
- Walk-off mats trap dirt and moisture: The use of walk-off mats at all entryways can help keep floors clean and dry longer, helping to extend the shine and finish. In order to remain effective, mats should also be cleaned on a regular basis.
- Regular cleaning is a must: A daily cleaning program is critical in preventing damage to the floor finish. Sweeping and dust mopping dirt and soil off floor surfaces are critical steps in keeping floors looking their best. Once floors are clean, they should be damp mopped or auto-scrubbed using a neutral-impact cleaner to remove any particulate left behind. Be wary of sloppy, overly wet mops that can leave floors wet with the cleaner, leaving the soil behind, too. Once the surface is removed of soil and dirt, some cleaning products recommend rinsing with clean water. However, there are no-rinse cleaner options that may help improve efficiency.
- Buff or burnish to restore shine: These two processes help restore the gloss and shine to a floor by polishing the floor. Both typically use a machine and a pad. Burnishing machines tend to have higher rotation speeds and rougher pads, which achieve better efficiency than lower speed buffing. The needed frequency of buffing or burnishing is contingent on the floor type and the maintenance schedule of a particular facility.
- Scrub and recoat: When buffing or burnishing no longer achieves the shine you’d like, it is sound practice to scrub and recoat the floor finish. The frequency of recoating is dependent on the amount of foot traffic at a particular facility. Following a deep scrub of the floor to remove soil build-up and subsequent rinse with fresh water, cleaning professionals should reapply a high-quality commercial floor finish. Three to five thin layers of protective finish are recommended in a recoat. Thin, even coats enable proper finish formation, greater strength and improved durability.
- Restorative care: Floor finishes tend to become darkened and yellowed over time despite proper routine maintenance, so it is important to periodically strip off the old finish and apply a fresh finish. Choose an appropriate finished floor stripper and follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully, including specific product application and wait time. Let the product do most of the work for you! It is also important to choose a stripper that is safe for use in virtually any setting, which can help avoid any long-term risks or effects for both the cleaning personnel and the building’s patrons.
Avoid Short Cuts on Safety
Ensuring that finished floors look great should never come at the expense of safety. Taking proper measures to prevent slips, trips and falls is all the more important in school and hospital settings. Cleaning professionals must take necessary steps to protect themselves, students, faculty, administrators, patients, staff and visitors when conducting floor cleaning.
During floor scrubbing, stripping and refinishing operations, barricades, signs or other safety devices should be used to prevent anyone from inadvertently entering maintenance zones. In schools, floor cleaning can be scheduled during off-hours or seasons to minimize the risk of accidents. Cleaning professionals themselves must also be vigilant when it comes to personal safety, always donning anti-slip footwear to protect against fall injuries caused by wet floors.
Choose the Right Cleaning Products
Selecting the right cleaning products for the job will allow cleaning professionals to achieve the best results. When ineffective cleaners are used, soils are left behind, which cause dulling or wear on floor surfaces. The use of less effective products also negatively impacts productivity because staff must clean longer and harder to attain the desired result. The smarter choice is the use of a neutral-impact cleaner that is highly effective in removing a broad range of abrasive particulate soil from the floor surface. The right cleaner will enable staff to more easily achieve soil removal and help maintain a bright and shiny appearance for the floor. And if the job gets done right the first time, you just may save time and money as well.
In choosing a cleaner, look for products designed not only to remove as much soil as possible, but also to be safe for the floor finish. In selecting the best finish for your facility, cleaning professionals need to correlate the facility’s needs with the product’s features. Factors, such as maintenance cycles or ambient temperature and humidity which effect drying time, can impact your finish selection decision. Another factor to consider is durability. For facilities with 24/7 operations such as hospitals, or educational facilities with limited cleaning personnel, managers must take into consideration how long a finish’s shine will last with regular maintenance in order to avoid more time consuming procedures such as scrub and recoat, or stripping and refinishing.
Lastly, when choosing a floor stripper to remove the previous finish, several things should be kept in mind. The right stripper should remove the finish completely the first time, to achieve a clean base for the new finish. The stripper should also be safe to use when exposed to cleaning personnel, as well as students, faculty, patients, staff and visitors. In hospital and educational settings, low-odor and butyl-free strippers can offer additional benefits.
Compatible Cleaning Products Make Good Sense
To achieve the best results from a floor cleaning program, it makes good sense to pick an end-to-end floor care solution, which ensures that the cleaner, finish and stripper are formulated to effectively work together. Floor care is a crucial component of any institutional facility’s cleaning program. Putting the right finished floor care system in place is the smart way to create a positive first impression, while at the same, extending the life of the floor and reducing costs.
About Ed Thomas
Ed Thomas is a Principal Researcher and a 31-year veteran at Procter & Gamble Professional. He helped develop the P&G Pro Line Floor Care System, which is uniquely formulated to have the cleaner, finish and stripper work together to deliver a brilliant shine, while extending the length of time between maintenance cycles. This system helps maximize productivity with a finished floor cleaner that removes up to 59 percent more particulate soil than the competition without damaging the finish. Ed is a ServSafe® certified professional and is an alumnus of the University of Cincinnati, College of Engineering and Applied Science.