Don’t be floored by polishing

25th of May 2015
Don’t be floored by polishing

Can a polished floor be kept in tip-top condition without the need for a complex regime involving scrubbing, recoating and stripping? And are shiny floors even a sought-after commodity in facilities these days? We ask floorcare manufacturers these questions and find out about their simplest solutions for shiny floors.

A polished floor in a building or facility creates the impression of cleanliness and care. But maintaining that floor in its shiny, newly-polished state can be hard work. The floor will have to be repeatedly stripped and refinished, and also meticulously maintained in order to keep that high gloss. Floor maintenance is expensive both in terms of products used and the labour required. And the fact any stripping or refinishing work will put the floor out of action adds to the overall inconvenience and cost.

Some floors are actually supplied ready-coated with an integrated protective layer. These include a PU layer – a polyurethane wear coat – which is applied to the floor during manufacture. This typically wears away after between two and five years and will then need replacing with a polish.
Alternatively, customers can opt for a floor with a PUR layer, an integrated polyurethane-based protection which will be guaranteed by most manufacturers to last a floor’s lifetime.

Some customers may choose to leave their floors unpolished completely, and simply clean them regularly with a scrubber dryer. So, are polished floors losing their shine in the customer’s eyes? Are there any viable shortcuts to floor polishing, and what do manufacturers advise as the easiest and best way of maintaining a polished floor surface?

KGS Diamond’s floor maintenance regime is the four-step Flexis system says floor division product manager Johnny van Leusen. This comprises a coarse red pad for heavy-duty surface renovation; a blue pad for deep cleaning; a fine yellow pad for daily polishing and the fine green Flexis pad for superior polishing.

However van Leusen says the green Flexis pad can be used on its own as a floor care ‘shortcut’. “Our green Flexis pad is particularly fine and will leave a high shine when used wet or dry,” he said. “But the floor needs to have been treated and should also be in a good condition for the operator to be able to work only with the Flexis green pad. When it has reached this state, you will simply be maintaining your floor. “

According to van Leusen, demand for high-gloss floors is unlikely to diminish in the short term. “Customers will keep looking for beautiful floors that have a matt polish or a high shine, “ he said. “Hygiene and cleanliness are two very important factors that people will continue to value.”

He has observed no trend towards floors supplied with a built-in polished layer. “Even if customers were to opt for one of these, they would still face the same problem after three to five years when the polished layer would need to be restored,” he said.

Van Leusen feels that a rigorous floor maintenance regime is the only real way of ensuring a long-lasting floor finish. “If a polished floor is not maintained properly, it will quickly become damaged and will be impossible to clean or maintain. You will then need to restore it using aggressive tools, which will require more work and a consequent loss of time and money.

“Customers are not put off by the complexity of a good floor polishing system: on the contrary, they find it to be a plus since a high shine will enhance the style and look of the floor.”

Bio-Productions’ national sales manager James Brough concedes floor maintenance can be time-consuming and expensive. “Most professional floor care companies have a range of products under the heading of ‘floor polishes’ that cover a multitude of acrylic polishes, high-solids emulsions, wet-look polishes, underseals and polyurethane emulsions,” he said.

“But using one product to clean the floor and then another to maintain the gloss is time-consuming and labour-intensive. And many buildings are not suited to this periodic stripping and resealing process.”

Bio-Productions claims to have come up with a solution in the form of its Supercare product. “This is a ‘one shot product’ that can be used to clean a floor and also to revive the polish by mopping, scrubber drying or spray cleaning,” said Brough. “It can also be used neat in place of a floor polish.”

He says two or three coats of Supercare should initially be applied to the floor in neat form. “The following day the floor can be cleaned as usual using a one per cent solution. The floor can then be buffed.”

Tim Copner - 3M’s market development manager for the company’s commercial cleaning portfolio – says there are three important stages to any floor care regime. “These are restoration, protection and maintenance – and if you’re looking for a high shine, the most important step is the maintenance stage,” he said.

“You can put a great shine on any floor but unless you maintain that shine, it will fade. However, protecting the floor will enable you to maintain the shine for longer. If you don’t start from a good position you can only achieve a certain level of shine: eventually some degree of restoration will be needed.”

He says a good floor care system can be adapted to be highly cost-effective according to the customer’s expectations. “Ideally floor care should be a three-step process, but the supplier can tailor the solution into a two step or even a one-step regime. There are shortcuts, but the customer will pay for them in terms of the shine.” Copner claims that the company’s High Shine floor pads, launched last year, can provide a single-pad maintenance solution.

Growing trend

According to Copner, many customers still prefer to have high-gloss floors. “The trend is actually growing in the retail sector and in transport environments such as airports,” he said. “Facilities are increasingly striving to enhance the customer experience, and a sparkly floor will achieve this aim in facilities such as airports and stores. Demand for high gloss is still stronger in the US but it is growing in Europe.”

He adds that built-in floor protection layers tend to be encountered more in plastic and linoleum floors than in wooden surfaces. “They provide you with a good protective start, but you will need to maintain the floor because the protective layer will only last for a relatively short time,” he said. “We have not seen any product that is completely maintenance-free - all hard floors need maintenance.”

By contrast, Nilfisk-Advance’s floor care group product manager Anders Sandstrom says he has perceived an increased take-up of floors with a built-in polished layer. “While there are many products and solutions on the market that will preserve coated floors and extend their life, customers often choose a material they don’t need to coat from the start,” he said.

In contrast to Copner, Sandstrom feels that a high gloss finish is no longer desired by every customer. “It is true that many customers still require a high shine on their hard floors because they think that if a floor is shiny, it will also be clean and this will provide visitors with a good impression,” he concedes. “But it does depend on the country.”

Nilfisk-Advance offers various low-speed, high-speed and dual-speed machines for a range of polishing needs. According to Sandstrom shortcuts are possible – but these are dependant on the customer’s expectations.

“Polishing pads provide a chemical-free way to gain a better shine while reducing mopping friction,” he said. “Depending on the level of shine to be achieved, this procedure can be made to be more or less complex. But it is important before you start to understand the customer’s expectations about the result depending on the location and the traffic on the floor in question.”

Sandstrom says floors can be quickly damaged if the wrong machine, pads or products are used – and also if the cleaner fails to follow the instructions relating to both the floor and the cleaning equipment.

“The main point is to use a detergent that is in line with the floor polish and to follow the machine maintenance guide,” he said. “The misuse of the right machine, pad or chemical product will destroy the floor in a very short time.

“A properly-maintained coat will last many years depending on traffic and daily cleaning. But it always takes a skilled eye to know what to do when. For example, stripping before recoating can be carried out these days with a scrubber dryer, and this will speed up the job when large areas need to be treated.”

Costs driven up

He admits that stripping before recoating will drive up the total costs of the operation. “Floors that are protected by floor polish undoubtedly require a considerably higher maintenance input than a floor that is left untreated,” said Sandstrom. “To a cleaning service provider this means more labour and therefore more cost. But there are also many positives to having a high gloss finish on the floor. Light savings is one important advantage since the coat will reflect the light and allow the customer to reduce their lighting bills which will lead to energy savings.

“A bright shine on a hard floor in an office, airport or department store will also enhance the image of the facility while creating an impression of cleanliness. And a well-maintained floor will be tough and durable, even in high footfall areas.”

Floors that are not protected - and that are frequently cleaned in an abrasive manner  - are likely to become increasingly porous over time, he said. “This makes them incrementally more difficult to maintain while also being unattractive aesthetically.

“Building owners and managers should be prepared to weigh up the life cycle cleaning and maintenance costs of an existing floor versus the purchase and installation of a new one - particularly when this requirement could be as frequent an occurrence as once in every five to 10 years,” he said.


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