Productive floor polishing

8th of June 2017
Productive floor polishing

Keeping a floor shiny and in pristine condition can be a time-consuming business. So what are the latest machines, polishes, pad and other products the market that can produce a highly-polished shine without keeping the floor out of action for any longer than necessary?

Keeping a shiny floor in pristine condition can be a time-consuming business. In fact any floor that attracts high volumes of traffic may need to be treated and protected up to six times a year.

This will entail stripping away any existing coatings, buffing the surface and re-applying a new coating each time. Several layers of polish may be required which means the floor could remain out of action for some considerable time.

But is it possible to speed up the process? Are there any shortcuts, or should customers resign themselves to the fact that effective polishing cannot be rushed?

This is certainly the case as far as older, more resilient floor surfaces are concerned according to Diversey Care’s senior application expert building care Michael Johnson. “Traditional solutions are still relevant when it comes to floors made from materials such as linoleum and PVC,” he said.

“These types of surfaces don’t have the durable mill finishes that have become more or less standard on today’s modern floor coverings.”

When treating a floor using traditional methods there is no room for shortcuts, according to Johnson. He compares the task with painting an outdoor wall.

“If you don’t carry out the right preparation work, the paint won’t stick to the wall and will peel off,” he said. “If you try to make the paint dry faster by using a fan, the paint will not level out. This means the surface will have a streaky appearance and the paint will be brittle and sensitive to wear.

“And if you choose to apply fewer layers, the surface will wear out faster. You should always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for stripping and polishing.”

He adds that productive floor polishing can be achieved by balancing a number of factors. “It is all about using the right type of stripping chemical in the right dilutions according to the thickness of the polish film,” he said. “It is also important to use a heavy single disk scrubbing machine with the right stripping pad. Customers tend to buy machines with a lower weight since these are easier to lift during transport.

Contact time

“Another factor to consider is the amount of time the stripping chemical needs to be on the floor before the machine can begin scrubbing. Stripping takes longer on older, thicker coatings.”
He says floors that have been lightly stripped and then coated with polish year after year tend to become increasingly difficult to deep-strip and require more mechanical action in the form of tougher pads and higher pad pressure.

“The best way to spin out the time between these operations is to increase the use of maintenance methods that can be integrated into regular cleaning regimes - and in some cases during intermediate cleaning,” said Johnson. “For example, during regular cleaning our diamond coated Taski Twister pads for scrubber dryers will perform a combination of cleaning and buffing, while a high-speed machine equipped with the same type of pad when used periodically in furnished areas will help to maintain standards in situations where a scrubber dryer cannot be used.”

Factors such as speed and productivity are major considerations for customers when choosing a floor polishing system, he says. “Other important factors are user safety, environmental characteristics, odour and price,” he adds. “Customers are often more concerned with the price of the product itself than the benefits they will gain and the support they will receive from using a premium floor care system.”

According to Johnson, environmental and safety considerations are placing limits on the development of new stripping agents. “We are able to improve productivity, however, by introducing pads that offer a better mechanical action; by optimising pad pressure with heavier machines, and by using floor finishes that have shorter levelling and drying times,” he said. “We are also creating polishes with a higher dry solids content that require fewer layers. And we are coming up with faster and more consistent application methods along with more durable, high-tech finishes based on new raw materials.”

Achieving a good finish on a hard floor does not need be excessively time-consuming according to Nilfisk’s group floor care product manager Anders Sandstrom. “It all depends on the floor type, the method used, the gloss level, the location and of course the size of the area,” he said. “Also, some floors may be pre-coated for easier and faster maintenance. But in the end, the amount of traffic determines how frequently the floor will need to be maintained and polished and how time-consuming the task will be.”

If you rush the polishing stage it will influence the end result, says Sandstrom. “Any mistakes may permanently damage the floor so when carrying out polishing work you will need the necessary knowledge about the flooring plus the right tools for the job,” he adds.

The more frequently the floor is polished and maintained, the easier the task will be according to Sandstrom. “However depending on the floor type there are always ways of increasing productivity,” he adds.

The company’s Nilfisk SC500 machine is capable of polishing some stone and concrete floors at the same time as cleaning them, he says.  “This method can also be used on coated floors to some degree,” he said. “Coating systems will also protect the original floor from wear, giving it a longer life and making the maintenance task easier.”

Nilfisk offers equipment for polishing, maintaining and cleaning floors. These include single disk polishing machines such as the Nilfisk FM400 Series plus the walk-behind Nilfisk BU800 burnisher and the ride-on Nilfisk UHR70-1700 for use in larger areas.

According to Sandstrom productivity is an extremely important consideration for customers when choosing a polishing system. “However, they also consider other factors such as machine size, floor type and the use of a coating system,” he said.

The condition of the floor will tend to dictate how long the task of floor polishing will take according to Kärcher trainer Gerd Heidrich. “For example heel marks and soiling require more intense treatment,” he said. “A good outcome can only be achieved if the work is carried out meticulously since working too fast will not produce uniform results.”

He says floors can be polished more productively by selecting the right machine and accessories. “The higher the number of machine revolutions, the more quickly good results may be achieved,” he said. “The most effective results are produced by using a polishing machine with 1,500 revolutions since this carries out the job more efficiently and quickly.” The company’s own Kärcher BDP 50/2000 RS Bp Pack is an example of such a machine, according to Heidrich.

Stubborn marks should be sprayed with a product such as Kärcher’s FloorPro Spray Cleaner RM 748 and then treated with a floor polisher, he says. “You should also divide up the surface to be cleaned and then work in sections,” he said. “And high quality polishing pads – preferably pads made from hogs’ bristles – will provide a better shine than inexpensive polishing pads.

Speed and productivity are both key considerations for customers when choosing a polishing system, he says. “Cost is also important, but price is not everything,” adds Heidrich. “Anyone who wants a good and uniform result should not save on the quality of the machine.”

3M’s cleaning and workplace safety application engineer Sandrine Maljean agrees with other manufacturers that achieving a good finish on a hard floor takes time. “The act of polishing entails etching micro-fine and regular scratches on to the floor surface,” she said.  “And when the floor is hard, these scratches are more difficult to create.”

Many operators and building managers take short cuts to reduce the cost of the operation, she says.
“They attempt to do this by reducing the number of passes; increasing the speed of the machine or by eliminating a step such as the protection process,” she said. “But they will discover the final result will not be what they expected. The floor surface will be less attractive, the finish will not be sufficiently fine or the protection level will be too low. As a result the floor will become dirty again more rapidly and they will need to spend more time on recleaning it.”

3M offers pads for a range of hard floors including Trizact disks, which have a micro structure of diamond abrasive minerals to polish and prepare the floor; and Purple Diamond Floor Pads. These are designed to finish the operation with a final micro-polishing, first using water at low speed and then drying the surface at ultra-high speeds to achieve a high shine.

Many of 3M’s customers are concerned about factors such as hygiene and sustainability when choosing a polishing system, says Maljean. “They want to reduce the use of chemicals due to environmental concerns and also because chemicals may create an odour or act as an irritant,” she said. 3M offers a range of floor pads that work with water alone for stripping and buffing.

Save time, cut costs

Productivity is another key consideration for customers, according to Maljean. “Productivity can be improved by using a high-performance floor pad,” she said. “Certain technical features such as high quality mineral abrasives will enable a disk to polish a floor more rapidly and more finely. Other such features include a uniform coating and a strong cohesion between the abrasive particles and the pad’s fibres.

“Solution providers will continue to improve the efficiency of their products in order to help their customers save time and money.”

Kärcher is also seeking new ways to save time and cut costs according to Gerd Heidrich. “We are always looking for new materials - for polishing pads, for example - that will help to increase efficiency,” he said. “Time is the main cost factor in cleaning and the lower the customers’ costs, the happier they are.”

And Diversey Care’s Michael Johnson believes the face of floor polishing is changing. “Manufacturers of today´s linoleum and vinyl flooring do not recommend the use of polish on their materials,” he said. “There has been an increasing development of strong and durable mill finishes that only require cleaning and intermediate maintenance with buffing. Depending on traffic and wear, these mill finishes will last for some years. However there will come a day when they are worn out - and then the floor will need some kind of treatment to keep its properties.”

He adds traditional deep-stripping operations that involve all the old finishes being removed and replaced with new primers and top coatings are becoming increasingly rare.

“Such practices are so time-consuming,” he explained. “Today’s customers tend to opt instead for a simple top-stripping and recoating operation which is 40 per cent faster and can then be followed by a complete polish.”


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