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New era of floor care - floor polishing2nd of May 2014
Keeping floors in top shape is essential for maintaining an appearance of cleanliness, minimizing abrasions and reducing slip-and-fall hazards. However, certain maintenance methods like stripping and refinishing can be problematic for facilities, writes Michelle Boulanger, global portfolio manager - floor care chemicals at Diversey Care.
Organisations without resources to frequently strip and refinish have to sacrifice the look, safety and life span of their floors while those that do invest end up spending a lot of money on this ongoing maintenance cycle. In order to break free from these burdens, businesses need to find floor care alternatives that effectively maintain floors but do not put cleanliness or safety at risk.
Typically, glossy floors are associated with cleanliness while those that have a dull appearance project a dirtier image within facilities such as hospitals, supermarkets and retail centres. Since a facility’s floors can serve as a lasting first impression for guests and help build brand equity, it’s important that they hold their sleek, glossy appearance. In order to protect substrates and ensure year-round safety for guests and employees, organisations should implement a floor maintenance plan.
Although each facility’s floor maintenance plan varies depending upon the desired floor appearance and the amount of daily foot traffic, organisations usually utilise a variety of techniques to care for floors. These include daily cleaning, regular burnishing, scrub and recoat processes, and stripping and refinishing.
Stripping and refinishing should occur once or twice a year, or even every few months for busy facilities with floors that experience a lot of wear and tear. These processes involve removing older layers of finish and then adding four to eight new coats in order to rejuvenate substrates. Although necessary for extending the life span of floors, stripping and refinishing create a few unavoidable problems.
Stripping and refinishing are disruptive processes because areas need to be blocked off while the work is being completed. Then, facilities must ensure floors are fully dry before they are reopened to the public. For places with a high number of daily visitors, and especially 24-hour locations like airports, this can be problematic and require much planning in advance. Forcing guests to find alternate routes or walk around areas where stripping and refinishing are occurring can frustrate or confuse people.
The chemicals used during stripping must be powerful so they can completely remove soil and old finish from floors. These chemicals affect an organisation’s commitment to sustainability since they are frequently poured down drains. In areas where this is not allowed, the waste generated from stripping has to be properly disposed of at hazardous waste locations, thus creating extra work to ensure compliance and environmental commitment. Some guests may be extra-sensitive to the odours produced by the caustic chemicals. Negative customer reviews and a loss of business may occur if a customer has an unpleasant experience as a result of stripping and refinishing.
Refinishing is also an expensive investment since four to eight coats of new finish are required. Especially for large facilities, multiple employees must work together to restore floors to their glossy condition. If a facility wants stripping and refinishing completed after hours, overtime costs may have to be factored into the total investment.
New problems arise
As organisations tighten budgets and attempt to save money in the area of maintenance, many are changing to lower-maintenance substrates like concrete, terrazzo, marble and stone to eliminate the burden of stripping and refinishing processes. However, it’s important for facility managers to understand that these lower-maintenance floors still require a certain level of attention.
One solution is to use two-part, ultra-durable coatings that require minimal upkeep. Unfortunately, if floors become scratched with these coatings, the abrasions cannot be removed. Without a way to repair the finish, floors can become damaged quickly and may reflect poorly on a facility or need to be replaced earlier than anticipated.
Another alternative is to completely remove chemicals from the floor care equation. Instead, tools alone are used to maintain a natural floor appearance. Still, without the application of new coatings or a protector from time to time, concrete, terrazzo, marble and stone floors are left without stain protection. This is problematic, especially for places like grocery stores where pickle juice or other liquids can spill and permanently stain floors. Unsightly marks can easily affect the pristine appearance of floors and make guests second guess the overall cleanliness of a facility.
Using tools without chemicals also leaves floors without slip resistance which creates a safety risk. According to the National Floor Safety Institute, slip-and-fall accidents occur every eight seconds in the USA and are caused by unclean and unsafe floors 50 per cent of the time. Not only do slip-and-fall accidents result in injuries to employees and guests, they can also contribute to a negative business image. On top of this, the accidents affect the bottom line due to hefty legal fees and settlements. The National Safety Council estimates that these incidents cost more than 14,500 euros ($20,000) per claim.
To preserve facility appearance and ensure safety while still eliminating stripping and refinishing from floor care duties, floor maintenance programs should utilise both mechanical and chemical components. This involves first polishing concrete, terrazzo, marble and stone floors with diamond-impregnated pads made up of billions of microscopic diamonds. These pads are used with conventional floor equipment to bring out the beauty of the floor.
Afterwards, a chemical protector is applied to provide floors with stain, slip and abrasion resistance, without adding new finish and the eventual burden of stripping. This durable coating protects substrates and, in conjunction with diamond technology, helps restore damage on floors - unlike two-part, ultra-durable coatings.
Thus, scratches and abrasions won’t become permanent eyesores on floors. Additionally, applying a chemical protector helps facilities reduce the frequency of burnishing. Instead of having employees complete this process five to seven times each week, burnishing in high traffic facilities can be completed between once and twice a week.
Finishing with a cleaner maintainer helps ensure gloss lasts between scheduled cleanings. Without stripping and refinishing, guests will enjoy the well-maintained appearance of floors without having to smell caustic chemicals or detour around certain areas in a facility.
What was once considered a periodic yet essential requirement for maintaining floors, stripping and refinishing may soon become a technique of the past for certain substrates like concrete, terrazzo, marble and stone. By using alternative floor care solutions, facilities can limit business disruption, do away with abrasive chemicals and reduce maintenance costs while keeping floors glossy and safe for all.
For facilities that previously limited stripping and refinishing due to tight budgets or to avoid customer complaints, alternative floor care schedules with less harmful chemical and mechanical components are a welcome option.