Floor polishing - shining in the face of adversity

1st of July 2024
Floor polishing - shining in the face of adversity
Floor polishing - shining in the face of adversity

What makes a consistent high shine on a hard floor so difficult to achieve? ECJ looks at issues such as wear and tear, water damage and wheeled traffic and finds out about the factors that can prevent a hard floor from fulfilling its potential.

A HARD FLOOR WITH a glossy, uniform shine can be pleasing on the eye. It will reflect the light while also projecting an image of cleanliness and care. But a high shine can be hard to achieve – and even harder to maintain.

Factors such as a high footfall, stiletto heels and trolley cases criss-crossing the floor can all lead to scuffs, scratches and a dulling of the surface. So, what can be done to ensure that a shiny floor reaches its full potential?

The ability to achieve and sustain a high level of gloss will depend on the type of floor in question, says Kärcher’s scrubber dryer application specialist Patrick Prasser.

“For example, it is relatively easy to create a shine on a polymer dispersion that can be polished using a high speed or ultra-high speed machine,” he said. “If, however, you are dealing with a hard granite floor covering it will need to be sanded down with heavy machines and diamond tools.”

He says effort is required to maintain a high shine over the long term. “Public traffic can bring in a great deal of street dirt in the form of sand and small stones, and this can negatively affect the appearance of the floor,” he said. “Preserving the shine begins in the entrance with large dirt collection zones and entrance matting systems that will also need to be cleaned regularly with the right equipment such as a brush vacuum cleaner.”

Mechanical loads such as chairs, tables and other furniture items will all increase the risk of wear and tear on a hard floor, he says. “Large spillages of water or acid on wooden floors can also irreversibly damage the surface, while loose dirt such as stones or sand will cause sandpaper-like scratches. And if the floor is not cleaned over time, the build-up of dirt layers can result in permanent damage.”

Other challenges to cleaning involve cost, time and personnel, he adds. “The optimal cleaning machine should be able to be operated as efficiently as possible within the available budget and personnel,” he said. “Robotic solutions in particular can support staff members and free up time for them to care for other surfaces.”

Regular cleaning is essential, he says. “Scrubber dryers equipped with diamond pads are particularly suitable for daily use because they clean and polish the floor at the same time, minimising the effort required to maintain the shine,” he said.

The appearance of the floor could suffer if the wrong equipment is used or if the cleaning intervals are inadequate, says Prasser. “Staff members also need to be regularly trained in how to use the cleaning equipment to achieve the best possible result,” he adds

All equipment should be easy to use and maintain, he says. Kärcher offers a range of scrubber dryers with diamond pads plus single-disc machines for polishing as well as spray cleaners, crystallisation agents and floor coatings.

A scrubber dryer equipped with diamond pads will provide a high shine during regular maintenance and with minimal effort, according to Prasser. “This is often achieved in three steps,” he adds. “In the first step, a relatively coarse diamond pad is used to prepare the floor and to remove small scratches. In the next step, a silky matt appearance is achieved with the aid of a finer pad. And finally, a fine diamond pad is used to achieve and maintain a high shine.”

The surface can also be crystallised if a higher level of gloss is desired, he says. “In this case, a crystallisation agent in liquid or powder form would be applied in sections and machined until the desired shine is achieved,” said Prasser. “Although this requires more time, it will make the floor more resilient.

“And on a wooden floor, a spray cleaner would be applied to the surface and polished using a single-disc machine to remove the dirt and heel marks while polishing the floor at the same time.”
Improper treatment will lead to a hard floor being permanently damaged over time, says Filmop’s Italy area manager Jimmy Vardanega. “This can occur when the floor is treated with hard waxes, for example, or when maintenance is carried out with the wrong cleaning agents,” he said.

“Damage can also result when overly abrasive mops are used because these have a scrubbing action that will risk damage to the surface over time.”

High traffic can also be a problem, he adds. “This can be managed with the use of carpets, which will reduce the impact of continuous passage on the floor.”

The presence of furniture is a common challenge during floor maintenance procedures, he says. “This will hinder the passage of equipment, while high foot traffic concentrated on focal points will cause wear and tear and make maintenance more difficult,” he said.

Neutral detergent

Filmop’s Unilav system for cleaning and waxing features a dosing system and a refillable bottle designed to prevent the wax from drying out. It can be used with the Smart-Fur microfibre mop which is said to spread the wax evenly.

The use of metallised waxes facilitates waxing and provides better results, he says. “In addition, the floor should be cleaned using neutral detergents combined with microfibre mops because they will remove dirt without damaging the surface,” he said.

According to Vardanega, waxing is the easiest method of polishing a floor. “This creates a real barrier on the surface,” he said. “However, the hardness of the floor and the intensity of the traffic it receives will determine how long the wax shine will last. These variables therefore need to be considered when planning the treatment.”

Achieving a high gloss finish on a hard stone floor is not particularly difficult, according to Principle Cleaning’s specialist services director Juan Camara. “However, it can be time-consuming if the gloss has not been well maintained,” he said. “A stone floor in a poor condition would require diamond floor pads of 200, 400, 800 1500, 3000 and 8000 grits, for example, and this would mean the floor would have to undergo six treatments.”

The floor would then need to be burnished quarterly depending on traffic levels, he said. “Less well-used floors might only require this treatment twice a year,” says Camara.

A flat mop and a natural floor cleaner is all that is required for daily cleaning of most floors, he says. “This will make the floor easier to maintain and can reduce up to 50 per cent of labour,” said Camara. “Untreated floors will be particularly sensitive to stains, water marks and dust which will penetrate the porous surface of a stone floor, making it look patchy.”

He claims the use of a grinder with diamond floor pads, grits and polish will keep the floor looking good for months.

The condition of the floor before applying the finish is crucially important to the end result, says Cleanology’s marketing director Kate Lovell. “Any scratches or unevenness of the surface can actually appear worse after a glossy finish,” she said. “The quality of the products also plays an important role in achieving a high gloss finish. And cutting corners by using low-quality products or skipping essential steps in the application process could result in disappointing results such as streaks, bubbles or other blemishes.”

A high gloss finish can be hard to maintain since it might show scratches, scuffs and dirt more prominently than a matt finish, she adds. “This means keeping a glossy floor in a good condition is likely to require more regular cleaning and maintenance.”

Heavy foot traffic in well-trodden environments such as reception areas will always be prone to more wear and tear, according to Lovell. “The use of trolleys and wheeled furniture can also create friction, resulting in scratches that will affect a glossy appearance,” she says.

“And the pointed nature of sharp objects such as stiletto heels will intensify the pressure on small areas, creating yet another factor that is likely to impact on a glossy finish.” Floor protectors such as rugs or mats in high-traffic areas can help to protect the floor from damage from heavy furniture or sharp objects, she says.

Proper cleaning crucial

Failing to properly prepare the floor before applying treatments or finishes could lead to poor adhesion and a dull appearance, according to Lovell. “Proper cleaning and sanding - while also addressing any imperfections in the surface - are crucial for a successful treatment application,” she said.

“Daily wear and tear including scuff marks and scratches will develop over time and probably give the floor a duller appearance. These issues are often caused by heavy foot traffic, moving furniture without protection or abrasive tools.”

Frequent liquid spills if left unattended can result in staining, warping, swelling or other damage to the floor, she says. “Spills of acids or harsh chemicals should be attended to promptly in order to avoid causing lasting damage,” said Lovell. “And some finishes could be prone to UV damage, leading to discoloration or fading over time if the floor is exposed to direct sunlight without proper protection.”

Customers should choose a suitable high-quality finish or sealing agent and follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the recommended number of coats and drying times, she says. “Each coat needs to be given sufficient time to dry thoroughly before applying the next one,” adds Lovell. “It is also wise to place felt pads or protective caps on furniture legs to minimise the risk of scratches. Stable humidity levels help to prevent wood floors from expanding or contracting.”

Cleanology uses advanced buffer systems and specialised high gloss floor polishes for areas with heavy foot traffic plus stripping and sealing solutions.

Customers should consider using window treatments to limit direct sunlight exposure and reduce the risk of UV damage, according to Lovell. “They should also give serious thought to professional maintenance services such as buffing or polishing to rejuvenate the shine as and when it is needed,” she adds.

 

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