Floored by the challenge

7th of December 2023
Floored by the challenge

Floor cleaning is an important asapect of any cleaning regime. But how important? Ann Laffeaty asks companies about the challenges that floor cleaning poses and finds out what can be done to lighten the cleaner’s load.

Floors come in for a great deal of hard wear. Most other surfaces tend to be generally soiled mainly by dust, fingerprints and the occasional spill. But the floors of any public facility are repeatedly walked upon with dirty shoes.

Trolley cases and other wheeled traffic will criss-cross their surfaces and leave behind marks and grooves. And people are prone to drop things on floors – things that could be sticky, oily or abrasive.

So it is no surprise that floor maintenance makes up a major component of any cleaning regime. But how much of the cleaner’s time does it require? And what types of products and systems can make the task easier for operatives?

The amount of time that floor cleaning takes will depend on the environment to be cleaned, says Kärcher’s floorcare product manager Christian Mrowka. “It may require a whole day to fully clean the floors of a logistics warehouse, for example, whereas floor cleaning in an office will probably take up only around 50 per cent of the cleaner’s total working time,” he said. “This is because there will be desks and glass surfaces to clean in an office plus rubbish bins to empty.”

A well-maintained floor plays a key role in the look of a building, according to Mrowka. “Anyone coming in from outdoors will walk in dirt, particularly when the weather is wet or when the premises are directly accessible from outside.

“Floor cleaning plays a crucial role in improving air quality in dusty environments to make the workplace safer for employees. And there is evidence to suggest that bacteria on the floor can be re-suspended in the air where it could contaminate hands and surfaces or be inhaled or swallowed. With regular cleaning the degree of contamination can be kept very low.”

A clean floor helps to improve employee morale and boost productivity, according to Mrowka. “Productivity could suffer in a warehouse where the forklifts are obliged to move around spills and debris,” he says. “And if a machine needs to manoeuvre around rubbish there’s also a risk of accidents.”

Technology can save the cleaner both time and effort, he says. “The introduction of easy-to-use scrubber dryers has been helpful, and there is even more flexibility now that autonomous floor cleaning robots are in common use.”

These help to minimise the time spent on floor cleaning while also freeing up employees for more complex tasks, according to Mrowka. “They can also clean at night without the need for staff to be present, while digital systems can help by recording the cleaning performance quality.”

Kärcher’s KIRA B 50 autonomous scrubber dryer has a 55 cm working width plus an area performance of up to 2,300 square metres per hour. It is said to be suitable for use in airports, stations, warehouses, retail units and shopping centres as well as in healthcare settings, schools and other public buildings.

Potential health problems

Hako’s application technology trainer and consultant Klaus Serfezi says floor maintenance is an important part of any cleaning system. “Floors are high-traffic surfaces that accumulate dirt, dust, stains and other contaminants on a daily basis,” he said. “It is therefore essential to clean and maintain them regularly to create a clean and hygienic environment.”

Dirt, bacteria and germs can all cause health problems on floors, he says. “Clean and well-maintained floors will also improve the overall appearance of a facility and leave a positive impression on visitors and guests,” said Serfezi.

“Regular cleaning and maintenance will protect floors from premature wear which can extend the life of the flooring and minimise long-term repair and replacement costs. And dirty or wet floors may be slippery and cause an increased risk of falls and accidents. Thorough cleaning can help to minimise such hazards and ensure user safety.”

The amount of time required for floor cleaning depends on various factors, he says. “These include the type and size of the facility, the type of flooring, the level of traffic and the frequency of cleaning.

“In high-traffic environments such as hallways, entrances, reception areas and washrooms the task will take up a significant amount of time to ensure cleanliness and safety.”

New from Hako is the Scrubmaster B75 i autonomous scrubber dryer which is said to significantly ease the floor cleaning task. The Scrubmaster B5 is described as being back-friendly while the Scrubmaster B25 for smaller surfaces is said to combine an ergonomic design with a high level of operating comfort.

The floor cleaning task can be eased in a number of ways, he says. “Robots cut the workload and allow cleaning to be carried out more quickly and efficiently,” said Serfezi. “The use of ergonomic cleaning equipment and systems can also reduce the strain on the cleaner because they allow for comfortable handling and posture to minimise potential fatigue.

“And low-maintenance floor coverings can also make the task easier. Floors that are stain-resistant, smooth or sealed will require less time and effort to clean, for example.”

Floor cleaning takes up around 40 to 50 per cent of a cleaner’s working time depending on the environment, estimates Filmop’s business development manager Paolo Scapinello. “For example, a kindergarten will require more frequent floor cleaning than a cinema,” he said.

He believes floor cleaning to be equally as important as surface cleaning. “Both need to be carried out carefully and with professional tools that are up to the task.”

A dirty floor can be a means of spreading bacteria, according to Scapinello. “One gram of dust can contain up to one and a half million bacteria, and this could become a health problem as it rises from the floor and settles on surfaces,” he said.

Investment over time

“And since the floor determines between five and 10 per cent of a building’s value, the importance of proper maintenance is clear. A well-cleaned floor is not a cost, but an investment over time.”
Robots can help to take away the strain in larger facilities such as supermarkets and airports, he says. But these require a significant cost investment.

“Manual equipment that has been designed according to ergonomic principles is a good alternative because it will protect the operator and increase productivity while also reducing costs,” he said.

Filmop’s ErgoSwing system consists of a telescopic handle with turning grips and a mop holder with an ergonomic joint which is said to result in less fatigue and greater productivity. The ErgoSwing is claimed to significantly reduce the wrist movements required and allow a correct posture to be maintained during cleaning.

Maintaining the cleanliness of flooring is an often-overlooked aspect of a cleaner’s roles and responsibilities, according to SoftBank Robotics general manager Stefano Bensi. “If high-traffic floors are not properly cleaned and cared for, they will become damaged, unsafe and even contribute to poor air quality,” he said.

“Floorcare can prevent the need for unexpected spending down the line, while regular maintenance will allow companies to identify any issues early on and keep the flooring to a satisfactory level of cleanliness.”

Floorcare can use up a huge amount of an employee’s time, he says. “Vacuuming 1,000 square feet of obstructed surface can take up more than 30 minutes per square foot,” he points out. “While resources are increasingly being spread thin by labour shortages and recruitment struggles, core tasks such as floorcare are taking a hit.”

Respiratory problems, heightened allergies and skin irritation are all problems that can arise in cases where carpets are not cleaned, he says. “And besides the potential health impacts of poor cleaning, entering a clean and well-kept space can help to boost productivity and wellbeing.”

According to Bensi, cobots can support cleaning teams by performing the time-consuming task of vacuuming large floor areas. “This frees up staff for more complex jobs and for cleaning high-traffic entrances and flexible working spaces,” he said. SoftBank Robotics’ Whiz cobotic vacuum cleaner can be pre-programmed to move through complex and obstructed routes, he says.

Non-negotiable task

LionsBot CEO Dylan Ng Terntzer estimates that the average cleaner spends approximately 60-70 per cent of their time on floor cleaning. “Floors are a major component of any cleaning regime because they naturally collect the greatest amount of dirt,” he said.

All public environments need to be kept clean to maintain a hygienic and healthy space, says Ng. “The fact floors accumulate dirt more quickly and easily than other surfaces makes floorcare a non-negotiable task,” he said. “Bacteria and germs can contaminate the floor and then recirculate into the air, which means it is just as important to eliminate contaminants from the floor as it is on any other surface. And a dirty floor will create a bad impression, which is another great reason why floor cleaning is essential.”

LionsBot’s R3 Scrub Pro cleaning robot is designed for use in offices, shops and hotels while the R12 Rex Scrub can be used in larger areas such as factories and airports. The machines are said to offer superior mapping, localisation and detection abilities to create a safe environment.

Ng believes autonomous systems are a major factor in reducing the floor cleaning load. “By offloading the bulk of floor cleaning on to a robot the cleaner is able to focus on more complex tasks,” he said. “This collaborative teamwork between cleaners and robots can help to alleviate manpower shortage while also maximising efficiency.”

Training essential

Floor cleaning takes up around 60-75 per cent of the cleaner’s time, according to Truvox UK national sales manager Paul Robinson. “Floors create that important first impression when entering a building which means their care is a crucial task,” he said, adding that unclean floors can quickly give rise to health and safety issues.

“Many insurance claims arise because of people slipping on badly-maintained floors, so it is vital that the floors of fast-food restaurants and supermarkets are kept clean and safe,” he said. “And cross-contamination is another issue, whatever type of surface you are cleaning.”

Truvox Multiwash scrubber dryers are said to be easy to use and achieve good cleaning results, while the VTVe and Valet Battery Upright II are designed for daytime and daily vacuuming.

Good training and the correct use of machinery will help to achieve good results, says Robinson. “Robotics and cobotics are fast becoming a popular way of cleaning, particularly where
labour shortages are an issue,” he adds. “These machines are improving their ability to deliver a great result but they still need to be used in conjunction with the cleaning operative.”

He believes floor cleaning robots will become a major factor in tomorrow’s cleaning contracts. “However they currently come at a cost premium which can be a limiting factor when companies are looking to save costs,” he adds.

 

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