Meeting the challenge of keeping floors clean

15th of November 2017

What types of floors pose the toughest challenges for cleaners? And what makes them particularly difficult to clean? Ann Laffeaty finds out.

Floor cleaning is a task unlike any other. Floors can be made of anything from concrete to wood and marble to linoleum. And the material used to make the floor will have a major impact on the cleaning regime.

Floors are also in constant use – and will often bear the brunt of ongoing abuse from heavy wheeled traffic, footwear or soil on the shoes. But what types of floors cause the biggest cleaning and maintenance challenges, and why?

The location of a floor has a significant effect on the cleaning and maintenance task according to Nilfisk’s group product floorcare manager Anders Sandstrom. “The closer it is to the entrance, the more debris and dirt will be walked on to the floor,” he said. “The wear and tear will therefore increase and the level of cleaning will need to be stepped up. And a sufficient number of dirt and water traps will be required in order to limit the amount of dirt, debris and water that is brought in.”

The cleaning challenge is also influenced by the choice of flooring material and the way in which the floor is cleaned and protected, he said. “Other factors to consider are the amount of daily traffic and the floor’s location and size along with the type of dirt it attracts, the frequency of cleaning and the presence of furniture and other obstacles.”

“The desired look of the floor is also important since it can be a real challenge in high-traffic areas to produce a floor with a high shine,” added Sandstrom.

He says different environments require different floor cleaning solutions. “For example, in a supermarket there will be limited access to the floor area and most cleaning will need to be carried out outside of opening hours, perhaps in a limited amount of time,” he said.

“Foot traffic in hospitals and airports tends to continue 24/7 so the cleaning here will need to be done while the floors are still in use, and this may require safety precautions. And in an office there may be several different types of floor in one building which means that different tools may be required for cleaning and maintenance. So every environment has its challenges.”

Among the company’s latest products is the Nilfisk SC250 walk-behind scrubber dryer designed for use in shops, schools, restaurants, cafes, bakeries and fast food chains. This is said to combine a compact size with low noise levels which makes it suitable for daytime cleaning. For larger areas such as production sites, warehouses, supermarkets, airports and car parks the company offers the Nilfisk SC6000 ride-on scrubber dryer.

Hako’s application technology trainer and consultant Klaus Serfezi agrees the location of a floor tends to dictate the cleaning and maintenance challenge. And he adds there are huge variations between the floor cleaning requirements in each environment.

Different properties

“Whether it is in a hospital, a production hall, a warehouse or a logistics centre the floor will have different properties and experience varying levels of soiling,” he said. “There will also be specific hygiene standards that will need to be considered, particularly when cleaning the floors in a hospital or food factory.

“For example, in a hospital or nursing home there will generally be linoleum or PVC flooring which will attract a relatively low level of soiling. Here it will be particularly important to provide non-slippery floors for maximum safety. In a warehouse or production hall, on the other hand, the type and level of soiling will be different and there will be other issues to contend with such as rubber abrasion marks left by forklifts, for example.”

Choose equipment carefully

He says airport terminal buildings, supermarkets and offices also have their own challenges along with different types of dirt. “This means that in each case, the cleaning equipment needs to be carefully chosen to meet the requirements at hand,” he said.

According to Serfezi, one type of floor is not necessarily harder to clean than any other. “However, problems arise when floors with microporous surfaces are not treated properly,” he adds. “There is no one-size-fits-all solution - different types of dirt require different types of cleaning.

“In addition, time is generally still an important factor in the cleaning industry even when machines are used to do the job. Unfortunately it is often the case that the time required to provide professional cleaning is not sufficiently considered or inadequate cleaning equipment is used in order to cut costs.”

IPC’s business development manager Adriano Mariano agrees microporous tile floors can be among the most problematical to clean. “This is because water can penetrate into the pores of the stone and either cause discolouration or loosen the tiles and damage the subfloor,” he said. “Restoration can be quite expensive here depending on the extent of the damage.”

He claims a good cleaning and maintenance regime can help to avoid any such issues. “Field tests have shown scrubber dryers equipped with advanced cleaning programmes plus special pads and the right chemicals can obtain effective results,” he said.

IPC’s CT81 machine is equipped with Advanced Productivity Control technology, says Mariano. “This allows the operator to control the water flow and prevent excess water from being used,” he said. The company also makes microfibre floor mops that are said to be capable of dusting and mopping in one pass.

Prochem Europe’s sales executive Stuart Macmillan shares the general opinion that the location of a floor tends to dictate the cleaning challenge. “The nearer the floor is to the building entrance, the more foot traffic soiling and contamination is likely to enter the building,” he said. “This is why it is vitally important good quality entrance matting is in position and is vacuumed regularly. And on a hard floor, it is also important to dust mop frequently in order to reduce the level of grit and prevent wear and scratching.”

He says another factor that can have an impact on cleaning is the weather. “In Europe the weather plays a major factor in floor maintenance whether on a carpet or hard floor,” he said. “Rain, snow, ice and ice gritting can all cause major damage.  We cannot do anything about the weather but we can control its impact by means of proper maintenance and cleaning, particularly at entrance locations.”

Type of contamination

The floor cleaning challenge depends on footfall and the type of contamination, he says. “I would say hospitals floors tend to be the most challenging because here you have the added impact of stretcher wheels and body fluids coupled with the need for strict hygiene control,” he said. “And
hospitals, supermarkets and airports have the added challenges of tyre marks from stretchers, trolleys and baggage respectively.”

The floors in schools can also present a problem, he says. “Here there will be a constant variety of soiling from sports fields, weather, food and chewing gum,” he explains. “Kitchens will have spillages of grease and oil which will be difficult to clean during operational times. However, this problem can be minimised using the correct cleaning products and procedures.”

According to Truvox International sales and marketing director Gordon McVean it is the intensity of traffic that dictates the floor cleaning challenge rather than the nature of the building. “For example, the extensive use of trolleys in airports, hospitals and supermarkets may cause scuffing on hard floors while the high degree of foot traffic will be another challenge,” he said.

“Some responsive cleaning is likely to be required during the day and it will be essential to minimise disruption and avoid slip risks to pedestrians from wet floors.

“Cordless battery powered machines come into their own in these situations, as do one-pass scrubber dryers that have the ability to wash, mop, scrub and dry floors rapidly.”

Every building and application has its challenges - but all are surmountable using the right equipment, according to McVean. “The greater challenge for cleaning teams is assembling the right balance of mechanical cleaning capabilities so that the operation is both efficient and cost-effective,” he said.

“This will be determined by a range of factors including the scale of the facility, the floor type, the area of flooring, the size of the cleaning team and the budget.”

Some floor types demand special care, he adds. “Gym and dance floors, for example, tend to have a wood laminate finish and these sustain intensive use and scuffing,” he said. “However, these types of floors need to be cleaned with minimal wetting to reduce the risk of moisture that may penetrate the joints and lead to premature failure.

“Safety flooring, which is increasingly common in the healthcare sector, poses another challenge that defeats some traditional cleaning methods. This is particularly the case in hospitals that specify taurine-based cleaning solutions in place of potentially harmful chemicals. This makes it all the more important to agitate the floor to remove soils without abrading the surface. Similarly, tiled
floors in kitchens and washrooms risk allowing a build-up of bacteria and soil in the grout lines.”

He says a scrubber dryer with cylindrical brushes is the answer in such environments. The Truvox floorcare range includes the Multiwash Pump/Battery; the Multiwash scrubber dryer and the Orbis range of single-disc rotaries.

The cleaning challenge may also be greater where regular maintenance has been neglected, according to McVean. “Here the soiling may have been allowed to penetrate into the surface beneath the failing protective seal,” he explains. “More frequent cleaning will need to take place in order to ensure the floor maintains a presentable appearance. This is why a sound maintenance regime in line with the flooring manufacturer’s recommendations is fundamental.”


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