The hardest of hard floors

4th of December 2015
The hardest of hard floors
The hardest of hard floors

Trolley cases, unusual floor types, high heels, low budgets – these are just some of the issues that can add to the challenge of caring for hard floors. Ann Laffeaty asks manufacturers how hard it can be to clean and maintain a hard floor – and why.

Producing a smooth, shiny surface on a hard floor should be easy. There are any number of polishes, disks, preparations and machines out there that are purpose-designed to provide a floor with a matt-look surface or a pristine shine.

But problems arise when people actually use the floor for the purpose for which it is intended – namely, to walk on it. High heels, wheelchairs, trolley cases, dirty shoes – all of these can cause considerable damage to a hard floor. And the greater the volume of traffic, the faster the damage will occur.

Prochem marketing manager Peta Tilley puts foot traffic among the chief challenges involved in caring for hard floors. “Dust, grit and sand that is brought in from outside must be kept to a minimum since these substances will scratch resilient surfaces and stone floors,” she said. “Good dust matting with at least three foot strides will aid maintenance and prolong polish life.”

She says high heels can also cause a considerable amount of damage. “The impact of high heels on resilient flooring means that concentrated pressure is applied to a very small area, and this leaves indentations,” she said. “The same applies to trolleys and wheelchairs.

“While rubber marks from wheelchairs and trolleys can easily be removed by spray buffing, scratches from damaged wheels can be a problem on stone floors.” According to Tilley, a specialist product such as Prochem Ultrapac Renovate will remove heavier marks.

Another challenge when caring for hard floors involves the weather conditions, she says. “In European climates rain is a problem,” said Tilley. “Water will damage polish and cause staining on stone floors if it is allowed to settle or soak into the grouting. And constant sunlight will discolour a polished surface over time.”

She says marble and terracotta floors are among the most difficult to maintain. “Marble is highly susceptible to damage from acids – even the acids present in fizzy drinks and alcohol,” she said. “Terracotta too, is particularly porous and will absorb spillages quickly.” She says sealing such floors with a product such as the company’s Prochem Stone Seal will help to prevent this problem.

Appropriate method

Truvox UK national sales manager Stephen Pinhorne believes correctly identifying the floor type can be the chief challenge when caring for hard floors. “This enables the appropriate cleaning method to be used,” he said. “Flooring can be damaged - sometimes irreparably - by using the wrong method such as an overly abrasive pad or brush, an unsuitable chemical cleaner or excessive water. If the building owner or manager is not sure about the flooring material or the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations, they should turn to an experienced machine supplier or cleaning service provider for advice.

“A high turnover of cleaning staff can also cause problems on hard floors since operatives are likely to lack adequate training or experience. Specifying machines that are simple to use and that require minimal training will help to alleviate this problem.”

He says ingrained dirt can become embedded in the indentations caused by high heels and wheeled traffic, and that this can be difficult to remove. “Where the type of floor has been identified along with traffic type and weight, the cleaning task should be more straightforward,” says Pinhorne.

He claims that a scrubber dryer with cylindrical brushes will provide the extra pressure required to shift stubborn marks from wheeled traffic. “This type of brush technology is highly effective and adaptable to a wide range of hard floors including safety flooring.”

According to Pinhorne, each type of floor has its own qualities and vulnerabilities. “However effective cleaning is always achievable with the right equipment,” he says. “Porous surfaces such as pre-sprung gym floors in schools can be damaged by water, for example.

“Safety flooring often becomes discoloured due to the use of the wrong chemicals plus too much detergent when mopping which makes it progressively harder to clean. And with tiled floors the challenge is to clean the floor thoroughly - including the grout lines - without causing a slip hazard for different shoe types.”

Truvox offers a compact Multiwash 340/Pump battery machine which is said to be capable of washing, mopping, scrubbing and drying most hard floors including tiles, vinyl, natural stone and concrete.

IPC communications manager Gabriella Bianco feels that marble, stone and concrete floors present some of the biggest challenges. “Different environments also provide varying dirt conditions which means different cleaning protocols will be required to obtain effective results,” she said.

Large areas of grouting are also particularly difficult to clean, says Bianco. “The baseboard can be considered a challenge as well and the material it is made of  - whether it is aluminium, wood, stone or steel - can alter the type of cleaning method that needs to be used,” she said.

She adds that heels, castors and trolley cases can all be a problem since the marks they leave can lend the floor a dirty appearance. “However rubber black scratches can either be removed by using manual tools such as scrub pads or a mechanical solution such as a single disk machine,” she said. “An effective result can be achieved on lighter scratches by using a scrubber dryer equipped with pads that will not only polish the floor but will also clean it of daily dirt.”

High traffic challenge

She says high traffic floors present a particular challenge. “In large public areas such as department stores, airports and schools there is a need for a solution that ensures effective cleaning and drying results,” she said. “A silent, ergonomic scrubber dryer with a small turning radius works well even in locations that are subject to high traffic. And an effective drying process is key in crowded locations in order to avoid the risk of slippery floors.”

Porous tile surfaces are among the most difficult to clean, maintain and polish according to Bianco. “This is because dirt penetrates into the pores of the stone,” she said. “Tests have shown scrubber dryers equipped with advanced cleaning programmes; special pads made from microfibre and appropriate chemicals will achieve the best results on this kind of floor.”

IPC offers a range of machines and manual tools for use on hard floors. Products include double-brush scrubber dryers such as the ECS and CT80 models.

According to 3M’s Western Europe market development manager Tim Copner, the chief hard floor challenge is to find a simple solution that will balance end-user expectations with cost.

“This solution should also fit in around increasing 24-hour use,” he said. “High heels, wheelchairs and trolley cases will all scratch and scuff surfaces but in my opinion it is the level of traffic that causes the most issues.”

Copner adds there are some hard floors – such as granite - where creating a high shine can be a challenge. “Problems also occur in wet weather when moisture can become ingrained in the floor where it will cause damage,” he said. “Here a matting solution is important.”

3M offers Scotch Guard Floor Protector for use on high-traffic floors. “This increases the gloss level as well as providing a protective layer,” claims Copner. For damaged, heavily-worn floors the company offers Trizact diamond disks that can used on a standard machine.

Specific problems

He says there are some floors where specific problems can occur in isolated areas. “For example, in hand sanitiser stations there can be an issue if the sanitiser drips on to the floor below,” he said. “These products have a tendency to stain and to penetrate the floor surface. Similarly in retail areas where products such as fresh fruit and flowers are sold, there tends to be water in among the product and this can cause deep staining.”

3M offers an invisible film - Scotch Guard Surface Protection Film - that can be used beneath hand sanitiser stations and on other areas of flooring where localised damaging spills are likely to occur.

Application technology trainer and consultant for Hako Klaus Serfezi says the increasing range of different floor types presents a major challenge for manufacturers. “It can be difficult to figure out what type of flooring material you are dealing with,” he said.  “It would be perfect if clients were able to provide contract cleaners with maintenance instructions in each case - nice in theory but obviously not always possible.”

Minimal maintenance

He says any exposure to scratches and rubber abrasions can make a floor more difficult to clean. “It is advisable to take into consideration the kind of strain a floor will be exposed to before selecting the floor surfacing for a new building,” he said. “In fact practical considerations should always take priority over aesthetics.”

According to Serfezi, any floor that is in constant use should require minimal maintenance besides cleaning. “All good care products need time to dry which is often not feasible in highly frequented areas,” he said.

And he agrees with 3M’s Tim Copner that client expectations can be among the biggest floor care challenges. “Every type of floor can be properly cleaned and maintained if the contract cleaner is given sufficient time to do the job,” he said.

“Once the type of floor surfacing has been identified and it has become clear that a particular floor requires special maintenance, the most difficult part is to explain to the customer that cleaning will cost him or her money. But anyone who wants an exclusive floor has to live with the fact that it will require a higher than average effort to clean and maintain.”


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