Floored by polishing

23rd of July 2020
Floored by polishing
Floored by polishing

ECJ examines the cleaner’s role in keeping hard floors in tip-top condition and finds out whether it is a highly specialised task – or whether anyone could do it.

The art of “cleaning” basically involves making things appear as new again. In an ideal world, freshly-cleaned windows would sparkle and shine while newly-polished floors would present a
gleaming surface with minimal signs of wear and tear.

But when things go wrong, a hard floor can actually look worse after being treated than it did in its pre-polished state. This is because the wrong type of floor treatment could result in scratches, dark marks, unsightly patches – and even burns.

This begs the question: how specialised a task is floor cleaning and polishing? Does the operator need a certain level of skill and expertise, or is it a job that anyone could do when armed with an intuitive machine and a user-friendly product?

Floor polishing can actually be very complicated according to Kärcher’s floorcare product manager Christian Mrowka. “A lot depends on the type of floor in question and the polishing method used,” he said. “However, appropriate training is always required.”

The many different floor types available today serve to complicate the task because each one requires a different polishing method, he said.

“Training will enable the operator to identity the composition of the floor and choose the right procedure, chemicals, machines and accessories,” he said. “Operators should also be taught how to deal with stains, marks and dullness. And they must be fully capable of operating the machine and its accessories and able to dose and use the chemicals correctly.”

Operatives also need to understand how they can achieve the best results swiftly and with the least possible effort while avoiding the floor being out of action for any longer than necessary, he said. “They should also know how to avoid any mistakes that could permanently damage the floor or deliver uneven results since this could result in unnecessary extra work,” said Mrowka.

He claims the Kärcher BDP 50/2000 RS stand-on polishing machine to be particularly easy to use while also offering a high-level of operator comfort.

Easy to clean

According to Mrowka, resilient types of flooring such as vinyl and linoleum are relatively easy to clean using a water-based acrylic polish. “A scrubber dryer with a diamond pad used daily will clean the floor and maintain the shine,” he said. Examples of hard-to-clean floors include marble and granite surfaces presenting with marks and stains, he says. “A great deal of damage could be caused if the incorrect chemicals were to be administrated or if the machine were to be used wrongly,” he said.

“It is also important to correctly identify any staining since different marks have very different characteristics. For example, an acid-based stain would need to be treated quite differently to a protein-based one or a solvent stain.”

He adds that problems could also arise if a machine were to remain in place on a temperature-sensitive floor for long periods without being moved.  “This could cause permanent damage in the form of burn marks,” he said. “And using the wrong grit sandpaper or the wrong machine for sanding down laminate floors could cause uneven results or even severe damage to the wood.”

All these scenarios can be prevented with proper training and use of the right equipment, Mrowka says. “Our own international academy offers product and application training focused on floor polishing that covers a range of methods, floor types, machines, accessories and chemicals,” he said.

Diversey’s global marketing manager for cleaning tools Gemma Haslam is less inclined to consider floor polishing to be a highly specialised task. “Anyone can do it,” she said. “If you select the right machine and the right floor pad, then a good result is easy to achieve.”

However, she admits that granite floors can be a challenge because they could become damaged during polishing. “The task also becomes more complex when dealing with hard-to-clean surfaces and when using difficult-to-operate machinery,” she adds.

According to Haslam, staff need good hands-on training combined with a high level of experience, particularly when renovating floors. Diversey offers intensive classroom courses combined with practical training.

A Taski Swingo floor machine used in conjunction with a Twister Pink pad will achieve a high shine on high-traffic hard floors, she claims. “The thing about Twister pads is that with the right combination of colours, any situation can be rectified,” she adds.

Prochem’s cleaning and maintenance trainer Stuart Macmillan considers floor polishing to be a fairly specialised task. “However, most people are capable of learning the required skills with the right combination of training, products and machinery,” he said.

Type of surface

The floor cleaning challenge depends heavily on the type of floor surface in question, according to Macmillan. “For example, stripping and polishing a vinyl or linoleum floor is easier than crystallising a marble floor even though the same machines would be used for both jobs,” he said.

Emulsion-polished vinyl or linoleum are among the easiest floor types to polish in his opinion. These can be buffed using a spray buff maintainer liquid such as Prochem C502 Protreat, along with a high speed single disc rotary machine such as the Prochem Floor Pro H16.

“A red pad should be used here since this allows polished floors to maintain their shine,” he said. “And the heat created by the machine’s higher spin speed helps to harden the polymers within the maintainer, providing a protective layer that takes the impact of daily use.”

Marble is among the most complex of floors to polish and the most easily damaged, according to Macmillan. “Daily foot traffic could cause surface damage while deeper scratches would require the use of different grades of grinding pads before being crystallised to re-polish the floor to a shine,” he said.

Wooden floors can also be difficult to maintain if they require machine sanding, he adds. “This is particularly the case if the operator does not happen to know the type of seal or varnish that has been used in the past,” he said.

Using the wrong chemical could result in floorcare disasters, according to Macmillan. “For example, a highly acidic product could cause damage to a limestone floor, and if a strong polish stripper were used on a colour-sensitive linoleum surface it could make the colours run,” he said. “A highly abrasive pad fitted to a single disc rotary machine or scrubber dryer could also cause ruin a floor surface.”

Machinery should always be used by trained staff, he says. “It is the lack of training that causes damage to all types of flooring,” says Macmillan.

Prochem offers comprehensive training on hard floor cleaning and maintenance and also provides free courses to cleaning contractors when buying a Prochem machine.

According to Macmillan, one of the easiest Prochem products to use is the E457 Natural Multi-Surface Floor Cleaner. This can be used as a mopping detergent or with a rotary scrubbing machine on heavily soiled floors. “However, all our products are easy to use if the operator reads the label and follows the instructions,” he adds.

Right equipment

Filmop’s Italy area manager Jimmy Vardabega agrees that floor polishing should be an easy task when using the right equipment. “Operators must be equipped with practical and intuitive products and systems that will enable them to perform the task easily,” he said.

Filmop’s ErgoSwing is said to reduce operator effort because its ergonomic design allows for an S-shape movement on the part of the user. It is also claimed to be highly intuitive which is said to reduce the need for training.

Professional cleaning should take into account the needs of each type of floor, says Vardabega. “It is pivotal to choose equipment based on the surface to be treated as well as the task itself,” he said.

He adds that operators should be properly trained in the use of equipment to allow them to perform their tasks effectively. “We support our customers with on-site training and advise them on cleaning systems that most closely fit their needs,” he said.

Truvox executive director Gordon McVean believes floorcare to be an acquired and specialised skill.
“Professional standards are critical for those working at all levels in the cleaning profession,” he said. “Operatives need to be trained to use specialist equipment in the most productive and safe way possible.”

He says one challenge for cleaning teams is to achieve the right balance in order to make the operation efficient and cost effective. “This will be determined by a range of factors including the scale of the facility, the different floor types and the size of the cleaning team and the budget,” he said.

He claims the Orbis UHS Cordless Burnisher to be particularly simple to operate. It has adjustable handle heights, a high pad pressure for productive cleaning and a floating pad drive that adjusts for use on uneven floor surfaces.

Training and education in machine use can often be overlooked, according to McVean. “This not only protects health and safety, it also enables the highest standards of cleanliness and hygiene to be achieved,” he said. “And it helps to control costs because the machines can be used more efficiently as a result.”

Floor cleaning systems manufacturers have a major role to play in terms of training, he said. “Today’s clients expect their suppliers to be partners rather than merely vendors,” said McVean. “It’s not enough to simply sell the machine and walk away - distributors who want to develop and maintain their customer base need to prove they are in it for the long run. And providing ongoing support in the form of equipment training is an excellent way to do this.”

According to McVean, cleaning operatives need to be taught about good battery maintenance, proper storage and the correct dosage of chemicals. “These practices all play a part in getting the most out of your machine,” he said. “Teaching cleaning operatives about these issues is important and a regular training schedule enables them to stay up to date on the latest developments and trends in floor cleaning technology.

“And at the end of the day, while every facility and type of flooring has its own set of unique challenges these are all surmountable with the aid of the right equipment and services.”


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