A good, comprehensive resilient maintenance program is the key to a long, attractive life for commercial resilient flooring. A regular and well-planned maintenance program can reduce wear and ultimately increase the service life of the floor covering. Proper maintenance can also make the floor look like new.
Soil and Grit Control
Controlling grit and soil is crucial to prolonging the attractive appearance of any floor. Grit or soil is any material that can be tracked-in, including dirt, stones, sand and abrasive soils that are deposited onto the floor by normal traffic. The best way to control grit is by using appropriate walk-off mats.
Recommended mats have a high-friction, open surface designed to knock grit particles from the bottoms of shoes and then trap the particles. Mats should be used at every entrance, inside and outside, should be at least as wide as the doorway and “four foot falls” 8’ to 12’ long. Also, select a mat with a backing that won’t stain the resilient floor material.
Mats should be cleaned regularly. They should be vacuumed, shaken and/or hosed off frequently, to prevent tracking in any particles. Regardless, fine dust particles will still find their way into the interior, despite existence of the walk-off mats. Regular vacuuming, sweeping and dust-mopping will help control this type of grit. For the most cost-effective method of controlling fine dust-like grit, dust with a treated non-oily dust mop.
Cleaning a floor can range from a simple damp-mopping to a complete stripping. Damp-mopping/spot-mopping is appropriate for cleaning up dust, spills and other easy-to-remove soil. The detergent solution should be changed frequently to eliminate re-depositing dirt on the floor. Done regularly, this procedure can minimize the need for more time-consuming maintenance procedures.
When faced with heavily embedded soil, scrubbing is the recommended solution. This method requires application of a neutral cleaning solution, followed by scrubbing and rinsing the floor. The scrubbing procedure can be performed with pads, scrub brushes, a single-disc floor machine, a wet-vac for removing dirty cleaning solutions and rinse water, or an automatic floor machine (using red, blue or green pads or appropriate brushes).
When cleaning linoleum, all maintenance solutions must be 10 pH or less.The automatic floor machine is a favorable choice for especially large areas because it applies the detergent solution, scrubs the floor and takes up the dirty solution in a single operation. Automatic floor machines are available in various sizes and can be fitted with the appropriate pad or brush. The single-disc machine, on the other hand, requires separate equipment for each of the scrubbing/rinsing steps.
There are three main reasons for polishing a floor: protection, appearance and ease of maintenance. Note: If a sealer is recommended or required, it must be applied before the polish. Also, do not apply more than four coats of sealer and/or polish in a 24-hour period.
The best polish for protecting and enhancing many commercial resilient floors is a high-quality commercial floor polish with a 16-22% solids level that is designed for durability and resistance to detergent solutions (except stripping solutions).
Maintaining an acceptable gloss level is done by buffing, spray-buffing or burnishing. Allow adequate drying time after each coat. Unless otherwise stated, do not buff, spray buff or burnish a floor with less than three to five coats of polish. Without the mandatory three to five coats of polish, the pad or brush may make contact with the actual flooring surface, most likely marring the flooring material with burn marks and swirls.
Supplementary coats of polish should be applied as appearance and gloss level dictate. To maintain optimal appearance in high-traffic and high soil areas (lobbies, chair slide areas in cafeterias, elevators, supermarket checkout lanes, etc.), polish may need to be applied more frequently to maintain the minimum protective layer.
Generally, sealing a floor is optional. Sealers are usually used on older floors to improve maintenance characteristics and on floors where additional stain resistance is desired. If the polish manufacturer recommends the use of a sealer, that recommendation should be followed. Generally two coats of a sealer are sufficient to provide the desired protection. Sealers (by themselves) are generally not recommended as a walking surface. They must be top-coated with a floor polish. Resilient flooring sealers are generally applied by the same techniques used when applying floor polishes.
Stripping is the process of removing all dirt and old polish from the floor. Use a strong, highly alkaline detergent solution. Stripping should be done at 300 rpm or less with a blue or green pad or equivalent, or a scrub brush. The use of more aggressive pads or brushes can cause permanent damage to the floor. Remove the dirty solution with a wet-vac or mop, and rinse the floor thoroughly. This process should be repeated until all old polish is removed.
Do not perform dry stripping of any resilient floor.
Mop-on/mop-off stripping solutions which do not require machine scrubbing can also be used. The use of mop-on/mop-off, no-scrub and/or no-rinse strippers is not recommended on tile floors that are less than two years old, because they may affect the adhesive bond. The use of these highly solvenated or highly concentrated strippers can also be detrimental to linoleum and other specialty flooring products. Always refer to flooring manufacturer’s recommendations.
Stripping is the most labor intensive and, therefore, the most expensive floor maintenance procedure. It should not be done more often than is absolutely necessary. A well-trained maintenance staff using quality equipment and maintenance products on a regular schedule can significantly reduce the need for stripping.