Friday, December 2, 2011

Floor Care Troubleshooting for Schools and Universities

As many school administrators and cleaning professionals know floor care and, most specifically, stripping and refinishing floors (restorative floor care), can be costly, time consuming, disruptive, labor intensive, and potentially harmful to the environment as well as the workers performing the task. Because of this, the last thing administrators and cleaning workers want is for problems to develop shortly after floor care tasks have been completed.

But, unfortunately, they do and do so often. In many cases, these problems can be avoided with just some common sense. For instance, in one setting, cleaning workers designated certain mops “finish mops,” those used to apply floor finish, and “cleaning mops,” those used to mop floors.
This is fine and recommended. However, different types of finishes were used with the same finish mops. Different finishes are not necessarily compatible. They may contain similar ingredients, but in varying amounts, or have ingredients that do not work well with the components of other finishes. As a result, problems arose after the restorative work was completed.

It is always wise to use fresh mops when performing major floor restorative tasks. Also make sure all tools such as buckets and even mop poles are thoroughly cleaned before use. As an added measure, some manufacturers of floor chemicals and finishes design their products for use as a “system.” Accordingly, it can be a very good practice to use strippers, cleaners, glosses, and finishes all from the same manufacturer to help minimize problems after floor work is completed.

Another common sense item that can help prevent floor care problems after restorative work is to know when the work should be performed in the first place. Although schools and universities often must schedule this work when it will cause the least disruption, this may not necessarily be the best time. Climate conditions can have a major impact on how well finishes adhere to floors. Very cold, very hot, and very humid conditions are not desirable for performing restorative floor care. Cold can be especially problematic because, although heating systems may be working and room temperatures are comfortable, the floor and subflooring may be cold. This can cause problems. Two of the best times to strip and refinish floors are spring and fall.

Common Floor Care Problems … and Solutions
For those who have encountered previous problems with their floors after restorative work or are not thoroughly trained on proper floor care techniques, there is a tendency to believe that just about any kind of floor care problem that can happen will. This is not the case. However, there are some common floor care problems that frequently occur. They will be addressed below along with their most likely solution.
Powdering: This is when the floor finish actually begins to disintegrate, forming a powder or fine light-colored material on the surface of the floor shortly after finish has been applied. There are several reasons this can occur. If the floor is new, has it been stripped/scrubbed before finish has been applied? Many new floors are delivered with a covering to protect the floor in transport. However, that covering should be removed before finish is applied.

Other causes for powdering are that an acrylic-type polish was applied over a wax-type polish or the old finish was not thoroughly removed; soiled mops and buckets were used; climate conditions were unfavorable; moisture permeates the floor; a high speed floor machine (burnisher) was used to polish the floor when the finish called for a conventional, much slower speed buffer; or air movers used to speed drying were pointed directly toward the floor, causing the finish to not dry properly.

Poor gloss: For some dedicated custodial workers, waiting to see how well a floor turns out after restorative floor care is almost as exciting as waiting to see if mom had a boy or a girl. So you can imagine their let down to see their “baby,” the just finished floor has minimal gloss, nothing as was expected or hoped for. This may have been caused simply because not enough coats of finish were applied to the floor. Typically, it takes three thin coats before a shine emerges. Many custodial workers, when and where possible, will apply as many as four to six coats of finish to protect the floor and build up a high-gloss shine. Other causes for poor gloss are that the coats of finish are too thick; soiled tools and equipment were used; the floor was not adequately cleaned and, just as important, rinsed before finish application; or the wrong stripping, scrubbing, or polishing pads were used. In many situations, the floor can be cleaned or machine scrubbed and then refinished to produce the desired gloss.

Discolored floor finish: As upsetting as poor gloss after restorative floor work is discolored floor finish. And just like the other problems presented, there can be a variety of reasons. For instance, before using new cotton mops to clean floors or apply finish, soak and clean them with a neutral cleaner. During the manufacturing process, oils may have been applied to the mop that, when mixed with floor finish, can cause it to discolor. Other causes are more basic but common. For instance, the stripper/cleaner used on the floor was improperly diluted; the floor was not adequately cleaned before finish application; or stripper/cleaners residue was left on the floor. In some cases, using an automatic scrubber on the floor can help remove some of the impurities causing the discoloration. This should be tried before starting over and performing a complete restoration.

Excessive scuffing and scratching: Especially in an educational setting, floors are going to become scuffed and scratched. However, if this begins to happen shortly after restorative work or the scuffing/scratching is more pervasive than before, it may be because the finish used was too thick, there were actually too many coats of finish applied to the floor, or, just the opposite, not enough finish was applied. As mentioned earlier, applying four to six thin coats of finish to a stripped floor is considered a best practice. There can be other causes such as the wrong buffing pad is being used (too soft or too coarse), or very simply the floor is not being buffed or burnished frequently enough. Depending on foot traffic and desired look, the floor may need to be buffed/burnished as often as once per day.

Learning on the Job … a Big No No
A private school in California asked their custodial workers to strip and refinish their lobby and hallway floors. In the past, this work was outsourced to companies that specialize in restorative floor care. However, for budgetary reasons, administrators decided their own custodial crew should do the work, saving the school a considerable sum.

The custodial crew had little experience performing major floor care tasks. They asked their janitorial distributor for guidance. After about 30 minutes of instruction at the distributor’s location, they set out to strip and refinish the school’s floors.

This is called learning on the job and is much more common than administrators may realize or custodial workers may want to admit. The problem in this case, as with most such incidents, is that a variety of problems emerged after the restorative work had been completed, including virtually all those discussed here and more.

All cleaning work requires proper training and this is especially true when it comes to floors. Several nonprofit organizations — including the Clean Trust, formerly the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification, as well as ISSA, the Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association, and Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI), both cleaning associations — offer floor care training courses. It’s best to learn the skill on their floors so it is done right on your school’s floors.
Huong Pham is Product Marketing Manager for Powr-Flite, a leading manufacturer of floor care products, tools, and equipment.  She may be reached through the company Web site at

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Granite Tips For Better Maintenance

Many office buildings built in the past 20 years installed vinyl composite tile (VCT) in their entries and lobbies. VCT is durable, comes in an assortment of colors and styles, is quick and easy to install, and—probably best of all—is relatively inexpensive. However, as buildings age, some building owners and managers consider installing higher-grade floors that will help them compete with newer office facilities. In these cases, granite floors often are at the top of the list.

Granite is one of the most durable flooring surfaces available. It has a rich, high-end look to it, and it’s typically found in more desirable properties. A concern about granite, at least until recently, is that it can also be expensive. But due to the economy and greater availability, granite is often more affordable than it was just a few years ago. As a result, more facilities are taking advantage of this opportunity and installing granite floors.

However, building owners and managers should know that although granite is relatively easy to maintain, it does have some specific cleaning and maintenance requirements. Here we address these issues.

Granite 101
The word “granite” is derived from the Latin word “granum,” meaning grain or seed. Granite typically has a granular or speckled appearance and, through a complicated process, is formed from the cooling and solidification of lava over a period of literally eons. It contains a variety of minerals—specifically feldspar—along with liquids and oils. The proper composition of all these materials, along with quartz, results in the hard and durable qualities and appearance for which granite is famous.
There are many steps involved in making a finished granite floor. It is honed to give it a smooth appearance and then polished using diamond abrasives, which provide the shine. The level of preparation and maintenance depends on the stone’s condition in addition to the customer’s objectives if it has been preordered or specifically selected for a building installation. Once installed, a floor finish is typically not applied or needed.

Daily/Routine Maintenance
Some building owners and managers mistakenly believe that granite is durable enough to withstand just about any condition, use, or abuse. As with other flooring, though, granite can be damaged; walked-in grit, soil, moisture, and fine particles of sand are among the main culprits. So granite requires routine cleaning.
In addition, all building entrances should have proper matting installed, including:

  • Scraper mats directly outside entries remove large debris and heavy concentrations of moisture
  • Wiper/scraper mats, often placed directly inside facilities, further capture and trap contaminants
  • Wiper mats, the final line of defense, remove remaining dust and moisture from shoe bottoms.
Granite floors also should be dust mopped or cleaned using microfiber systems or, even better, vacuumed once per day. Vacuuming with a commercial upright or a backpack vacuum cleaner can help ensure that grit and sand are pulled out of porous areas in the granite and removed from the floor—not just pushed from one area to another.

Additionally, the granite can be damp mopped using a neutral cleaner—there are some cleaners on the market specifically for cleaning granite—or just water. Avoid using an excessively damp mop, and note that a haze will develop occasionally after damp mopping. Using a soft white pad on a conventional rotary buffer can usually buff out this haze.

Periodic Maintenance
While granite appears to have a hard and durable surface, it is porous—and some types of granite are more porous than others. As a result, soils can and do build up in the pores, which can eventually mar the granite’s appearance and function.

The best way to remove buildup from granite is to use an automatic scrubber, which is designed to scrub, clean, vacuum up waste (moisture, chemical slurry, and soils), and dry floors all in one pass. Make sure the machine’s size is the right fit for your area. Another feature to consider is “brush assist” forward motion which helps to self-propel the machine and make the job easier and faster. Also check that it has an advanced vacuum and squeegee system to ensure the floor dries as the machine is used.

Granite is a proven flooring material and may be practical for many more remodeling budgets today than it was a few years ago. However, it does require some maintenance. Still, after implementing an appropriate cleaning program, granite can last for decades in the busiest facilities and stay looking like new for years.

For more information on floor care and floor maintenance products, visit

Monday, November 7, 2011

Need-to-Know Floor Care Terms for the Cleaning Professional

Every industry has their own acronyms and terminology and floor care is no different. For those new to the industry below are a few key industry terms to help you get acclimated and acquainted with the lingo.

Bloom: A condition in which moisture has condensed upon and is being trapped by the floor finish film, rendering a haze over the surface

Powdering: The loose, powdery substance that may be present after a floor finish is buffed or burnished.

pH: A measurement of the acidity or alkalinity of a substance.

Peeling: The floor finish pulls away from the floor surface in large flakes or strips.

Streaking: Areas on a floor surface that are non-uniform and left uncleaned or are visibly duller

VOC: Volatile Organic Compounds that can potentially harm human health

Curing: The aging process that allows a floor sealer or finish to fully bond and harden

Fish Eyes: Small circles that appear in a floor finish after it has dried.

Heeling: Technique of applying pressure to the edge of a floor machine and pad to remove stubborn marks and scuffs

Mar: A mutilation of a floor finish film that is only repairable by recoating

To learn more, visit

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Green Alternatives to Flooring

When it comes to operating a facility in a more sustainable manner, managers typically think first about installing more energy efficient lighting and finding ways to reduce the amount of energy required to heat and cool their buildings. Next they consider the landscaping and restroom fixtures and make any necessary adjustments to conserve water. Then they typically investigate transferring to green cleaning products—a simple way to become more sustainable. In fact, they look just about everywhere...except the floors.
One reason for this oversight in many existing buildings is the floors already have been installed. A commercial carpet is designed to last about 10 years before it needs replacing. But in most cases, hard-surface floors can last for decades.
However, for buildings now being planned or constructed or for an existing facility under renovation, designers, building owners and managers have the opportunity to select from a variety of sustainable flooring options that are proving to be cost effective, high performing, relatively easy to maintain and attractive.

What is a sustainable floor?
One way to define a sustainable hard-surface floor is to list its attributes. Sustainable floors generally encompass these characteristics:
· It is durable and high performing, lasting as long, if not longer, than the conventional floor it is designed to replace;
· The flooring materials are locally available, reducing transport costs;
· If it's a wood floor, it is made from wood species that are readily available and originate from managed forests (see sidebar);
· The flooring is recyclable and, possibly even more important, made from recycled materials; and
· It can be cleaned and maintained using readily available cleaning products made from sustainable ingredients.
As referenced earlier, several types of floors now meet these criteria. Bamboo and cork are becoming more and more popular in both residential and commercial settings, and even traditional hardwood species—such as red and white oak, maple, cherry, and walnut—now are being grown in managed forests.
In addition to wood, one flooring material that deserves considerable attention is rubber. To the surprise of many, rubber flooring is growing in popularity in all kinds of facilities. Not only can it be created from recycled tires, helping to alleviate a major landfill problem, but it is available in just about any color.

Wood flooring
Before discussing bamboo and cork flooring, note that bamboo is not made from a tree. It is actually a grass that through processing is formed into flooring that often is referred to as wood.
Bamboo grows all over the world but is more commonly found in Southeast Asia, especially China. It has the warm tone of traditional wood flooring, which has made it very popular in residential and commercial settings, and it is durable and resistant to wear. According to some reports, it has the same durability as some of the hardest of hardwoods traditionally used for flooring.

Cork oak trees grow mostly in the Mediterranean in such countries as Portugal, Algeria, Spain, Morocco, France, Italy and Tunisia. Although not as durable as bamboo, cork has some very unusual qualities—such as being water, fire, rot and termite resistant. Cork flooring also has a sponge-like feel when walked on that can help reduce fatigue.

Rubber flooring
Rubber flooring usually is made from recycled tires. Although tire manufacturers continually are changing how tires are made, they typically contain 65 percent rubber, 10 percent fiber and 25 percent steel by weight. Through a grinding, shredding, magnetic separating, screening and sorting process, these ingredients can be transformed into extremely durable and attractive flooring.
Rubber—which often is referred to as protective flooring due to its considerable durability—was used for flooring long before the popularity of recycling tires took hold. However, it was rarely a facility builder or manager's first choice. This is mostly due to its traditional utilitarian look and lack of style. In the past, most designers readily have used it in back-of-the-house locations such as staircases, warehouses, dock areas and in industrial areas where a protective, extremely durable floor is necessary. Now that rubber comes in a variety of colors, textures and designs, it is moving into the more visited areas of a facility.
The benefits of rubber are many. When compared to most conventional floor coverings, rubber flooring is an inexpensive alternative, making it a value solution. It is extremely durable and tends to be slip resistant, thereby promoting safety, and for those facilities seeking LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, can help a facility earn points.

Maintenance issues
When it comes to cleaning and maintenance issues regarding any type of flooring, it is always best to consult an expert. Sustainable wood floors have most of the same maintenance needs as conventional floors. However, one thing is very important.
In most cases, they should never be damp mopped. Over time, this can harm the floor. Instead they should be vacuumed, preferably with a backpack vacuum cleaner and/or dry mopped.
Vacuuming removes large and small particulates from the floor, while dry mopping will remove dust, according to Pelphrey. When a more thorough cleaning is necessary, ask the manufacturer, distributor or installer for recommendations on what products to use.
Scratches on the surface of the floor can be another issue. Unfortunately—just as with traditional hardwood floors—there is no such thing as a totally scratch-proof floor.

Vacuuming and sweeping the floor regularly, along with installing ample matting at building entries and on the floor itself in heavily trafficked areas, will help minimize scratching.
The following are suggestions for cleaning and maintaining most types of rubber floors:
· Commercial Vacuum - Although rubber floors can be swept and dust mopped, vacuuming these floors with a backpack vacuum cleaner is more thorough and environmentally preferable. Sweeping can mar indoor air quality and negatively impact the health of the cleaning professional. It is also more time consuming than vacuuming with a backpack.
· Mop selection - Although flat mops have become more popular in the professional cleaning industry and tend to use less water and chemicals than string mops, for a rubber floor, a string mop may be preferable. This is because many rubber floors have a textured, studded finish that can be difficult to clean using a flat mop system.
· Chemical selection - In most cases, a neutral cleaner is all that is necessary to clean rubber floors, and there are several available that are green certified. However, if the floor is installed in a locker room, health care center or where there are increased concerns about germs and bacteria, a sanitizer or disinfectant often can be used.
Rubber floors also can be machine buffed for added luster. However, some problems may develop if the rubber floor is studded or has indentations. This texture can trap dirt and soils below the surface of the floor. A conventional rotary machine with a pad may not be able to penetrate the floor and remove this grit.
Instead, cleaning professionals often turn to what are called multiwash machines. The benefit of these machines is the fact that they use cylindrical brushes instead of rotary floor brushes or pads, which allows them to penetrate areas below the surface of the floor.

Managed forests
According to the National Wood Flooring Association, more wood now is added in new growth in the United States than is being harvested. This net increase has been sustained for several years and is the result of what are termed managed forests where, among other things, steps have been taken to protect watersheds, prevent soil erosion and maintain a balance between the numbers of full-grown trees cut down and the number of trees left to grow for the overall preservation, diversity and health of the forest from which they came.
These machines can wash, scrub, mop and dry the floor in one step. This helps improve worker productivity and lower cleaning costs.

Being practical about sustainability
There are other types of sustainable hard-surface floors that have not been mentioned here. These often are made from recycled materials such as glass, tile, cement and other products. Very often, sustainable floors also are made of combinations of materials. Nevertheless, nearly all types are considered highly durable and with the attention they are receiving from designers, have become quite attractive as well.
Building owners and managers now have scores of ways to make their buildings more sustainable. Whether it involves heating, air conditioning, water or flooring, more practical sustainable options are available that in most cases are surprisingly cost effective and help protect valuable resources for future generations. 

For more information, visit

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Top Five "Whys" of Floor Finish

You might think the customer service department of a major professional cleaning equipment manufacturer would only receive questions about the company’s machines. However, according to Gary Pelphrey, general manager of Powr-Flite Direct, most of the floor-care questions they receive regard floor finish and not equipment.

Below are the five most frequent floor-care questions received by the Powr-Flite customer service department:

1. Why can’t we strip/refinish floors in the winter months?
The optimum temperature for stripping/refinishing floors is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Too cold - or too hot - and the finish may not adhere properly.

2.  Why do we get streaks in our floor finish after it has dried?
Streaks in the floor’s finish can be caused by several factors, possibly the finish was not thoroughly dried before another coat was added; too many coats of finish have been applied; or the finish was applied too heavily.

3. Why are there swirls in the floor finish after burnishing?
Again, there may be multiple reasons: possibly the wrong burnishing pad is being used; similarly, the pad may be too aggressive for the finish applied; too slow or too fast a burnisher is being used with a given burnishing pad.

4. Why is it so hard to remove the old finish on a floor?
When refinishing floors, what many cleaning professionals forget is to allow the stripping solution to dwell on the floor for several minutes before stripping. This allows the chemical to break down the finish so it can be removed more easily.

5. Why does my floor finish “walk off” the floor?
Make sure the finish applied is recommended for that specific type of floor. If the finish is formulated for a VCT floor, for example, it may not adhere properly to a stone, terrazzo, or ceramic tile floor.

“Of course we always add one more answer no matter what the floor-care question,” says Pelphrey. “We tell our callers, proper floor care is a systems approach requiring the right machine, chemicals, and training.”

About Powr-Flite 
Established more than 40 years ago, Powr-Flite manufactures a full line of floor-care equipment and carpet extractors for the professional cleaning industry. Based in Fort Worth, TX, the company has over 20 patented designs and its products are recognized throughout the world for their innovation, durability, quality and performance. Their products are marketed directly to end-use customers as well as through distributors throughout the North America, Europe and the Far East. For more information please visit

Monday, October 31, 2011

Powr-Flite Troubleshooter: Persistent Problem Floors

There are times when even under the best of care, using the best chemicals and equipment, floor care problems persist. For instance, streaking, poor gloss, uneven shine, even discoloring are among floor care problems that can resurface for no apparent reason.

This months Powr-Flite Troubleshooter identifies some reasons this can happen and offers specific ways to tackle the problem:

·      First do nothing. Before attempting to “fix” the problem, do nothing. Instead, make a list of what floor care problems are present, where they are and are not located, the type of flooring, when they were first noted, traffic conditions in the problem area, and even climate conditions.  All of these can have an impact on the appearance of floors.

·      Matting: Most floor soiling is walked into a facility. Experts suggest up to 15 feet of matting may be necessary at key building entries.

·      Chemical evaluation: Some floor care chemicals from the same manufacturer are designed to work together as a system for maximum results. Chemicals manufactured by different manufacturers may not always work together well.

·      Equipment evaluation. Older floor machines may not have proper “pad to floor” contact, which can result in an uneven shine; Squeegees on auto-scrubbers can tear, resulting in streaks and lines.

·      Equipment care: Thoroughly empty tanks after each use to prevent mold from developing, which can contaminated floor care chemicals.

·      Floor care plan. Having a written floor care plan helps ensure that a variety of daily, interim and restoration floor care tasks are completed and on set schedules.

“And we should not forget that ISSA as well as many [jansan] distributors offer continuing education programs specifically addressing floor care problems,” says Huong Pham, product manager for Powr-Flite. “These [classes] can prove to be very helpful.”

About Powr-Flite
Established more than 40 years ago, Powr-Flite manufactures a full line of floor-care equipment and carpet extractors for the professional cleaning industry. Based in Fort Worth, TX, the company has over 20 patented designs and its products are recognized throughout the world for their innovation, durability, quality and performance. Their products are marketed directly to end-use customers as well as through distributors throughout the North America, Europe and the Far East. For more information please visit