School administrators and facility managers are, more frequently, deciding not to apply a finish to their floors. A floor finish is a liquid applied to a hard surface floor that dries into a smooth film, about the thickness of waxed paper. In addition to protecting the floor, it makes it more attractive and slip-resistant.
Time, cost and environmental factors are all reasons why this process is becoming obsolete. Here, Ron Segura, president of Segura Associates, describes why opting out of a finish isn’t the best idea and offers some healthy and manageable alternatives.
Why have some facilities stopped this practice?
Applying a finish to the floor, once known as waxing the floor, means the finish must eventually be removed. But stripping the floor, as well as regularly “spray-buffing” it to keep it shiny and presentable, is a time-consuming and costly procedure.
There are also environmental issues. Even though more products have been green-certified, some strippers and floor cleaning solutions have not. Powerful cleaning products and their use or misuse can be potentially harmful to both the cleaning worker and the environment.
How can a floor finish support facility maintenance?
The real purpose of a floor finish is not to put a shine on the floor but to protect it. View the finish as a thin plate of glass over the floor. This thin plate of glass protects high-traffic areas from spills, scratches, grit and soil.
Here are some other reasons:
- The finish makes it easier to maintain the floor. It can reduce the amount of required cleaning time, allowing custodial workers to perform other duties.
- The finish improves the appearance of a facility. Studies have found that one of the first things visitors notice in a facility is the floor. A floor that is aesthetically pleasing makes a good first and lasting impression.
- Many new floor finishes are designed to last much longer than those manufactured in the past. This helps stretch floor refinishing cycles, which address the cost and environmental issues.
- Some finishes are made with antimicrobial preservatives. Using this type of floor finish in a healthcare, daycare or educational setting can help prevent the spread of disease.
- The finish can make the floor safer to walk on and prevent slip-and-fall accidents.
How do you stretch a floor refinishing cycle?
Cost and environmental issues are very important to consider if you do plan to apply a finish to a floor. At one time, school floors, for instance, were stripped and refinished two or more times per year. This is time-consuming, costly and a potentially environmentally unfriendly procedure, so we must find ways to reduce these refinishing cycles. Fortunately, this is possible. Here are some strategies:
- Refinish floors based on appearance and not calendar schedules.
- Concentrate floor care efforts in high-traffic areas, entrances and lower levels of the facility. Keeping these areas clean can help prevent soils from spreading to other floor areas.
- Use floor finishes made from thermoplastic acrylic copolymers. This provides more of a plastic coating to the floor and helps fortify the finish so \ it lasts longer.
- Use floor finishes designed to be burnished with a high-speed floor machine and not buffed using a low-speed machine. These finishes are typically more durable, and burnishing the floor helps preserve its shine and overall appearance.
- Be sure high performance mats—at least 15 feet in length—are installed at all key entrances. An effective system includes a scraper mat installed outside, a wiper/scraper mat installed within the facility, followed by a wiper mat. Each type of mat plays a role in capturing and trapping soil and moisture.
- Increase daily cleaning of the floor, preferably using an automatic scrubber. Mopping tends to spread soils from one area to another. An autoscrubber applies cleaning solution to the floor, scrubs soils off the floor and then vacuums the soil and moisture. This is a far more effective way to clean and maintain the floor. The autoscrubber can also be used to apply a thin coat of finish every few weeks.
Ron Segura is president of Segura Associates. His company works with schools and universities as well as cleaning contractors to help streamline their cleaning and building operations so that they function more effectively and efficiently and realize a cost savings. He can be reached through his company website at www.seguraassociates.com.