Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Commercial Carpet Cleaners Diversifying into VCT Floor Care

October 22, 2002
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Have you ever been cleaning a carpet when your client asks, “Can you clean my tile floor while you are here?” For many cleaning contractors, the answer is an unfortunate “no.”

If you are not cleaning hard surface floors you may be leaving money on the table. Worse, if you don’t clean your customer’s hard floors, perhaps your competitor will. A cleaner who works with both carpets and hard surface floors has the competitive edge. Commercial carpet cleaners can generate additional profits by adding hard surface floor cleaning to their list of services without having to put out a bank-breaking investment in equipment, products and training.

Where to Start
There are many different types of hard surface floors used in commercial facilities. When implementing a hard surface floor-cleaning program, the first thing you have to determine is what type of floors will you clean.

The different types of hard surface floors found in commercial buildings include vinyl composition tile (VCT), ceramic, marble, wood, concrete, and specialty floors such as EDS (electro-static discharge), metal and glass.

The most common hard surface floor found in commercial buildings is VCT.

The Cycle of VCT Floor Care
The procedures involved in the care of VCT fall into four basic categories as described by the IICRC’s new floor care technician’s course: initial, routine/daily, periodic/interim and restorative/salvage.

>Initial. Technically, the initial cleaning is most often described as the “initial” procedure performed on a newly installed floor; however, it can also describe the first procedure you perform. Whether it is a routine, periodic or restorative cleaning performed, if it is the first procedure you do, it is often described as the initial cleaning.

Routine/Daily Cleaning. This is the least aggressive cleaning procedure. These procedures are designed to keep the floor at a consistent level of appearance, and to prolong the frequency between the more-aggressive periodic and restorative cleanings. Routine cleaning consists primarily of dry soil removal (sweeping, vacuuming or dust mopping) and wet cleaning (damp or wet mopping). The building service contractor or the in-house cleaning staff usually performs these procedures.

Periodic/Interim Cleaning. More aggressive than routine cleaning, but not as aggressive as restorative cleaning. Periodic cleaning is sometimes incorporated with routine cleaning, but it is most often a stand-alone procedure. Periodic cleaning almost always involves some type of scrubbing and polishing (e.g. buffing, burnishing or re-coating with finish). These cleanings are ideal for the contract cleaner; the procedures are easier to perform than restorative cleaning and can be very profitable.

Restorative/Salvage Cleaning. Restorative cleaning is the most aggressive of all procedures and involves complete stripping and re-finishing of the floor. Stripping VCT is defined as the complete removal of all existing coats of sealer and finish. It is a labor-intensive and expensive procedure to perform. Stripping can be profitable when priced accordingly and it is the procedure most often requested.

Ideally, after you strip and re-finish a floor you will want to follow up with a maintenance program. Maintenance programs utilize periodic cleaning procedures and will prolong the stripping frequency while keeping the floor at its highest level of appearance.

The periodic and restorative cleaning methods are the procedures you should be targeting in your sales effort. Identifying which procedures need to be performed on a floor will require some field experience. When in doubt, the safest bet is to strip the floor; however, if the finish is scuffed, scratched and slightly worn, a periodic cleaning may be all that is required.

Additional Procedures
Periodic procedures usually include some additional procedures in the form of scrubbing, cleaning and polishing. There are three levels of scrubbing: light, medium and heavy. The overall condition of the floor and the specific needs of the facility will dictate which procedure to use.

Polishing procedures include some type of spray buffing, burnishing and/or re-coating with floor finish. Briefly:

  • Perform preparatory procedures (content moving, set-up track off mat, etc.).
  • Set safety perimeter (safety cones, placards and/or barricades).
  • Perform dry soil removal (sweeping, vacuum clean or dust mop).
  • Apply stripping or scrubbing solution. Scrubbing solutions are usually neutral cleaners or all-purpose cleaners. All-purpose cleaners are slightly higher in alkaline (9.5 pH), while strippers are very aggressive and much higher in alkalinity (12 to 13 pH).
  • Allow dwell time but do not let the solution dry on the floor.
  • Clean corners and edges with edge-cleaning equipment.
  • Agitate cleaning solution or stripper with a machine and the appropriate pad or brush (for stripping use a hi-pro or conventional black stripping pad; for light scrubbing use a red pad; green pads are used for medium scrubbing; and maroon or brown pads for heavy scrubbing).
  • After the floor is thoroughly stripped and/or cleaned, extract the slurry (make sure the slurry does not dry on the floor).
  • If the floor was scrubbed, rinse thoroughly. If it was stripped, rinse and neutralize with a floor neutralizer.
  • Inspect for results. Re-clean or re-strip any needed areas, then rinse and/or neutralize.
  • Let air dry, or dry with a speed dryer.
  • Dust-mop or tack-mop to remove any debris to prep the floor for sealer/finish or spray buffing, high-speed spray buffing or burnishing.
    Spray buffing uses a low-speed machine (175 rpm), a red or white pad, and a spray buff product. The basic procedure involves spraying an enhancement product called a conditioner and/or restorer ahead of the machine and working it into the floor until the desired appearance is achieved. Spray buffing renews the floor finish by filling in the scratches/scuffs and irregularities in the floor finish.
    High-speed spray buffing uses a high-speed machine (1,000 rpms or higher), a burnishing pad and a spray buff product. The basic procedure is the same as with low-speed buffing, the difference being a higher shine can usually be produced in a shorter period of time.
    High-speed burnishing involves a high-speed machine (1,000 rpms or higher) and a burnishing pad without the use of a spray-on enhancement product. The basic procedure involves burnishing the floor after it has been cleaned with a neutral cleaner or a mop-on enhancement product. The enhancement product may be a conditioner and/or restorer. High-speed burnishing renews the floor finish by filling in the scratches/scuffs and irregularities in the floor finish.

  • Prepare the sealer/finish application equipment. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • If the floor has been stripped, apply the sealer and/or the sealer/finish combination product. If a separate sealer is applied, one or two coats are usually all that is needed. If a sealer/finish combination product is used, apply four to five coats.
  • Do not apply a sealer to a scrubbed floor. If the floor has been scrubbed, re-coat with a floor finish or a sealer/finish combination product and apply the floor finish (three to five coats is usually plenty).

    Obviously, it is impossible to detail everything about caring for VCT here. But this brief examination of what VCT floor care entails should help you decide if diversification into hard surface floor care is a worthwhile endeavor for you and your company.

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