Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Expediting Drying Time

February 4, 2005
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John, the manager of a moderate janitorial cleaning company, is going over the previous night's work orders when he notices a rather large discrepancy in the time turned in by one of his crews.

The job was budgeted for eight hours and ended up taking 12. John calls the lead technician to find out what happened. The tech tells him that everything was going fine up until it was time to apply the floor finish. "Man, it took forever to dry, there was nothing else we could do," the technician said. John was disappointed because it was obvious he was going to lose profit on this one.

The hard-floor maintenance industry is extremely competitive. Requests for proposals are common, and many companies jockey for position to get the contracts. It is times like these that we sharpen our pencils and go for absolute rock-bottom pricing. The problem is that everyone else does too.

When we are in these competitive situations, we often put the proposal together with the calculations being based on the optimum conditions and the most aggressive productivity rates. The things that usually get omitted are the time factors that impact the job. They can be predictable, such as travel time and floor prep, or unpredictable, such as water pressure and parking availability. One of the most unpredictable time factors of all is the amount of time it takes to dry floor finish, more commonly known as drying time.

Drying Time
There are many factors that can impact the drying time of floor finish. The amount of finish that was applied, the texture and porosity of the flooring material, the temperature and humidity in the facility, and air movement all affect drying time.

The amount of floor seal and/or finish (or any solution) applied to the floor will definitely impact the drying time. If you are applying heavy coats, the finish will take longer to dry due to the volume left on the floor. Conversely, if the finish is applied too lightly, you run the risk of streaking. Light-to-moderate, even, consistent coats will allow the finish to level properly and dry quicker.

Texture refers to the makeup of the flooring material. The texture impacts drying time because of the tiny irregularities of the surface. If working on a smooth surface, such as heterogeneous sheet vinyl with very little texture, the floor will dry much quicker than if you were working on flooring with a textured surface, because the finish will seek the path of least resistance and settle in the lowest point of the material, making it difficult for the product to dry.

The porosity of flooring relates to the ratio of the number of pores of the material to the volume of its mass. Drying time usually takes longer on the porous materials because the water is held inside the pores longer. A good example of this is in ceramic tile restrooms: when the floor is mopped, the tile dries quickly, while the grout takes more time.

The temperature of the area being serviced can impact the drying time. When it is too cold, floors have difficulty drying; too hot and the floors dry too quickly. A nice moderate temperature is best to achieve an evenly dried floor.

Temperature by itself does not determine how fast the floor dries; humidity has an enormous impact on drying time. The relative humidity is the ratio between the amount of water vapor present in the air and the greatest amount the air could contain at the same temperature. The more moisture in the air, the slower the floor dries. This is true in both hot and cold temperatures.

Without air movement there is no place for the evaporating moisture to go. That is why, when working in some environments, you will have what is known as a dead air space. This is an area where there is absolutely no air movement and that area is extremely slow to dry. In a large open area you may find dead air spaces in the far corners. Small, confined areas such as supply rooms may take an excessively long time to dry. Restrooms may be a combination of dead air space and high moisture content.

Air Movers
When confronted with any or all of the above conditions, fans and air movers may be the only solution. There are many varieties available, but the most common types used in the hard-floor maintenance industry are box fans and floor fans.

Box fans are basically the generic type that can be purchased at any retail or wholesale store. They are relatively inexpensive and can generally be purchased for less than fifty dollars. They work, but they tend to get damaged easily during the rigors of hard-floor maintenance. The box fan may work well for the company that has little floor work; however, they do not hold up well when used consistently, particularly when moving from place to place.

Floor fans, generally referred to as air movers, are specifically designed for floor and carpet maintenance. They are shaped so the maximum airflow will be generated as a low profile across the floor surface. Air movers produce more airflow than box fans and are more expensive. They generally will have multiple speeds for the fan and moveable legs for adjusting the airflow. Air movers produce optimum results and are definitely required for the serious hard-floor maintenance professionals.

There are those that would argue against using a floor fan or air mover to dry a floor. This is because there is the opportunity to distort the floor finish by applying too much air directly. The results can be wavy floor finish, unequal drying, and streaking. These problems can be avoided by how the fan is used.

Never place the fan at high speed directly next to the wet floor finish, as this will lead to undesirable results. Instead, apply the floor finish and allow a few minutes for it to level. Start the fan at low speed and place it away from the floor finish, angled slightly up. Be careful, as you can blow dust and debris off of lights and other high areas down on to your floor. As the floor finish dries you can lower the angle of the fan and increase the speed. Moving the fan as the floor dries helps expedite the drying time and ensures that the whole floor dries equally.

There are a lot of factors that increase and decrease the drying time of floor finish. Knowing what is happening and how to combat it will ensure that you don't get caught watching the floor dry.

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