Hard Floor Maintenance opportunities: Hard-Floor Maintenance Equipment Essentials

August 1, 2006
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Agitation is the name of the game in hard-floor maintenance


Hard-floor maintenance is all about eliminating soil. Of course, the optimum soil control would be to stop it at the entrance of the facility and not allow it to enter.

Matting programs are of great importance, but mats do not stop all the soil from getting into the building. Once soil gets past the first line of defense it becomes the technician's responsibility to control or eliminate it. Dry soils that enter the facility can be easily removed utilizing one of the dry-service procedures; sweeping, dust mopping, cloth systems and vacuums.

Where the dry-service function addresses the dry particulate soil that is on the floor surface, the wet-service function addresses the stubborn soils that are left behind. Soils that have adhered to or become embedded in the floor surface, or soils that have become encapsulated into the floor finish require more than the dry service can provide. These soils require removal using one of the wet-service procedures; wet mopping, machine scrubbing or stripping.

Wet-Service Function

There are always four segments of the wet service function:
  • Solution Application
  • Agitation
  • Solution Removal
  • Detailing

Although solution application, solution removal and detailing are extremely important as components of the wet-service function, it is really the agitation part of the equation that produces the end results. As it pertains to floor maintenance, agitation is the act of moving cleaning solution with an irregular, rapid action across the surface of the floor suspending the soil in the solution for removal. This may be achieved manually or mechanically as a system that combines equipment, tools and materials.

Manual agitation involves the technician utilizing a tool with a material to agitate the surface for soil removal. The tool may be a mop and the material the mop head or the material may be an abrasive pad attached to an edging tool. Manual agitation combines tool and material with the technician acting as the equipment to perform the service. This may work for small jobs, but it is terribly inefficient for larger areas.

Mechanical agitation is accomplished by incorporating a machine of some type to perform the agitation component. The most common machine used to perform this task, and probably the most essential of all floor maintenance equipment, is the rotary floor machine. This machine is used on all surfaces and in many capacities, from heavy-duty grinding to fine detailed polishing. There are many different manufacturers, sizes and styles, but essentially they all operate the same, the motor (equipment) drives a pad holder (tool) that holds an abrasive pad (material). In some situations the tool and material may be combined as a brush block.

The cylindrical brush machine is another type of machine for agitating the surface of the floor. The cylindrical brush machine is different than the rotary machine. The rotary machine has a disk that sits flat on the floor surface and rotates in a clockwise motion. The cylindrical brush machine usually has two cylindrical brushes that sit side by side and counter rotate. Because the motion is an upward pulling motion, this machine is good for agitating irregular surfaces.

The automatic scrubbing machine combines the ability to apply the cleaning solution, agitate and extract the contaminated solution simultaneously. They are incredibly versatile, ranging in size from 17 inches in diameter to riding machines that have a 54-inch scrubbing path. Rotary-type machines can be equipped with either a brush or pad holder; with most automatic scrubbing machines this function is interchangeable. Cylindrical-type automatic scrubbing machines, however, can usually only be fitted with cylinder-type brushes.

Propane-powered stripping machines are designed specifically for stripping large areas of VCT. They combine the power of propane with silicone carbide (extruded in nylon) brushes. The aggressiveness of the brushes, in combination with the weight and power of the machine, provide excellent productivity rates. Some stripping machines now have interchangeable brushes or pad holders that allow for scrubbing procedures to be performed as well.

Pads and Brushes

The tool part of the equation is generally accepted as the pad holder or block. The materials that are affixed to the pad holder are the pads. There are many different types of pads, each with a specific agitation goal in mind. White pads are for polishing soft floor finishes or removing haze. Red pads are generally associated with the spray buffing procedure; however, red pads can also be used for light scrubbing in certain environments. Red pads have very little abrasive and will not scratch the surface of the floor covering or finish. Blue or green pads are generally used for medium and some heavy scrubbing. Black and brown pads are excellent for light and moderate stripping services. For heavy build up and extremely durable finish removal, the high-productivity pad is aggressive on agitation.

Another option for abrasive materials comes in the form of brush blocks. The brush block incorporates the abrasive material in the brush and mounts the brushes into the block. They work exceptionally well on irregular surfaces and heavy build-up situations. There are different abrasives available, from soft bristles to very coarse materials; the choice will be predicated by the amount and type of soil that is to be removed.

The agitation portion of the wet service function is extremely important for successful hard-floor maintenance. Understanding the essential equipment, tools and materials required to perform this function may save hours in productivity, which equates into more profit on the bottom line.

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