Hard-Floor Scrubbing: It's Automatic

September 8, 2010
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Time was when hard floor maintenance was performed on the hands and knees using a brush, rags, a bucket of water and some soap. Although we may have all used this technique on small areas, it is not what one would want to do in medium or large areas.

The technology of the rotary floor machine, mop bucket and wringer came to our rescue, lifting us off our hands and knees and giving us the ability to clean the floor from an upright position. Although this was much better than our previous situation, it is still an arduous task when confronted with very large areas such as hallways, grocery stores and big box retail environments. When it comes to these surroundings, nothing is more efficient than the automatic scrubbing machine.

Wet service procedures are a combination of service functions that include applying cleaning solution to the flooring material, agitating the solution, removing the contaminated solution, rinsing and detailing the area. The traditional methods are mopping, scrubbing and stripping when polishes are used. Although wet mopping and scrubbing are applicable to most flooring, stripping is usually reserved for some of the classifications within the resilient category.

The automatic scrubbing machine is designed specifically to automate these wet service procedures. In addition to performing the task, the machine increases productivity and reduces employee fatigue.

Sometimes referred to as a “walk behind,” the machines are basically self-contained units that provide powerful results for large-area cleaning. Their construction consists of a combination of solution tank, recovery tank, agitation brushes/pads, wet vacuum and drive mechanism (this is, of course, a simplification; they are much more complex than that).

Traditionally the automatic scrubbing machine was relegated to large areas. It was cumbersome and heavy because of the batteries they carry. This is not necessarily true today: batteries are getting smaller and more efficient, and the effectiveness of the system has spawned some smaller units that are cord-electric machines (there is also at least one unit available that is powered by propane). Regardless, it is the ability of the machine to perform all the individual service functions that make it a must in some environments.

There are many manufacturers of automatic scrubbing machines, which range in size from small portables to massive ride-on behemoths. Even the term “walk behind” is going away because many of the newer models have eliminated the need to, well, walk behind them; more and more units are fitted with platforms or seats where one can stand or sit while operating the machines.

Smaller units have been produced utilizing the automatic scrubbing machine concept to maintain smaller areas. Additionally, some manufacturers have all but eliminated cleaning chemicals by changing the properties of the water used in them. With modern technology what it is, it would be wise to research your potential purchase well; some of these machines can be quite an investment.

Regardless of the equipment, the service procedures will be performed in much the same manner as one would perform them using the traditional standard equipment package, the difference being that it can now be done much more efficiently.

One of the primary uses of the automatic scrubbing machine is performing the daily or routine mopping procedure in open areas; the light scrub. The service procedure consists of mixing the appropriate neutral cleaning solution in accordance with manufacturers recommended dilution ratio in the solution tank. Affix the appropriate pad/brush (light scrubbing pad (white or red) or brush equivalent) to pad or brush holder for agitating the floor surface.

The machine is then run over the floor with the solution valve opened (adjusted to the proper flow for the area and speed), the pad/brush power turned on and in the down position and the vacuum turned on. A single pass is all that is needed followed by some damp mopping to remove any overflow missed by the squeegee; mostly on the turn points.

Detailing for the light scrub is performed during the dry service procedures and is simply getting dry soil away from edges and corners.

When it comes to periodic maintenance the procedure will be relatively the same as daily/routine maintenance. The difference will be in the cleaning chemicals, the pads/brushes and whether a single pass or double pass is needed. A medium scrub with an automatic scrubbing machine will utilize neutral or all-purpose cleaner diluted accordingly in the solution tank.

Instead of light scrubbing pads or brushes, medium pads or brushes (blue or green) will be attached to pad or brush holders. Again the machine will be run over the floor with the solution valve open and adjusted to the appropriate flow for the speed with the pad/brushes turned on and in the down position.

Like the light scrub, the medium scrub requires a single pass, with damp mopping after going over the floor. The detailing for the medium scrubbing procedure is to use an edging tool (with the same color pad attached as was used on the pad holders) to detail the edges, corners and cove base to reduce potential edge and baseboard build-up.

Sometimes the medium scrub is followed by applications of floor finish and burnishing. When there are heavy soiling conditions and perhaps some encapsulated soil, the heavy scrubbing service procedure will be used. It is very similar to the medium scrubbing procedure; however, all-purpose cleaner adjusted accordingly will be applied to the floor using a mop and bucket or solution applicator, while clean, fresh water will put in the solution tank for rinsing.

Scrubbing pads/brushes or in some cases used stripping pads will be affixed to the pad/brush driver and the first pass over the floor will be with the solution valve off and the pad/brush power on and in the down position. In the heavy scrub the vacuum is not turned on for the first pass, the objective is to allow the solution time to dwell a bit.

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