Did you know that 80 to 90 percent of the dirt and debris in a facility is tracked in from the outside, and that it costs an estimated $500 per pound to remove it? Whether it is the main entrance, the service entrance or the employee entrance, it is important to keep these areas clean and dry.
The first step in keeping a building clean is to keep the soil out. Consider the parking lot and sidewalks surrounding the building. Keeping these areas clean will not only provide a good first impression, it will go a long way in maintaining the entry. Once the client is on the way inside, however, the best defense to keep the soil out of a facility is a good matting program, starting with exterior and interior mats at every entry.
Exterior mats are primarily made from synthetic materials such as vinyl, rubber, polypropylene and olefin. A good exterior mat will knock the bulk of the dirt and debris from the soles of shoes. It should also capture excessive moisture and allow it to drain and dry quickly.
Interior mats are made from the same materials as exterior mats, as well as from natural fibers such as cotton and wool. A good interior mat will continue to clean shoe soles, removing smaller soil particles and additional moisture and holding it in the mat fibers.
Mat length and size are also important considerations. It takes six to eight steps to clean shoe soles. The average adult step or stride is about three feet long. Six times three is 18, meaning a minimum of 18 feet of matting is needed. Unfortunately, many entries do not have this much space available. This makes choosing the right mats and keeping them clean even more important.
To remove dry, loose soil from the mats, vacuum them nightly. For heavily soiled mats that contain moisture, use a wet-vacuum. The underside of the mats and the floor itself will need to be cleaned and dried as often as necessary. If the mat has absorbed excessive moisture, it may need to be hung, dried and put back down before re-opening the building, or simply be replaced with a new mat.
Periodically clean the mats with a water-extraction system or, better yet, use a matting service. Unfortunately, companies that own their own mats tend to not clean them as often as they should. An unclean mat contributes to additional soil being tracked into the building, and may develop unpleasant odors the dirtier and wetter it gets.
Wet Cleaning Entries
Obviously, the floors need to be cleaned. A commonly used product for daily floor care is a neutral cleaner. However, alkaline and acid cleaners may be needed depending on the floor type and conditions. If the entry is enclosed, you may need to prop the door(s) open to allow for proper drying. Other than that, the condition and composition of the floor will dictate the cleaning frequency and procedures.
Some of the most common resilient flooring found in commercial facility entryways is VCT and sheet vinyl. These floors require sealer and finish. For daily maintenance, perform dry soil removal followed by a wet-mop. Do this in conjunction with a maintenance program that includes periodic scrubbing, buffing and/or burnishing. Occasionally, the floor will need to be scrubbed and recoated with floor finish; however, when the floor no longer responds to these periodic cleanings, it will need a restorative cleaning, i.e. stripping and refinishing.
Rubber can be sealed and finished, but it requires a product specifically designed for rubber floors. It can also be maintained without the use of sealers and finishes. Rubber is referred to as a self-polishing floor because it can be cleaned with a neutral cleaner, then buffed with a low-speed machine using a natural hairbrush to achieve a satin shine. If a finish is to be applied, use a product recommended by the manufacturer or one made specifically for use on rubber floors.
When it comes time to strip and refinish the floor, make sure to use a low-pH stripper; some high alkaline strippers may damage the floor. As for daily cleaning, the safest product to use is either the product recommended by the manufacturer or a neutral cleaner. Avoid using high-alkaline or harsh acid cleaners on rubber floors.
Ceramic, Porcelain and Quarry Tile Floors
Maintaining the tile is easy; it is the grout that causes problems. The dry, loose soil gets trapped in the grout lines and is often inadequately removed during the dry soil removal process. When the floor is wet-mopped, these soils turn into mud and, over time, an excessive buildup results.
Extraction is a key element when cleaning grouted floors. The soil must be suspended and, while in that state, extracted. Any solution left standing in the grout can and will attract soils that will lead to staining. Extraction can be accomplished by using proper wet-mopping techniques or with an extraction machine, e.g. a wet vacuum or automatic floor scrubber. Air movement will aid the extraction process; the doors should be propped open if the entry is enclosed.
Daily cleaning includes sweeping or vacuum cleaning to remove soil, followed by a wet mopping. Periodic cleaning should include manual or mechanical scrubbing, rinsing and extracting with a wet vacuum. Newly developed equipment specifically designed for grout cleaning has made what was once a difficult task quite simple. Check with the equipment supplier for details. Restoratively clean and re-seal the floor according to the specifications on the original sealer. Generally speaking, penetrating sealers are re-applied every one to three years.
Marble and Other Natural Stone Floors
Natural stone floors need daily dry soil removal followed by wet cleaning with a neutral floor cleaner or a natural stone soap. The type of stone will dictate the periodic and restorative cleaning procedures and frequencies required. However, most include some type of scrubbing, honing or polishing.
Penetrating and topical coatings may be used, depending on the floor type. When using a topical coating on a natural stone floor, make sure the product is specifically designed for the type of floor it is being applied to. Avoid strong acid and alkaline cleaners on these floors. If it is necessary to use a stronger-than-neutral chemical, test-clean it first in an inconspicuous area to make sure it does not harm the floor.
Entries and lobbies are a self-portrait of you, your professionalism, the building and its occupants; make sure to sign your work with excellence.