ICS Magazine

Hard-Floor Maintenance Supplies: Back to Basics

June 9, 2005
First things first: understand your needs, not your wants.

In order to complete any service procedure you must have the supplies required to correctly perform the task.

Notice I use the word required; there is an ever-expanding spectrum of specialty items able to be subdivided into even more descriptive categories that may indeed one day fill a niche in your hard-surface maintenance service offerings. For the newcomer, however, it is prudent to first get a firm grip on the basics.

Hard-floor maintenance professionals purchase chemicals more frequently than any other supplies. Although chemicals can be purchased for each job individually, most professionals keep plenty of chemical stock on hand. The most common chemicals will fall into two classifications: cleaning and coating.

Cleaning chemicals include neutral cleaners, which can be used for daily cleaning, and all-purpose cleaners for more aggressive soils. Conditioners are included in this classification because they are often used as both cleaner and conditioner. Sometimes there is a need for specialty cleaners, such as sanitizers, degreasers or mild acids when cleaning specific environments. More aggressive chemistry is needed for restorative operations such as stripping and refinishing.

Cleaning chemicals are usually sold in concentrated form, allowing the professional to adjust the potency of the chemical to meet the soil-removal requirements, and to use them on several different jobs. Professionals will often stock up on these items knowing that in time they will be used.

Coating chemicals are the core of the hard-floor maintenance program. There are many different kinds of coating chemicals available, but they all perform four basic functions:

  • They protect the floor covering from the harmful effects of erosion, extending the useful life of the flooring.
  • They provide a better-looking surface
  • They provide a surface that is easier to clean, and
  • They provide a surface that has a better coefficient of friction, which means the floor is safer to walk on.

    Coating chemicals, with the exception of restorers, are not concentrated; they come ready to use. Most managers will carry additional coating chemicals to ensure that they will always have some on hand. Sometimes, specialized coatings are required, or a particular coating chemical will be specified for an account. When this occurs, it is best to purchase only what you need for that job or facility. Coating chemicals can be expensive, so you really do not want them just sitting on the shelf.

    Most individuals think that the term "equipment" is limited to the machines used to perform hard-floor maintenance, when in reality the definition of equipment encompasses much more.

    Equip means to provide with what is needed. Equipment, therefore, is whatever one requires to perform the service. In hard-floor maintenance, this equates into all the supplies, tools and machinery necessary to complete the service procedure.

    There are many types of machines used in the hard-floor maintenance industry. They can be manual or powered. Sources of power will generally come in the form of electricity, battery or propane. Electricity is the most common with battery and propane used in specialty applications.

    The hard-floor maintenance industry is a competitive industry driven by labor hours. Fewer hours generally equate into opportunity for more profit. Machines provide the floor-maintenance technician with a more effective and more efficient means of accomplishing that objective. The most common machines used by floor maintenance professionals are the rotary floor machine, the wet vacuum, the automatic scrubbing machine and the buffing/burnishing machine.

    Tools are defined as any hand implement, instrument, etc. used for some work, or anything that serves as a means. Common tools used by the floor maintenance professional are brooms and dust mops. Wet mops, as well as buckets and wringers are also tools of the trade. The block used on a rotary floor machine is a tool for that machine.

    Items that may not appear to fit the traditional concept of a tool, but that we use everyday to accomplish the job, also fall into this category. This includes paperwork such as work orders, equipment and supply lists, standard operating procedures and inspection sheets. Other items lumped in here are the keys and alarm codes necessary to access the facility.

    Materials are items (other than cleaning and coating chemicals) that are expended at a fast rate, but may be used on several jobs before they are consumed to a point of uselessness. Materials are often replacement parts for tools, such as dust mop and wet mop heads for their respective handles, razor blades for a razor scraper and various pads that are attached to pad holders.

    So as you can see, supplies consist of an intertwined network of chemicals, equipment, tools and materials. These are used collectively to complete all service procedures. Understanding the categories, what they are used for and how frequently purchases may be required can help you to run a much more efficient hard-floor maintenance company.