Solution Control: The Versatile Towel
November 19, 2007
Floor maintenance is the act of maintaining a floor surface utilizing various cleaning methods to remove soil. Dry particulates are easily removed with sweeping, dust mopping, micro fiber cloth systems and vacuuming, but as the soil becomes more difficult, so too does the cleaning methodology.
Wet services will be incorporated to remove these soils. Damp, wet and aggressive mopping will remove light, moderate and heavy soiling, while embedded and encapsulated soil can be effectively removed by machine scrubbing or stripping the floor. The common denominator for the wet service function is that a cleaning solution will be used to remove the soiling condition. An often-overlooked segment for cleaning is in solution control.
Water always seeks the path of least resistance to settle in the lowest point. Because water is a primary element in most cleaning and coating formulations, the same rules of gravity apply. It is important for the technician to know how to control the solution to keep it where it is needed.
Solution control is not about the chemical/water mixture so much as it is about where the solution goes. There are plenty of horror stories of cleaning solution flowing under a door no one has the key for. The question becomes “Where did it go and what damage did it do?” This is particularly true when it comes to stripping solution.
Water by itself can cause damage, especially when it pools and is left standing. Some floor surfaces will not be affected by water alone, but others, such as wood, bamboo and laminates, are susceptible to water damage even from small amounts. These floors are classified as moisture-sensitive floors, and minimal amounts of water should be used on them during maintenance. Solution control on moisture-sensitive flooring is accomplished by removing as much moisture as possible with a wet vacuum or damp mopping several times. Floor fans and air movers can be used to help in the drying process.
Wet mopping and aggressive mopping do not usually cause solution control issues. There is usually not enough cleaning solution to result in a flow or standing water. Solution control is easily accomplished using the wet mop or microfiber applicator. Additionally, excess solution is removed during the final rinse or damp mop process and the remaining moisture evaporates in a short period of time.
It is the scrubbing and stripping service procedures that present the greatest challenges. When machine scrubbing or stripping, an ample amount of cleaning solution is applied to the floor and allowed to dwell for a period of time to let the chemicals do their work. During this time the solution will flow to the lowest point. This may be fast or slow; it all depends on the evenness of the floor. In some cases varying levels will be quite noticeable, while in other situations it may be so imperceptible as to not be noticed at all.
Damage may occur on several levels. Cleaning solution may go under a door in a storage room and damage boxes of files. It may seep through a crack and run down a wall, resulting in the removal of paint. It may run out of the secured work area into a trafficked area, presenting employees with a potential slip and fall scenario. The technician’s primary responsibility is to prevent damage from occurring.
A technician should always inspect the work area before starting the job, identifying potential problem areas and addressing them before starting work. Once the low spots are identified, corrective actions can be implemented.
Although there are a number of specialty tools for solution control, there is none more versatile than the towel. Towels, whether terrycloth, cotton or any other material, are great tools for controlling solution. They can be folded and placed in doorjambs to protect carpets from getting wet. They can be flattened and wedged under closed doors to prevent water from going under them. They can be used in stairwells to keep solution from getting on the walls and can be folded and placed end to end along a hall to keep solution in the working area and not in the traffic lane. They are simple, cost-effective and readily available.
Solution control goes beyond just putting the towels down; they have to be monitored and wrung out on occasion. If they are just placed and left, they will become over saturated and the solution will continue on its gravity-mandated path. Additionally, they should be laundered regularly; they can become very odiferous if allowed to dry with solution in them.
Another aspect of solution control is in the step-off mat. A step-off mat is a mat or carpet remnant placed at the edge of the work area to wipe off shoes when moving out of the work area. This prevents techs from tracking cleaning chemicals into adjacent areas.
Solution control is a big part of floor maintenance and should be considered part of the service procedure. The technician should always have an ample supply of towels ready to use in a moment’s notice. It is the technician’s responsibility to protect the customer’s facility, both what can be seen and what can’t. Protect yourself and your customer by understanding that solution will seek the path of least resistance and go to the lowest point. By cutting off the path you are in control of the solution, the solution is not in control of you.