ICS Magazine

Specialty Tools for Hard-Floor Maintenance

December 8, 2005


Last week I received an e-mail from a distraught individual involving the application of floor finish.

As the story goes, our entrepreneur had been pursuing a potential customer for a number of months to secure his hard-floor maintenance business. Much to his delight, he was given the opportunity and awarded the contract.

The vinyl composition tile in this facility was maintained poorly and required restorative maintenance, or stripping and refinishing. Our entrepreneur wanted to impress his new customer by doing a perfect job, so he prepared well. All the supplies required were assembled: chemicals, equipment, tools and materials. He even bought brand new mop heads to make it perfect. As a floor-maintenance technician, he was skilled and had performed this service procedure a few times before; his confidence level was high.

On the day of the job, everything went exactly as planned. The old finish stripped easily and the edges, corners and baseboards were immaculately detailed. After rinsing the floor several times, he was ready to apply the seal/finish. He attached the new mop head to his mop and applied several coats of the seal/finish. He had noticed fibers in the finish, but did not really pay attention to them until the job was completed. It was then he realized how apparent they were, but it was too late and nothing could be done. The next morning he called the new customer first thing and apologized for the fibers and promised to come back and correct the problem.

"How could this happen?" He asked. "I used a brand new mop head to make sure the floor was perfect." The explanation for the problem was simple enough. The new mop, fresh out of the bag, was put onto the handle and submerged into the bucket of seal/finish, contaminating it with loose fibers left from the manufacturing process. Each application of floor finish left a few more fibers in the floor. At first they may not have been too noticeable, but by the end of the job they built up enough to be unsightly.

I assured him that there is probably not a hard-floor maintenance technician who has not experienced this problem at one time or another. When using new mop heads, regardless of the fiber type (cotton, synthetic or blend), the potential of fibers shedding and being left in the finish exists. His problem could have been reduced or prevented altogether with a little service preparation.

Selection of mop-head type for application of floor finish is a matter of personal preference. Many brands, types, styles and sizes are available. Materials include cotton, synthetics, and blends equipped with different offerings of plies, headbands, tail bands, and cuts. Many technicians have converted completely over to micro-fiber applicators, virtually eliminating this problem, but that is another story.

To reduce or eliminate loose fibers in a brand new mop head, there are a couple of things that can be done. First, take the mop head out of the plastic bag and give it a good shaking. This will cause the loose fibers to fall out while they are still dry. The next step will vary depending on the type of mop head you are using. If you are using rayon or a rayon/cotton blend, attach the mop head to the yoke on the handle and rinse it thoroughly with warm or hot fresh water. The key here is to rinse the mop head more than once.

You may want to draw 3 or 4 gallons of water in a 5-gallon bucket and churn the mop up and down several times in it. The churning motion helps to separate the yarn and allows the remaining loose fibers to release. Wring out the mop in a separate bucket and pour out the contaminated water. Draw fresh water and repeat the process. Do this several times to ensure that all of the fibers have been removed.

If you are preparing a cotton mop, the process is a bit different. You will want to soak the mop in a neutral or all-purpose cleaner solution for a period of time to break down the natural oils in it. Remember that, when you place the mop head in the solution, it is important to churn the mop head up and down to work the solution deep into the mop strands. Let the mop head soak for a good amount of time; overnight is not unusual. Once the mop has soaked, rinse it thoroughly as described above. Cotton mops will require more rinses than synthetic or blends to remove all the oils and fibers.

Our entrepreneur went back the next night and re-stripped the floor. Using the thoroughly rinsed mop heads, he applied multiple coats of seal/finish without fibers being left in the film. Needless to say, his customer was very happy with the end result and he had gained his confidence back.