For many cleaning techs who have successfully mastered carpet, rugs, tile and grout and other flooring materials, natural stone has remained taboo, a surface they don’t feel qualified to clean.
Watching new construction and remodels over the past 5-10 years, it has become obvious, especially in the residential sector, that stone is solidly established as a surface of choice. Today, “feeling qualified” to maintain stone surfaces is changing with the advent of a number of tools, accessories and other gadgets.
Let’s analyze a typical residential job and see how these gadgets and innovations can make the job easier and less intimidating.
It is important to begin with both the tech and the client having realistic expectations about what can be done. A gloss meter is a great help with this. Often, the area close to the wall or under a toe-kick has so little traffic that the gloss level will be similar to the original “from the factory” gloss level. This gives you an idea of the desired look when the floor was installed and probably what your client is expecting when you are done.
A leading stone and tile trainer in the industry, Dane Gregory says that “whatever you tell your client before you begin the process is considered a professional opinion; whatever you tell them after you have not met their expectations is an excuse.”
If the gloss reading in the traffic lanes is close to the readings you get near the wall, the homeowners have done a good job maintaining stone and protecting against abrasion. It is likely they use entryway matting and a proper neutral cleaner suitable for stone floors. A thorough cleaning and perhaps sealing may be all that is required.
The gloss meter can also be an excellent sale tool to help demonstrate the need for cleaning or restoration and for fairly judging the results achieved. High-priced meters are available, but you can find them offered on eBay for well under $200.
Originally designed for grout and tile cleaning, a tool using water pressure from rotating jets is great for open areas of flooring. This tool is the easiest to use for an efficient cleaning of some natural stone tiles and heavily grout. It is not the tool, however, for tight areas, or areas next to walls or baseboard trim.
A multi-head tool is the tool of choice for many uses. In tight areas a smaller head fits well under toe kicks and around toilet areas. With a quick switch of the head you have a 4-jet squeegee to completely remove all traces of cleaning solution and provide great rinsing action. This head is perfect for small tiles with lots of grout to clean. The smaller the tile, the more grout has a chance to get heavily soiled, the better the squeegee head performs.
Flip off the squeegee when working and replace it with the 4-jet brush attachment. This bad boy gives us the same pressure cleaning ability as the others, but is the correct tool for softer natural stone tiles. The soft bristles of the brush will not scratch softer natural stone, and gives us the great pressure to which we are accustomed.
A small single jet wand is used for direct spray of a soiled grout channel. This jet hovers directly over the grout channel and gives it a heavy shower of pressurized cleaning. Note: make sure the grout can handle this intense activity.
The final piece of the puzzle is for edging the floor for a complete finish. The corner/edge tool is designed for final rinsing along walls, partitions, and non-movable appliances. It fits well along the edge, with a removable plastic blocker for edges and cleans the cove base as well if desired. It is a versatile tool, but just because you have one tool does not mean you are ready for the big time yet. Just as a mechanic must have more than a set of wrenches, professionals need to be properly equipped for any potential situations we encounter.
If your gloss meter indicates some abrasion and minor restoration is needed or your customer simply wants more shine, it is time to break out the new diamond embedded floor pads that can provide a honed look – typically to limestone or travertine- or achieve a higher than factory finish gloss on marble flooring. Placed under a weighted rotary floor machine, these pads simplify light restoration of stone. It is now something that a carpet cleaner will feel comfortable accomplishing after only limited training and practice.
Another versatile tool is a floor machine that can change from a 13-inch model to a 21-inch model, or any size in between, to fit the needs of the area being maintained. Just remove a few screws, swap the shroud and drive block and you are ready to clean with whatever size machine is required. Desired weight for polishing stone can be added by a unicorn post above the motor or through the use of a weighted drive block. Velcro strips on the drive block allow for use of resin-bonded diamond discs when necessary for heavier restoration.
Once you have achieved the desired gloss level with the diamond floor pads, it is time to finish the job by applying an impregnating sealer or perhaps a color enhancing sealer if the floor is slate or some other stone. A paint pad is a great gadget for applying seals along walls or on smaller floors. A moss rubber squeegee or a finish mop can also be used.
To prevent your client from calling another service provider, a cleaning company should be prepared to clean all the flooring surfaces in the home. If you have been hesitant to dip your toe into the warm waters of stone maintenance, maybe its time to drop by your local distributor to learn about the innovations and products that can ease your entry into this lucrative field.