ICS Magazine

Stone Floor Cleaning Challenges

May 10, 2005
Stone floors are not manufactured in an industrial plant like other floor coverings; they are natural. The combinations of raw minerals, pressure and/or extreme temperatures create some of the most magnificent floors in the world.

There are many challenges that confront the floor maintenance technician and others responsible for the cleaning of stone floor surfaces. Whether in the lobby of a courthouse or the entry of a home, stone floors require daily or routine maintenance to keep them looking their best.

Surface Texture
It is important to point out that the texture of the surface will have a significant impact on the hard floor maintenance program design. Thermal or flame-cut textures leave the stone with a rough surface. The texture has low areas in which dirt will accumulate making it difficult to clean. A honed finish has a dull matte look and even though it has an even surface appearance it is still somewhat rough and will collect soil in the low areas. A polished finish is very smooth and does well repelling dirt because there are no low areas for dirt to collect.

Daily/Routine Maintenance
Although the classification of the stone flooring is very important when periodic and restorative service procedures are selected, it is not as essential in the daily cleaning of service procedures. Daily or routine maintenance is often the same regardless of what classification of stone you are working on.

Daily/routine maintenance is performed on a regular basis to remove dry and superficial soils that accumulate. This could be daily, weekly or any other time period that it would take to accumulate enough soil to warrant removal. The daily/routine maintenance is the mortar that holds the hard-floor maintenance program together, and is generally comprised of dry services such as dust mopping, sweeping or vacuuming, and basic wet-mopping services to remove light-to-heavy surface soils.

The Marble Institute of America's recommendation for all stone floors is to dry mop them to remove the grit; wash with a neutral detergent; rinse with clean water and, on high-polished stones, buff out with a soft pad.

Dry Service Procedures
The dirt and grit that gets past your walk-off mats will ultimately end up on the floor. As with all hard floor surfaces, daily/routine sweeping or dust mopping of the floor keeps dust and grit from accumulating. Environment and traffic conditions within the facility dictate the frequency of the service. In some situations, multiple repetitions of the dry service procedure throughout the day may be required.

Sweeping
Although sweeping and dust mopping achieve the same result, removal of dust and debris, they differ in effectiveness depending on the floor surface, square footage and type of debris to be removed. The environment plays an important part in selection of tools to use and should be considered when sizing up the job. In some cases, sweeping may be the only option because of the irregularity of the floor surface. This is particularly true for thermal or flame-cut flooring.

Dust Mopping
Dust mopping is the most common dry-service procedure for removing dust and debris. Most stone floor surfaces are honed or polished that leaves a smooth surface. This allows the dust mop to travel over the surface at a much quicker rate than sweeping.

Vacuuming
Vacuuming is labor intensive in hard-floor maintenance. It is much quicker and easier to dust mop the floor than it is to vacuum it. There are however a couple of applications for vacuuming that the professional should be aware of. Vacuuming all walk-off mats is essential for them to be effective as dirt and grit-capturing devices. The same is true for standing mats at workstations. If these mats are not vacuumed regularly, they will begin to generate their own dirt.

Wet Mopping
Even the best dry-service procedures will not eliminate all the soil that comes into the facility and it will do nothing at all to combat organic spills, greases and petroleum type soil. These entrenched soils will not be removed with simple sweeping or dust mopping procedures. In order to combat these types of soil you need to incorporate cleaning chemicals and wet mopping procedures.

It is important to understand that the cleaning chemicals used in the daily/routine maintenance may have the potential for causing some damage to the flooring itself, so selection of cleaning chemical should be the first thing to look at. Granite, quartzite, slate, and serpentine are stones that are almost impervious to chemical attack. Mild acids, alkalis, and oils will not damage them. Marble, limestone, sandstone, travertine, most terrazzo and agglomerated marble, however, may be damaged by even mild dilutions of acid. They are generally less resistant to strong alkaline chemicals, and are also more susceptible to grease, oil and rust stains.

Spot Mopping
The simplest form of mopping is called spot mopping and, as its name implies, it is used to clean spills that may occur throughout the facility during occupancy. The frequency ranges from infrequent in very low traffic areas to multiple times per day in areas where spills happen regularly.

Damp Mopping
Damp mopping removes very light soil that may have been missed in the dry service procedure. It is also very effective on high-polished stone because it has less of a tendency to streak. The objective is to wring your mop out so it has a minimum of solution left in it. You may want to consider damp mopping after mopping high-polished stone floors to reduce or eliminate streaking.

Wet Mopping
Wet mopping is the most common mopping method and used to remove normal to heavy daily soil. It is accomplished using a neutral cleaning-chemical solution applied to the soiled area. Generally a single pass will achieve your objectives, but in some cases another pass may be made to remove any remaining solution.

Wet Mopping with a Freshwater Rinse
Wet mopping with a freshwater rinse is performed in the same manner as wet mopping, the difference being that a freshwater or clean-water rinse follows the procedure. Apply a solution of cleaning chemical on the floor and allow it to dwell, then remove it and follow with a clean-water rinse. This service procedure can be done as frequently as needed, but in most cases weekly, monthly or even quarterly will suffice. In most cases aggressive mopping utilizes all-purpose or general-purpose cleaner.

Overcoming the challenges of daily/routine maintenance for most part concerns the surface texture. The low areas created by the texture are natural pockets for soil to collect in. By incorporating basic dry soil removal procedures followed by wet mopping with neutral detergent or approved stone maintenance cleaners on a daily/routine basis you will be able to keep the floor looking great all the time.