Winter is Finally Over – Time to Deep Clean Floors For Spring

Shovel snow from sidewalk

What a winter season it was here in the Midwest! The amount of damage to our facilities has been severe. Hard floors, carpets, and especially our matting systems, have taken abuse above and beyond the call of duty. With temperatures finally rising, thoughts of spring cleaning have to be tuned to a different song this year, since there is much more to do than in previous years.

Most facilities utilize ice melt compounds during the winter months, but this year was especially snowy. Because of ice melt shortages, many people changed to sand for traction. All of the extra dirt stressed mats beyond their limits, leading to considerably more debris on the floors. Tracked-in dirt and grit left on floors can quickly destroy the protective layers of coatings in a matter of just a few days. Also, there may have been salt residues that were not fully removed, dulling the surface and adding a whitish haze on both hard and soft surfaces.

The 3-Step Process for Deep Cleaning Hard Floor Surfaces

Step One
hotel lobbyBefore floors can be thoroughly cleaned, it’s best to be sure that the surface is not contaminated with salt residues. A very generous application of cleaners that are slightly acidic in nature will remove alkaline salts. Depending on the severity of the residues, dilution ratios should be increased and the surfaces flooded with product to allow the residues to dissolve and become suspended within the cleaner solution. It may take several applications to accomplish this, especially at entrances. Don’t worry, this solution will not harm the surface. General-purpose or neutral cleaners will not remove these residues effectively, and you can compromise the outcome of your work if you do not do this important step first.

Step Two
Once this vital first step is completed, hard floors should be thoroughly stripped of all remaining finish using the proper mixture (generally 1:4) of stripper solution and agitated with the proper stripping pad or brush. The trick is to apply the stripper solution to the floor and give it 15 minutes to dwell, then apply more stripper solution and allow it to settle for another 15 minutes more prior to agitation. This extra step allows for deep penetration into the coatings, breaking it from the surface of the floor, saving you considerable amounts of time. When agitated with a floor machine or scrubber, generally all of the layers are quickly liquefied and easily removed. Rinse the floor thoroughly – do not skip this important step. Look for any stubborn spots and treat accordingly.

Step Three
Once the floor is clean and dry, apply two coats of floor seal, and at least three coats of floor finish for maximum gloss and durability. This will pay off in the long run. When the shine begins to diminish, having those extra layers will allow you to deep clean the floor and apply more coats of finish to restore the look and protection. Not having the proper base only increases the amount of work needed later to keep the surface appearance at its best.

Carpets Can Be Challenging

carpeted hotel lobbyCarpet is beautiful when it’s clean, but restoration is a process when the soil loading is severe.  Remember, most commercial carpet is designed to hide a pound or so of dirt per square yard, and wet residues can penetrate clear through to the backing. Start the process by removing all gritty dirt with a thorough vacuuming  of the surface. Be sure to use a fresh filter bag for maximum airflow through the vacuum, so grit is agitated and removed.

If you can see that tell-tale whitish haze after vacuuming, this means the carpet is full of ice melt residues that need to be removed. Utilize the proper cleaner to remove those residues completely, and increase dilution ratios to compensate for the soil loading.

Apply plenty of solution, it’s the critical link to success.  One easy way is to use your extractor without the vacuum engaged, allowing solution to flood the carpet. This gives ample time to dissolve the salt residues and to break up and suspend oily soils. Wait about 10-15 minutes of dwell time, and then extract the solution. My recommendation is to do this process again to ensure complete removal of the soil. You may also find that a deep rinse with plain water is worthwhile after the applications of cleaner solution. Check the water in the recovery tank. If it’s still dark and dirty, repeat until the extracted water is clear. You will want to utilize several carpet fans to dry the area before re-opening to foot traffic.

Weather-Worn Matting Systems – What to Do

The first line of defense against dirt is your entrance matting system, and it has taken a beating.  If mats are worn, it may be best to replace them with quality matting. Look for traffic patterns showing distinct wear and tear, and remember that they will be visible whether the matting is clean or not.

The process for cleaning matting is the same as outlined above for carpets. Use stronger solutions and allow ample dwell time for soil removal.  Oftentimes matting may be hung up and final rinsed with a pressure washer, which is very effective for removing deep-down grit and soils that hide near the backing of the mat.

Getting these tough jobs out of the way now will provide the much-needed protection for your floors so that they look good for the remainder of the year, and will cost less to maintain.

Recommended Reading for Matting Care:

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Jim Smith

Executive Vice President at HP Products Corporation
Jim Smith is a resident expert for HP Products, a distributor of facility maintenance products throughout the Midwest. Jim has more than 25 years of experience in sales and marketing, supply chain management, leadership staff development, business acquisitions and mergers, forecasting/analysis and strategic planning.