Finish Strong: Gentle Cleaning will Protect Finished Floors

By Amy Milshtein

Finish Strong: Gentle Cleaning will Protect Finished Floors
A worker cleans a hardwood gymnasium floor with a battery-powered AutoVac.

Gentle, daily cleaning is the secret to well-maintained hard surface floors with lots of shine. Robust hard surface floors, think polished concrete, terrazzo, hardwood, vinyl composite tile or luxury vinyl tile, hold up to heavy foot traffic by design. Their glossy finish is more than just decorative. It creates a protective shine that makes floors look bright, appealing and fresh. 


Tracked in grit and grime not only dirties the floor, it scratches and dulls the finish. The result is a surface that looks old, tired and worn. Left unchecked, the underlying flooring material becomes permanently damaged. Paradoxically, some abrasive cleaning techniques, like cleaning with an autoscrubber, will also leave a floor less glossy. 


By the way, that glossy finish is more than just decoration. 


FacilityManagement.com reports that, "facility appearance ratings can drop as much as 75 percent if the floor shine creates a negative impression. [The finish's] built-in, anti-slip properties are most effective if a finished floor is maintained at high shine, and the built-in waxes in the finish are able to yield a higher coefficient of friction to make the floor less slippery."


Protect your finish, the underlying floor and your facility's reputation by taking a gentler approach.


Would You Scrub Your Car?

Think about removing dirt from a shiny new car. Would you go to a car wash that advertised the stiffest scrub brushes and most abrasive cleaning solutions? Of course not! Car washes tout their "No-Touch" methods, which are actually "Soft-Touch" methods. 


They use: 

  • Gentle spray or foam cleaning solutions that soften and dissolve soil
  • Closed-cell foam and felt cloth strips that softly agitate the car's surface
  • Targeted sprays that remove loose and stuck dirt
  • A deionized water rinse to prevent residue and mineral deposits
  • Blown air to dry surfaces


These techniques, which clean the car without marring the finish, work best if used on a regular schedule. Built up soils may require more aggressive chemistry and techniques that not only cost more, they shorten the life of the finish and make future cleaning more difficult. 


Then Don't Scrub Your Floor!

Now think about removing dirt from thousands of square feet of high-traffic, shiny hard surface floors every day. You want a method that removes dirt quickly and efficiently yet leaves the finish intact. You want a Soft-Touch Method.


You don't want an autoscrubber.


Not only are autoscrubbers expensive and hard to use, they are proven to damage the floor's gloss. A test shows that an autoscrubber, set to medium pad pressure and fitted with a "pink ninja" or light flamingo scrub pad, significantly reduced the gloss of a newly-finished, vinyl composite tile test floor.


Compromised gloss makes it easier for tracked in dirt to embed in the floor's surface. The lifespan the of the finish is shortened and the floor is harder to fully clean. 


Gentle Cleaning the Slow Way

Maybe your thinking the best Soft-Touch Method to clean your floor and protect the finish is a good old mop and bucket. Sure, that technology is gentle, but also time consuming and not very effective. Cleaning consultant Mickey Crowe explains in an article in CleanLink


"One danger of damp mopping is that employees tend to go too long between water changes thereby defeating the cleaning process. When this happens, they are merely spreading soil around instead of removing it.  Over time, the floor starts to look yellow or gray due to soil build up."


Plus, before mopping, dry dirt and soil must be removed either by sweeping or vacuuming adding more time and effort to the job. These are pretty poor outcomes for a method that's also slow, strenuous and puts employees at risk of repetitive strain injuries


Gentle Cleaning the RIGHT Way

There is a Soft-Touch Method that cleans hard surface floors quickly and thoroughly while protecting the glossy finish—Kaivac' s OmniFlex AutoVac. 


The OmniFlex AutoVac outperforms mopping and autoscrubbing by every measure. When tested by the TURI Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, the machine 

removed up to 99.8 percent of targeted soil. This makes the system far more effective than a new microfiber mop, which only removed 50.9 percent of soil, and even slightly more effective than an autoscrubber, which removed 99.4 percent.


As an added bonus the OmniFlex AutoVac can be used on more delicate hardwood floors, like those found in school gyms. 


The machine costs significantly less than an autoscubber and is less expensive to maintain. "It's a ‘grab and go' machine that multitasks," according to Michael B. Ward, Custodial Supervisor for Aurora, CO's public Schools. He replaced four autoscrubbers with four OmniFlex AutoVacs throughout his district and reports excellent cleaning outcomes with a low cost of ownership. 'AutoVac maintenance costs are miniscule.' 


If you're ready to take a gentler, more efficient approach to cleaning your hard surface floors click here

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines. 

Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.

She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.

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