Hard surface cleaning

Extend the life of sealers and finishes with proper care.

People will often form their first impression of a company or facility by the appearance of the floors. They project an image, good or bad, depending on their condition.

Whether wood, marble, asphalt or tile, floors also represent a sizable investment, from the actual floor material to routine maintenance.

Proper cleaning of particular floor surfaces will ensure lasting beauty, prolong the life of sealer or finish, protect the investment from dirt and wear, and reduce overall maintenance costs. The following cleaning methods should be considered for each floor type:

Wood floors

The wood group consists of various types of wood and wood composition. The life of the wood floor rests partly on its maintenance. Wood floors should ideally be protected from wear by traffic with a sealer or wax. The wood floor that is sealed with wax should be cleaned with a neutral detergent diluted with water. Never use caustic cleaning solutions on wood floors as it may cause permanent damage by impairing colour and splintering.

Wood composition consists of a variety of materials that are shaped to form the flooring material. This type of wood flooring is porous and will absorb excess water. Routine maintenance should include damp mopping with a neutral detergent diluted with water. The mop should be wrung as much as possible so the minimum amount of water comes in contact with the floor.

Stone floors

The stone group contains both manmade and natural materials. These include concrete, terrazzo, marble, slate, granite, clay and ceramic tile.

Concrete floors may deteriorate over time with exposure to chemicals, oil and grease. Aggressive cleaning of this type of flooring may be carried out by mechanical means, automatic floor scrubbing machine or by mopping. Solutions may range from a heavy duty degreaser to a neutral product for lighter cleaning, both of which should be diluted based upon the soil load.

Acids, harsh alkaline detergents, and oils should never be used on terrazzo and marble flooring. These types of chemicals can cause deterioration and permanent damage. Routine maintenance of terrazzo or marble should include dust mopping and spot cleaning with a mild abrasive on a damp cloth.

A mild alkaline liquid detergent or mild abrasive paste may be used for more thorough cleaning, but should be rinsed thoroughly. For daily cleaning, a neutral detergent diluted with water may be used with a floor polishing/scrubbing machine or mopping equipment.

Slate and granite are hard, naturally formed stones that are durable and resistant to abrasive cleaning measures. Alkaline detergents, acids, oils and water do not affect granite and slate. Under normal traffic conditions, maintenance of slate and granite should include dry sweeping to remove loose dirt, followed by mopping with a neutral, diluted detergent.

The floor should be rinsed well and allowed to air dry. For stubborn soil, granite may be cleaned with a fine scouring powder and slate may be cleaned with an alkaline detergent diluted with water.

Ceramic, clay, and quarry tiles all have the same basic composition and may be maintained in the same manner: daily sweeping to remove loose dirt and debris followed by mopping with a neutral detergent in water. Always rinse thoroughly and air dry. Acids, harsh alkaline detergents, and heavy abrasives should be avoided on ceramic, clay and quarry tiles, especially if they have a glazed coating on them. Soap is also not recommended as it will build up and form a slippery film on the tile, which adversely affects overall appearance as well as safety. A mild alkaline detergent diluted according to soil load may be used for more heavy duty cleaning.

Resilient floors

Certain chemicals can adversely affect the appearance of linoleum floors, and should be avoided. They include strong alkaline detergents, caustic soda, and harsh scouring cleaners.

These chemicals, along with excess water, can cause permanent damage to linoleum by discolouration, hardness, brittleness, and weakening the glue bond. Daily maintenance of linoleum includes sweeping or damp mopping with a neutral detergent diluted with water.

A mild detergent may also be used for cleaning; however, a mild soap solution may build up over time. Soap residue can be removed with a mild abrasive powder and water using a floor polishing/scrubbing machine. A light buffing with a floor machine will renew the appearance of linoleum.

Routine maintenance of vinyl flooring includes sweeping to remove dry soil and damp mopping with a neutral detergent in water. Neutral, mild and even strong alkaline detergents are safe for use on vinyl, although it is advisable to use the weakest solution necessary to achieve the desired results.

For more aggressive cleaning, scouring and paste cleaners may be used but with caution as they can scratch certain types of vinyl. Solvent based detergents and soap are not recommended for vinyl flooring. They can damage vinyl by removing the finish and/or causing slippery conditions.

Normal maintenance of rubber floors includes sweeping or brushing to remove loose dirt and soil, followed by damp mopping, if necessary. Always use a neutral detergent diluted with water when cleaning rubber floors.

Heavy duty rubber tiles or matting generally needs only sweeping or vacuuming to remove loose dirt. Oxygen and sunlight contribute to the natural deterioration of rubber, the oxidation process that may be prevented with periodic applications of a water-based floor wax. Harsh chemicals should always be avoided when cleaning rubber floors, including strong alkaline and caustic detergents, coarse abrasives, scouring powders, solvent based products, soap powders, and liquid soaps containing oil.

These chemicals are harmful to rubber and may cause cracking, softening, and slippery conditions. Oily sweeping compounds and dust mopping are also not recommended on rubber floors as they may cause staining and softening of the surface.


Asphalt is a durable floor surface that requires relatively little maintenance when proper procedures are followed. Routine maintenance should include dry sweeping to remove all loose dirt and soil.

Soiled floors may be cleaned with a neutral detergent diluted with water, rinsed thoroughly, and allowed to dry. Heavily soiled floors may be cleaned using an alkaline detergent in water and scrubbed with a floor machine.

When rinsing, avoid using water that is extremely hot or cold, as extreme temperatures can damage the floor surface. Chemicals to avoid on asphalt include strong alkaline solutions, coarse paste cleaners, scouring powders, and solvent based detergents.

To achieve maximum results when performing daily floor maintenance procedures, follow these common sense tips for all floor types:

Always start with a clean mop, brush, or pad. A dirty mop head, brush, or pad will contaminate the solution before you begin.

Empty and clean mop buckets after each use. Mop bucket water left standing grows stale and odorous. Used mop bucket water is virtually ineffective at cleaning.

Rinse and air dry mop buckets and mop heads. Mop heads left standing in water are a breeding ground for bacteria, mould and mildew, which ultimately creates an odour problem.

Before wet mopping, sweep or dust mop floors to remove dry, loose soil. This allows your cleaning solution full power to penetrate embedded dirt and soil that cannot be removed by dry means. It also prolongs the life of mop bucket water.

Clean dry equipment, brooms, dustpans, dust mops regularly to remove dirt, soil and other contaminants.

Mop areas that are prone to heavy traffic and soil more frequently, for example, at the entrance of a building. Frequently mopping high traffic areas will reduce the overall time and labour involved for heavy duty cleaning and refinishing of the floor surface.

Change water frequently, especially when floors are heavily soiled. Cleaning solutions hold dirt in suspension until the solution is discarded. A solution, especially one that has a high dilution rate, can only hold so much dirt. Once the solution is saturated it loses its cleaning efficiency.

Whether sealers are applied in the manufacturing process or as part of overall floor maintenance, you can reduce the frequency of recoating floors with a little extra effort in the form of daily maintenance.

The extra effort to remove surface dirt and soil will prolong the life and beauty of your floors, and reduce the overall time and labour costs in maintaining them.

From "Cleaning & Maintenance Management" magazine

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