Category: Janitorial Cleaning
Thawing Out Ice Melt Confusion
In many parts of North America, building owners and managers are legally required to place ice melt compounds not only on immediate building entries but on nearby walkways and sidewalks as well. Typically, they turn to their jansan distributors and cleaning professionals to select the proper compounds to use and install at their facilities to promote safety and minimize their impact on floors, carpets, and the environment.
Because there are literally dozens of ice-melt compounds available and how they are used and installed can vary, this can prove to be a more difficult task than initially believed. The following is an overview of what these products are, how they work, and how to use them safely and effectively.
Ice-melt compounds are minerals that effectively reduce the freezing point of water. This is why they are used on walking surfaces during cold and adverse weather. They do this by attracting moisture to form brine, a high-salinity solution that generates heat, helping to melt the ice. Once this brine is formed, it spreads out over the surface and also helps break the bond between the ice and the surface, allowing it to be more easily removed.
Although there are many types of ice melts made by a variety of manufacturers, the active ingredients in most of these products are typically a combination of the following ingredients along with sand and clay to help promote foot traction:
- Sodium chloride. Also known as rock salt, this is the most commonly used type of ice melt. However, ironically, it has limited effectiveness in extreme cold below 20°F. It can also be corrosive to steel, certain building materials, and concrete sidewalks, as well as damaging to nearby vegetation.
- Calcium chloride. Similar to sodium chloride but more effective, calcium chloride removes moisture from the air and can work at extremely low temperatures, down to -25°F. However, it generally is more expensive than sodium chloride and also can damage nearby vegetation.
- Magnesium chloride. Comparable to calcium chloride, this compound is less corrosive and far safer to nearby vegetation.
- Potassium chloride. Although many fertilizers contain potassium chloride, when used as an ice melt, it is not necessarily safe for vegetation. The high concentration of potassium chloride makes it harmful to plants but effective at preventing ice buildup on walking surfaces. It is also less corrosive than some of the other ice-melt compounds already mentioned.
Application Best Practices
No matter which product or combination of ingredients is used, ice melts work best if they are applied before snow or ice accumulates so that they are in contact with the surface. This is why city streets are often coated with ice melt before an anticipated storm strikes. However, if applied after snow or ice has accumulated, the products can still be helpful, but will work slower with limited overall effectiveness.
Wearing gloves, apply ice melt thinly over the surface; use a fertilizer spreader for small areas or a walk-behind spreader for large areas. The entire surface does not necessarily need to be covered with ice melt. Further, the use of scoops and shovels to apply the ice melt invariably results in overuse of ice melt compounds, which can be costly and hamper performance. “Less is more” when it comes to using ice melt effectively.
Most manufacturers will list recommended amounts of ice melt to be used based on the area to be covered as well as climate conditions. If very cold weather or a severe storm is expected, manufacturers may suggest adding some water to the product to start the actual melting process more quickly. Typically, if the proper amount has been used and applied, the product will begin working within about 20 minutes.
Although ice-melt compounds can help promote safety and their application might be legally required, they can be damaging to floor surfaces. Sodium chloride, for instance, can leave a white powdery residue if left to sit on floors over an extended period of time. Other types of ice melts can damage floor finishes and even create a surface residue that can become slippery when wet, potentially creating a hazard.
To help prevent this, cleaning professionals can remove ice melt from most floor surfaces by using a specialty product designed to remove the ice melt haze. Cleaning professionals should choose one that is a neutral pH balance cleaner and a certified green product to help protect the environment, themselves, and building occupants. The pH balance is critical; too high or too low of a pH can remove a floor’s finish while typical neutral cleaners are ineffective at thoroughly removing the ice melt haze from the floor.
First, remove any mats and thoroughly sweep or vacuum the floor area to be cleaned. Afterward, dry mop using a microfiber flat mop to remove any remaining ice melt and then apply the specialty ice melt haze remover. If using a quality product, no rinse should be required. Otherwise, the floor will need to be rinsed and rinsed again if any ice-melt residue remains on the surface.
In some cases, building managers and cleaning professionals find ice melts a necessary evil. On the one hand, they keep walkways and surfaces from becoming too slippery for foot traffic. On the other hand, their use can be damaging to structural surfaces, vegetation, and floors. But with proper selection, use, and removal, the benefits of these products can far outweigh their drawbacks.
Contact PROimage Facility Services at (313) 387-1977 today! Your Facility’s Professional Image Is Our Business.
Ten Tips for Tip-Top Carpet Care
Due to the global economic decline over the past few years, many cleaning contractors have been expanding their service offerings. Contract cleaning is no longer viewed as recession-proof; even so, it can be recession-resistant, and one of the ways to make this possible is to offer more services, including carpet cleaning. But before contacting your jansan distributor and ordering a new portable extractor, there are a few things contractors should recognize about carpet cleaning.
Let’s examine 10 important items contract cleaning professionals should know about carpet cleaning. There are certainly are more that can be added, but being aware of these 10 subjects can give you better insight into carpet cleaning.
No. 1: Training. Might as well as start with this one first. Carpet cleaning is both a science and a skill, and as such it requires contractors to have some quality education under their belts. The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) is probably the leader in these training programs; however some national janitorial supply houses offer excellent training programs. It is important to know that just like refinishing floors, no contractor should learn how to clean carpets on their customers’ carpets. Learn first―then clean.
No. 2: Low moisture. A term you should understand is low-moisture carpet cleaning. The Low Moisture Carpet Cleaners Association defines it as any procedure that allows carpet to dry in approximately two hours taking into account climatic and other conditions. A low-moisture portable extractor is designed to use less water than a conventional extractor and typically has an advanced vacuum system to more effectively extract moisture from the carpet. Together, these features help carpet dry faster with less chance of mold or mildew developing.
No. 3: Hot or cold. Some portables are cold-water machines; others have a heating element that heats the solution to approximately 212 F. Both types of machines can prove very effective; however some technicians find that heat can make the molecules in a cleaning solution work more effectively.
No. 4: Stains and spots—there is a difference. If a carpet has spots in it, you’re in luck. Spots are soils or residue that generally can be removed with extraction or by using the proper spot remover. A stain, on the other hand, actually changes the color of the carpet. While correction is still possible, it can be difficult.
No. 5: The spot test. This term can be misleading. The spot test refers to testing a cleaning solution in a small inconspicuous area to be sure it does not cause damage, discoloration, or bleeding of dyes. This term also is common in upholstery cleaning and rug cleaning as well as other types of cleaning.1
No. 6: Pre-spray. Rarely do carpet cleaning technicians mix cleaning solution and water in the tank of the extractor. Instead they pre-spray it onto the carpet―one section at a time so it does not dry out―and apply more pre-spray to spots. Remember, the pre-spray also needs a few minutes to dwell to work effectively.
No. 7: Avoiding the call-back. It is very important in commercial carpet cleaning to clarify with the client if stains, spots, or soiling in the carpet may remain after cleaning. This helps eliminate what the industry refers to as call-backs―when the customer asks you to come back and clean the carpet again. Time is money in the carpet cleaning business, and avoiding call-backs helps ensure this add-on service is lucrative for your business.
No. 8: Equipment selection. Today there are many portable carpet extractors available. The best advice I can offer is to look for a manufacturer that has been in the business for several years, and possibly even better, has built the same or similar machine for several years. View portable extractors like computer software. Version 1.0 may have problems that are corrected in version 2.0. You want version 2.0 or higher. Also, a system with variable pound per square inch—or psi—allows you to clean more delicate fabrics such as upholstery and partitions.
No. 9: Interim or restoration. Very likely, you already perform interim carpet cleaning. This is the use of a low-speed floor machine to shampoo or bonnet clean carpets. Interim means it is an effective cleaning procedure between carpet extractions. Carpet extraction is restoration cleaning; the goal is to help restore the carpet to its original condition.
No. 10: Pre-vacuuming. This has become a forgotten step in carpet cleaning, and that is a mistake. Carpets should be vacuumed before cleaning. Vacuuming removes dry soils in the carpet. If dry soils are left in the carpet, the moisture from the extractor essentially turns them into mud, making them more difficult to remove. Pre-vacuuming allows the extractor to work more effectively and can improve worker productivity as well.
One additional point to consider is certification. It is a wise idea to not only learn about carpet cleaning but become certified by an organization such as the IICRC. Certification can open many doors for you. In the eyes of your customer, certification tells them you are a trained carpet cleaning technician.
1 Source: Scott Warrington, Director of Technical Support, Bridgepoint Systems
Contact PROimage Facility Services at (313) 387-1977 today! Your Facility’s Professional Image Is Our Business.
Restrooms: Where Are the Germs Really?
According to a study by NSF International, a not-for-profit standards-development, testing, and certification organization, more than 90 percent of restroom users perform some type of “restroom gymnastics” when using a public restroom: using paper towels to touch handles and faucets; shoe bottoms to flush toilets; and elbows to open and close doors, turn on electric hand dryers, or operate manual dispensers.
The study also found that some users crouch precariously above the toilet seat without ever touching it. And in ladies’ restrooms, feminine-hygiene products are often flushed down toilets because women do not care to touch the lids of typical feminine-hygiene dispensers. This can cause serious plumbing problems for a facility, as pipes can be clogged by sanitary napkins.
The study concluded that most restroom users have developed a “Howard Hughes–type” paranoia and will do just about anything to avoid touching restroom surfaces. Unfortunately, some of this paranoia is based on fact. Using a variety of measurement techniques, such as ATP rapid-monitoring systems, we know that many health-threatening germs are present in public restrooms to varying degrees, including Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, E. coli, Shigella bacteria, the Hepatitis A virus, and the common-cold virus.
Here, There, But Not Everywhere
According to a study by Elliott Affiliates, a Baltimore, MD-based consulting firm that works with the facility-management industry, there is not a high degree of connection between how clean a restroom looked and the level of contamination found.
So where are the germs? We might, according to several studies, be surprised where germs are—and are not. For instance:
- Toilet seats: Although most public-restroom users consider the toilet seat germ center No. 1, it is, in fact, not a common vehicle for transmitting disease. And even if a toilet seat does become contaminated, a user would have to have a cut or open sore on the buttocks for cross-contamination to occur. Even outdoor portable restrooms, according to a study by University of Arizona microbiologist Dr. Charles Gerba, were found to be cleaner than picnic tables, playground equipment, shopping-cart handles, and escalator handles.
- Sinks and faucets: Germs do colonize on faucet handles, and a restroom sink may actually be the most germ-ridden surface in a public restroom. One reason for this is that the dampness of the surface helps keep microorganisms alive. Sensor-controlled faucets or the use of paper towels to touch the faucet help alleviate this problem. Rarely, it seems, do users actually touch a restroom sink.
- Toilet mists: Although the toilet seat may be relatively safe, this is not true of toilet mists. Each time a toilet is flushed, microscopic mists are released from the bowl. These mists contain a host of germs and bacteria and—depending on the type of toilet, water pressure, and age of the fixture—can cover as much as five feet around the toilet.
- Feminine-hygiene disposal units: Apparently, there are real reasons many women prefer not to touch these dispensers. A study by the American Society of Microbiology stated that “the outside of a sanitary napkin receptacle is one of the most contaminated ‘hot spots’ in the ladies room.” Typical feminine-hygiene dispensers become contaminated as they are used and are often contaminated once again as a result of the toilet mists mentioned above.
Now that we know where the germ-related problems are in public restrooms, we can emphasize more cleaning in those areas where it’s most needed—and determine the best method for cleaning these areas.
Contact PROimage Facility Services at (313) 387-1977 today! Your Facility’s Professional Image Is Our Business.
Welcome to Green Cleaning 3.0
In a sense, we are now beginning Green Cleaning 3.0. Green Cleaning 1.0 began all the way back in the mid-1990s when, after an Executive Order by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton, federal offices and facilities were required to start using environmentally preferable cleaning tools and supplies whenever and wherever possible. Clinton’s order resulted in federal facilities transferring to green cleaning products and, because the federal government is such a huge purchaser of cleaning supplies, sparked manufacturers in the professional cleaning industry to develop green cleaning products more earnestly.
Green Cleaning 2.0 came into its own in the mid-2000s. That is when the demand for environmentally preferable cleaning products moved into private industry. More and more facilities were seeking the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification and could earn LEED points by using green cleaning products. Today, buildings are required to have a green cleaning strategy in place to even be considered for LEED certification. In addition, more types of facilities started transferring to green cleaning, including schools, health care facilities, office buildings, and hotels. The result was substantial growth in the green cleaning market.
Green Cleaning 3.0 began evolving over the past few years. The use of environmentally preferable cleaning products has now become status quo, with more facilities in scores of industries selecting green cleaning products first and only selecting a traditional product if a green one does not exist or is cost or performance prohibitive. However, Green Cleaning 3.0 has brought a number of challenges with it. Among these are the following:
- Staying current. In general, cleaning contractors and facility managers are now interested in learning about what green cleaning tools, chemicals, and equipment are available today that were not available a few years back. Their goal is to see if newer, better-performing, and more cost-effective products have come on the market since they first transferred to a green cleaning program.
- Focusing on sustainability. An increasing number of cleaning professionals are looking for ways to reduce waste, recycle, and minimize their use of natural resources. In some cases, they are doing this because they believe it is the morally right thing to do. In other situations, they are required to take sustainability steps in order to do business with large purchasers of their products and services.
- Eliminating redundancy. Traditionally, contractors and facility managers have selected a variety of green cleaning chemicals and products each designed to perform a specific task. However, they are realizing some of these products (or newly introduced products) can be used for multiple purposes. To reduce costs, reduce waste, minimize training requirements, and streamline ordering, contractors and managers want to minimize the number of products they select and eliminate those that are no longer needed.
- Cold-water cleaning. End-users are aware that cold-water dilution is often recommended in green cleaning programs, and it also fits in with their goals to become more sustainable and use less energy. However, they need more information about the uses and best practices for these products before they can make educated buying decisions.
- Eliminating ready-to-use products (RTUs). Although RTUs are convenient, contractors and managers are opting to eliminate ready-to-use cleaning products, preferring to select chemicals in larger, 5-gallon containers instead. While buying in bulk helps promote sustainability, a significant cost savings can be achieved, as well. More concentrated cleaning chemicals in large drums typically last longer.
- Looking beyond chemicals. Many cleaning professionals are investigating cleaning equipment and procedures that do not require the use of cleaning chemicals―green or traditional. Sometimes referred to as chemical-free cleaning, this involves using equipment or products that perform using engineered water. In certain situations, this may turn out to be the ultimate in green cleaning.
The Difference Between Sanitizing and Disinfecting
In the cleaning industry, there are many misunderstandings about disinfectants and sanitizers. The terms are frequently interchanged in discussions, as many people believe they have the same meaning. Though they are similar, there are differences between sanitizing and disinfecting.
A sanitizer is a chemical that reduces the number of microorganisms to a safe level. It doesn’t need to eliminate 100 percent of all organisms to be effective.Sanitizing a surface makes that surface sanitary or free of visible dirt contaminants that could affect your health. Sanitizing is meant to reduce, not kill, the occurrence and growth of bacteria, viruses and fungi. Disinfecting a surface will “kill” the microscopic organisms as claimed on the label of a particular product.
A disinfectant is a chemical that completely destroys all organisms listed on its label. The organisms it kills are disease-causing bacteria and pathogens, and it may or may not kill viruses and fungi. From a legal standpoint (U.S Environmental Protection Agency guidelines), disinfectants must reduce the level of pathogenic bacteria by 99.999 percent during a time frame greater than 5 minutes but less than 10 minutes.
If we start with 1 million organisms on a surface then a disinfectant must kill 100 percent of them; zero left. A sanitizer only reduces the number of organisms down to 1,000 and does nothing about virus and fungus.
Sanitizers are typically involved with the cleaning of food-service areas. Disinfectants are typically involved with the cleaning of medical facilities.
source: www.issa.com ; www.cleanlink.com
Floor Care Tips: Strip & Wax
While it is not unusual for Detroit, MI, to experience tough winters, the winter of 2014 was one of the worst in the city’s history. But Detroit was not the only city that suffered through a brutal winter; both the northeastern and southeastern United States experienced record-low temperatures and more snow than usual.
While the winter of 2014 made life difficult for millions of people in the United States, it also created havoc for many floors in schools, office buildings, convention centers, and other facilities around the country. Those floors that managed to hold up were most likely protected by a durable floor finish designed to prevent resoiling and applied by a well-trained cleaning professional.
A Year-Round Process
Even under ideal conditions, floors are exposed to contaminants and outside soiling, including salt and other ice-melt chemicals. Without adequate cleaning measures in place, such soiling can cause serious damage to even the best floor finish. Proper floor maintenance, especially during winter months, includes frequent cleaning, installation of high-performance matting, and damp mopping with a daily cleaner. If floors require more serious care, buffing/burnishing or using an automatic scrubber and then recoating the floor can usually remove soils and blemishes on a finished floor, restore its shine, and add a layer of protection.
If a durable finish has not been applied, floors can take on a darkened appearance. Even when a finish has been applied, simply polishing, scrubbing, and recoating are not enough to restore a floor’s appearance due to the volume of soil that has been tracked in. The best option in this situation is to strip and then refinish the floor.
Floor Stripping and Refinishing Pointers
Before going further into the stripping and refinishing process, facility managers and cleaning professionals should consider some basic floor-refinishing facts. First, before beginning any work, make sure winter’s havoc has completely passed, especially after a harsh winter such as this past one. Some facility managers in Chicago, for example , usually begin major floor care work in April or May. However, they are waiting until June this year just to ensure the cold weather is long gone.
Another practice to consider is to select floor care products―including daily cleaners, strippers, finishes, etc.―that are the same brand and come from the same manufacturer. There is often a synergy in these product formulations, meaning they work together well. This also can streamline the floor care chemical selection process.
Further, instead of viewing floor care as a cleaning task, building managers and cleaning service providers should recognize floor care for what it is—an investment. If done properly, a proactive floor care program can pay returns by minimizing slip-and-fall accidents, reducing costly refinishing cycles, helping to maintain a clean and healthy facility, and establishing the quality impression facility owners and occupants want to convey.
The Stripping/Refinishing Process
There are several steps to properly strip and refinish a floor. The first step is to clean the floor effectively before stripping. Sweep or vacuum and then damp mop the floor using a fresh mop. Change the mop head and rinse the bucket frequently to ensure soils are not being spread from one area to another.
When using strippers, gradually apply them in small areas to ensure the chemical does not dry on the floor. Be sure that a stripping pad has been attached to the floor machine, typically a low-speed buffer.
A wet/dry vacuum also should be employed to help remove the slurry left behind during the refinishing process. The goal is to ensure that soils and the old, damaged floor finish is vacuumed up and thoroughly removed.
While cleaning professionals should not cut corners, there are ways to streamline the process and move things along a bit faster. For instance, using a no-rinse stripper that does not require the use of a neutralizer can save time. Be careful that chemical residue is not left on the floor, as this can harm the floor’s appearance and impact the durability of the finish once it is applied.
When applying finish, remember that these chemicals dry from the top-down. Therefore, while the surface may be dry to the touch, the finish may not have dried thoroughly or hardened completely. Waiting 30 minutes or longer between applications should be sufficient in most cases, but the reality is that many environmental factors impact how fast finish dries.
As to the number of coats, view the first two coats of finish applied to the floor as the foundation. From there, three or four additional coats are typically recommended. Note that it is extremely important to apply thin, even coats of finish. This enables each coat to dry more thoroughly and harden, increasing the durability of the finish and creating better protection for the floor.
Beyond Stripping and Refinishing
Daily care is critical to maintaining floor finishes after the refinishing process. Many facility managers find it best to establish a daily floor maintenance program. PROimage Facility Services Inc. can help customers create this program, which should include regular sweeping/vacuuming and damp mopping, as well as buffing/burnishing and scrubbing.
Given the expense of flooring products and installation, floor care is a crucial investment for any facility. Implementing a proper daily floor care routine is an essential part of protecting this investment.
Every Day Is Earth Day for the Cleaning Industry
Earth Day was created 42 years ago by a small but passionate group of individuals that organized speeches and rallies throughout the country to focus attention on our environment and how man’s activities can harm it. These individuals also pressed federal, state, and local governments to pass laws and regulations that would protect the environment and achieve their goals for a cleaner, healthier planet.
At that time, activists and most Americans alike expected the government to implement environmental regulations. They believed political action was necessary—that it was, in fact, the only way the changes they hoped for would occur. Four decades later, however, both individuals and industries such as our own have come to voluntarily embrace many of the changes those first Earth Day activists were working for, taking significant steps to protect our environment without waiting for a government mandate.
For instance, green and sustainable cleaning have now essentially become (or are becoming) standard operating procedure in the professional cleaning industry throughout much of the world. This trend is likely to continue in the years to come. Further, we are seeing this awareness expanding into new areas that go beyond the use of green cleaning chemicals or vacuum cleaners that protect indoor air quality. Moisture-controlled cleaning technologies (that use less water and use it more efficiently) and technologies that minimize chemical use and cleaning-related waste are becoming commonplace as well, complementing the goals first brought to light by Earth Day’s founders.
Examples of these changes in technology are plentiful. Take carpet extraction, for instance, which uses more water than perhaps any other form of cleaning. New wand technologies are now available that use water much more efficiently, allowing technicians to minimize the amount of water that comes in contact with the carpet while still cleaning effectively. Further, recycling carpet extractors that filter and recycle water and cleaning solution—something made possible by the use of an existing technology that has essentially been rediscovered due to our industry’s growing focus on green and sustainable cleaning—are becoming increasingly common as well.
Cylindrical brush technology, which makes use of rotating brushes instead of rotary pads for floor machines, is another old technology that has received a new lease on life due to our industry’s focus on greener, healthier, and more sustainable cleaning. Because these brushes perform more of the actual cleaning work, less chemical and water is necessary. Less noticeable but just as important, the brushes on these machines can replace as many as 100 rotary pads, reducing our industry’s impact on landfills and protecting natural resources.
But it is not just cleaning products and technologies that are evolving as a result of this resolute focus on the environment; the way we operate our businesses is changing as well. In fact, many key players in the jansan industry are now taking steps to embrace what is known as the triple bottom line and its emphasis on social, economic, and environmental principles:
- Focusing on the well-being of people, workers, and communities
- Manufacturing products that are environmentally responsible as well as functional and competitively priced
- Operating facilities in ways that minimize the use of natural resources and protect the environment.
These new goals have evolved in part as a result of those small gatherings 42 years ago and the impact of Earth Day. And just as our industry has taken a leadership role in the green and sustainable cleaning movement, we can expect it to become a leader in operating businesses responsibly and sustainably to promote the triple bottom line as well.
Cleaning for Health
If there is one expression that has become the motto, if not the marching orders, of today’s professional cleaning industry, it is “cleaning for health.” This all-important phrase was likely first coined by Dr. Michael Berry in his precedent-setting book, Protecting the Built Environment: Cleaning for Health. Since then, this concept has become powerful and significant—and rightly so.
At one time, our main purpose was to clean for appearance. But after Berry’s book was published, our industry was forced to reevaluate its primary function. We have now realized that our work and what we do for our end-customers is far more meaningful than just keeping floors shiny, counters wiped off, and carpets vacuumed. What we do helps keep people healthy.
While these changes were taking place, cleaning was also moving toward center stage in our industry. Cleaning to protect human health means reducing the negative impact cleaning can have on the health of cleaning workers and building occupants as well as protecting the environment. After all, what’s the point of having clean, sterile surfaces if people get sick because of the cleaning products used?
Around this same time, frightening public health scares, such as SARS, norovirus, MRSA, and other diseases, became prominent in headlines and news coverage throughout the world. Doctors and public health professionals were unable to stop the spread of these diseases and infections with vaccines or medications. Instead, cleaning professionals were called upon to provide health-based solutions aimed toward minimizing outbreaks and cross-contamination. In fact, one presenter at a Cleaning Industry Research Institute—CIRI—event even suggested that due to the connections between cleaning and health, the professional cleaning industry should be placed under the umbrella of the health care industry.
The link between cleaning and protecting human health is now a well-established part of the cleaning industry, lifting both our industry’s image and confidence and giving cleaning professionals a definite role and purpose beyond just tidying up facilities. However, this new role has also caused us to face a serious dilemma. How can we tell if we are cleaning to protect human health? As we all know, appearances can be deceiving when it comes to cleanliness. Fortunately, evolving methodologies can prove that visually clean surfaces are safe, healthy, and hygienically clean.
How to Care for Rubber Floors
Many facilities—especially schools and institutional buildings—are now installing what are termed sustainable hard-surface floor coverings made from bamboo, cork, certified or reclaimed hardwood, or engineered flooring (derived from wood chips and other materials). These properties tend to be large, busy, and multi-use buildings, and it is often difficult to find one type of sustainable floor that meets a facility’s diverse needs. Further, just as with other types of floor coverings, some sustainable floors are more durable, easier to clean and maintain, more slip-resistant, and more visually pleasing than others.
As summer approaches, one sustainable floor type deserves special consideration. Rubber flooring is finding more acceptance and being installed in more facilities, indoors as well as outside. This type of flooring is becoming more popular in schools, institutions, gyms, and pool areas thanks to the way it holds up in all types of situations including heat, humidity, and wet conditions. Rubber floors are now offered in a variety of designs and colors for all types of locations, and high-quality rubber floors often are easier to maintain, are more durable, and last longer than many other floor types—sustainable or conventional.
What makes rubber floors sustainable depends on how they are manufactured. Some rubber floors are made from renewable natural rubber extracted from rubber trees. The floors may also contain fillers, supplements, and coloring derived from other sustainable sources. Additionally, recycled rubber flooring typically is made from old tires and other rubber products, helping to minimize the amount of rubber that ends up in landfills.
Another factor that makes rubber a sustainable floor covering is life-cycle cost. A study by Sue Tartaglio of the International Interior Design Association compared a dozen frequently used synthetic and natural flooring products and found that rubber is the most cost-competitive resilient floor option. Tartaglio’s study took into consideration the initial purchase price, the cost of installation, and the costs of cleaning and maintenance over a 15-year period. In addition, the life cycle of most rubber floors is about 30 years, which adds to their long-term value. Depending on how the flooring is manufactured, rubber flooring tends to have lower volatile organic compound— or VOC—emissions than many other types of floors. This helps protect indoor air quality, which is of prime concern especially in schools and institutional facilities.
Cleaning and Care
Even with all their benefits, maintaining rubber flooring may be more complicated than originally believed. And with summer around the corner, the biggest season of the year for all types of restorative floor care, now is the perfect time to discuss how to effectively clean and maintain rubber floors.
Dust mopping typically is not advised for daily cleaning of rubber floors because they are often studded. And while the studded design of rubber floors serves an important purpose—helping to prevent slips, trips, and falls—the drawback is that moisture and soils can build up around the studs. A backpack vacuum cleaner can remove dry dust and soils surrounding the studs that a dust mop might not be able to remove. This is also more protective of indoor air quality, as no dust is stirred up into the air, and a HEPA-filter backpack will keep dust and contaminants from being released as well.
For more restorative cleaning, rubber floors are best cleaned with what are referred to as hard-surface tools. These are wands that are often used in conjunction with dual-surface carpet extractors to generate considerable pressure per square inch and remove soils. The dislodged dirt can then be vacuumed up, leaving the rubber flooring clean, dry, and ready for foot traffic.
You may consider using cleaning solutions for these hard-surface tools for even stronger cleaning power. In most cases, a neutral cleaner is all that is necessary, and several are green-certified. However, if the floor is installed around a pool, locker room, health care facility, or other location where there are increased concerns about bacteria, a sanitizer or disinfectant can be used. Be sure to read label instructions regarding dilution and dwell time, and check that the chemical is safe for rubber floors. An astute distributor should be able to provide valuable guidance in this regard.
With new colors, innovative designs, and the fact that many types are now considered both green and sustainable, cleaning professionals can expect to see more rubber floors in all types of facilities. Cleaned and maintained properly, a rubber floor can prove to be a high-quality, good-looking investment welcomed in all types of properties for many years to come.
Get Serious About Chemical Safety
Because most janitorial industry professionals work with cleaning chemicals every day—both at work with customers and at home—some have developed a nonchalant attitude toward them. Plus, the general adoption of green cleaning has exacerbated this attitude in some cases because many cleaning professionals have the mistaken belief that green chemicals are always safe to use.
It is true that when used properly, both conventional and green cleaning chemicals are relatively safe. However, these products are not always properly handled, and accidents can and do happen.
The U.S. Department of Labor continues to classify cleaning and custodial work as high-risk jobs, mainly because of the many accidents involving chemicals that occur each year (Note: PROimage Facility Services has never had an accident involving chemicals). It is estimated that six out of every 100 custodians in the United States experience a job-related injury each year caused by exposure to cleaning chemicals (Note: PROimage Facility Services has had none in our many years of doing business). These often include eye injuries, many of which are irreversible. Other injuries are typically skin related (e.g., burns) or are the result of inhaling chemical fumes.
What makes us different?
Ironically, green chemicals are sometimes even more dangerous than conventional chemicals because they are delivered in such highly concentrated forms. While being packaged in higher concentrations makes green chemicals more sustainable due to the inherent reduction in fuel, transportation, and packaging needs, it also makes them very powerful and therefore potentially dangerous.
Our chemicals enter your site already pre-diluted so our employees are never mixing chemicals or dealing with highly concentrated chemicals on site. This eliminates the possibility for a lot of the accidents mentioned above. That is just one of the things in our chemical safety program. Below is a brief overview of our chemical safety program.
Our Chemical Safety Program
We have complete records of all cleaning chemicals used, including container sizing and where they are stored, and the potential hazards of and precautions necessary for each specific chemical.
We maintain material safety data sheets (MSDS) for each chemical used.
Chemicals are stored in well-ventilated areas away from HVAC intake vents. This will prevent chemical fumes from spreading to other areas in a facility.
Bottles and containers clearly display safety signage in multiple languages or images that quickly conveys possible dangers and precautions related to the chemicals.