by Joe Versluis
While there are hundreds of hard surface floor types, most fall into two general categories: porous and nonporous.
A nonporous floor does not absorb soils or moisture. These would include such floors as glazed ceramic or glazed porcelain tiles. Porous floors, on the other hand, include traditional unglazed tile and grout (both tile and grout are porous), limestone, concrete, and brick flooring. A nonporous floor is often easier to clean and maintain; however, in most healthcare and other commercial facilities, porous floors are most commonly found. The reason for this is simple: safety. The porous surface can improve traction, which can help minimize the possibility of a slip-and-fall accident.
Safety is its strong suit, but the downside of porous floors is that soil and moisture can build up in the pores, causing discoloration and a soiled appearance. As this happens, bacteria and malodor can also develop. Further, should a soiled porous floor become wet, instead of promoting safety, it can actually become quite slippery, essentially eliminating its most important attribute.
To help protect the floor and prevent soil buildup, some administrators have their floors sealed. The type of sealant used will depend on the type of floor. However, they all work essentially the same. They cover the surface of the floor with a protective film, helping to block contaminants from lodging in the pores of the floor.
The problem that arises is that the sealer begins to wear down with time and foot traffic. When this happens, the floor is left unprotected and soiling begins. Further, some facilities prefer not to apply a sealer typically because floor care is time consuming and costly. In time, the sealer must be stripped off the floor—similar to finish (wax)—and then a new sealant applied. Some facilities are also concerned about the environmental impacts of some chemicals used to perform floor cleaning.
Routine and Restorative Cleaning – Whether a sealant is applied to a porous floor or not, the keys to maintaining these floors come down to routine cleaning and more extensive restorative cleaning. Whenever possible, vacuum porous floors instead of dust mopping. Using a backpack vacuum, for instance, soils are removed from the pores. A dust mop will remove some soils and it will also push other soils into the pores.
The floor should also be damp mopped regularly. If using a traditional mopping system, change the mop head and water frequently. Just as with dust mopping, as the wet mop is used on the floor, it becomes contaminated and can start spreading soils instead of removing them, again defeating our cleaning goal.
Restorative cleaning typically involves using a conventional rotary floor machine. The problem that arises is that such machines only clean the top surface of the floor. They cannot reach deep into the grout or pores of the floor. An alternative that can be employed is to essentially pressure wash the floors, applying water at about 1,200-psi. The water and soils are then vacuumed up, all in the same process, leaving the floor essentially dry when work is completed. While there are different systems available, those used with so called “dual surface” carpet extractors tend to be the most popular. These extractors can be used to clean carpets and then, with a change of attachments, clean porous floors.
Whichever floor type is installed in your facility, cleaning and care are paramount to protect the floor, its appearance, and the health and safety of the facility. When it comes to porous floors, they can provide years of service, help increase safety, and are relatively easy to clean and maintain…as long as the right procedures, systems, and methods are employed.
Joe Versluis is national sales manager for U.S. Products.