PLYMOUTH, MINN.—With the path to economic recovery still uncertain, all types of facilities—from healthcare and schools to hospitality and commercial office buildings—are feeling the budget squeeze for maintenance staffing and cleaning-equipment purchases. Floor cleaning is one area where productivity gains can help facilities deal with staff reductions and economic pressures.
It is an inescapable fact that labor accounts for 90 percent of the cost to clean a facility. Even in times of reduced cleaning staff, there is never a choice to do less cleaning. There are, however, several strategies that can reduce the labor required for floor cleaning while maintaining or actually improving cleanliness standards.
Now, more than ever, daily floor cleaning is critical as a cost-saving measure. Keeping hard floors and carpeted areas clean on a “maintenance” basis delays the need for more extreme restorative cleaning methods and, in turn, extends the life of floor surfaces. Daily floor cleaning removes the dirt and grit that is constantly tracked in on the soles of shoes. Left to accumulate, this dirt acts as an abrasive that wears away floor finishes and permanently damages carpet fibers. This is an issue of particular concern in high-traffic entrance areas where the dirt is being brought in from outside.
A strategy for preventing dirt and grit from being spread through the facility is to increase the frequency of cleaning in the areas with the most traffic. If entrance areas are currently being cleaned twice a day, increasing cleaning of these areas to three or four times a day can actually reduce floor-cleaning needs in other building areas. This is especially true during winter months in the northern parts of the United States, where foot traffic brings in sand, salt, dirt and water.
Focus on High-traffic Areas
Concentrating cleaning efforts on high-traffic areas will do two things: 1) help reduce wear and tear on all floor surfaces throughout the facility; and 2) increase the quality of appearance throughout the facility. Paying special attention to entrance-area cleaning provides an opportunity to create a positive first impression.
The goal for hard-floor surface maintenance should be to increase daily cleaning in order to extend the time period between more costly procedures, such as scrubbing and recoating, or stripping and refinishing. These restorative processes require many hours of additional labor plus costly chemicals; by postponing those procedures as long as possible, cleaning-budget dollars will go much further. The longer facilities can defer scrubbing and recoating, or stripping and refinishing, the more costs can be saved. The two procedures are necessary to keep floors looking shiny and uniform, but they are very labor- and chemical-intensive.
Top-scrubbing and recoating is normally done approximately once every three months in the average facility with hard surfaces, but there is good reason to defer the procedure: it requires about two hours of labor for an average-size room. The process entails completely clearing out the room or other space, then applying a solution of chemicals and water to the floor. After letting the solution work for about 10 minutes, the floor is power-scrubbed, vacuumed dry and recoated with a floor finish.
About once a year, the average facility will need to strip hard-surface floors and completely refinish them, but this is an even more elaborate procedure that should be deferred as long as possible. It entails using a chemical stripper that is applied and allowed to work. Next, the surface is scrubbed using the agitation of an automatic scrubber, then cleaned and vacuumed dry before refinishing. In addition to the cost of the stripping chemicals and the approximately four hours of labor per room, the chemicals have a very disagreeable smell that is generally unwelcome.
Importance of Daily Cleaning
With a strategy of increased daily cleaning, the period between scrubbing and recoating hard floors can be extended from once every three months to once every six months. Daily cleaning can also extend the time between stripping and refinishing cycles up to two years.
To keep hard-surface floors looking their best between refinishing cycles, burnishers help restore the finish. Some equipment models generate dust that has to be cleaned up manually in a separate operation. One solution is to use a one-pass burnisher that features dust-control technology. Some burnishers with dust control, for example, eliminate the need for manual dusting after burnishing, increasing cleaning productivity by 50 percent.
To maintain carpets, vacuums are the “first line of defense.” Daily vacuuming not only helps extend the life of carpets, but it also reduces the time required between restorative cleaning cycles. It is best to use equipment with certified-HEPA filtration and dirt pick-up performance that has earned the Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI) Seal of Approval. This provides true soil removal that reduces the need for time-consuming restorative cleaning, and the certified-HEPA filtration ensures that dirt and dust are not emitted back into the air through the vacuum’s exhaust system.
In addition to daily vacuuming, it is important to do interim and restorative maintenance on carpeting on a regular basis. By the time carpeting begins to look dirty or beaten down, or show heavy traffic patterns, embedded dirt and grit have already permanently damaged the carpet fibers. Using carpet machines that have the flexibility to do both light extraction and deep extraction will make it easier to keep carpets looking good and help them last much longer.
It is also prudent to have a carpet extractor with the CRI Seal of Approval. This independent-testing endorsement ensures that the extractor will remove enough dirt and cleaning solution from the carpet to prevent damage to the fibers and minimize drying time. Water and chemicals left in the carpeting can encourage mold growth and attract more dirt from people’s shoes.
Advantages to Carpet Extractors/Sweepers
Carpet extractors that offer sweeping combined with either light extraction or deep extraction help improve productivity while offering good cleaning performance. In the light-extraction mode, these machines spray a solution onto the brush, instead of directly into the carpet. This limits the amount of water and chemicals that get into the fibers. The advantages of this type of machine are twofold: When the machine is used in the light-extraction mode, the carpet dries very quickly, allowing it to be cleaned more frequently with less disruption in traffic. In the restorative deep-extraction mode, this type of machine sprays solution directly into the carpet and provides a deeper cleaning for heavily soiled areas.
Combination scrubber-extractor machines that clean both soft and hard surfaces can help stretch capital budgets while also reducing operator training and equipment-storage requirements. Not only does a multi-surface machine reduce the number of cleaning machines needed, but it also helps improve productivity. Switching between the scrubber mode and the extraction mode usually takes only seconds. By eliminating the need for the operator to change machines between hard-floor and carpet cleaning, a dual-function machine c