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The importance of keeping wood floors clean

Richard Aylen provides steps on how to clean a wood floor effectively.

HARDWOOD flooring is very simple to look after and is one of the main reasons why beautiful wooden floors are so loved by clients and have been a popular mainstream choice in our buildings for such a long time.

When we talk about maintaining hardwood floors, we usually focus on surface treatments, lacquers, oil, sanding and refurbishment. But before you do any of this you need to get the floor clean, because getting things right at this stage can lay the foundations for a trouble-free floor with a long and useful life and no surprise, it will cost the client less in the long term.

Prevention is better than cure as we all know. Preventing water and grit from reaching the floor is one of the fundamental things the client can do to prolong its life. Investing in a well-designed, good-quality barrier mat system will pay dividends. Make sure it’s large enough to be effective. You’ll need to maintain it too, so your investment continues to pay you back for a long time.

Inevitably some debris and grit will find its way onto the floor, and this can be abrasive, grinding away the floor’s protective finish. For small to medium sized areas, sweeping or vacuuming are the most effective ways to remove loose grit. To sweep grit from the floor in the shortest possible time you can use a vee sweeper, which has a wide sweeping head and covers a large area in a relatively short time.

If you’re going to damp mop or spray buff the floor, sweeping and vacuuming should always be your first job. You may be tempted to get the buffing machine out of the cupboard straight away and skip the sweeping or vacuuming stage but buffing a gritty floor with a nylon pad, even a soft one, can be rather like sanding it.

Sweeping and vacuuming will remove loose particles but what about contamination that’s stuck to the floor, such as mud, food residue, body fats on sports and activity floors for example? You need a damp cleaning method for this. Use as little water as possible to avoid damaging the floor, but enough to dissolve the dirt and lift it off the surface. It’s surprising how little water you need to do this properly; some ‘Rotowash’ style machines exploit very well. There are specialised cleaning products you can add to the water that break down dirt, grease and body fats but always make sure that they’re recommended by the floor manufacturer. Not all floor cleaners are the same, and a product designed to clean ceramic tiles for example, may damage a sealed wooden surface. For general dirt removal you can use a product such as Junckers Floor Cleaner for example and for degreasing sports floors, Junckers Neutralizer cuts through the contamination where a general cleaner may be ineffective.

Customers with smaller floors may use a traditional mop and bucket, which is fine, providing the mop is well wrung out. The mop needs to be regularly rinsed out so you’re transferring dirt from the floor into the bucket, and the water must be changed regularly. If you fail to do these two things you will simply be rearranging the dirt.

Some clients ‘spray-buff’ the floor but it’s debatable if this is efficient if used in isolation. Spray buffing uses a rotary buffing machine mounted with a soft nylon pad. The operator sprays a small amount of water on the floor then passes the buffing machine over it. This is an effective way to detach dirt from the floor surface but must be followed by damp mopping with a mop and bucket, as described earlier, so the dirt is taken off the floor and into the bucket.

A scrubber dryer or Rotowash will perform both tasks in one operation and will be many times faster than traditional mop and bucket cleaning which is why most clients with larger floors will invest in one of these machines.

It may be tempting to apply polish to hide minor scratches and scuffs, but this can sometimes result in a slippery floor. Furthermore, at some point the floor will need to be resealed, but polish residues can be very difficult to remove and are notorious for causing adhesion problems, resulting in the new lacquer peeling off. The good news for clients is that looking after wooden floors is very straightforward and if they maintain their floors properly, they’re saved the cost and down-time associated with applying surface dressings.
01376 534700
Richard Aylen is technical manager at Junckers

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