It can be frustrating to keep a facility’s floor clean during the winter while the materials used to safeguard your personnel outside can wreak havoc on your interior flooring. Effective solutions don’t have to be expensive or complicated; they just require input and ingenuity from experts. The key is to be proactive instead of reactive.
Review the maintenance plan when the seasons change
The materials used on sidewalks and building entries to prevent slips, trips and falls in rain and on ice outside a facility can cause issues inside as well. Jim Toth Jr., Manager of Commercial Maintenance at Mannington Commercial, helps to evaluate the problem and formulate viable solutions to help ensure the long-term performance of the flooring.
No one wants customers, clients or employees to slip and fall while walking into a building in winter weather conditions, so facility managers use a variety of deicers for safety reasons. But, these deicers lead to a residue of some sort being tracked into the facility on shoes, wheels, etc., through entryways. How to clean the area and what type of entryway system is best suited to handle the situation?
Hard surface flooring
There are myriad deicer products on the market including minerals or liquids. Products such as rock salt or calcium chloride can be tough to walk on and readily tracked into the facility. Some products have a sticky residue that’s tracked in on shoes, cartwheels, etc. Even using sand outside means it will be brought into the building. Newer products such as magnesium chlorides are a small aggregate size and do a good job melting snow and ice but still can be tracked inside.
Maintenance often tries to auto scrub or use some sort of mop but basically just smears the residue around so it looks okay when it’s wet but when it dries there’s a white haze on the floor. What’s a better solution?
Start by understanding the chemistry necessary to break down the type of deicer being used. Calcium chloride is an oil-based product, so on hard-surface floors, you should use a cleaner degreaser with a pH of around 10 to break it down and remove it.
Another factor is the type of cleaning equipment. Because some of the aggregate is large, it can get lodged into a traditional pad and damage the floor so it’s important to be mindful of the full process. AstroTurf-type pads can help by helping suspend the deicer in water so the vacuum system on the auto scrubber can pick it up. Microfiber mops with plain water also can work if they are wrung out frequently or used with a double bucket system.
Carpet flooring solutions
There are two parts to carpeted commercial spaces – the entryway and the rest of the facility. Each presents a challenge when cleaning deicing products.
Permanent entryway systems offer benefits above entry mats that are put on top of a surface. They are part of the structure so there’s no trip hazard by corners and edges rolling up or poor transition to the floor surface. Soil and water retention in mats is limited and not as effective in containing overflow.
Any entryway should have rigid fibre to help scrape off debris from shoes, tires and such. Those products are designed and installed to withstand more dirt. But that area will have a heavy debris load which requires regular vacuuming and extraction to help prevent the soil from being tracked further into the facility. Continually removing the soil with regular maintenance ensures the fibre can continue to trap debris being tracked in. A well-designed and installed entryway system of 3 to 5 meters into the facility plays an important role in maintaining soft surfaces in the remainder of the building under harsh weather conditions.
A lighter colour carpet might not show the residue of deicing products as much as darker colours, but it’s still there and needs extra maintenance attention to help retain the overall performance of the flooring. Using pile lifters and carpet extractors with plain water anywhere from 10 to 15 meters beyond the entryway removes the excess debris and helps preserve the carpet fibres. It’s even more important if a heavy aggregate deicer product is used since that can cause long-term damage if it isn’t removed.
Creating a winter maintenance protocol
“Once you’ve evaluated the products being used and the composition of the entryway system, the next step is creating a manageable procedure for the necessary season” – Toth suggests.
- Examine the chemistry of the deicing products to spot the appropriate products
- Look at the equipment and evaluate if you need to change the type of pad or add another type of cleaning tool
- Determine the best timing. As an example, a school might require cleaning immediately after students enter in the morning to ensure debris isn’t tracked from entrance areas throughout the day. An office that has entrance traffic dispersed throughout the day might only need to be cleaned at night.
By planning ahead and making relatively minor adjustments to cleaning and maintenance routines when weather conditions are most harsh, FMs can save time and money – and help preserve the performance of both hard and soft surface commercial floors for the long term.