A Comprehensive Guide to Cleaning Commercial Floors

How to Clean Commercial Floors

20 percent job injuries from fallsAside from the obvious appearance issue, there are real reasons to keep floors clean and dry in a business. Did you know that nearly 20 percent of all job-related injuries are slips, trips and falls?

Keeping a dry and clean business floor protects companies from potential liability, should someone slip or fall. It also instills a sense of pride in employees — no one wants to work in a dirty or wet environment – and a sense of credibility in customers.

It may also be illegal to have a dirty or wet floor for companies in certain industries, such as the food industry. Making sure floors are clean and dry can help to avoid an even bigger problem than just a little water.

Types of Commercial Flooring

While it may make sense why to keep business floors dry and clean, a slew of questions arises, including what and how. First, let’s talk about what different types of commercial flooring you may have to keep dry:

  • Commercial Tile Floors: Also known as VCT (vinyl composition tile), commercial tile floors are one of the most popular choices of commercial and institutional builders. It’s made from colored polyvinyl chloride (PVC) chips and formed into a solid sheet.
  • Commercial Vinyl Floors: Vinyl flooring remains another popular flooring material, especially for high-traffic use. It is water-resistant, low-maintenance and can be printed in a variety of colors, textures, and styles.
  • Commercial Concrete Floors: Commercial concrete floors come with high durability, so they can withstand heavy foot traffic and stains. They are also easy to maintain. While not as versatile as commercial vinyl floors, they can also be colored or enhanced to fit in with a commercial atmosphere or theme.
  • Commercial Carpet Floors: Commercial carpeting is made from a few different fibers, such as nylon or olefin (polypropylene). It requires a bit more maintenance than vinyl, concrete, and VCT. Olefin/polypropylene carpet is usually the most budget-friendly for moderate-traffic floors, and it also has high stain resistance. However, carpets made from nylon are more often durable and will look better for longer.
  • Commercial Hardwood floors: Hardwood flooring combines durability and aesthetics to create a beautiful floor that can stand against high traffic, spills and dents. Hardwood floors may require more maintenance than other types of commercial flooring.

Cleaning Commercial Flooring

How do you clean commercial floors?

You understand that business’ floors should be clean and dry, but how do you clean commercial floors? Here’s a look at some of the different flooring types and what they require.

1. How to Clean Commercial Tile Floors/VCT

VCT flooring is a top choice for high-traffic areas in commercial and institutional projects because of its easy maintenance, durability, low cost and variety of appearances. Instituting a regular maintenance schedule will keep floors cleaner, sleeker and help ensure they last even longer.

You’ll need a few supplies to clean VCT floors best, so make sure you have the following:

  • Bucket
  • A neutral cleaner with a pH of seven (try to find one that best suits the business — for example, restaurants need something designed to remove grease more than a school would)
  • Water
  • Mop with automatic scrubber
  • Air mover

First, vacuum or sweep the entire area for larger pieces of debris. Get all of the large pieces of trash, dust or dirt off the floor so you can focus on really getting the tile clean.

In the bucket, mix one ounce of neutral cleaner for every gallon of water you use. To keep a VCT floor looking shiny and new, it’s important to use a neutral cleaner. Using the wrong or harsh chemicals can make the floor look grimy and strip the finish — this can give it a dull appearance as well.

Scrub the entire floor with the detergent, making sure to hit corners and the most-traveled areas. When you finish cleaning the entire area, set up your air mover and dry the floor. Complete dryness varies by size and shape of the area, but allow at least 30 minutes to avoid potential slips and falls.

If you’re attempting to remove a stain and it doesn’t come out during the regular cleaning, there are a few more things you can try. These tips can be applied to cleaning off stains, scuffs and more:

  • Up the cleaner concentration: While it runs the risk of making a floor’s finish look duller, it may be more important to remove the stain. Two to four ounces of cleaner per gallon of water have also proven effective in removing stains. Just try to use the more concentrated solution only on the area of the stain.
  • Mop in a different pattern: For stains concentrated in one place, try mopping in a figure-eight pattern instead of up-and-down or side-to-side. It will give your arms a break and lift out the stain in a new way.
  • Strip the wax: Most yellow stains on commercial tile or VCT can be attributed to either the natural reaction of sunlight and vinyl over time or a discoloration of wax coating on top of the tile. For the latter, stripping the wax with a concentrated cleaner and automatic scrubber just might do the trick.

It’s important to have professional janitorial floor fans to truly get scuffs, stains and more off of floors. Business owners should have a regular floor cleaning and maintenance schedule, but regular professional cleaning may be needed to keep floors truly clean.

2. How to Clean Commercial Vinyl Floors

Cleaning commercial vinyl flooring differs slightly from what someone may do in their home, starting with the supplies used. To ensure the floor keeps its polished finish, make sure you use these materials:

  • Neutral floor cleaning detergent
  • Soft bristle broom or non-oil treated mop
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Mop and pail
  • Power buffing machine
  • Air Mover/floor-drying fan
  • Floor finish (optional)

For both general and routine maintenance, sweep or vacuum the vinyl surface to get rid of dirt and dust that accumulates over time.

Dampen the mop with the neutral detergent and clean the floor using a figure-eight motion. Once you’ve coated the floor with cleaner, clean off your mop and dampen it with clean and clear water. Run the mop over the entire area to clean off the detergent.

To dry any leftover dampness, turn on your air mover and allow the floor to dry thoroughly. After it has dried, you can dry-buff the surface. If you want to have a finish coating, apply three to five coats of acrylic floor finish.

Sometimes it can feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle while cleaning weathered or worn floors. Proactively caring for vinyl floors cuts the amount of time and resources you need to use to clean it, but not every business owner knows them. Here are some preventative measures to share with the businesses you serve to make your job easier and their floor cleaner:

  • For dulling vinyl: Advise the businesses you work for that regular sweeping, mopping or vacuuming can keep small particles of dirt and debris off their floor. These particles can act like the grit on sandpaper and wear away at the floor’s finish over time. You can try a commercial floor sealer for extra protection, but be sure to pick the right one for the floor. Some can react poorly and create a permanently dull or murky look.
  • For discolored vinyl: Cleaning a floor’s surface regularly combats most of the oil and grease that will build up from regular traffic on the floor, but maybe suggest installing mats to catch mud and dirt or curtains to shield the floor from sunlight. Let the business you’re working with know that the sun can naturally yellow vinyl flooring over time. If nothing else, you may also want to strip the floor every six months or so to restore the vinyl to its original state.
  • For dented vinyl: Should you be moving large or heavy pieces of furniture over the vinyl flooring to prep for cleaning, make sure to put down planks of plywood or thick sheets to avoid scraping. Unpadded chair legs in high-traffic areas such as cafeterias can quickly wear down a finish, too. Be mindful of what sort of traffic the floor will see and plan accordingly.

3. How to Clean Commercial Concrete Floors

Good news if you’re serving a business that has a concrete floor — this is one of the easiest surfaces to clean. Remember, though, that concrete is a porous material, so any water or liquid cleaner put on should be thoroughly dried to avoid absorption into the floor — even if it’s sealed. This is also one of the easiest floors to slip on, so it’s important to invest in an air mover/floor-dryer. To clean concrete floors you will need:

Concrete floors are easy to clean

  • Mop/broom with a microfiber pad or a vacuum cleaner
  • Neutral-pH floor cleaner
  • Bucket
  • Water
  • Air mover

If you do not provide cleaning services daily, let the business you’re serving know that to keep a concrete floor looking new and clean it is recommended to dust mop the surface daily. This keeps the dirt and dust particles, which act as abrasives, off the floor and preserves the shine.

When you wet mop the floor, make sure to use a clean mop and a neutral floor cleaner. Do not immediately mop up the cleaner after you apply it, either. The chemicals need some time to start breaking down the grease and dirt particles. It’s ideal to clean smaller areas at a time to ensure the cleaner breaks up as much dirt as possible. You just don’t want the cleaner drying on the surface of the floor.

Rinse the cleaner off of your mop and dampen the mop in clean water. Wash the cleaner off the floor with your damp mop. Then, set up an air mover to thoroughly dry the space and help avoid slips or falls.

For continued maintenance, stripping the wax bi-monthly or bi-yearly will keep stains and spills from ever reaching the concrete. If the business chooses not to use sealant, understand that stains and spills will be much harder to remove.

Here are a few more tips for commercial concrete floor care:

  • Backpack vacuuming is an alternative to dust-mopping the floor. Dust-mopping can push dust and debris to other areas instead of cleaning it up, and affect cleaning employees and business workers by making particles airborne. Having a backpack vacuum eliminates that smaller debris from the floor entirely.
  • Automatic floor scrubbers increase productivity significantly. Most cleaning companies have at least one of these, but if you don’t, you might want to invest. Instead of one or two workers painstakingly taking each step, an automatic scrubber will apply the cleaning solution, scrub it in, wet-vacuum it and dry it.
  • A sealant or finish can help you maintain the look and cleanliness of floors more easily. However, make sure to ask the installers what sort of specific care that sealant will need. The last thing you want to do is tell the business owner you have to replace the sealant before you needed to because you didn’t use the right chemicals to clean it. Also, let the business owner know that the sealer should be replaced at least once or twice a year.

4. How to Clean Commercial Carpet Floors

Commercial carpeting is a way for an office to feel like home. It also acts as a noise reducer and an air filter. Carpet cleaning requires a different level of maintenance with a variety of different cleaning options, but a few supplies are always useful to have on hand:

  • Vacuum
  • Carpet cleaning solution
  • Air mover/carpet-drying fan

Vacuum commercial carpet regularly

It’s important to regularly vacuum commercial carpet to prolong its life. Even if the business you’re cleaning for doesn’t do it on a regular basis, make sure to take your time and vacuum very well before you start cleaning the carpet. Depending on how soiled the carpet is, different types of cleaning can yield better results.

To rid your carpet of greasy, oily soils, you can use three different methods:

Encapsulation method: Choose this method to keep carpet looking great while allowing productivity in the workplace to flourish.

  • First, vacuum the entire area to rid space of loose debris and dirt.
  • Spray the area with encapsulant cleaner and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.
  • Using a bonnet machine, work the solution into the carpet.
  • After the carpet dries, vacuum well to pick up the encapsulated debris. To speed up the drying process, try an air mover.

Bonnet pad method: This is a low-moisture cleaning process that only rids the face fibers of dirt.

  • Vacuum the carpet.
  • Spray a diluted solution of bonnet cleaner and water on the carpet.
  • Run a bonnet machine over the carpet and replace as it gets soiled.
  • Vacuum away the crystals (soiled bonnet chemicals).

Dry foam method: This method also works well for upholstery and extracts soil well.

  • Vacuum the carpet.
  • Mix a solution of water and foam carpet detergent.
  • Walk forward with your carpet cleaning machine, applying the detergent at the same time.
  • Groom the affected area with a carpet brush.
  • Set up air movers to speed up the drying process.
  • Re-vacuum the carpet to pick up the crystallized soil and detergent.

Yearly cleaning to remove deeply embedded soiling requires a more intense cleaning process:

Hot water extraction method: Also known as steam cleaning, this process is effective for carpet in need of a deep, restorative clean.

  • Thoroughly vacuum the floor and ensure no dirt remains.
  • Spray the area with a cleaning chemical as suggested by the commercial carpet provider. Nylon carpets should use a neutral cleaner with a pH of 7. Ask the carpet provider for suggestions of products to use if the carpet is olefin (polypropylene).
  • Scrub the cleaning chemical in to permeate the soil. Give the solution 10-20 minutes to sit in, but don’t let the solution dry on the carpet.
  • Use hot water and alkaline detergent to completely separate and rinse the soil from the carpet.
  • Set up air movers to speed up the drying process, which will allow for foot traffic much quicker.

Shampoo method: This process is effective for carpet in need of a deep, restorative clean because of the brush’s forceful cleaning.

  • Thoroughly vacuum the floor and ensure no dirt remains.
  • Mix a solution of carpet cleaning shampoo with water, per shampoo directions.
  • Block out a 4×4 area to start with and go over the area in a circular motion with an automated floor brush at least twice. The foaming should diminish as you clean.
  • Follow this with the hot water extraction method to rid the carpet of the most deep-seeded soils and stains.
  • Set up air movers to speed up the drying process, which will allow for foot traffic to pass through sooner.

While cleaning commercial carpeting can be a more involved process, there are preventative measures that can help the carpet stay clean. Here are some tips to share with the businesses you work for:

Preventative cleaning for commercial caprpets

  • Clean up spills immediately: Spills don’t have to become a stain if you act quickly. By gently blotting the surface liquid as soon as it spills, a cloth (instead of the carpet) can absorb most of the liquid. Use the cloth to apply spot remover and work in from the outer edges of the spill. Remember to rinse the spot after you apply cleaner.
  • Invest in extra coverage: Protective mats by entrances/exits will absorb or catch dirt, oils and other liquids. Plus, they are cheaper to replace.

5. How to Clean Commercial Hardwood Floors

Believe it or not, hardwood is a porous surface that dirt and grime can deeply embed into. In addition, hardwood floors are super susceptible to damage in a high-traffic setting like an office. It’s important to not only clean the floors well (and often), but also to take preventative measures like putting a protective sealant on the space to prolong a floor’s life. For cleaning hardwood floors, you will need a few supplies:

  • Mop
  • Liquid cleaner (see recommendations from the floor manufacturer)
  • Bucket
  • Vacuum
  • Auto Scrubber
  • Air mover/floor-drying fan

Dust mop the floor first to pick up any loose dirt, dust or grime. This removes anything that might scratch or damage the surface of the floor.

Then, saturate a mop with the cleaner and wring it out — it should be damp enough to leave a trail but not so wet that it is dripping liquid on the floor. Mop the space in sections to thoroughly hit every crevice.

After you mop a section with the cleaner, rinse your mop with clean water and use the now clean mop to pick up the floor cleaner.

While you can use an old towel to dry the section, consider using an air mover to quickly and efficiently dry the space, avoid streaky marks or protect against any sort of potential scraping.

Additional tips to clean commercial hardwood floors include:

  • Finishes and sealants: Find out what type of sealants or finish is on the hardwood. These can prolong the life of the floors and keep them looking shiny and new, but they can be stripped if you use the wrong cleaning method.
  • Too much liquid: When cleaning hardwood floors, be careful to not put too much liquid cleaner on the floor — it can make them sticky and slick and look like a film is on top of the wood. Try using a thin layer of cleaner, only cleaning a portion at a time, or using a commercial floor drying air mover to speed up the drying process.

And here are two tips to share with the businesses you work with:

  • Frequent cleaning: As with any type of commercial flooring, the more frequently you clean the better. Routine sweeping, vacuuming or dusting not only prolongs the life of the floor, but it also keeps the entire area cleaner of allergens and dirt particles. It’s also very important for them to schedule restorative cleanings with professional cleaners at least twice a year in addition to regular cleaning.
  • Preventative Measures: Even the most worn-out floors can be restored. Hardwood flooring is a substantial business investment and should be taken care of. Preventative steps to keep the floor clean (like mats to catch dirt or daily dust moping to collect debris) will pay off in the long run.

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