The emphasis placed on the maintenance of vinyl floorcoverings varies greatly between floor manufacturers. However, numerous variables have a part to play in maintenance, including floor location, type and quantity of traffic, and the existence of dirt barriers. Armed with this information the developing of a cleaning programme is within reach.

It is generally accepted that up to 80% of all dirt, grit and moisture is carried into a building by its occupants and visitors. Therefore common sense dictates that in order to reduce maintenance costs the amount of dirt, grit and moisture carried into the building should be minimised.

Not only will this save money by not having to pay to get rid of the walked-in dirt and grit, but it will also cause less abrasive action on the floorcovering, which in turn will ensure a longer, useful product life. With less moisture present, there will also be less potential for slipping.

Unfortunately, notices asking people to wipe their feet rarely work. What is needed is an effective dirt-trap matting system. Initially these systems can seem expensive, but the savings they provide over the long term are substantial.

An effective dirt-barrier system has both scraping and absorbing capabilities and should be sufficiently large to perform these actions on both feet during normal walking.

For example, most shopping malls will have an exterior mat designed to take the brunt of the muck and moisture off, used in conjunction with an interior mat of at least five steps in length. But to do the job properly in new buildings, dirt-trapping systems should be considered early in the specification stage, not as an afterthought when there are rarely sufficient funds or space to do the job properly.

Also, to maintain the effectiveness of a dirt-barrier system, it should be cleaned regularly otherwise it can actually increase the soil intake by creating a ‘soil reservoir’ at the entrance to the building.

Methods and materials
The factory-applied surface coatings of modern vinyl floorcoverings have largely done away with the need to seal, wax and polish which was a main feature of previous vinyl floors.

Waxed floors are still used where there is no electricity supply, or where the people do not have the machines to polish the floors. However, there are probably millions of square metres of vinyl floors installed in South Africa that were manufactured to the manufacturing specifications which do still require these treatments, because the longevity of these floors is incredible and well worth taking the trouble of keeping them in tip-top condition.

The care for these vinyl floors basically is to dust-mop on a regular basis and annually or semi-annually polish with an approved sealer for the flooring in question. Periodically they should be sprayed and buffed with a maintainer solution to brighten up the shine. Every few years the wax should be stripped off and the floor re-polished – particularly in high-traffic areas. Old wax that has faded is removed and new wax put down.

It should also be remembered that if mopping of the floor is employed to keep it clean, the minimum amount of water should be used, and the floors must be dried properly otherwise they will become slippery. Likewise, any spillages should also be attended to quickly.

These days water-based acrylic emulsion sealers are available to restore the gloss on worn vinyl tiles (and other synthetic flooring), and these seem to have taken the place of the wax requirement of the past. Once applied, these sealers provide an extremely hard and durable high-gloss finish, and will not discolour with age, making them ideal for use on hard vinyl and rubber floors in high-traffic areas.

The floor can then be buffed, using an acrylic emulsion formulated for restoring and repairing the floor surface to maintain a smooth surface and a constant level of gloss while extending the time between stripping and re-sealing operations. These can also be used in conjunction with rotary, high-speed or burnishing machines.

Modern vinyl surfaces
Modern vinyl flooring products utilise a factory-applied coating that does not require buffing or waxing. These incorporate a polyurethane layer which protects the floorcovering by resisting soiling and scuffing, and it is this surface finish that needs no wax or polish and considerably reduces the amount of effort and cost required to keep the floor in pristine condition.

There are some tricks, however, to maintain the life of these surfaces, but cleaning professionals are finding that the process doesn’t require as much effort as traditional flooring and, in turn, saves time and money.

Dust-mopping, sweeping and/or vacuuming (or all three) should become a regular feature of any vinyl floor maintenance programme, but in general if the floor is really dirty it is advisable to use a damp-mop technique when cleaning the floor – rather than swamping it with water.

Dust and dirt build-up is inevitable on every kind of hard, smooth floor or surface. Not only unattractive, dust and dirt are unhygienic, and may be the cause of allergies or more serious health and safety problems.

However, there is a range of non-woven floor and surface wipes available that has several advantages over traditional cleaning cloths, with superb dust and dirt pickup, they are environmentally friendly and ensure a healthy way of cleaning. As a result, they are fast becoming the preferred choice in all sectors with strict standards on hygiene and cleanliness.

When a spill occurs, it can and should be wiped up as soon as possible using a dry, clean towel. For tougher spots, a solution of neutral detergent should be used to clean the spot, then wetvac or dry and rinse the area with clean water afterwards.

In terms of the actual cleaning solutions used on these floors, an over-use of cleaning chemicals on vinyl will cause a film over the surface. It gets sticky and actually attracts the dirt so, for everyday cleaning, a neutral cleaner is all that is necessary.

When the occasion arises that a ‘deeper’ clean is necessary, avoid any cleaner rated above an eight or nine on the pH scale. Each floor manufacturer will have recommendations for specific flooring and appropriate cleaning solutions.

Finally, there is a very simple way of ensuring that your vinyl floors are maintained regularly and in a proper manner to ensure they will look good and perform above expectations for years to come.   Employ a reputable, experienced floor cleaning company to do it for you!

Recommended procedure for cleaning vinyl
Step One:
On completion of installation, a final construction clean is required, using a neutral pH solution that does not leave residues.

Step Two:
Where the floorcovering requires stripping and sealing (protective coating), the floor area should be stripped using a suitable stripper. (For floors where old sealers have to be removed, care should be taken that the solution with the dissolved sealer does not dry on the floor.)

Careful consideration should be given to the selection of the type of sealer (protective coating) to be applied; for example, if it is a healthcare facility a protective coating that can withstand the use of disinfectants or other harsh chemicals should be used.

Other factors such as the final result the client wishes to achieve (e.g. high-gloss or satin-sheen finish) should also be considered. Today there are sealers on the market that reduce the number of applications yet produce a high-quality end result. These reduce time spent on site thereby resulting in savings.

Step Three:
Routine cleaning must be undertaken every day. In today’s advanced-generation cleaning routines the procedures have been even further simplified by the arrival of the microfibre mop which can be used as a wet or damp mop, or even for wet mopping on one side and dry mopping on the other. For routine cleaning (every day) it is always preferable to use a solution that is pH-neutral and, more importantly, it should not leave residues.
Step Four:
Periodic maintenance cleaning is required. The floorcovering should be mopped using a maintaining solution (normal mopping). Thereafter the floorcovering should be dry buffed using a suitable cleaning pad (beige or red). It is advisable to use a high-speed buffing machine.

The maintaining solution helps to protect the sealer and gives it more longevity thereby reducing the need to frequently strip and seal as in the past. Today one can select a maintaining solution that will result in a high-gloss finish or a satin-sheen effect. It is also important that the pad being used is cleaned and/or changed regularly.