Identifying what constitutes an industrial floor and how important it is to clean and maintain epoxy and resin floors.

When referring to industrial floors, the chances are good that everyone will have a reasonable idea as to what it refers to. However, before commencing, it is worth defining an industrial floor and what sectors fall within this category.

In the broader sense, industrial floors are defined as areas not utilised for living purposes or as outdoor roads. In addition to adequate bearing strength, abrasion resistance and the best possible characteristics with regard to cleaning and maintenance, certain special properties are demanded of industrial floors, depending on the type of service, e.g. an extremely level and flat surface in computer-controlled high-racking warehouses; resistance to various chemicals and solvents in production halls, laboratories or tank farms; electrical conductivity in areas with a potential explosive atmosphere; freedom from pores in cleanrooms in the pharmaceutical and electronics industries.

These floors are mostly complex multi-layer structures, for example, consisting of subgrade, sub-base, moisture barrier level, load-bearing concrete with expansion joints and settlement joints, overlays and special wearing courses. The latter may consist of either bitumen coverings, fibrous or polymer concrete, epoxy resin-based reaction polymers, polyesters, polymethyl methacrylates or polyurethanes, plastic (e.g. PVC) or elastomers (e.g. synthetic rubber) as tiles or from the roll, or ceramic coverings.

Industrial floors need to be:
•    Durable and abrasion-resistant
•    Chemical-resistant
•    Non-dusting
•    Fast-curing to minimise downtime
•    Easily cleaned
•    Slip-resistant
•    Hygienic and compliant with legislation
•    Easily maintained
•    Colour-coordinated where required
Epoxy and resin floors are now tried and tested answers for the provision of durable and low-maintenance industrial floors in applications which include manufacturing, food and beverage processing, electronics/anti-static, cleanrooms, hangars/aerospace, warehousing, chemical processing and pharmaceutical.

In its simplest definition, Epoxy flooring is a surface that is made up of multiple layers of epoxy that is applied to the floor to a depth of at least two millimetres. The difference between an epoxy floor and an epoxy floor coating lies in the depth of the epoxy. An epoxy floor must be at least two millimetres thick. Any epoxy floor that is less than two millimetres thick is best referred to as an epoxy floor coating.

Epoxy in this case refers to a system that is made up of two main components, resins and hardeners. The resin and hardener is mixed together where they chemically react to form a rigid plastic material that is strong, resistant to degradation and that bonds extremely well to its substrate. Epoxy floors are so strong that they can be used in even the most demanding of industrial environments

Epoxy and resin floors fulfil requirements for an industrial floor in all of the above as they lend themselves to heavy-duty applications because they are resilient, easy to clean and maintain. Furthermore they are ideal for any area that requires tough stain-, chemical-, dust- and water-resistant flooring.

Maintaining a resin floor

Any flooring solution will last longer when appropriate cleaning and maintenance regimes are applied, however, this is often overlooked in industrial environments. According to Martin Wroe, Commercial Manager at Resin Structures Limited in the United Kingdom, the correct floor maintenance programme can dramatically extend the life of a resin floor, resulting in significant savings.

“If any flooring isn’t kept in a clean condition, contamination can become harder to remove without more abrasive treatments, so the best way to maintain the floor is to follow an effective cleaning regime,” he explains.

“Due to the heavy-duty and seamless nature of a resin floor, it is very tempting for end users to opt for a mop and bucket as their chosen cleaning apparatus, however, this is not an effective way to remove dirt from an area as it often just moves the dirt around to other parts of the floor. The floor may look clean on the surface, but any bacteria or contamination that may be present will not have been totally removed.”

He goes on to say that this is especially critical in hospitals and food production areas. “Whilst resin is an increasingly popular choice for these demanding areas due to its seamless properties, end users will only realise the benefits of seamless surfaces if they plan and implement and effective cleaning regime regularly,” he states.

According to the Resin Flooring Association (FeRFA) in the United Kingdom, a cleaning regime will itself be determined by a number of factors, the type of resin installed, the type and frequency of traffic, the degree and type of soiling and specific hygiene requirements. Floor cleaning comprises two components, namely a mechanical and chemical components, which work together to mutual advantage.

The mechanical component i.e. energy, consists of hand scrubbing motions, with the input usually being used by means of mechanical agitation, or a floor scrubber. High-energy inputs can also be achieved by using high-pressure washer, hot-water washers and steam cleaners.

In turn, the chemical component, i.e. the cleaning solution, will dissolve or emulsify the type of soil or contamination present. Once this has taken place, the removal of the dirty water and rinsing of the floor are key to successful cleaning. It is critical that clean water is used for rinsing.

Resin flooring will not be affected by most generally available special-purpose cleaning materials when these are used in accordance with the cleaning chemical manufacturer’s instructions and the floor is rinsed properly with clean water. Specific instructions should also be sought from the resin flooring manufacturer.

In addition, the cleaning regime should specify the type of equipment and cleaning chemicals to be used and the frequency of the cleaning.

Resin floors will not dust, however, dust will settle on the floor from other surfaces. Fine particles of dust, dirt or debris act as abrasives in the presence of traffic unless the floor is cleaned regularly. In the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food industries it is particularly important to maintain hygienic surfaces, thus proper cleaning techniques are essential. In engineering works, metal swarf is abrasive and, if not removed from the floor, can cause damage in a short space of time.

Decide on a cleaning regime before installing a new resin floor

The most important factor to be considered is how the contaminants on the floor will be removed. Food production, pharmaceutical and healthcare environments can benefit from having drains incorporated into the floor, something that resin floors can easily accommodate. This means that mechanical cleaning can be carried out less often as the waste water produced from other manual methods of cleaning can be easily removed from the surface.

This is an important part of the specification process that is often overlooked. If an area such as a busy food production space is particularly difficult to get a scrubber/dryer machine into, then incorporating drains into the floor is an ideal solution as a power washing/cleaning regime can be followed using proven cleaning products that will remove food contaminants and help to maintain a clean surface.

TYPICAL CLEANING METHODS
Mop and bucket
This should be the cleaning method for dealing with spillages, but is not for routinely cleaning the floor. In normal everyday usage, the mop and bucket may remove heavy soiling but typically the water is changed infrequently with the result that the floor is usually wiped with dirty water, and a film of dirt is thus spread uniformly across the floor.

Scrubbing – manual
The floor is swept to remove loose debris and accumulations of soil. The appropriate cleaning agent needs to be diluted, as required and in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions, and allowed to react on the surface. It can be agitated by hand, using a stiff brush.

Flood with clean water and scrub, thereafter removing dirty water with a wet vacuum or squeegee. Contaminated water may be required to be disposed of as hazardous waste.

Scrubbing – mechanical
This is the preferred method for cleaning resin floors to ensure:
o    Controlled application of cleaning agent
o    Effective scrubbing action
o    Continuous supply of clean water
o    Continuous removal of dirty water
o    Continuous drying of the floor

Different specialist mechanical scrubbing machines are available, such as a combined vacuum/scrubber and a rotary-type scrubber machine. The choice of using brushes or pads will usually be determined by the profile of the floor and the degree of soiling. Brushes are normally better on floors with a raised non-slip finish, and floors with significant texture. However, care should be taken by the operator to raise abrasive pads or brushes off the floor when stationery, as permanent ring marks may occur when the machine stops in one position.

In large areas, these multifunctional machines also offer cost and productivity benefits in addition to purely maintaining the floor.

Pressure Washers or Steam Cleaning Equipment
Care should be taken to select suitable equipment. This type of equipment can be extremely powerful, which is why proper training should be given to ensure machines are used safely. When using the steam pressure cleaner, the entire surface of the floor should be approached in a planned sequence. This will agitate and loosen hard-to-remove soil or contamination.

It is crucial to note that when steam cleaning it is always advisable to check with the contractor/manufacturer as to the suitability of the floor. Care should be taken to ensure that the steam lance is not allowed to discharge onto a single area for more than the few seconds sufficient to remove contamination.

Resin is known for its durable properties but those who look after their floors find that they will last a considerably longer time. Just one of the many reasons why resin is such a popular choice for industrial environments is the ease of refreshing or repairing the floor. Once a resin has been applied it becomes a permanent fixture of the sub-base, making it possible to apply a new topcoat after a couple of years in order to refresh the area or, alternatively, carry out localised repairs on specific areas of the floor. Inspecting the floor and carrying out timely repairs can also extend the life of the chosen industrial floor.

Types of Resin Flooring and Typical Cleaning Methods

Industrial table Jnl 6 14

Acknowledgement and thanks are given to the following for the information contained in this article:
www.ferfa.org.uk; www.resinsurfaces.co.uk; www.industrial-floors.com; www.resinflooringsystems.com and http://concretechone.com.au