Fundamentals of floor care – what to focus on

by Madelein
Fundamentals of floor care – what to focus on

Warehouse managers and maintenance supervisors spend a great deal of time and effort ensuring that forklifts work, conveyors operate properly and dock doors roll up and down smoothly. Why then do they not put the same effort into floor cleaning and maintenance?

Floors endure a lot of wear and tear daily but aren’t always maintained properly. From fuel spills to forklift tyre damage and other types of debris, the warehouse floor can quickly turn into a safety hazard or eyesore.

What to consider when it comes to proper floor cleaning and hygiene protocols

To begin, warehouse managers are encouraged to determine what they expect their floors to look like:
• Is this a high-appearance location where customers come for regular visits?
• Are you shipping and handling products that must be kept clean?
• Are workers picking up pallets and racking to clean around them regularly, or is dust gathering in the corners?
• Are forklifts leaking fluid all over the floor (with no one cleaning it up)?

Once these expectations have been laid out, the next step is to develop a programme that includes:
1) Regular sweeping to remove dry particulate from the floor and
2) Scrubbing

The key to achieving clean, attractive-looking floors is regular maintenance and choosing the right cleaning products. The following best practices can help keep finished floors looking great year-round.

Finished floor maintenance

Following a regular maintenance schedule and using cleaning products that clean effectively with the least amount of labour is the most efficient way to maintain the look of any finished floor.

There are four basic levels of floor care.

  1. Prevention – Put a floor matting programme into place to reduce the amount of soil, dirt and moisture that enters the building. Mats should be located inside and outside the building in high-traffic areas such as the main entrance to the building and the entryway or foyer. Also, place mats throughout the building – near the steps, the elevator shaft or other strategic areas – to continue to capture incoming dirt. Typically, the more mats one has, the longer the life of the floor will be.
  2. Daily routine/maintenance – To ensure longevity, floor care should include the following steps, depending on the facility/equipment:
    • Dust mopping – Always begin the daily routine with dust mopping to help clear away large debris. Make sure the mop is clean before starting.
    • Damp mopping – This step helps remove particles and oily soil. Damp mopping also prevents the floor’s finish from darkening or yellowing from embedded soil. A couple of tips: Use a clean mop head, start with clean water and follow the manufacturer’s recommended dilution.
    • Auto scrubbing – This may not be feasible for all facilities but using this type of equipment can be more effective and efficient. It removes soil better than damp mopping and uses less chemicals. Do not forget to follow the manufacturer’s recommended dilution and choose the appropriate pad for cleaning.
    • Low speed buffing – This procedure helps restore the finish to a smooth shine and delays the need for a recoat. It is a great option if the budget does not allow for a burnisher. For durable finishes, use a spray buff to aid “repair”, a mop-on maintainer for efficiency and choose the pad appropriate for spray buffing.
    • High speed burnishing – It is much more efficient than low speed buffing. High speed burnishing helps restore the finish to a smooth shine and delays the need for a recoat. Select a finish that matches the burnish frequency and, of course, choose the appropriate pad.
  3. Interim maintenance – This step involves a deep scrub and recoat. First, remove surface damage, then apply floor finish for a fresh new look. This step restores shine when buffing/burnishing is not enough.
  4. Restorative care – Why strip and refinish? When the floor has darkened or yellowed and when a scrub and recoat will not give a new appearance, restorative care is the next step and involves stripping, sealing and refinishing. Be sure to use a high-quality stripper and choose the right finish for the floors.
Photo courtesy of Numatic

Floor finish

Floor finish is used to provide a renewable, restorable, ‘rejuvenate-able’ wear layer on a resilient floor. The built-in, anti-slip properties are most effective if a finished floor is maintained at high shine. The built-in waxes in the finish are able to yield a higher coefficient of friction to make the floor less slippery and to:
• Add shine and beautify the floor.
• Make the floor easier to clean.
• Protect the floor, thus lowering the overall cost of care and repair.

The common myth that shiny finished floors are more slippery than dull finished floors is generally false. A good floor finish is designed to provide the right coefficient of friction for slip-resistant floors but only if the finish is cleaned and maintained properly.


Safety is another important reason to maintain the finished floors.

Two of the top hazards leading to accidents are:

  1. Contaminants – Water, grease and other fluids can make walking surfaces slippery.
  2. Improper use of floor mats and runners – Floor mats are one of the most important elements for preventing soil & contaminants from entering a facility, but are only effective if safely used, cleaned and maintained. Old or poorly placed mats can contribute to slips, trips and falls.

Floor hygiene – cleaning, sanitising, disinfecting

With the advent of Covid, floor hygiene has become a fundamental focus. Floor care hygiene includes cleaning and disinfecting, and it is important to understand the difference when it comes to the cleaning programme.
• Cleaning:
o Removes soils from surfaces or objects, which can make disinfectants less effective.
o Physically removes germs from surfaces, but it does not necessarily kill germs.
o Can remove a significant amount of the germ load, making the disinfecting active ingredients more effective.
o Removes dust, moulds, irritants and allergens that can trigger asthma symptoms.
Sanitising is the use of a chemical product or device to reduce the number of germs on surfaces or objects. Sanitising kills most germs, but not all of them, and does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs. Most sanitisers require a clean surface to be effective at killing germs. Cleaning & disinfecting – not sanitising – are most common in floor care.
Disinfecting uses chemicals to kill 99% of germs on hard, non-porous surfaces or objects. Disinfecting:
o Does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces.
o Kills germs through contact time after the surface has been cleaned.
o Only works on hard, nonporous surfaces. Carpets, upholstery and other porous surfaces cannot be disinfected with a chemical product.
o It’s temporary! As soon as a surface is soiled, germs start living on it again.

These are some of the basic requirements for a proper floor care, maintenance and cleaning programme.

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