Oops. I Didn’t Mean That.

by Compass Cleaning Solutions • March 01, 2016
Commercial Floor Cleaning terminology
Periodically we run into a situation where we initially are in danger of not providing the floor service that a client requests. What we have discovered in nearly every case is that terminology is the problem. We and our client are both using the same term but each of us has a distinctly different definition. This obviously leads to confusion and potentially unmet expectations.

We believe communication on every level is critical and no more so than on something as technical as commercial floor cleaning. For that reason I thought it might be beneficial for those who are looking to have floor work done, to have some clear definitions laid out. My hope is that this will help you achieve the results you are looking for with little or no stress and hopefully get a great floor finish in the process.

  • Stripping – Stripping is the process of removing a topical finish from a hard floor such as VCT, concrete or other types of resilient flooring. A solvent (stripper) is applied to a floor and a low speed scrubbing machine is used in conjunction with a black scrubbing pad to remove all of the topical finish.
  • Scrubbing – Scrubbing is similar to stripping in that some finish is removed (top layers only) and a low speed machine is used to remove the finish. The big difference is that a cleaning solution is used instead of a solvent stripper and only the top layer of finish is removed.
  • Burnishing – Burnishing is a process used to polish a clean floor without scrubbing or adding fresh finish. The process requires a high speed burnisher or a propane burnishing machine. The process effectively heats up the finish and then quickly cools to remove scratches and scuffs. It is typically an interim measure between scrubbing to maintain a shine. Under some circumstances burnishing will also harden the finish and help it wear longer.
  • Buffing – Similar to burnishing in that the process helps to maintain a shine, in this case a liquid finish product is applied (known as spray buff) to the floor and a high speed buffer polishes the floor. It is required that the floor be cleaned thoroughly prior to this process as is the case in all finishing processes.
  • Cleaning – this is the process of either using a dry dust mop (preferably a microfiber mop) or a damp mop (again, preferably a Microfiber flat mop) to remove dirt, dust and food and drink from the floor. This is the best process to reduce damage and extend the life of your floor finish. The greater the frequency of cleaning the longer the floor finish will last.
  • Floor Finish – While the term ‘wax’ is still used extensively in the cleaning industry in reality virtually all floor finishes today are synthetic compounds comprised of polymers, zinc and or ceramic particles. Typically polymer molecules are bonded via zinc particles to create a single solid layer of finish. In some cases where static can be an issue, like in electronic and chip manufacturing, bonding agents that are non-metallic are used to achieve the same effect.
Historically the floor finishing process required sealers to be added to the raw floor to allow for adhesion to the finish, but today the properties of floor finishes make this unnecessary. The technology has also made it possible to put down fewer coats of finish but still retain a high level of polymer ‘solids’ on the floor and still achieve sufficient floor protection. What this means to the consumer is that a finish can be laid down more quickly which costs less while still getting the same or better results.

Some finishes are designed to perform better with interim burnishing while others do not require the same maintenance. The amount of foot traffic and where the floor is located can often determine what type of finish should be used.

Next week we’ll talk a bit about when and how often a floor should be refinished. In the meantime if you have questions about floor finishing please give us a call or contact us on Twitter or Facebook or connect to our website above.