FLOOR MAINTENANCE.............................2

Stripping the Floor..........................................2

Maintaining the Finish.......................................9



WORKS CITED.......................................13




Floor maintenance is a vital activity in any building which has tile flooring, whether it be a hospital, university or office building.  Floors can either reflect a positive or negative image of an institution, depending on how they appear.  This paper discusses the proper procedures for the three main steps in floor maintenance:  stripping the floor, applying the finish and maintaining the finish.

Everyone that is associated with the field of janitorial supplies and maintenance should have at least a general understanding of the correct procedures in floor care.  Examples of such people would include janitorial workers, supervisors, and suppliers.  The more informed everybody involved in the process is, the more efficient it becomes.  Consequently, time and money will be saved.




First impressions may play a role in whether a company gets a government contract or wins a bid.  For an individual, it may determine if he/she gets a raise, promotion or even a second date!  There is no doubt that making a good first impression is very important.  Therefore, for a company, hospital or university, the way its floors look is highly important.

Floor maintenance may be thought of as sinkhole of money to some, but to others, it is an investment in the future of the organization.  A beautiful plant or building with bright shiny floors can be an advertisement reflecting that company's pride and commitment to excellence.  A building that has dull dirty floors may reflect a lack of attention to detail or that the company is second rate.

THis paper will discuss the three main steps in the floor maintenance process:  stripping the floor, applying the finish and maintaining the finish.  It will show the proper procedure to accomplish each step which will yield the best results possible.  Further more, a troubleshooter's list is given at the end  (conclusion) to address some of the most commonly asked questions and problems.



In floor care, there are three basic steps one should follow to produce the best results.  These steps are

  1. Stripping the floor
  2. Applying the finish
  3. Maintaining the finish

Stripping the Floor

The first procedure in the floor maintenance process is stripping (all italicized words are defined in the glossary at the end of this paper).  Stripping removes all the finish and sealer and leaves nothing but the bare tile (Dixon 1994).  There is no doubt that stripping is the hardest and dirtiest step in the floor care process.

History of Stripping
People involved in the field of janitorial supplies and maintenance should understand that stripping has two eras -- before and after "Mop-n-Strip."
Before "Mop-n-Strip"

In the first era, 50's, 60's, and 70's, stripping was a literal nightmare.  Most of the strippers were ammonia based and required a large amount of assistance to do the job.  The janitor would have to spend numerous hours going over the floor with a floor machine.  The person, rather than the chemical, was doing all the work.  ONe stripping task could take three to four different sessions.  This task was not only tedious but also inefficient and costly.



Once the actual stripping has been completed, the floor must be rinsed several times.  First, using a wet vacuum or mop, remove all the residue left over from the stripping.  Second, rinse the floor with warm water and a clean mop (first rinse).  It is imperative to use different mops for the various procedures.  For example, a stripping mop should not be used to lay finish.  This is cause for disastrous results!

Third, rinse  the floor again with warm water (second rinse).  Finally, rinse the floor for the third time with cold water.  If after this rinse there is any residue powder left, repeat the rinse until there is none (Techniques 1988).  Rinsing with cold water helps to tighten up the pores of the floor.  To make sure that the floor is neutral, with regard to pH level, 1 or 2 ounces of white vinegar can be added to the last rinse.  The floor needs to be neutral to gain the best results when the finish is laid.  If shortcuts are taken and adequate rinses are not performed, there is a good chance that problems with the wax will arise (Reinhardt Interview).  Usually, shortcuts end up costing more by having to do the procedure all over again because of bad results.  Everybody complains about not having enough time to do it right the first time; however, there always seems to be time to do it over.


Maintaining the Finish

AFter the fresh coats of finish have been applied, there are different procedures for sustaining the look and life of the floor.  Two such procedures are dust mopping and buffing.

Dust Mopping

One of the easiest ways to maintain a floor is by dust mopping.  Dust mopping removes various abrasives like sand, dirt, and dust.  consequently, the less these particles are on the floor, the longer the shine and finish will last.  As a general rule, dust mopping should be performed at least once a day.  In high traffic areas, it should probably be performed several times a day.  For example, most school hallways are dust mopped many times during the course of the school day.  Another easy way to cut down on abrasives is to simply put walk off mats at the doors (Reinhardt interview).  These will catch much of the dirt that is tracked in on people's shoes.

"Buffing is a repair technique used to clean and restore floor finishes when they are in need of maintenance" (Techniques 1988).  One type of buffing is called spray buffing.  Here, a floor machine with a buffing pad is moved across the floor to return the shine.  In areas where there are black marks, apply a ready-to-use spray buff solution and buff until the area is dry.  It may take a few times to remove the marks.  A regular trigger spray bottle is normally used to apply the solution.  It is important that the floor be dust mopped before the



buffing process is started.  If it is not, the surface dirt and dust will be bored into the finish.  The result is known as a "dirty shine" (Reinhardt interview).

Another type of buffing is known as high speed buffing or burnishing.  This process utilizes a high speed buffing machine, which can range anywhere from 1,000 rpm to 2,500 rpm.  However, the most common is the 1,500 rpm model.  These machines use a soft nylon pad made from hogs' hair.  Again, the floor must be dust mopped before buffing to remove as much dirt as possible.  High speed buffing is the fastest way to remove black marks and restore the shine to a floor.

All buffing techniques abrade the existing finish.  It is similar to sanding a piece of wood to make it smoother.  Therefore, it is important to have a good foundation of finish before buffing.  If the floor does not respond to buffing or becomes slippery, that is a sign that the finish is worn and it is time to recoat (Techniques 1988).  Fresh coats of finish should be allowed to cure for 24-36 hours before any kind of buffing is performed.  Remember, buffing will always take off finish.  consequently, the more buffing that is performed, the more often the floor will need waxing.




The following is a list of common problems and questions along with some solutions concerning floor maintenance.

  1. It takes several sessions to strip the floor.  First, check to see if you are properly using the correct mixture of stripper and water.  Second, the less often the floor is stripped, there are more coats of finish to remove.  If the floor has not been stripped in 5 months and there are thirty coats of wax, it may take a few sessions before all of it is removed.
  2. AFter several coats of finish, there is no shine.  This probably means that you need to lay down a sealer.  our tile is old and/or porous.  Strip the coats of wax and apply two coats of a sealer.  Then, put down the necessary coats of wax.
  3. It seems that the finish is worn out in a couple of days.  First, check with your supplier to see if the finish used for the particular floor is the right grade.  Second, you may just need to apply more coats because of the high traffic.  Third, this may be a signal to increase your maintenance procedures like dust mopping and making sure there are walk off mats at all the entrances.
  4. A short time after the finish is put in the mop bucket, the finish seems to go bad.  This is probably a sign that the finish is being contaminated.  Try lining the mop bucket with a plastic trash can liner to keep the finish away from any dirt and chemicals that are in the bucket.
  5. The floor no longer responds to buffing.  The finish has worn down.  The floor needs to be recoated.  Clean the floor and apply your normal coats of wax (3-5 general).
  6. AFter buffing, there are black specks throughout the finish.  The specks are dirt that has been buffed into the finish.  First, check to see if the buffing pad you are using is clean.  If it is not, throw it away and put on a new one.  Second, you might have forgotten to dust mop before burnishing.  Dust mopping will get rid of most of the dirt and dust that can cause a "dirty shine."




buffing:  the process of restoring the shine to a floor.   It is also done to remove scuff-marks.  A floor machine or high speed buffing machine along with buffing pads is generally used.

burnishing:  a synonym for buffing.  It usually is used when referring to high speed buffing (high speed burnishing).

floor machine:  a machine with a circular head and a vertical handle.  Different types of nylon pads are attached to the bottom of the head for various jobs.  They are mainly used in stripping and buffing.

homogenize:  a process which makes a liquid more uniform throughout.  The liquid is emulsified so that the different components do not separate.

plasticizer:  a factory finish on new tile that must be removed in order for the floor finish to adhere.

sealer:  an undercoating that is applied before waxing to fill in the tile's pores so the finish does not soak into the tile.

stripping:  the fist process in floor maintenance.  This is the process by which all the finish is removed from the tile using a stripping solution, mop and/or floor machine.




Dixon, M.  February 1988.  Resilient floor care:  Presenting a high quality image.  Maintenance Supplies.  36-40, 58, 62.

Reinhardt, Edward A., janitorial sales man for 27 years.  Personal interview.  Baltimore, June 23, 1996.

Techniques of Floor Maintenance.  1988.  Baltimore:  Grow Professional Products.