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2024 Office Maintenance

Proper Cleaning Protects Investment in Hardwood Floors

By Eric See

Hardwood floor covering dominates as the primary choice for warmth, an upscale image, and an enhanced environment in commercial and retail facilities. In addition to the variety of design options of the different colors, grain patterns and widths of the wood species available, hardwood flooring is one of the most environmentally responsible and cost-efficient flooring choices you can make. The key fora  long-lasting beautiful hardwood floor with a sustainable lifecycle is following the correct process for installation, sanding and finishing, scheduling recoats, and most importantly daily and long-term maintenance.

Maintaining a commercial hardwood floor presents the extra challenge of extreme traffic and wear, with limited time access to care for the floor. Unfortunately, the right products specifically for maintaining hardwood floors haven’t been readily available, so facility managers were left to generic floor care methods used on other floor covering surfaces to maintain a hardwood floor. They have also taken desperate measures selecting improper cleaners found in retail stores. This has resulted in unsightly floors and excessive costs to repair unnecessary damage. If budget restraints require cut-backs on facility maintenance, it doesn’t mean you have to neglect hardwood floor care. The right system will provide durability, beauty, environmental responsibility and an economical solution for your hardwood floors. When done correctly, they are easy and inexpensive to maintain.

The Process

Depending on the lifecycle stage and condition of your hardwood floor, using the right products and procedures can effectively protect the investment and extend the lifespan of the hardwood floor in your facility.

Here is a brief description of each stage for successfully maintaining your hardwood floors:

Initial Sand and Finish/Refinishing

When unfinished hardwood floors are originally installed, the process involves sanding the wood to get the floor flat and properly prepare it for staining (if desired) and a protective polyurethane finish. Prefinished floors come from the factory already coated with a polyurethane finish, but some can be periodically refinished.

Refinishing involves sanding and finishing to restore a worn or damaged existing floor. It’s important to specify the use of a dust containment sanding system to prevent the infiltration of dust throughout the jobsite.

Equally important is the use of a quality waterborne finishing system which doesn’t require vacating the jobsite because of harmful fumes, as is required with solvent-based systems. Low-VOC (volatile organic compound) waterborne formulas are better for indoor air quality and the environment.

Some areas of the country prohibit the use of higher VOC solvent-based sealers and finishes. Good quality, high-performance waterborne finishes offer greater durability and beauty than solvent-based finishes because of their advanced technology manufacturing process and non-yellowing characteristics. Also, the faster drying (2-3 hours per coat) and cure times (90% in 72 hours) of a quality waterborne system are essential requirements for commercial and retail environments.

Daily Cleaning and Periodic Deep Cleaning

Improper methods and products used for daily and periodic deep cleaning are probably the main causes of damage to commercial hardwood floors. Avoid water, all-purpose cleaners and harsh chemicals (which can damage the wood or dull the finish). Also don’t use dust mop treatments, oil soaps, silicone and acrylics which can leave a residue and adversely affect the adhesion of a coat of finish in the future.

Following the correct methods is easy and relatively inexpensive:

  • Vacuum or Sweep to remove dirt, sand or grit that can act like sandpaper to scratch and damage the floor.
  • Clean with Hardwood Floor Cleaner specifically designed for polyurethane-finished hardwood floors. Choose a non-toxic, low-VOC waterborne formula for indoor air quality, health and environmental benefits. For small areas, use a microfiber or terry cloth mop. For larger areas, a commercial mop, buffer or autoscrubber can be used with hardwood floor cleaner to remove dirt, stains and dried spills.

Preventive Measures

Following a few simple preventative measures can help you avoid damage in addition to daily vacuuming or sweeping.

  • Use protective felt pads on the feet of furniture and fixtures. A very common source of deep scratching of hardwood floors in commercial environments is from dragging fixtures across the floor. Protective felt pads should prevent this unnecessary damage.
  • Maintain consistent humidity as excessive swings in humidity levels will cause hardwood floors to swell, shrink, cup, crack and show gaps between boards. Keep the humidity level within a 5-10 point range.
  • Recoating depends on the amount of monthly/annual pedestrian traffic and the level of daily and periodic maintenance. This process involves deep cleaning and abrading the old finish to remove dirt and surface scratches, and the application of 1-2 coats of a waterborne polyurethane finish. Recoat adhesion solutions can be used for conditioning the existing finish to optimize adhesion of the new coat of finish.

Using Green Products and Systems

Many commercial facilities are demanding more sustainable methods for their maintenance processes as a means to maintain good indoor air quality. There are plenty of green alternatives to traditional products that also offer better performance and cost efficiency.

Demand green products that have third party certification through organizations that independently test and certify products such as GREENGUARD, Green Seal®, Scientific Certification Systems and many others. They are a great source for verifying manufacturers’ claims on the performance of their products.

By following these simple cost-saving methods and using the correct products, you will find that hardwood floors are an ideal sustainable flooring choice for an enhanced and commercial environment.