Finish First

by Katie Lee

How to establish an efficient and effective floor care program to help finished floors look their best.

By Joe Davis

As customers come through your doors this summer to buy a new swimsuit, take in the latest blockbuster movie or stock up on back-to-school items, it’s important to impress your guests by making floor care a top cleaning priority. The old adage, “You never get a second chance to make a great first impression,” is very true. In fact, it has been shown that facility appearance ratings can drop as much as 75% if floor shine makes a bad first impression. Dirty floors can affect a shopper’s perception of your business, their overall shopping experience and desire to come back to your business again to shop.

Whether you’re managing a shopping mall or retail store, make it a priority to establish an efficient and effective floor care program to help boost customer satisfaction and save on your bottom line, as it’s less expensive to maintain a finish than to repair or replace a floor.

To achieve clean, attractive looking floors, facility managers should follow these four pillars of floor care to help keep finished floors looking great this summer and throughout the year.


Shopping centers, grocery stores and other retail facilities should always have a floor matting program in 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 you have, the longer the life of your floor.

Daily Routine and Maintenance

The second pillar of floor care is daily/routine maintenance. Of course, some of these below may depend on your facility/equipment.

• Dust Mopping: Cleaning staff should begin their daily routine with a clean dust mop to help clear away larger elements of surface dirt. Dust mopping helps remove the surface dirt in your grocery store or big box store so that it doesn’t become embedded into the finish and cause damage to the finish. One thing to look out for: Don’t use oil-based dust mop treatments as they can leave a haze on the floor that attracts even more dirt.

FloorMopping PGProfessional• Damp Mopping: After dust mopping, cleaning crews should do damp mopping to remove more particulates as well as oily soil. This also helps prevent the floor’s finish from darkening or yellowing from embedded soil. Always start with a clean mop head, a clean bucket of water, and be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommended dilution ratio for the floor cleaning product. To help improve efficiency, consider using a no-rinse cleaner, which may help eliminate that extra rinse step.

• Auto Scrubbing: This may not be feasible for all retail facilities, but using this type of equipment can be more effective and efficient than damp mopping. It removes soil better than damp mopping and can use fewer chemicals. Don’t forget to follow the manufacturer’s recommended dilution and choose the appropriate pad for cleaning.

• Low Speed Buffing: This is a great option if your operations budget doesn’t allow for a burnisher. Low speed buffing helps repair the finish to a smooth shine and delay the need for a re-coat. 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: High speed burnishing is much more efficient than low speed buffing, as these machines tend to have higher rotation speeds and rougher pads. High speed burnishing also helps repair the finish to a smooth shine and delays the need for a re-coat. Before burnishing, you’ll want to select a floor finish that matches your burnish frequency and then choose the appropriate burnishing pad.

Keep in mind that the frequency of buffing or burnishing is contingent on your floor type and the desired maintenance level for your retail facility.

Interim Maintenance

The third pillar of floor care is interim maintenance. Facility managers should consider this step when buffing or burnishing no longer help provide your preferred level of floor shine. Interim maintenance involves a deep scrub and re-coat. It’s easiest to use an auto scrubber to achieve a good deep scrub and remove soil buildup, and then follow with a fresh water rinse. After your deep scrub, apply three to five thin layers of protective finish for the re-coat in thin, even coats to enable proper finish formation, greater strength and improved durability. The amount of foot traffic in your shopping center as well as your routine maintenance schedule will determine the frequency of recoating.

Restorative Care

Floor finishes tend to become darkened and yellowed over time despite proper routine maintenance, so it’s important to periodically strip off the old finish and apply a fresh finish. Choose an appropriate finished floor stripper product and follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully, including specific product application and wait time. By following the manufacturer’s suggested wait time, you ensure the best results. The right stripper should remove the finish completely the first time, eliminating the need for re-stripping areas to achieve a clean base for the new finish. To maximize productivity, choose a no-rinse, low-odor and butyl-free stripper that can be used safely in any facility. After ensuring the old finish is completely removed, it’s time to apply the new finish.

Safety Measures

Additionally, cleaning crews should take proper measures to protect themselves by wearing anti-slip footwear to prevent slips or falls when conducting floor cleaning. During floor scrubbing, stripping and refinishing operations, barricades, signs or other safety devices should be used to prevent anyone from inadvertently entering maintenance zones in the mall or other retail facilities. Floor cleaning can also be scheduled during off-hours to minimize the risk of accidents.

A high quality floor care program can help protect your floor investment and make a great impression with customers. Commercial facilities should consider an end-to-end maintenance solution that ensures the stripper, finish and cleaner are all formulated to work in conjunction with each other to deliver superior results and extend the length of time between maintenance cycles.

A fundamentally sound floor care program can lead to improved daily/routine floor appearance, reduced daily/routine floor care labor and cost, a longer time between scrub and top coat and a longer time between strip and refinish, which ultimately results in lower cost and better appearance for increased customer satisfaction. RFB

— Joe Davis is a category account executive for P&G Professional. Email the author at [email protected].

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