When you properly maintain your floors, it leaves a good impression on everyone who enters your commercial building. At The Cleaning Supply Mart, we make it our mission to provide you with all of the professional cleaning supplies you need to get the job done, and the necessary cleaning tips to do it right. In part one and two of this series, we gave you tip on how to properly maintain your floors, and instructions and tips for scrubbing and re-coating. As we continue with part three, we will give you all the information you need for stripping and waxing your floors when the time comes. Continue reading below and be sure to stock up on everything you need at The Cleaning Supply Mart today!

Every VCT tile floor will eventually experience wear and start to become dull and discolored from foot traffic. The amount of traffic and the amount of daily care the floor receives will determine how long it holds up. Even a very well maintained floor finish will eventually require complete replacement in order to protect the tile and provide the very best presentation. When it’s time to do a full “strip and wax” project, planning is your most important tool. A strip and wax is when you remove all floor finish, grime, and staining by using chemicals and scrubbing to clean the tile so that it’s a completely bare finish.

Materials and Equipment

The worst thing you can do to yourself is go into a project without the right materials and equipment! The amount of labor and payroll you need is impacted dramatically by the use of appropriate chemicals, tools, and equipment.

For a successful Strip and Wax project, you’ll need:

Both a cotton blend and a rayon blend mop head:

Cotton Blend or Microfiber Mop

Use the cotton blend or microfiber mop heads ONLY during the strip portion of the project. (Examples: 698150, 851615, or 733075) Even when using an auto-scrubber, you’ll still need mops for the corners, edges, and small spaces where the scrubber won’t fit. Be careful not to cross-contaminate. For example, a cotton mop that is used in the restrooms should not be used elsewhere. Additionally, the wrong chemicals in the mop heads affects the floor finish.

Don’t use a “finish mop” that has rayon during the scrub portion of the project, as they are designed NOT to be absorbent; they are used only for laying down new floor finish.
Make sure you use clean mop heads, as using dirty mop heads simply swirls around mud and dirt.

Rayon or Rayon Blend “Finish Mop”

Once the floor has been thoroughly scrubbed, use the rayon mop head ONLY for laying down the new fresh floor finish. (Examples: 851604, 852060, 420172) The great thing about mop heads is that they aren’t very expensive, and if you want a great looking floor, one of the best things you can do is simply use a brand-new rayon mop head for each strip and wax project. Rayon mop heads can be laundered. However, if you want to complete the project successfully, it’s vital that you don’t use a mop head that has any remnant of old finish in it.

Floor Stripper

Stripper is typically a HAZMAT material, and it’s very important to follow the caution statements on the product containers to prevent injury. Strippers are dilutable products, and the dilution ratios vary greatly between brands and styles. “Standard” strippers are great for general purpose floor stripping when the conditions are not especially dirty or soiled. (See our item Bravo #1530472 or Ax-It OD324948).

If the floor finish has been left on for too long and there is road tar, sand, and embedded oils in the finish, you will want to consider using more aggressive strippers like Pro-Strip (our item #1518110) or Extreme (our item OD2818990)

Floor Finish

Different styles of floor finish provide different characteristics in wear, gloss, and maintenance requirements, and it’s important to match the right product to the intended environment.
Check out our entire assortment of Floor Finish products on our website! If you want to know more about “scrub and recoat” processes, check out part two of this series where we give you a guide to the entire process.

Combo Bucket/Wringer on wheels

Use a 26-quart bucket for smaller areas, and a 35-quart bucket for larger areas. See our website for a huge assortment of different styles available (Examples: OD621677, 364105).

As you clean, empty the dirty water often to avoid putting dirt back on the floor. It’s best to utilize separate clean water and dirty water buckets, or use inserts like the red one from Rubbermaid, (our item #674107). This will save you time and give you a better result!

Auto-Scrubber or Floor Machine

If you’re doing routine maintenance on large tile areas, you’ll save a number of hours by using an auto-scrubber, such as our item #PAS17BA-BC.

Use a black stripping pad to remove the finish, dirt, and grime right down to the bare tile. Check out our best-selling black pads, like item #BK0520 or a Hipro style like #655321.

Floor Pads for Stripping

It’s important to use the right pads for stripping. If you don’t use pads that are aggressive, they will not remove all of the floor finish. Black pads are used for stripping, and there are “standard” and “Hipro” pads. Hipro pads are thinner and designed to wash out more easily, while standard pads are thicker and a little more forgiving when your floor surface is not perfectly flat. Standard pads tend to clog-up more than Hipro pads and are harder to wash out.

Another very handy pad is called the “Doodlebug,” which is a small pad used for detail scrubbing on edges, corners, door jams, and other areas where machines don’t reach. These pads come in many colors for different levels of aggressiveness. Using black doodlebug pads (our item #696852) is your best color for strip and wax detail work.

Wet Floor Signs

Avoid slip and fall injuries that can cause lawsuits and insurance claims by ensuring that you have posted signage indicating wet floors, like our item #123828.

Scraper

As you mop, there’s a good chance that you will come across someone’s chewing gum, price stickers, or other problems that can be easily removed if you have the right tool.

PROCESS STEPS:

  • Clean the floor: We can’t stress enough the importance of a really clean floor before attempting to lay new coats of floor finish. If areas of grime, dirt, or even old floor finish are permitted to remain, the new finish will not adhere to the floor surface and it will be visible.
    A note about “solids” in Floor Finish: You’ll see on each floor finish they will indicate “18 percent Solids,” “20 percent Solids,” “25 percent Solids” etc. Simply put, “Solids” in floor finish are what remains after the water has evaporated. Generally speaking, high-solids finishes will require fewer coats in order to accomplish the same result.
  • Turn on the hair handlers on the building’s HVAC system. You may have to schedule this to be handled by the building owner. For safety, you must have good air circulation.
  • Assemble all of the equipment, tools, and chemicals needed.
  • If using an auto-scrubber, make sure that the batteries are fully charged.
  • Dust and mop all areas that you plan to refinish to remove loose trash and debris.
  • Fill the mop bucket to prescribed level as indicated on the side of the bucket. Don’t overfill or it will slosh water as you roll it around.
    Note: If you’re using an auto-scrubber, NEVER put stripping solution in the fresh water tank of the machine. This will quickly destroy your auto-scrubber!
  • Apply stripper with mops and buckets. Make sure you only use the auto-scrubber for the scrubbing and pick-up of the stripper.
  • Carefully follow the instructions for proper dilution of the floor stripper — measure, don’t guess. Getting the right dilution is critical to a good result.
  • Set out your “Wet Floor” signs in the general area where you will be working. (See item 123828)
  • It’s a good idea to start at the location in the building that is furthest away from your janitor’s closet/water source, and work your way back towards that starting area. By doing this, you will never have to roll that mop bucket and auto-scrubber back across a floor you’ve just cleaned.
  • Lay stripper in the area to be stripped, being careful not to splash stripper onto the carpet or baseboards. Then, give it time to work, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on wait-time. If you leave it on the floor too long, it will begin to dry/evaporate.
    Note: Don’t “flood” the area with stripper. Using too much stripper will often allow the tile mastic (glue) to be drawn up out of the tile joints.
  • Run the auto-scrubber (or floor machine) over the areas where you have applied the stripper. Take a moment to review the floor after the first pass to see if the floors are cleaned to your satisfaction. Some tough areas may require additional attention.
  • Using a smaller floor machine or DoodleBug, clean up areas like door jams, corners, and edges, as well as small areas inside the cash register stands in retail stores, or toilet stalls in restrooms.
  • Before proceeding to lay new coats of floor finish, make sure the floor is completely dry. Move the auto-scrubber/floor machine and mop buckets off of the floor so that they won’t leave tracks on your newly cleaned floor.
  • After the floor is completely dry, fill the mop bucket with floor finish. To avoid cross-contamination between products, it is a handy tip to use a plastic trash bag as a liner for the mop bucket. This makes your clean-up a breeze later! From there, apply the wax to the flooring. Apply a thin and even layer of wax across the floor, and give it time to dry. Dry time can vary on different products, but generally, you should wait 45 minutes between coats. After the wax has been allowed to dry, test a small area before walking out onto the wax, as this can leave footprints in the wax. If the floor is tacky, or even slightly sticky, avoid walking on it until it is completely dry. For strip and wax projects, typically four to six fresh coats are applied.
    Note: The first and second coats will require more wax than subsequent coats because the tile has been fully stripped and is not sealed.
  • Do the floor in sections that are small enough that you can lay fresh new coats in “one pass”. If you have to stop in the middle, you’ll leave what is called a “Cut Line,” or the line where the wax dried before you began laying more wax.
  • Try and choose natural boundaries like the end of an aisle, or where the tile color changes. If you choose a natural boundary for your cut line, then the different finish appearance won’t be so pronounced.
  • After you’re completely done, it’s important to rinse out the mop heads with clear water until you’ve rinsed out all of the dirt and chemicals. Once the mop heads are clean, hang the mops so that the heads hang down without touching the floor, allowing them to dry properly without encouraging mold or mildew.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:

QUESTION: “The company I am doing the work for is insisting on having six coats of wax. Do I really need to lay six coats of wax?”
ANSWER: Sadly, building owners and management companies have been convinced by the chemical companies that “lots of coats” are needed. The truth is that four good coats of a high-quality floor finish, followed by regular maintenance, including occasional “Scrub & Re-coats” are sufficient to produce a GREAT result. However, if the scope of work from your customer requires six coats, that’s what you’re bound to do.

QUESTION: “How can I reduce the amount of labor I need to do my overnighter floor work?”
ANSWER: The easiest answer to that is equipment. Having good auto-scrubbers and possibly commercial wet/dry vacuums with squeegee kits will dramatically reduce your labor hours. Also, using the right chemicals in the right dilution ratios will help. Another help is training; experienced and well-trained floor crews will exponentially cut your labor time.

QUESTION: “Is there anything that can be done in advance to make the job go faster?”
ANSWER: If you are permitted, have a maintenance worker spend a few hours in the building in the days leading up to the Strip and Wax event using a scraper and DoodleBug Pad to take care of corners, edges, and door jams.

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