A great appearing floor always starts with cleaning. Whether you’re cleaning commercial or residential floors, good looking floors can be achieved by following some basics. The Basics include knowing the following:

  • What type of floor you are cleaning
  • What type of soil you are trying to clean
  • Using the proper cleaning procedures for the type of floor you are cleaning
  • Using the proper cleaner, equipment and tools


Floor Cleaning – What Type of Floors are you Cleaning

There are two basic types of floors

  • Resilient – Common Examples include
    • Vinyl Composition Tile
    • Vinyl (Pure 100% Vinyl)
    • Asphalt Tile
    • Rubber
    • Sheet Flooring (No-Wax or Laminated)
    • Wood – All Types
    • Linoleum
  • Non-Resilient – Common Examples include
    • Concrete – Colored or Natural
    • Terrazzo
    • Quarry Tile
    • Stone Floors – Marble, Slate, Granite, Travertine
    • Ceramic – Glazed, Semi-Glazed and Unglazed
    • Porcelain

An important staring point in determining how to clean any type of floor is knowing…

  • Whether or not the flooring is coated with a floor coating (Wax, Finish, Polish or Seal).
  • Where the floor is located in the building. This is important because knowing this will help you determine what type of soil you are trying to remove.
  • That the majority of all floors are porous which allows soils and stains to penetrate into the floor and the reason we clean floors.

For the most part, cleaning resilient floors can be broken into categories – cleaning wood type flooring and cleaning all other resilient type of flooring. The same applies to non-resilient floors. Basically, concrete, terrazzo, stone, quarry, ceramic and porcelain floors will be cleaned the same way. What type of cleaner you use to clean non-resilient flooring is determined by what type of soil you are removing.


Floor Cleaning – What Type of Soil you are trying to Clean


There are three basic types of soil Organic and Inorganic soils making up the majority of all soils

  • Inorganic – Commonly found in bathroom floors. Examples include

    • Lime Scale
    • Hard Water Stains
    • Rust
    • Urine
  • Organic – Most common type of soils found on floors. Examples include

    • Grease and Oil Soils – Food, Non-Food Type and Body Oil
    • Sugary Based Soils
    • Common Earth Soils
  • Combination of Both Inorganic and Organic – Mostly found in Shower floors

    • Soap Scum – Hard Water Calcium Salts (Inorganic) mixed with Bar Soap and Body Oil (Organic) form a difficult soil to remove because it combines both Inorganic and organic soils into one soil.


Floor Cleaning – What type of Cleaners to use by type of soil?


Soils either have an affinity or a liking for water or solvent cleaners. For instance, if you try to clean dried sugar based soft drink from the floor using mineral spirits, you would create a gummy sticky mess and not remove the soil from the floor. This is because sugary substances have a liking for water and water based cleaners. Conversely, if you use plain water on this sugary soft drink stain, you would remove the majority of the soil. The opposite is true for soils that have a liking for solvents. In this case, if you used plain water to clean butter or an oily substance from the floor, it would smear the soil and not remove or penetrate the soil at all because oil substances have a liking for solvents. In this case, the use of a solvent based cleaner would effectively remove the soil.

To solve this issue of which soil likes water and those soils that does not like water, many floor cleaners available on the market are formulated to accomplish both the cleaning for both soils. The use of water based detergents and water based solvents are combined to accomplish this task. This reduces the need for multiple products to complete the floor cleaning task.

A rule of thumb in choosing a cleaner is most soils are Organic. These soils like alkaline based cleaners (Cleaners with a pH above 7.0) and Inorganic soils like Acid Based cleaners (Cleaners with a pH below 7.0)

  • Organic Soils normally can be removed with a neutral based floor cleaner but for those floors with soils that require a stronger product, the use of a floor or general purpose cleaner with higher alkalinity in the 8.0 to 11.0 range will work well.
  • Inorganic Soils as stated above like acid based cleaners and most of these soils are found in bathroom floors. Acid based cleaners can


Floor Cleaning – Proper Cleaning Procedures and Frequency


There are two procedural steps to cleaning floors. The first is dry cleaning and the second is wet cleaning. Both are necessary steps in cleaning floors.

  • Dry Cleaning is sweeping or dust mopping. This includes the remove of loose soils like sand, dust, debris, etc. and attached soils such as gum, stickers, etc.
  • Wet Cleaning is mopping using a wet mop or scrubbing with mechanical equipment. This wet cleaning step removes ground in soils from the floor.

Cleaning frequencies vary for commercial and residential buildings. The cleaning of floors in a commercial building should be done on a daily basis because of the amount of soil and foot traffic these types of buildings receive. It is critical to remove the soil as often as possible. This will prevent soil build up. Soil build up is much more difficult to remove and can cause other issues like the poor appearance levels and adverse effect on floor waxes and finishes. Residential Floors could be cleaned less often due to less soil and foot traffic but a rule of thumb is to clean residential floors once weekly.


Floor Cleaning – Proper Cleaner, Equipment and Tools

Proper selection of a floor cleaner, equipment and tools will not only improve your overall results but will also minimize the time it takes to clean. Why take longer to effectively complete a task if you can accomplish the same with less labor.


Floor Cleaning – Commercial Buildings

It is recommended that commercial buildings use commercial grade cleaners and equipment like power mechanical equipment utilizing an appropriate floor pad or brush to scrub floors. Best practices include the following.

  • Dust Mop – Untreated with frame and handle and Dust Pan
  • Putty Knife
  • Automatic Scrubber or single disc floor machine
  • Red or White colored Floor Pads
  • Wet Mop with handle and Bucket with wringer for hard to reach floor areas
  • Janitorial Grade Floor Cleaning Chemical – Used according to label directions
  • Safety Equipment: Wet Floor Signs, Gloves, Goggles, boots, etc.


IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE:  Always post Wet Floor signs whenever using liquids on floors including plain water.  Also, always wear appropriate personal protective gear (goggles, gloves, proper protective footwear and aprons) when dealing with cleaning chemicals.



Floor Cleaning – Residential Floors

Do not need to use power equipment or industrial grade floor cleaners to clean residential floors. However, you can use commercial grade cleaners to achieve great results in a residence. Commercial strength cleaners can normally be purchased from a local Janitorial Supply distributor or at a Wholesale Club like Sam’s or Costco.  

  • Broom or Dust Mop and Dust Pan
  • Wet Mop with handle and Bucket with wringer. A variety of mopping tools are available to clean residential floors. All of which can provide good results. However, for best results, the use of a wet mop and bucket with wringer should be used.
  • Household Floor Cleaning Chemical – Used according to label directions
  • Safety Equipment: Gloves, Goggles, etc.

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