How to Strip and Wax Floors: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid [VIDEO]
Even with comprehensive daily and periodic cleaning procedures like vacuuming and cleaning with an autoscrubber, commercial hard flooring will eventually experience damage and begin to look worn.
The top of your floor is covered with a finish to protect against wear and damage but over time will begin to accumulate dirt, scratches, and the other effects of foot traffic.
Floor finish wears down and daily and periodic procedures are no longer enough to restore your floor’s shine. When this happens, it is likely time to strip and finish your facility’s floor.
Pro Tip: A strip and finish is the process of removing old layers of wax and dirt from the floor, preparing it to be coated with new layers of finish.
Performing a strip and finish is time-consuming and expensive, but when performed properly it can revive your floor’s appearance and protect them from future damage.
However, there are several mistakes custodial staff often make when stripping the finish from commercial floors.
It is important to be aware of the most common mistakes so your staff can avoid rework and irreparable damage to hard floors.
In this article and video, we will review some of the most common mistakes custodial staff make when stripping floors.
- Floor is Not Compatible with Chemical
- Improper Chemical Dilution
- Not Enough Dwell Time
- Floor Dries Before Chemical is Removed
- Chemical Remains on Floor after Rinsing
1. Floor Is Not Compatible with Chemical
Floor strippers are extremely corrosive and can leave behind residue and damage floors if the floor substrate is not tolerant of the stripper being used.
Each floor substrate is different and will need to be compatible with the stripping product being used in order to not damage the floor.
For example, certain surfaces like granite, marble, linoleum, LVT (luxury vinyl tile) can be damaged by some floor stripping chemicals where VCT (vinyl composition tile) may not.
2. Improper Chemical Dilution
Floor strippers must be properly diluted with water before being used.
A common mistake custodial staff make involves assuming that “stronger” is always better. This is not the case with floor strippers. If the floor stripper is not diluted properly, it will be ineffective. It will not act faster or “better” by being diluted “stronger”, but rather make the stripping more difficult.
Improperly diluted chemicals can harm floors. For example, using too much chemical can permanently bleach floors.
Pro Tip: Use cool water when preparing the stripping solution. Using hot water can increase chemical odors and can decrease the effectiveness of the chemical.
On the other hand, too much water and too little chemical will be ineffective. If the chemical is overly diluted, the floor stripper will not work effectively and will require your staff to repeat floor stripping procedures.
The proper chemical dilution is also important for the health and safety of building occupants. The wrong chemical dilution can create caustic fumes and unhealthy amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Additionally, improperly diluted chemicals increase the risk of chemical burns and other related injuries.
Pro Tip: Always dilute to the manufacturers recommended levels. The proper chemical dilution can be found on the product container.
3. Not Enough Dwell Time
Without adequate dwell time, the stripping chemical will not have enough time to penetrate the top layers of floor finish making it harder to remove finish.
Pro Tip: Dwell time is the amount of time the product must remain wet on the surface for maximum efficacy. Different commercial cleaning chemicals require different dwell times based on the chemical formula and procedure.
Commercial floor strippers which are not used with the proper dwell time and removal process will not effectively remove finish, ultimately taking your staff longer to do the job and requiring more labor.
In most cases, the stripper needs to dwell for 10-15 minutes BEFORE any physical agitation (using a swing machine or autoscrubber) is applied, but may vary by manufacturer. Check the product label for recommended dwell times.
Warning: Be careful not to let the stripping solution dry on the floor. Apply more solution to areas that begin to dry before the recommended dwell time is achieved.
4. Floor Dries Before Chemical is Removed
On the other hand, if the stripper is left for too long and is allowed to dry, it has its own range of negative effects.
The most common reason floor stripper dries before being removed is because it is applied too thin. Floor stripper should be liberally applied to the area. If you notice that the stripper is beginning to dry before the recommended dwell time is achieved, it is important to add more.
An additional reason floor stripper dries before removal is because staff is attempting to cover too large of an area. As a result, the floor stripper is spread too far and too thin, allowing it to dry very quickly.
Pro Tip: Only strip an area that can be properly stripped within the next 20-25 minutes. When applying floor stripper, areas should be sectioned off in manageable working areas, typically 10ft x 10ft.
If the floor stripper dries on the floor it can cause damage to the floor, and it will require additional steps to remove.
5. Chemical Remains on Floor after Rinsing
The final step of stripping the finish from the floor requires rinsing the floor to remove all the slurry from the floor. There should be no chemical or other residue left on the floor after rinsing. This step is critical to the success of finishing procedures. If any residue remains on the floor, it can result in floor damage and a range of other problems.
Pro Tip: Floor strippers are very alkaline and will prohibit the finish from properly adhering to the floor during finishing procedures.
If staff applies finish before removing all residue, they will likely have trouble getting the finish to properly adhere to the floor. If this happens, staff will have to re-strip and finish the floor.
Leaving stripper and other residues behind can also cause the finish to yellow.
The best way to avoid these problems is to thoroughly rinse the floor. Check the floor by running your hand over the area. If there is white residue on your hand, there is remaining stripping residue on the floor.
You will need to rinse the floor again to remove all residue. Let the floor completely dry before beginning finishing procedures.
When stripping and refinishing your floor, you will revive floor appearance, protect the floor from future damage, and keep the floor more hygienic.
Before applying a floor stripping product to your floor, check to make sure your floor substrate is tolerant of the product. During the procedures, always follow manufacturer's instructions for proper dilution, application, and dwell time for best results. Finally, before refinishing your floors make sure that all of the stripping product has been removed.
EBP has been a leading distributor of commercial cleaning supplies and janitorial cleaning equipment for over 100 years. EBP has an unrivaled selection of commercial cleaning products and janitorial cleaning equipment to help you achieve best-in-class floor stripping results.
Fill out this form to have an EBP Specialist perform a free floor assessment. We’ll review your facility’s current floor cleaning protocols to ensure you are using the most cost-effective and labor-saving products and processes.
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