How to Keep Your School’s Floor Clean & Safe During the Winter
Winter can be a messy season for any facility, but it is especially challenging for colleges and universities in the Northeast. Students and faculty are constantly tracking in wet snow, ice, and slush as well as harsh ice melt compounds and salt residues on their shoes.
This wintery mix leaves your floors wet and puts your students, faculty, and staff at a greater risk for slip and fall injuries.
Not to mention, the salt compounds and ice melt residues that are meant to protect your students and lower the risk of falls outside your buildings are damaging to floors when brought inside.
These ice melt compounds and other outdoor soils are abrasive and can cut carpet fibers and scratch hard floors, dulling floor appearance and causing lasting damage.
Keeping your college or university safe and your floors protected during the winter will often require more time and labor than other seasons, but with the right preventative and daily care, you can help extend the life of your floors and keep them looking great.
A clean and well kept campus will ease parent’s fears and help students feel safe at their “home-away-from-home.” Faculty and staff will be satisfied with their workplace environment, helping to boost productivity and lower turnover.
To help you avoid injury, keep your floors protected, and maintain a consistent image, we’ve put together a list of 4 key maintenance procedures to prepare and protect your commercial floors this winter.
- Reseal Hard Floors
- Implement an Entrance Mat System
- Use Floor Neutralizer To Protect and Remove Ice Melt Residue
- Review Routine Cleaning Schedule and Increase Frequency, If Necessary
Reseal Hard Floors
One of the best ways to protect your floors from damage is to make sure there is an adequate amount of finish on the floor to safeguard the surface from irreparable damage.
With increased salts and other chemical residues, your janitorial team will likely be washing floors more frequently. Additionally, these harsher substances are ground into the finish by foot traffic, scratching and grinding through the floor finish.
To prepare your floors for the challenges of winter months, we recommend putting down a fresh coat of finish.
For best results, you should reseal your floors before winter begins.
Stripping and refinishing floors during the winter is difficult for two main reasons.
First, cold temperatures can negatively affect how certain finishes are applied and dried. It is common for finish that is applied in the winter to crack or peel.
Secondly, we don’t recommend stripping and finishing during the winter because of the increased amount of contaminants that are tracked in. It is likely that contaminants, like ice melt, will be tracked in and not fully removed before stripping and finishing and will damage floor tiles and negatively affect the overall maintenance results.
If you're reading this, and it's already cold or you feel you missed the window to strip and refinish your floors, you can perform a scrub and recoat.
With a scrub and recoat, you are basically applying an additional layer of finish to your floors. This added layer lowers the risk of damage to floor tiles.
An early protective coat will also help avoid deep stains in your floor finish which would otherwise require you to strip and refinish floors more frequently than needed.
Implement an Entrance Mat System
Snow and ice remain on the ground for days and are constantly being brought inside.
Wet floors pose a huge slip and fall risk, especially in schools where hard floors are common and students are distracted.
Students walking across campus to class often pay little or no attention to liquids on the soles of their shoes or in entryways and hallways, which puts them at greater risk of falling and potentially injuring themselves or others.
As mentioned earlier, aside from the increased risk of injury, students also easily trek salts and ice melt compounds throughout your facility. Both hard floors and carpeted floors can be stained or damaged by these compounds.
Integrating an entrance mat system will significantly lower the number of slips and falls and reduce floor damage by containing liquids and harsh compounds at the door.
In fact, the right entryway matting system can remove as much as 90% of soils from students and faculty’s shoes.
To be effective, your students, staff, and visitors should be able to take about 8 to 10 steps on the entry matting before reaching your carpeted or hard floor.
In general, this means you’ll need about 15 feet of matting outside and an additional 15 feet inside your school’s entryway(s).
There are different types of matting and each serves a unique purpose. The best entrance matting systems have three types of mats: scraper mats, transition mats or wiper/scraper combo mats, and wiper mats.
Scraper mats are the first section of matting. They are placed outside of your entryway to scrape debris off of shoes as well as begin the removal of any liquids and moisture.
The second section of matting, transition mats or scraper/wiper combination mats, should be placed just inside of your school’s entryway or vestibule.
These mats should have a “water dam” border and a vinyl or rubber backing. Mats with this type of border retain the most liquid, lowering the risk of water pooling on your hard floors or seeping into carpets.
The third and final section of an entryway matting system is the wiper mat. Wiper mats remove finer soils and any remaining moisture from occupant’s shoes.
Use Floor Neutralizer To Protect and Remove Ice Melt Residue
No matter how hard you try, snow, salts, and ice melt will be tracked into your building.
When tracked inside, it can leave residues in your entryways and/or hallways that cause white streaks.
On both surfaces, ice melt and salt residues can be damaging to floors and should be removed as frequently as possible.
Ice melt contains harsh compounds (like salt) that can negatively react with floor cleaners.
Unlike dirt and other common soils, the pH balance of the salt compound is high and will require a floor neutralizer to remove the residue. When used to remove ice melt, regular floor cleaners are ineffective and will leave behind white residue.
Floor neutralizers are specifically designed to dissolve ice melt chlorides without damage. Certo Floor Neutralizer will clean the floor and eliminate white residue with one floor care product. Using one floor care product helps to minimize confusion around which product to use and how to use it, reducing mistakes.
Review Routine Cleaning Schedule and Increase Frequency, If Necessary
Maintaining the appearance of your floors during the winter months may require increased daily cleaning and maintenance to remove soil that is tracked into your facility.
The frequency of your cleaning schedule will depend on foot traffic and the frequency of soil buildup. If you currently do not experience residue build up, or your staff removes contaminants as frequently as possible your routine cleaning schedule is likely adequate.
If not, we recommend increasing your routine cleaning procedures. For hard and carpeted surfaces this will differ.
When maintaining hard floors during the winter, you may want to consider increasing the frequency of vacuuming and floor scrubbing.
Check out this article for the best way to maintain your facility’s hard floors: 4 Daily Procedures to Maintain Your Facility's Resilient Hard Floors
On the other hand, if you have carpeted floors, you might be performing spot removal procedures more often.
The best way to preserve carpet appearance, extend carpet life, and protect your commercial carpet investment is with a comprehensive commercial carpet care program.
During the winter months, your students and staff are tracking in snow, ice melt, and other contaminants regularly.
Protecting your flooring investment as well as the safety of your students and staff is critical. With these steps, you’ll not only be able to protect your floors but also help ensure your campus is a clean, safe space for students and staff.
Begin each school semester by resealing your hard floors for maximum protection.
After, protect your hard or carpeted floors from snow, dirt, and ice by utilizing the proper entryway matting system.
Implementing a matting system at your entryway will stop the majority of contaminants such as ice melt, soils, and water from entering your facility. High-quality matting will also trap contaminants for easier removal, reduce the risk of floor damage, and lower the risk of slip and fall accidents on hard floors.
You’ll likely need to maintain your floors more frequently than normal. Remember, you will need a regular cleaning schedule paired with proper cleaning procedures and the right commercial cleaning supplies to protect your floors from ice melt residue and other contaminants. To avoid floor damage and any adverse reactions, you will need a floor neutralizer, like Certo Floor Neutralizer.
If your facility is located in the northeast United States, and you are interested in trying Certo Floor Neutralizer, request your free Certo Floor Neutralizer sample below.
Here’s a list of other resources you might find useful:
- What is Ice Melt? Selecting The Best Ice Melt For Your Facility
- 4 Steps to Remove Ice Melt Residue and White Streaks From Hard Floors
- 4 Daily Procedures to Maintain Your Facility's Resilient Hard Floors
- Carpet Care 101: 4 Essentials of a Commercial Carpet Care Program
- What is an Automatic Floor Scrubber? (Types, Sizes, & Features)
- Commercial Floor Mats 101: What are the Different Types of Floor Mats & Where to Use Them
- How to Strip and Wax Floors: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid [VIDEO]
- 6 Steps to Restore Resilient Hard Floors with a Floor Buffer