Dan Carr

By: Dan Carr on May 12th, 2022

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5 Tips to Safely Strip and Wax Floors

Floor maintenance procedures of any kind can pose a safety risk to your staff and the people in your building. Risks include slips, falls, chemical exposure, and more. 

However, if performed correctly, these risks can be greatly reduced or even eliminated. 

One of the most necessary, yet accident-prone maintenance procedures performed by you and your staff is a strip and wax, also known as a strip and finish. 

A strip and wax is a restorative floor maintenance procedure that should be performed at least once a year to make sure that your floors are protected and look their best.

During a strip and finish, your cleaning team will have to use floor stripping chemicals to remove layers of floor finish from your floors. Then, they will then apply multiple layers of finish to achieve a new clean, shiny floor.

This process leaves the floor slippery and requires various cleaning chemicals and equipment. 

The best way to avoid injury or costly damages during a strip and finish is to understand the precautions needed before during, and after the process to keep you, your staff, and the people in your building safe. 

Failing to work as safely as possible will not only lead to injury but also increase out-of-work employees, workers’ compensation claims, and insurance costs.

In this article and video, we’ll outline the best practices for safely performing a strip and wax in order to keep everyone safe.

What Safety Practices Should You Follow During A Strip And Wax?

We recommend you and your cleaning staff follow 5 safety tips when performing a strip and finish in your facility:

  1. Set Up And Use Safety Barriers
  2. Wear The Appropriate Personal Protection Equipment
  3. Properly Measure And Dilute Chemicals
  4. Achieve Proper Chemical Dwell Time
  5. Check Equipment Before Using

1. Set Up And Use Safety Barriers

Chemical floor strippers are extremely slippery and can create hazards if walked over or accidentally tracked outside of the area to be stripped and into other parts of your building.

Before you begin performing a strip and finish in your facility, you should set up safety barriers to signal to your building occupants that they should be cautious in the area.

Safety barriers can be:

Rubbermaid Floor Sign with 'Caution Wet Floor' imprint, 2 sided

Safety barriers like floor signs and caution tape signal that there’s a risk of injury in an area. 

These barriers should be set up in a place where the people in your building can see them and avoid entering an area with chemicals or wet floor finish.

You can use safety barriers along with mats or absorbent floor strips that can be placed on the floor during the procedure. 

Mats or absorbent floor strips should be placed outside of the work area where the strip and finish is being performed. Mats and absorbent strips will stop and collect any soil or chemical from leaving the work area by removing them from the shoes of your staff that would otherwise be tracked through your facility, creating a hazardous environment. 

Using floor signs in conjunction with mat and/or absorbent floor strips will create a safety barrier that will help you and your cleaning staff keep the people in your building safe.

Forgetting or not placing signs and mats can and will lead to injury. Injured staff and guests will lead to increased worker’s compensation as well as insurance claim costs.

ultimate-guide-hard-floor-care

2. Wear The Appropriate Personal Protection Equipment

Before beginning any cleaning procedure it is critical to make sure that you’re wearing the appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE).

Some of the PPE that your janitorial staff should be wearing when performing a strip and wax include:

  • Gloves

Gloves are effective at preventing workers from exposing their hands to chemicals and cleaning products. In the case of a strip and wax, this includes floor stripper and floor finish.

Commercial Gloves Guide 101

  • Goggles

Goggles are a critical piece of PPE that can protect your employees from splashes or spilled chemicals like floor strippers getting into their eyes.

  • Face MasksMasks

Face masks can help protect your cleaning staff from breathing in VOCs or volatile organic compounds. During a strip and finish, face masks can also keep dust and other compounds that are stripped from the floor from being inhaled by staff and other occupants.  

  • Shoe Covers

Shoe covers not only protect the shoes of your staff, but they can also reduce the risk of slips and falls in your facility.

Wearing the right PPE when cleaning will help your janitorial staff avoid causing harm to themselves or the people in your building.

Fewer injuries will lead to fewer workers’ compensation and insurance claims that will ultimately save you and your business money.

3. Properly Measure And Dilute Chemicals

Some floor stripping chemicals don’t come ready to use and need to be diluted.

When preparing your stripping solutions, you should check the manufacturer’s instructions for information on how to properly dilute the stripping chemical.

When diluting a chemical, it is common for janitorial staff to use the “glug-glug” method, which may result in under or over-diluted chemicals. 

Pro-Tip: More chemicals are, in fact. not better and can actually do damage to the floors and make the procedure more labor-intensive.

Commercial Cleaning Coach: What is a Chemical Dilution System

Stripping chemicals that aren’t diluted properly can lead to injury and health complications. For example, using too much chemical and not enough water can create harsh fumes and unhealthy amounts of VOCs.

Not only will VOCs negatively affect the people in your building, but they will also have a negative effect on the indoor air quality (IAQ) in your facility.

On the other hand, a floor stripper that has too much water will not be effective and require your staff to repeat the stripping procedure to achieve the desired outcome.

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.

4. Achieve Proper Chemical Dwell Time

Along with needing to reach proper chemical dilution, you will also need to make sure that your stripping chemical is able to reach the appropriate dwell time.proper dwell time

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.

You can do this by making sure that you and your cleaning staff are taking additional steps like not allowing a floor stripper to dry on the floors and only putting down the amount of chemical that you can process before it dries.

Don’t Allow Floor Stripper to Dry

If floor stripping chemicals dry on your floors, your cleaning staff will have a harder time completing a strip and finish.

Dried floor stripper may cause damage to the floor and can require extra labor to achieve properly stripped floors.

Only Apply The Amount of Stripper You Can Process Before It Dries

When stripping your floors, you should work in small sections that will allow you to fully strip an area within the amount of time that the manufacturer recommends that the product dwells for.

Completing a strip and finish procedure like this will make it easy for your janitorial team to keep the floors wet to achieve the correct chemical dwell time.

5. Check Equipment Before Use

During a strip and finish, your cleaning team will likely use either a floor buffer or an auto scrubber to agitate the floor stripper.

Using improperly functioning equipment to complete maintenance in your building can lead to injury or inefficient cleaning practices. You should check the condition of the machine and relevant components, like the floor pad, before using the machine.Stripping a Floor

If you’re attempting to complete stripping with a floor machine that has a worn or damaged pad, you run the risk of causing damage to your floors or the floor cleaning machine.

More importantly, your staff is at risk of the pad dislodging and flying through the air. This can hit them or people in the area. 

Your staff may also experience operator discomfort and decreased worker productivity when trying to strip your floors with an improperly functioning floor machine. 

If your staff is using a pad that’s been applied incorrectly or they’ve applied the wrong pad on an auto scrubber or floor buffer, you’ll likely notice that the machine is shaking more than normal.

This will require extra time and effort for your cleaning staff to achieve the same cleaning outcomes, increasing the labor costs for your business.

ultimate-guide-hard-floor-care


Final Thoughts

Taking the time to properly prepare to perform a strip and wax will help ensure that the people in your building can avoid injury and health complications.

Following these best practices will allow you and your cleaning team to perform safe, successful strip and finish procedures.

Taking proper precautions and care when stripping and refinishing your floors will also reduce your insurance costs and lower the amount you spend on workers' compensation claims.

EBP and other Imperial Dade locations stock a wide range of floor maintenance products and equipment that will make it easy for you and your cleaning staff to complete cleaning procedures safely and efficiently.

If you’re located in the United States, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, or Canada, reach out to an EBP Specialist today. We can review your current floor care program to find the best products and procedures to keep your floors clean and looking great.

Check Out These Related Articles:

ultimate-guide-hard-floor-care

About Dan Carr

Dan Carr is the Equipment Program Manager for EBP Supply Solutions and a Trainer for the EBP Training Academy, which offers CMI-certified and other training courses for supervisory and front-line cleaning professionals throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. He holds the ISSA CMI Basic certification and has over 35 years of experience in the janitorial and sanitation industry.