“Green” Winter Floor Care

If you are a steadfast believer in the Farmer’s Almanac, get ready now for the coming winter. According to the 2018 Canadian Farmer’s Almanac, here is what you can expect:

“Anticipate a return to a colder, more normal winter from Quebec east into the Maritimes, with many locations experiencing above-normal precipitation.

From the Great Lakes going east across Quebec, and into the Maritimes, snowier-than-normal conditions are expected. Winter temps should also be 1–2°C below normal over the eastern two-thirds of the country.”

And that’s not all. The Almanac goes on to say that we should expect “major coastal storms along the Atlantic Seaboard [that will] bring strong winds and heavy precipitation.”

Whew. Maybe this coming winter is a good time to relocate to the Caribbean. But if that’s not feasible, Canadian building managers and cleaning contractors must prepare for the coming winter, especially when it comes to their floors. And this is especially true if they want to have a green floor care strategy in place.

Floors Take a Beating

If the Almanac is correct, building managers will likely be using more salt and ice melt products.* These products may help reduce ice on walkways and make walking safer, but once tracked onto a hard surface floor, they can cause considerable havoc. Traditional ice melt contains a number of powerful ingredients along with salt that can virtually melt away the finish on a floor.

This is a problem because the number one job of the finish is not the shine but to protect the floor. And ice melt is not the only culprit. With winter, building users can collect all kinds of soils and contaminants on their shoe bottoms including snow and ice.
These all can damage the floor if managers and cleaning contractors have not taken steps to prepare for winter. And the first phase in the process is deciding the types of floor care products to use, including strippers and cleaning solutions, finishes and sealants.

Look for the Mark

If managers and cleaning contractors have decided to go green this year when it comes to floor care, the first step in the process is selecting green or environmentally preferable floor care products. According to Paul Goldin, Chief Sustainability Officer at Canadian-based Avmor, what managers and contractors must look for are products that are green certified.
“The leading certification organizations include EcoLogo UL/Environment, GreenSeal®, and GREENGUARD,” says Goldin. “These organizations do not actually test the products; they are tested and evaluated by a certified third-party laboratory. If the product meets the standards and criteria of one of these organizations, it earns the right to bear their “mark” on their label. identifying the product as green certified.”
Goldin adds that green floor care involves more than just the selection of environmentally preferable chemicals, solutions, and finishes. “They are all part of comprehensive, green winter floor-cleaning program, where best practices are just as important as selecting the best products.”

He adds that some of these best practices of a green floor care program include:

• Selecting low moisture automatic floor scrubbers that use significantly less water and chemical than traditional machines
• Transferring to microfiber flat mops, which have greater efficiency than standard string or sponge mops, which also means less water and chemical may be necessary
• Installing fifteen feet or more of high-performance floor matting at entrances to help capture as much as 80 percent of winter soil entering a building
• Developing a winter floor care strategy with more focus on daily and interim cleaning during the winter months

This last item may need a bit more explanation. Because we know more soils and contaminants can be walked onto floors in the winter, increasing floor cleaning frequencies is one way to keep the floors cleaner, longer, and stretch refinishing cycles.

“Floor refinishing is costly, time-consuming, and it can be rough on the environment,” according to Goldin. “One of the key goals of a green floor care program is to delay refinishing cycles as much as possible.”

Preparing the Floor for Winter

With our green floor care products selected and a strategy in place, we can focus our attention on the second part of a green floor care program and that is to prepare the floors before the coming winter. In Canada, winter floor care begins in early October. When the winter cold comes, it can impact the drying capabilities of floor finish. This impacts how well the finish adheres to the floor. So we want to perform floor scrubbing, stripping and the finishing of the floor before October.

We already addressed the need to increase cleaning frequencies during the winter months. If possible, avoid using mops. The winter soils and contaminants will collect in the mop. Eventually, they will begin spreading these soils on the floor. Look into floor cleaning alternatives such as automatic scrubbers or auto-vac systems that deep clean floors without distributing soils over the floor.

“Finally, it is a good idea to apply thin coats of floor finish to the floor on a regular basis throughout the winter months to help protect the floor,” adds Goldin. “Select a green certified floor finish and look for one that has anti-slip properties as well. Along with protecting the environment, walker safety is a key concern, especially during the winter months.”

*Some of the ingredients found in ice melt include Calcium Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Chloride, Urea (a crystalized compound made up of nitrogen), and salt. All of these ingredients can harm hard surface floors and their finish.

For more information on green floor care and ways to prepare for winter floor care, contact an Avmor representative.

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