Hardwood floors can give schools, stores, and restaurants a softer, more homey feeling than tile or concrete—but they can also be more difficult to maintain, especially during the winter months. Cleaning hardwood floors of slush, snow, and salt presents a unique problem for maintenance workers. The high pH level of most ice-melting chemicals, along with the constant moisture tracked in by multiple pairs of feet, can combine to eat through your floor's finish and turn it into a magnet for different types of soil. Your best defense against winter on wooden floors is to prevent problems before they happen.
Industrial Floor Mats
Foot traffic is the biggest problem in winter when you're trying to keep hardwood floors clean and dry. High-quality floor mats are crucial for every entrance. To absorb moisture from shoes, use absorbent carpet-type mats instead of simple corrugated rubber versions. Keep multiple sets of mats for each doorway, and change out the mats every time they get soaked. Fresh mats in each entrance can absorb up to 90 percent of the snow and ice that might otherwise be tracked in and deposited on your floors.
Protect the Finish
The wax or other finish on hardwood floors protects the wood underneath, preventing moisture from soaking in and rotting the boards. Calcium chloride, the main ingredient in chemical melting salts, has a high pH. Leave it on your floors long enough and it will eat right through the finish. Unfortunately, simple mopping won't do the job. You have to change the pH of the salt residue, or it will become a sticky mess that smears around the floor surface. Five ounces of plain vinegar mixed in four gallons of water make a chemical wash that neutralizes the pH level of salt solutions. Spray this on the surface before cleaning hardwood floors and it will break down the chemical makeup, allowing the salt to be removed before it damages the floor's finish.
Remove the Moisture
Ultimately, for safety and cleanliness, you'll have to remove large amounts of moisture from hardwood floors during the winter months. Traditional mops and buckets pick up some of the water, but never really get the floors dry. Kaivac's OmniFlex AutoVac is a versatile cleaning system that powerfully picks up the moisture from hardwood floors, leaving them clean and dry. It's certified by the National Floor Safety Institute for providing high traction, and can be used as a high-efficiency general floor-cleaning system.
For more information on cleaning with AutoVac, click here.