The Big Chill: Winterproofing Floors

By Amy Milshtein

  • The Big Chill: Winterproofing Floors
The Big Chill: Winterproofing Floors

The last of the Halloween candy is gone. Turkeys are on sale at the grocery store. You’ve even spotted a Christmas decoration or two. The signs are apparent. We may be smack in the middle of Autumn, but winter is coming. For facility managers and building maintenance professionals that means winterproofing floors. 


Winter is particularly hard on flooring surfaces. Dripping umbrellas, tracked in grit and melting snow create slip and fall hazards. Add road salt and ice melt to the mix and you have a corrosive combination the eats away at floor finishes, dulls carpeting and, depending on the chemical, creates a sticky or slippery mess.


Get on top of the issue before it becomes a problem. Here are three tips for winterproofing floors.


Mats—Fifteen Feet or Bust

Walk off matting is your first line of defense against winter weather. They scrape dirt, grit and salt off of shoes, catch moisture from dripping coats and protect occupants from dangerous—and costly--slips and falls.  An effective system should have at least fifteen feet of matting, although some professionals suggest thirty feet to remove 100% of debris from shoes.


Place mats at every entrance point for full protection. Instruct crews to vacuum them several times a day to remove abrasive grit and soils. Replace them once they become saturated with moisture and dirt.


Over Salted

Different chemicals can be used to melt ice, but no matter which formula you choose be sure to clean up any residue that makes it into your facility or face a bigger mess in the future. Sodium chloride will turn white and powdery and will dull finishes if left on the floor too long. Calcium chloride and magnesium chloride leave an oily, slippery coating that attracts more dirt.


Ice melt products’ have a high pH, just like floor strippers. Build up existing hard flooring finishes before the season starts to protect the underlying surface from these chemicals. An article in Cleaning & Maintenance Management suggests a minimum of five coats of finish for vinyl composite tile floors. Use a neutralizing cleaner when removing the products to bring down their high pH and dry immediately. Don’t let floors air dry as the chemicals will stay behind.


Power Through Puddles

Keeping floors dry during business hours should be job one for your staff. Wet floors are more than just unsightly, they’re a slip and fall hazard that can cost your company big bucks if someone takes a tumble. Consider an AutoVac system that cleans and dries surfaces immediately to keep floors in top winter form.


Click here for more tips on winterproofing floors.

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Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines. 

Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.

She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.

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