Top tips for safety flooring cleaning

How to clean your safety flooring

Correct and thorough cleaning is an essential part of floor maintenance to ensure your safety and slip-resistant floors are kept safe and clean throughout its life. Providing a clean and hygienic environment is one thing, but effective cleaning also has a vital role to play in ensuring your floor continues to perform to the expected standards.

The surface profile of safety and slip-resistant floors ensures that foot and floor connect even when surface contaminants are present. Kept clean, the surface aggregates are of sufficient size and number to break through the contaminants thereby reducing the risk of a slip to one in a million. If incorrect cleaning procedures are followed, a hazardous level of dirt and contaminant build-up can accumulate on the surface of the flooring, potentially increasing the risk of a slip to as high as one in two.

Let’s face it, you wouldn’t just rinse a dirty plate then put it back in the cupboard but the good news is, like doing the washing-up, effective safety floor cleaning is a straightforward process. We’ve developed some top tips to help you establish your own cleaning regime, or to enable you to offer guidance to your customers, keeping their floors as safe and attractive as the day you laid it.

We also have step-by-step guides to mechanical, manual and steam cleaning, available to download.

Altro safety flooring cleaning guide-manual Altro safety flooring cleaning guide-mechanical Altro safety flooring cleaning guide-steam

These guidelines have been developed in association with Delia Cannings, Director of Education and Training, Environmental Excellence Training & Development Ltd.

Single out the soil

Cleaning is much easier and more effective if you identify the type of soil on the floor and choose the right equipment and detergent to get rid of it.

Realistically, the soil you tackle will be a combination of types. The following guide will help you identify what the soil is made up of so that you can decide how best to tackle it.

Material, or matter, is either organic or inorganic depending on what it’s made of:

Organic: There are three types of organic soil:

  • Material that is alive such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa (tiny animals). This will be most common in kitchens and canteens where there is food waste, or in bathrooms, changing rooms and hospital wards where there is human waste such as skin, body fats, faeces and blood.
  • Material that was part of a living thing which includes food, but also sawdust and rubber shavings. This soil would be found anywhere where food is produced or consumed. Factories are also a good example.
  • ‘Man-made’ material including plastic fragments, mineral oil and paints and glues. These will be common where manufacturing takes place but also anywhere that decorating or repair work is done.

It is important to know if soil is organic; if it is, it’s an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and will need disinfecting or steam cleaning.

Inorganic: This is soil made of material that has not been part of a living thing and does not contain carbon. It includes glass, salt, rust and brick dust.

Whether organic or inorganic, soil behaves in a certain way when you try to clean it:

Soluble: This is soil that will dissolve in water such as sugar, salt and detergent powder. Because it dissolves, it is generally easy to deal with. It is common where food is sold, prepared or consumed.

Insoluble: This is the type of soil you are most likely to come across; it won’t dissolve in water so will need detergent to remove it. Examples include: oil and skin, so they are found in many environments.

Other examples are plastic fragments, wood shavings, glass and threads but these would be removed at the first stage of cleaning either by sweeping or vacuuming.

Insoluble soil can be greasy or particulate:

Greasy: This is soil which sticks to surfaces and smears when touched. Examples are oil, fat and grease. This is likely anywhere food is present but also, as vehicles leave behind oil and grease, it will regularly be carried on foot into communal areas.

Particulate: This is soil in powder form, examples being sand, skin, washing powder and broken fibres so it will be found in a wide range of environments.

It is very likely that you will find greasy and particulate soil together as the powdery soil will stick to any grease it comes into contact with.

Abrasive: This is soil which may scratch a surface, for example, glass.

Stubborn/tacky: This is soil which may stick to a surface, for example, syrup, wax or glue.

So, materials will belong to more than one of the categories as one is what it is made of and the other is how it behaves: Salt spilt from a container is an inorganic, particulate soil which can be swept, or vacuumed, up. Salt spilt onto a wet surface is an inorganic, soluble soil that can be washed away.

Correct kit

Using the right equipment to clean your floors in the correct stages will help ensure your cleaning is effective and reduce the time spent doing it.

Choosing the right kit isn’t just about the size and type of room you are in, it’s about the right equipment for the soil you are dealing with.

To maintain your equipment and ensure you are not transferring soil and bacteria to the floor being cleaned, it is vital to clean the equipment after each use. This needs to be part of the overall regime.

The cleaning methods below will ensure thorough cleaning and maintenance of your flooring if the visual guides (downloadable above) are followed.

Before selecting your cleaning method, the first step in any effective regime is to sweep or vacuum up any particulate and/or abrasive soil.

Manual cleaning: Using a mop, twin bucket and/or deck scrubber. This is most effective on day to day, walked-in soil, and when cleaning needs to be done immediately, for example, where there is a spillage in a supermarket.

For a thorough clean and to be effective on other soil types, particularly stubborn/tacky or greasy, mopping alone is not enough; it is important to use a deck scrubber too.

Mechanical cleaning: Using a cleaning machine. As the machine scrubs the floor evenly and with pressure, it cleans stubborn and greasy soil very well. If space and availability allows, mechanical cleaning is preferable to manual cleaning as this will help reduce the amount of time spent.

Steam cleaning: Using a mechanical steam cleaner. This is very effective for cleaning organic soil as the temperature of the steam helps remove most bacteria. It is ideal for areas where hygiene is important such as hospital wards, bathrooms and kitchens.

Each method is effective for cleaning both soluble and insoluble soils. The choice will depend more on whether that soil is stubborn/tacky or greasy and whether hygiene is of paramount importance in the area being cleaned, for example, an operating theatre.

Precise product and potency

Choosing the right detergent for the soil you are tackling is the only way to clean effectively.

It’s also important to dilute according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Not enough detergent means a less effective clean. Too much detergent can leave a film on the floor that reduces slip-resistance and attracts contaminants, encouraging bacteria growth. It is also a common cause of staining/discolouration and problems associated with chemical damage such as shrinkage.

The properties within detergent lifts and holds soil so that it isn’t redistributed during cleaning. It is important to leave detergent on the floor, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, to give it time to do this. What makes one detergent different from another is how acidic or alkaline it is. This is measured using the pH scale which runs from pH0 (most acidic) to pH14 (most alkaline).

Alkaline: A detergent measuring above pH9.5 works by dissolving fat and emulsifying soils. So an alkaline detergent such as AltroClean 44 is ideal for greasy and organic soils. The more alkaline the detergent, the more effective for removing grease but the more corrosive it becomes, which can damage paintwork so thorough rinsing is very important.

Acidic: A detergent measuring less than pH5 is acidic and a good option for inorganic soils such as lime scale.

Neutral: Neutral detergents (pH7) are less aggressive and contain fewer chemicals. This makes them more user friendly, with less environmental impact.

Neutral detergents are effective on everyday levels of contamination across a range of surfaces, but will not cope as well with heavy soiling. They are also not as effective for greasy dirt and fats where an alkaline detergent would be more suitable.

Combined disinfectant detergent/cleaning sanitiser: When cleaning organic soil such as food or human waste, this reduces bacteria growth, which is important when maintaining hygienic standards.

Take a look at the products we recommend using with Altro safety flooring.