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Floors Talk
By Dennis Knapp
Published: 05/09/2016

Look at the floors of any correctional facility and you are almost always going to see what looks like acres of hard surface floors. Invariably these are VCT (vinyl composite tile), the most common type of floor. It’s durable, inexpensive, and relatively easy to keep clean. And most correctional facilities take this “cleanliness” issue a step further.

Studies have found that floors actually do a lot of talking. A clean, shiny, well-maintained floor says this is a well-maintained, efficiently operated facility in which people care about its upkeep. A soiled, dull, scuff-marked floor tells building users the administrators of this facility don’t care that much about the building or how well it is cleaned or maintained.

Oh, and one more thing. That clean and shiny floor we just mentioned gets a lot more respect than the soiled, dull floor. “Clean and shiny” affects people’s mood, attitude, and view of a facility.

Many, if not most, correctional facilities turn the maintenance of their floors over to inmates. It is a skill, and for some inmates, it can lead to a work opportunity – or even the possibility of them starting their own professional cleaning business – once they are released.

So, for the benefit of the facility, housekeeping inmates, and to ensure your floors talk highly of you, let’s discuss a key part of floorcare that rarely gets attention. It is the pads placed at the bottom of the floor machine and used to strip, clean, and buff floors, returning them to their “wet look” or high gloss shine.

The first thing administrators and inmates should know is that the color of the pad tells what it is to be used for. This is the color scheme used by most manufacturers:
  • Red: Polishing with a low-speed buffer
  • White: Polishing using a high-speed burnisher
  • Black: Stripping (removes all floor finish along with soils, and scuff marks embedded in the tile;)
  • Blue or Green: Scrubbing or cleaning the floor (this removes the top layer of soils on a floor but removes only a small amount of floor finish; typically a thin “re-coat” of floor finish is applied after scrubbing).
There are other colors as well and variations of these colors. For instance, the darker the pad, the more it may scrub clean surfaces until it becomes a black pad, when it is used for stripping.

While these color schemes are shared by many manufacturers, administrators should know that not all pads are alike. As with any product used for just about any purpose, they can vary in effectiveness, cost, durability, ease of use, etc. Let’s look at some of these issues so you know what to look for in a floor pad.

Open web design. The pad should have what is called an open web design. View the pad as having thousands of crossing fibers. With an open web design, soil from the floor enters the area between those fibers. So why is this important? First, it effectively removes the soils from the floor; second, it helps the fibers on the pad remain effective; third, an open web design allows soil to be washed out. Pads can be costly so this will help reduce costs.

Resiliency. You may not realize this, but a floor surface has imperfections. There may be areas of the floor that are slightly higher or lower than other areas. Due to the weight of the machine on the pad, these imperfections can damage the pad over time. A more resilient pad will hold up longer, again creating a cost savings. Here’s a quick and easy way to tell if a pad is resilient: pinch the edge of the pad between your thumb and index finger. If the pad bounces back to its original shape almost immediately, it’s a quality, resilient pad.

Denier. As you might think, this is an old French word, but it has nothing to do with French food or anything like that. Denier, when it is used for pads, refers to the gauge or thickness of the fiber made to manufacture the pad. While all pads will have some fibers which are thinner, a long-lasting pad will have a higher percentage of heavier fibers.

Green. This time we are not talking about the color of the pad but how sustainable it is. At least one manufacturer now makes pads from renewable, plant-based materials. Not only do these pads promote sustainability, but they have been tested and proven to be as effective, and in many cases, more effective than a traditional pad.

As to this last item, you might wonder why having a floor pad made from renewable materials is so important. Floor pads are typically made of nonrenewable materials including petroleum byproducts. Even the highest-quality floor pads can only be used so many times before they lose effectiveness. That means the used pad, along with its nonrenewable fibers, ends up in a landfill where it may take years to disintegrate.

A pad made from plant-based materials does not require nonrenewable materials. Further, it is likely to be more biodegradable, helping to reduce the amount of waste building up in landfills.

By learning more about the effective, cost-efficient, and sustainable floor pads available to correctional facilities today, an administrator can ensure the highest quality of cleaning at the lowest price possible. The bottom-line savings will illustrate fiscal responsibility in an era when many correctional facilities are asked to do more with less. The results – shiny and well-maintained floors – will make an excellent impression and speak to an administrator’s continued dedication to upkeep and cleanliness.

Dennis Knapp director of product development at Impact-Products, manufacturers of a wide variety of professional cleaning tools and products including floor pads and USDA certified bio-based floor pads.


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