Services & Maintenance: Maintaining Resilient Flooring

At a Chicago elementary school, 40,000 square feet of resilient flooring was installed to withstand heavy use. (Photo: Johnsonite)
At a Chicago elementary school, 40,000 square feet of resilient flooring was installed to withstand heavy use. (Photo: Johnsonite)

By Don Styka
Published in the January/February 2013 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

When selecting floor coverings, facility managers (fms) may find it a challenge to select the appropriate product that integrates the design, life safety, employee comfort and productivity, and sustainability performance sought for a space. Among the issues to evaluate are performance, functionality, sustainability, design, maintenance, and longevity, and product manufacturers can be a useful resource during this process. Resilient flooring, found in many types of facilities, is characterized by material that has some elasticity, and this category includes different material types such as linoleum, sheet vinyl, vinyl composition tile (VCT), cork, and rubber.

Once a floor covering has been installed and the space turned over for occupancy, fms can develop an effective and efficient maintenance program. Once again, the flooring manufacturer can be a resource and provide assistance in establishing a regular maintenance routine. This is especially helpful when an fm is making a change from a product such as VCT to a different material such as rubber, vinyl, or linoleum.

Fms will then consider, “What is the best way to maintain this new flooring?” While many resilient flooring materials call for the use of a neutral cleaner there is no standard answer to this question. Other variables such as the type and amount of traffic, the size and availability of maintenance staff, and the type of equipment must be considered in developing an effective maintenance routine.

For example, the same resilient flooring material installed throughout a facility can require different maintenance procedures or frequency simply due to where that flooring is installed. Flooring near exterior entrances will require a different cleaning frequency when compared to the same materials installed on the third floor of the facility, or in a waiting area or exam room.

Step By Step

With this in mind, evaluating how much manpower is required to maintain flooring adequately will help establish a program that achieves realistic, repeatable results. The investment in, and use of, maintenance equipment can greatly improve staff production. Also, using vacuum cleaners daily to remove dirt and grit from floors not only improves production, it also helps contain airborne contaminants in comparison to more time-consuming sweeping methods.

The first step in a successful maintenance program is the initial cleaning. This initial procedure is important to ensure that a clean floor is put into service. The flooring manufacturer’s initial instructions should be followed in order to remove all dirt, grit, and contaminants left behind from construction and installation. If initial cleaning is not done properly, the floor will not look or perform as intended.

Normally, the manufacturer will recommend the type of cleaning products and equipment for performing each aspect of maintenance. For example, the initial cleaning would be performed using a pH neutral floor cleaner that is allowed to dwell for a certain length of time before scrubbing. The floor would then be scrubbed using a 175 RPM rotary swing machine, equipped with a specific color cleaning pad, or certain gauge of brush. (Brushes are typically used in place of scrubbing pads on textured floor surfaces.) Fms should be aware that deviating from the manufacturer’s recommendations usually has a negative impact on the cleaning results and affects the overall appearance of the new floor covering.

Once initial cleaning is complete and the floor is put into service, a daily or routine regimen must be implemented to avoid buildup of dirt and bacteria. Daily cleaning includes vacuuming to remove dirt and grit, which can abrade resilient flooring materials, and this often includes a damp mopping. The mopping is performed using a pH neutral cleaner or a cleaner/maintainer product. The frequency of mopping depends on the type and amount of traffic, which contributes to soil conditions of the floor. Spills should always be wiped up or removed as soon as possible to avoid slip/fall accidents or permanent staining of the floor.

Auto scrubbers are a useful resource and time saver for daily and routine cleaning. Maintenance staff can cover a much larger area in less time with an auto scrubber compared to damp mopping. These scrubbers are more efficient than mops, because they apply cleaning solution while simultaneously scrubbing. Meanwhile, the vacuum immediately removes the cleaning solution into a separate reservoir tank, which prevents dirty water from being reintroduced onto the floor during the cleaning process.

If dry buffing is part of the maintenance program, it is important for staff to make sure all loose dirt and grit is removed from the floor and that the floor is cleaned prior to buffing. The flooring manufacturer can advise on the type of pad to use for buffing.

When using a floor finish during maintenance, the staff should ensure the floor is clean prior to the application of additional coats of finish. This will help the finish bond better and prevent dirt from being trapped between the layers of finish, which is especially important when spray buffing. Still, many resilient floor coverings today are considered low maintenance and do not initially require the use of floor finish.

As time goes by and the floor does not appear clean after the daily or routine cleaning, this is a sign that the surface needs a deep or restorative cleaning. This process is basically a repeat of the initial cleaning using a stronger concentration of the pH neutral cleaner and a rotary swing machine.

The key to a successful maintenance program is consistency and a cleaning frequency adequate for the soil conditions that exist in the facility. Fms can draw upon manufacturers and other industry resources to determine the ideal maintenance tools and procedures for their chosen floor covering. This will help ensure a long life for the installation.


Styka, director of technical services for Chagrin Falls, OH-based Johnsonite, entered the industry in 1979 as a flooring installer. He then moved into distribution where he held several positions in sales and operations, eventually becoming general manager before occupying his current position.

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