For decades, cleaning technicians have used the same practices to clean and maintain floors since there had been no drastic changes in the types of flooring. While there have been occasional updates to floor coverings, such as newer carpet fibers, for the most part the processes used in the floor care business have easily accommodated with any slight update. from flooring to the introduction of luxury vinyl tiles (LVT).
LVT has undergone several changes since its introduction in the 1970s to become what we know today. It has proven to be a popular flooring choice in commercial environments due to its noise reduction properties and low maintenance costs. According to 2019 sales year statistics published in Floor Covering Weekly, the amount of LVT flooring sold has almost quadrupled in the past six years. If you haven’t seen this type of flooring in your establishment, chances are you’ll see it soon.
What makes LVT different?
LVT flooring has a vinyl base layer covered with a photograph of what the manufacturer wants the floor to look like, which is usually a wood grain pattern. The photograph is covered with a protective layer of plastic, which is then covered with a layer of urethane with additives to give the coating its durability and serve as a wear layer
The depth of the protective urethane layer, which is a factor in the life of the product when placed on the floor, is referred to in “mils”. Millet ratings vary depending on the flooring application, with 12 mils or less in residential products and 20 mils or more in commercial products. Once these layers are combined, the flooring is stamped with a texture, enhancing the appearance of the wood grain pattern or other pattern used.
Commercial facilities choose LVT because it has a low environmental impact as well as lower maintenance costs when the manufacturer’s standards of care are met. Ultraviolet (UV) coating design eliminates the need for topically applied protective coatings, such as flooring.
Regular removal and reapplication of floor finishing processes is a familiar routine for floor technicians who are trained to maintain a high standard of appearance on finished Vinyl Composition Tile (VCT) floors. It is a laborious and arduous process of burnishing, scrubbing, chemical removal and reapplying the coating to the floor. But what to do when the floor does not require this type of maintenance?
Along with the benefits of a new type of flooring come challenges in how to clean it, especially for technicians who have not received training or advice on the specific characteristics of LVT.
Unlike VCT, the texture of LVT creates a low point where detergent, dirt and water collect. The highlights of this texture act like a squeegee, removing cleaning solution and grime from mops and scrubbers, leaving small amounts of detergent, dirt and water in low spots.
As a result, LVT floors can darken and appear dull from residue left behind – a frustrating scenario for facilities that have invested in flooring that they plan to save money and stay beautiful for years to come. .
New soil, new focus
The texture of LVT floors is often so fine that pads and brushes, essential for cleaning technicians, cannot penetrate the raised pattern to remove residue.
So how do we evolve our cleaning processes to keep pace with LVT flooring?
One solution is to switch from rotary cleaning machines to orbital equipment with a dense polypropylene pad that deeply cleans the embossed surface. Orbital equipment offers more cleaning action than rotary equipment, and the unit’s small narrow orbit allows it to clean deep into the embossing from many angles. Polypropylene fibers are not abrasive and will not damage the protective coating.
The next question is: How can equipment and processes evolve to to keep high appearance on LVT so that daily and routine cleaning processes eliminate the need for restorative cleaning?
One effective solution is to combine single-use microfiber pads with orbital machines. The ability of microfiber to penetrate deep into the texture and trap and hold dirt for removal, combined with the mechanical action of an orbital cleaning machine, creates a process that helps maintain the original shine LVT floors. This process uses only water, no detergent, as residue left from previous cleanings contains detergents that are reactivated during cleaning. However, depending on the type of facility e.g. hospitals, healthcare facilities, you may still need to add detergent or disinfectant to the process.
The use of this cleaning process is growing in the healthcare industry, especially after months of heavy patient loads that prevented Environmental Services (EVS) staff from deep cleaning floors. Healthcare facilities have found that this system reduces cross-contamination, eliminates the need to transport and wash microfiber mop heads, and does not require taking patient rooms out of service for a thorough cleaning.
Unlike scrubbers, orbital machines have no exhaust, making their use an ideal final step in cleaning patient rooms.
LVT floors represent a new challenge for cleaning technicians. We cannot expect to meet these new challenges with the same old processes. As flooring evolves, our processes and equipment must evolve with them.