Maintenance of Vinyl Floor Coverings

The coating and cleaning chemicals associated with hard floor maintenance is known as the chemical system. The chemical systems available for vinyl floor coverings are no buff, spray buffing, and polishing/buffing systems.

Selection of the chemical system will be influenced by the assessment criteria associated with the facility. The environment, traffic conditions, congestion, time factors and budget will all have an impact on which selection to make.

Initial Maintenance

As with all hard floor coverings, maintenance begins directly after installation. The degree of initial maintenance will be dependent upon the level of cleanliness in which the floor covering was installed. Some installations are much better than others and can make the initial maintenance much easier to accomplish.

Most manufacturers of vinyl products recommend a waiting period of approximately 3 days after the floor covering is installed before wet maintenance can be performed. The reason for this is to allow ample time for the adhesive under the floor covering to completely cure. If wet cleaning or polishing procedures are performed prior to the adhesive curing, it can cause problems for the newly installed product.

Generally sheet goods that are heat welded are not an issue because water or solution has no way to get under the product. Some sheet goods that are not heat welded may have problems because the solution can get under the edges of the seams and cause them curl up. If the damage is significant enough it may require the whole installation to be pulled up and redone.

Floors that have tile products have many more seams for the solution to get under. This can cause serious damage when wet maintenance is performed too soon. In some cases the adhesive may soften and ooze out of all the seams making it very difficult to clean and dry the floor. Many times individual or groups of floor tiles will release from the sub floor. In severe cases the tiles can curl, warp or buckle.

The type of sub floor that the product is installed over can also be affected by performing maintenance services too soon. Generally resilient floor coverings are installed over a concrete sub floor, although it has been known for vinyl floors to be installed over plywood and other wood-based sub-floors.

If water or solution gets under the floor covering it may cause serious breakdown of the wood product underneath. Caution should be taken when working with these types of sub floors.

Initial maintenance for vinyl type floor coverings is not only to remove the soil accumulated during the installation, but also to remove the factory coating from the product. Factory coating is applied to the product to protect it during handling, packaging and installation.

Daily/Routine Maintenance

The most important aspect of any hard floor maintenance programme is eliminating or reducing soil throughout the facility. The daily/routine maintenance procedures address the regular maintenance needed to accomplish this task. Generally, housekeeping staff or cleaning contractors provide these daily services.

Sweeping, dust mopping or vacuuming procedures are the primary method of controlling dry particulate soil throughout most facilities. The service can be performed on a routine basis, daily or several times per day.

It is possible for wet mopping maintenance to be incorporated in the daily/routine maintenance schedule. Spot mopping may be carried out during open hours to eliminate spills that occur. Wet mopping may be performed after hours to remove more aggressive soils. The degree or level of the service will be predicated by the facility.

Light scrubbing with an automatic scrubbing machine or scrubber drier can be substituted for mopping procedures in areas large enough to warrant it.

In schools, colleges, hospitals, large offices and retail environments this is an expected means of maintenance.

Periodic Maintenance

The term periodic generally refers to service procedures that are beyond the dry service and wet mopping procedures. They can incorporate buffing, spray buffing, condition/restoring and burnishing or scrubbing/cleaning procedures. In heavily soiled environments the stripping procedure is performed on a periodic schedule too.

Coating Maintenance Procedures

The periodic coating maintenance procedures are methods of maintenance that address the gloss of the floor finish. There are several methods for accomplishing this objective. The method for any facility will be determined when selecting the chemical system for the floor covering.

Dry buffing, polishing and burnishing are procedures that are independent of cleaning and stripping / re-sealing procedures. Buffing can be performed on some floor finishes, however limited results can be expected.

Spray buffing is a method of maintenance that has been used for many years in the maintenance of vinyl type floor coverings. It is important to point out that the spray buffing procedure is a maintenance method for restoring gloss to the floor finish. It is not a cleaning procedure although many individuals try to use it as one.

When the spray buffing service procedure is used as a cleaning procedure, it effectively encapsulates soil in the floor finish. Although it may appear to be cleaning the floor it is really spreading the soil evenly across the floor causing it to slowly brown out.

Scrubbing and Re-coating

Scrubbing and re-coating is a general term that encompasses all of the scrubbing service procedures. There are different classifications of scrubbing that require slightly different procedures. The primary difference centres on the amount of soil or finish to be removed.

The aggressiveness of the scrubbing procedure will be dictated by the environment and traffic conditions. Soil that gets ground into the floor surface will become embedded. Also, during the life cycle of the hard floor maintenance programmes that utilise chemical coating systems, soil will ultimately become encapsulated in floor finish. Encapsulated soil lowers the appearance factor and causes the floor to look dirty all the time. The primary reasons to scrub and re-coat vinyl floor coverings is to remove that embedded soil or to remove surface coats of floor finish that may have soil encapsulated in it and replenish the protective film.

There is a misconception in the floor care industry that floors must be stripped annually. This is not always the case. A properly maintained floor can go many months, often years between a full strip and refinish. This is usually due to establishing good daily floor care and periodic floor care services.

Stripping and Refinishing (re-sealing)

The definition of stripping is to remove all pre-existing coats of seal and/or finish. Refinishing is the application of new layers of sealer and floor finish.
Some manufacturers of vinyl floor coverings will recommend products and procedures as maintenance requirements. If these are available, follow the instructions for the stripping and refinishing procedures. If they are not available, find out the type of floor and the manufacturer if possible and get in touch with them for any special instruction.

Investigation into the floor surface may take some time, but it can save you money in replacement costs should you damage a floor covering.

Stripping is the most important function of the vinyl floor maintenance programme. It is the beginning and the end. Everything else in-between rests on the foundation that is provided by this service. The function of stripping (removing all existing coatings) is necessary at the end of the floor maintenance life cycle. The function of re-applying coatings is the beginning of the new cycle. It is impossible to have one without the other when performing the service procedure.

Stripping is the least performed of the hard floor maintenance services. It requires the most investment of time, labour and money. Careful consideration should be used when planning for this service because of these factors. The primary objective of any hard floor maintenance should be to put as much time as possible between performing the stripping and refinishing service procedures. This is accomplished by laying a good foundation during the process of performing the service.

About Industrial Floorcare Machines (UK) Ltd

Based in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire but serving the whole of the UK, IFM (UK) supply rotary scrubbers, polishers and burnishers from manufacturers such as Truvox, Victor, Numatic and Comac.


We are also a distributor of Selden floor maintenance products including such well respected products as Selstrip and Selspeed floor polisher strippers; Selseal, Selbrite and Diamond Brite floor polishes, and Fast Lane floor maintainer.


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