By Andrew Knopp, Regional Sales Manager Charlotte Products -Southeast USA
Within the last decade, the evolution of concrete and terrazzo floors has been something to marvel at. These two substrates were originally restricted to the most functional facility areas, such as basements, warehouses, industrial areas and manufacturing facilities, serving primarily as an unfinished subfloor. Now you see concrete and terrazzo floors everywhere you look, ranging from grocery stores, schools, hospitals, airports, retail chains and even in homes. You may notice these floors have a new and improved look compared to the concrete and terrazzo floors of the past.
Today’s concrete and terrazzo floors have become more of an artist’s canvas rather than just a subfloor that gets covered up with other flooring options. Polished concrete and terrazzo contractors—or artists as I like to refer to them—are polishing, staining, dying and inlaying decorative patterns and materials in the floors to create one-of-a-kind canvases. Thanks to these new looks, the above facilities have considered concrete and terrazzo the “in” floor—and for good reason:
- Concrete and terrazzo can be amazingly durable
- When compared to other flooring materials, such as granite, marble and natural stone, concrete is very cost effective
- Polished concrete and terrazzo floors are breathable surfaces, which make them environmentally friendly
- Concrete and Terrazzo floors typically require less maintenance than other floors
It’s this last point that often results in one of the biggest misconceptions about concrete and terrazzo floors. Yes, they usually are “low-maintenance” floors, but low maintenance does not mean “no-maintenance.”
Let’s clear up this and other myths about concrete and terrazzo floors. The more building service contractors and other specialty cleaning services understand these floors, the better they can clean and maintain them.
Myth 1: The best way to clean polished concrete or terrazzo is wet mopping with pure water.
Many floor maintenance companies see a highly refined and polished concrete or terrazzo floor and get nervous that they’ll “mess it up” by using cleaning chemicals. Because of this, they end up using pure water from a sink to clean their terrazzo or polished concrete floors. But pure water can actually cause more harm than good to polished concrete and terrazzo floors.
The average pH of tap water from a faucet can range from 6.5 to 8.5. The average pH of a cured concrete or terrazzo floor has a pH of 8.5 to 11. The added acidity in pure water will deteriorate the mechanical polish of a concrete or terrazzo floor and dull the surface. It is imperative that the right cleaning solution and cleaning program is chosen specifically for polished concrete and terrazzo floors. These polished concrete and terrazzo specific cleaners are designed to lift and hold soils and bacteria in suspension, leaving the pores of the surface open to be then filled with trace amounts of densifier, or hardener, which strengthens the substrate after every use.
Myth 2: When auto scrubbing a polished concrete or terrazzo floor, you should only use brushes rather than pads.
Building service contractors typically clean anywhere from four to eight different kinds of floors, ranging from concrete and terrazzo, VCT (vinyl composition tile), carpet, linoleum, LVT (luxury vinyl tile), wood, rubber, to other natural stone floors. All of these floors require different maintenance programs. Different substrates often require different pads that do different things. This can be confusing to anyone maintaining these floors.
Going back to myth 1, many contractors get nervous when approaching the maintenance of polished concrete and terrazzo floors and will often use the least aggressive means of maintaining them. When auto-scrubbing large areas, the contractor will often use a bristle or brush rather than a pad on these floors because in their eyes the brush is less aggressive and will not hurt the floor.
This is where they’re wrong. Picture a bristle or brush as thousands of needles running over the surface. On a microscopic level, those “needles” are abrading the surface and over time will cause dulling. By selecting the right polished concrete and terrazzo maintenance program you can eliminate this myth by using specific diamond infused pads that will continuously refine and polish the surface of the floor.
Myth 3: A Floor maintenance program is not necessary for polished concrete and terrazzo floors.
Earlier I mentioned that polished concrete and terrazzo floors should be treated like any other type of floor. That means a maintenance program is needed. However, it does not have to be as extensive as you may think. You will find there are programs in place that are extremely cost effective and easy to use and understand. Most programs incorporate a single maintenance chemical that is specific for polished concrete coupled with a diamond infused pad to match the sheen of the floor.
For example, if a floor is specified at an 800-grit finish then you will use an 800-grit diamond infused maintenance pad to maintain that degree of gloss, refinement, DOI (distinction of image) and haze.
Here’s a tip: Select floor care products and programs from the same manufacturer. They are often designed to work together. This synergy will make your job easier.
The last thing you want is to use one manufacturer’s pad and another manufacturer’s chemical and combine the two of them to maintain said polished concrete or terrazzo floor. If something were to happen and you needed the manufacturer’s expertise to survey the floor and determine what is happening, it will be very difficult because you are not using a true “program.”
Myth 4: There is no need to disinfect a polished concrete or terrazzo floor if using a maintenance system
This is of utmost importance in today’s environment. With the ongoing spread of COVID-19 it is imperative that we are taking a specialized approach to cleaning and disinfecting. This is true in floors as well as touch surfaces. Concrete and terrazzo floors encompass the largest footprint of a facility and are often overlooked when it comes to infection prevention.
We now know that SARS-CoV-2 is spread by respiratory droplets. These droplets are released when someone with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or talks. These infectious droplets are suspended in air before they eventually drop to the floor.
Because of this, we must implement a disinfecting protocol in floor maintenance as well as all other surfaces. The key to choosing the right disinfectant to be used on polished concrete and terrazzo floors is, first, making sure it is a neutral disinfectant with a pH above 8, and second, consulting with the manufacturer that it is safe to use in said facility. In order to slow the spread of COVID-19 as well as other viruses, we must implement these safety protocols for floor maintenance as well as surface maintenance. As we look beyond the pandemic with cautious optimism, we also want our beautiful terrazzo and polished concrete floors to last for many many years with minimal interventions. By moving past commonly held maintenance myths described here, you will be well on your way to a future of bright, beautiful terrazzo and polished concrete floors.