By Jim Flieler

As the winter weather comes calling, so does the need to apply ice melting products to keep our buildings safe and prevent slips and falls. These ice melt products are typically overused and   begin to take a toll on your floors and carpeting surfaces very quickly. The calcium and sodium compounds in ice melting products leave a slippery, white-coloured film on flooring that eventually corrodes and damages it. Rock salt containing larger chips will cause scratches and permanent damage to these surfaces with regular foot traffic alone. They will degrade and cause premature removal of your floor finish, corrode your aluminum door tracks, destroy carpeting and generally increase your labour and capital building costs. Below I share some of my tried-and-true tips for protecting your floors all winter long.

Prevention

Take inventory of the preventive matting you have installed at all entrances to your building. Many building managers get halfway through the winter before realizing they need more mats. Matting should be on the inside as well as the outside of your entrances and exits at all front entrances, back doors, side doors and staff entrances. Remember, whatever ice melt, debris and soil you catch outside of your building makes your job a whole lot easier. Choose high-traction matting systems for the winter, and consider increasing the area of preventive matting especially in main entryways for the winter. While the Carpet and Rug Institute recommends a minimum of 12 to 15 feet of mat coverage to remove 90% of soil, winter elements demand an increase in square footage. Consider 25-30 feet of preventive matting to help make sure most snow, moisture, soil and ice melt is removed before feet hit your building’s floors. Some experts recommend a three-mat system that includes outdoor scraper mats, an indoor scraper mat followed by more indoor standard mats.

Use the Right Amount of Ice Melt

Overuse is one of the biggest mistakes building operators encounter when it comes to ice melting products. Too much product will definitely melt ice, but it will also cause lasting damage. Ice melting products in large quantities can erode side walks and build up on the soles of shoes, being tracked throughout buildings well beyond just entryways. Be sure to read the label instructions carefully and have a system for managing the amount of ice melt being used on your sidewalks and outdoor areas. It is best to avoid applying ice melt with a scoop or a shovel, which can lead to overuse. Handheld or walk-behind fertilizer type spreaders help control application. 

Ice Melt Clean-up Tips

Inevitably, ice melting products will wind up inside your building—even with the best prevention measures in place. You will want to remove the product and the residue it leaves behind as quickly as possible. It is important to use a cleaning product that is specific for removing ice melt from floors. Ice melt-specific products are designed to break the bond between the floor and the salt, removing residue from the floor. Once the bond breaks, the salt is suspended in water so it can be easily mopped or vacuumed. Most ice melt cleanup solutions can be applied using a pump-up sprayer, a mop, an autoscrubber using a double pass or a carpet extractor. Don’t forget to use the product on your preventive mats with a carpet extractor in addition to frequent vacuuming. You will want to keep your mop wet while applying the product because water is needed to remove the film left behind. Dilution really matters with these products so follow your label instructions carefully. 

Learn more about the products I recommend for ice melt cleanup.