The last tile has been installed. The new floor has been swept clean. All the packaging materials and debris have been hauled out to the dumpster. Looks like for this project, the job’s all done. However, installing the floor was just the biggest hurdle—but not the final one. Helping the customer care for that newly installed floor is next.

Maintaining a hard surface floor in a retail facility can vary depending on what type of store it is installed in. For the purposes of this article, let’s discuss floor care in a heavily trafficked grocery store. On a daily basis, a grocery store floor will likely encounter the following:

  • Moisture, salt, dust, debris and grit from the bottoms of shoes.
  • Broken eggs, spilled milk, dropped cans—all part of a grocery store’s daily experience.
  • Shopping carts and child “buggies” with bad or soiled wheels that leave trail marks wherever they go.
  • Heavy pallets moving cartons of food from one area of the store to another.

All of these issues are made worse by the fact that many grocery stores are now open extended hours, up to 24 hours daily. Despite these hours, in most cases retailers want their floors to look clean and cared for at all times. For some mega-retailers, having a high-gloss shine has virtually become a trademark of the store and a key part of their image, branding and marketing. Assuming this is a traditional VCT floor, our newly installed retail store floor will require a floor maintenance program. And they will want this information from you.

Key Components 

Before any finish is applied to the floor, our new floor may first need to be stripped. This is because the manufacturer may have put a film on the floor during the manufacturing process to protect the floor. But once installed, this film must be removed before any floor finish can be applied.

With this step addressed, it is very important to advise your client to use an ultra-high-speed (UHS) floor finish. That’s the only way to get that coveted “wet look” shine many retailers want. Not only does the floor look better, a high-gloss shine on a floor also adds a considerable amount of light to the store. This helps accent the various products, showcases and displays.

This type of finish requires the use of a high-speed burnisher. The floor will likely need to be burnished nightly depending on foot traffic—and before burnishing, it needs to be cleaned. In some cases, this requires a traditional automatic scrubber. However, many retailers are now using what are called “auto vacs,” according to Paul South, president and general manager of Valley Janitorial in Hamilton, Ohio.

Just as with an auto scrubber, these machines apply cleaning solution to the floors, a pad agitates the floor as the machine is rolled across it, and then moisture and soils are vacuumed up. “The reason auto vac systems have become popular in retail floor cleaning comes down to two key things,” according to South. “Price and effectiveness.”

These machines cost a fraction of what a traditional automatic scrubber costs, according to South, and according to independent tests “have proven to actually be slightly more effective at removing contaminants from the floor. A side benefit is they are a bit more gentle with the floor, helping to stretch refinishing cycles.”

Mats Make the Difference

A key part of a floor maintenance program that is often undervalued is the installation of floor mats at all entrances to the retail facility as well as within the facility. There are approximately 37,000 grocery stores in the U.S. in which about 32 million people shop every day. This works out to around 900 people per store each day.

According to studies by ISSA, the worldwide cleaning association, if 1,500 people walk into a facility in which no mats are installed, 42 percent of the floor finish will be eaten away due to foot traffic. So even with the best care, the finish on a grocery store will essentially be removed, especially in areas near entries, in about four days.

This indicates why mats are so important. However, not any mat will do. According to Adam Strizzi, marketing manager for Crown Matting Technologies, when it comes to selecting floor mats contractors should tell their customers the following:

  • Make sure it is a high-performance mat, which is typically designed to last longer and perform more effectively than a rental mat.
  • Twenty feet of matting is recommended; this can include five to 10 feet of scraper mats outside the retail facility, five to 10 feet of what is called wiper scraper matting, and five to 10 feet of wiper mats in the store. Together, the three types of mats work as a system, capturing soil and moisture and preventing it from being walked onto the floor
  • Several feet of interior matting should also be installed in aisles in the store. “When there are spills, they may get picked up shopper’s shoe bottoms and then tracked throughout the store. Installing mats in key aisles helps capture these soils.”
  • Install matting between the back of the store and the front of the store. “This is often overlooked but floors in the storage area of the store can get very soiled during the course of the day. If mats are not installed in these transition areas, that soil will be walked into the front of the store.”

All of these steps should help keep your customer’s floors clean, neat and maintain that high-gloss shine. They should also do something else your customer will certainly appreciate—keep their floor care costs down.

Stripping and refinishing a grocery store floor can be very expensive and is certainly not considered an environmentally friendly cleaning procedure. In some areas of the country, the slurry that develops when stripping a floor must now be treated as hazardous waste, which only adds to costs of refinishing a floor. Helping end-users enjoy their new floor in the most economical and effective ways will be a benefit they will long appreciate.