Scuffing, scuffs and scuff marks refer to the interaction between a shoe and another surface, usually the floor, and has become one of the frequent topics mentioned when flooring manufacturers answer the phone. All too often we, as a resilient flooring manufacturer, hear from end-users, general contractors and project managers for installation contractors that our flooring scuffs easily. So is it the flooring materials causing the problem? Or is it the need for adjustment when a new type of flooring material is installed? While it is true that resilient flooring is naturally tactile and is tested for slip-resistance, most end users are shocked when they look at the floor and see scuff marks. However, many times these scuffs are the result of a poor maintenance program. This is largely due to maintenance companies, crews and technicians being behind the times on flooring trends and the different floor coverings being introduced into environments that they’ve never been in before. Therefore, by getting away from the old school mentality, protecting the floor where needed, using good walk off mats, rinsing properly and changing chemistry, you can drastically improve the appearance of the floor and prevent scuff marks from happening as often.
The growing numbers of LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile) and rubber floors going into schools, hospitals and retail have put an end to the days when stripping and waxing VCT (vinyl composition tile) was the only maintenance procedure. With that comes something new to get adjusted to. No more will janitors in schools lay 20 plus coats of acrylic floor finish to achieve their goal of a shiny floor. Most resilient manufacturers do not recommend applying any type of field-applied finish or coating to their LVT, sheet vinyl or rubber products. However, it is always important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, so if they do recommend a finish or coating be applied, those directions should be followed.
Maintenance staffs used to walk down corridors, especially in schools, with the infamous “tennis ball on a stick” rubbing away the black scuff marks left behind from people’s shoes on the finished VCT. Believe it or not, some have even tried to finish over top of these scuffs, thinking that the acrylic finish, that dries clear, will hide or mask the scuff. Instead they are left with a buried scuff mark that the “tennis ball on a stick” can’t reach.
One of the most frequent problems that the person on the other end of the phone has when they call flooring manufacturers is that their newly installed floor is all scuffed up. This is largely due to ignoring flooring protection either in the bid or after installation. Commonly, despite being a recommendation by the manufacturer, flooring is very rarely the last trade on site. This means that, whether it is electrical, painting or another trade, someone will be in the room you just installed the flooring in, dragging their ladders, equipment and carts in and out. Without the recommended flooring protection, this can cause large amounts of scuffing and scratching that will surely not be acceptable to the end user. This is especially an issue if rubber sheet is the installed product as rubber, early in its life, is still curing when installed. This means that the pores on the surface of the product are open and boots, ladder feet and cart wheels will all cause scuffing. This is why all manufacturers of rubber sheet products recommend maintenance to be performed early and often in the initial stages of the floor’s life.
Walk Off Mats
A way to get ahead of the game on scuffing issues is having a proper walk off mat system at all entrances of the facility. One mat that is designed for wiping the moisture off your shoes will not suffice in preventing soil from entering the facility. The added friction between the soil that is stuck to the flooring material and the shoes of those walking on the floor is one of the main causes of scuffs. If you’re not careful, these scuffs could turn into scratches or gouges if large soil particulates are being tracked in, at which point some resilient flooring materials are beyond repair. So how do we prevent this? We do it by using three different types of walk off mats: Scrape, Scrub and Wipe. Scraping mats will remove any large pieces of stone, plastic, wood or metal that may be stuck in the bottoms of people’s shoes. Scrubbing mats are designed to break the bond between any dried soil (dirt, sand, salt) and shoe bottoms. Lastly, wiping mats are designed to remove any liquids or residues that remain on the bottom of the shoes and should not be used to replace the other mats as wiping mats do not perform the same functions as the other two types of mats. The three different types of mats work extremely well as a system in order to prevent soil entering and then causing these scuffs, scratches or gouges.
The single most widely forgotten aspect of flooring maintenance is the rinsing stage at the end. Car washes don’t leave the soap on your car and you don’t put soap on your hands and walk away; they are both rinsed, thoroughly. When the cleaning process is performed, surfactants in the cleaning chemicals are surrounding soil and breaking bonds with the floor so they can then be removed using a wet vacuum or extractor. When these surfactants are left behind, the film created on the flooring material adds friction between the floor and shoes, causing scuffing to occur. Rinsing the floor will not only help with general appearance but will cut down on the number of scuffs you have.
On the topic of rinsing, many maintenance companies and janitorial staffs have been sold snake oil when it comes to “No-Rinse Cleaners.” All too often when I ask a staff about what cleaner they use, they are excited to tell me that they found a cleaner that cleans well and doesn’t need rinsing, yet they are curious why the floor seems to scuff and re-soil quickly. As stated before, all floor care chemicals have surfactants in them and these surfactants not only surround soil but they attract it as well. These cleaners will ultimately cause quicker re-soiling, lead to more scuffs in your resilient flooring and cause more headaches for the maintenance crews and janitors.
Ultimately, if you make simple changes to your mentality, protect the flooring material after installation and with walk off mats, and rinse the flooring materials after cleaning is performed, the amount of frequency of scuffing will drop drastically. With the changes in the market and the increase in resilient flooring, especially LVT and rubber, it is necessary to understand that floors aren’t designed to fail, but rather it is people that fail the floor.