Free Cleaning Advice

Timely Tips and Articles about the cleaning business – from Gary Clipperton 50-year industry veteran, consultant, author, and trainer.

Choose an expert who knows the answers to your questions.

Carpet Care

You will need a citrus gel solvent spotter from your carpet cleaning supply store. A pint bottle with a polytop cap speeds the application process. Apply liberally and distribute with a slight agitation for total coverage. Allow it to set for the required time. Using a plastic or nylon scraper, begin heavy agitation, but don’t fray the fibers. It’s extremely tedious work, but necessary to scrub off all the adhesive.

You could possibly use a shampoo brush on a floor machine for large areas, but it tends to spray solvent where you don’t want it. After about one hour of scraping, spray on a dual-solvent pre-spray, agitate, and extract. Repeat as necessary.

Don’t allow the solvent to soak into the carpet backing or delamination could occur. Always charge extra for restorative type of work. We have the citrus gel spotter available in a 12 pint case. It works great on paint, tar, and chewing gum.

Vinegar does work, but customers may object to the odor. Besides, many rinse agents for extraction are formulated with corrosion inhibitors to protect internal metal fittings in the equipment and often a pleasant smelling deodorizer.

If it is a building where I am responsible for the continual appearance of the carpet, I prefer to mix up an encapsulation cleaner. It doesn’t remove tar and coffee as well as a strong carpet spotter, but it leaves zero harmful residue. In fact, that treated spot will resist re-soiling. Most of the encapsulation cleaners dilute 1:10, affording a cost savings over the full-strength spotter.
Then, if the spot is difficult, I carry a mild solvent for white-out, grease, gum, etc. and a mild carpet acidic rinse (normally diluted 1:5) for coffee, tea and water spots. So with three spray bottles, I end up with an all-purpose spotting kit.

It is more to keep up with than just one product, but offers a more comprehensive coverage. So the choice is yours.

You will first need to assess the amount of damage. Once you walk in, normally your nose will detect the degree of smoke abatement that is required. If it is heavy, you will need to:

  • Wash and paint all the walls and ceilings.
  • Wash all the windows, ceiling fans, cabinets, doors, trim, clean the drapes and Venetian blinds.
  • Clean the carpet with hot water extraction and a commercial deodorizer.
  • Replace the furnace filter.
  • Set an ozone machine at the furnace cold air intake register and run it for about two days with the furnace fan ON. Ozone machine setting (depending upon size) would be at ½ dial.

Ozone will oxidize the smoke residue in the air ducts and furnace. Make sure there are warning signs to prohibit entry and block off access while the machine is in operation. Remove any organic matter such as plants, which will be affected by the ozone.
Only experienced technicians should place the ozone machine (as inexperienced operators may incur liability). Allow one hour of intense ventilation after turning off the ozone machine before occupancy.

With slight smoke damage, you may be able to clean the carpet, and fog the remainder of the structure with a smoke removal chemical and/or possibly wash the interior walls and ceilings.

If you are positive the carpet has been vacuumed on a regular basis and was just thoroughly vacuumed prior to cleaning, then a pre-vac could be omitted. However, in probably 80% of the cases, a thorough pre-vac with a beater bar unit will be required. Here are the main reasons why this is necessary:

  1. Pre-vacuuming greatly reduces the overall soil load so the cleaning agents and the cleaning equipment have an easier time of impacting and extracting the soil. This can then increase extraction production rates.
  2. A beater bar vacuum digs into the pile, dislodging dry soil and lifting the pile. This step stands the fibers erect so the pre-spray has better access to a 360 degree coating of the fibers.
  3. A thorough pre-vac helps remove impacted soil at the base of the carpet. Once the carpet becomes wet with the extraction process, deeply embedded soils may later wick back to the surface.
  4. The pre-vac process reduces the incidence of debris plugging up the extraction recovery process. Partially plugged filters, lines, and orifices reduce cleaning efficiency.

Remember: An improved process creates greater efficiency and a cleaner carpet.

I have found that agitation of the wool fiber is one of the most overlooked aspects of cleaning soiled wool. Since the temperature and pH must be reduced, the psi, gpm and wand movement alone are usually insufficient. If the pre-spray and pre-agitation do not remove close to 90% of the visible soil, all the wand passes in the world will not remove the remaining 10% of the visible soil.

Here is another challenge. On some planes there are light strips along the middle aisle. So don’t forget electrical wiring underfoot. Gear all your steps to reduce moisture. My suggestion is to use a small power head unit that will attach to your extractor and still fit under a typical seat. The brush agitation is no more harmful than the average upright vacuum cleaner.

The best procedure is to pre-spray, agitate without the vac or rinse on, then lightly pre-spray a second time and extract with the brush, vacuum and rinse all on. Use a small wand, if necessary, for soiled edges and a second drying pass. Set a carpet dryer to accelerate air flow.

How to become a carpet care expert Learn More…

Most carpet experts would discourage the use of dry vapor steam cleaning for carpet. The dry vapor normally runs at 240 degrees and some carpet seaming tapes melt at 190 degrees. You might end up replacing all of the seams after cleaning with dry vapor steam. High temperatures can also adversely affect carpet dye and remove most stain-resistant treatments.

First, apply a spotting gel that is formulated for tar removal and safe to use on carpet. This treatment keeps both solvent and discoloration from running to the base of the carpet. If the tar is heavily caked, you may need to carefully snip the tip of the fibers with duckbill scissors prior to treatment. Agitate gel slightly. Allow it to dwell as required on the product label.

Next, blot with white absorbent towel from the outside to the center of the spot. Repeat the operation, if necessary, until tar is removed. If the affected area is extremely large, yet light, you could bonnet clean the carpet with a damp bonnet and a rotary floor machine to absorb dissolved tar. Finally, hot water extract to rinse all chemical and residues. Apply acidic rinse diluted 1:5 in a trigger sprayer to any remaining stains and then extract.

If you are unable to locate a citrus gel solvent, contact us. We have it available in pint bottles, 12 to a case.

Some contractors report good results with dry-absorbent cleaning. However, surveys show that over 80% of commercial carpet cleaners prefer hot water extraction. HWE produces excellent results in flushing pet stains, urine, body fluids, and dust mites from the base of the carpet.

Rising with water temperatures exceeding 140º (hot water extraction) has been shown to produce health benefits. Think about it: if your pet had diarrhea, wouldn’t you want to deep-clean and thoroughly flush all the contamination before allowing a baby to crawl on the carpet?

A few years ago, an average rate of 14 cents a square foot in motel operations would gross around $70 an hour, which is on the low end for truckmounts. In pricing, it helps if the rooms are prepped, (chairs up on bed and carpet vacuumed) and if the carpet is a medium to dark color, and if the soil load is medium (not heavy) and they schedule at least six rooms; then 14 cents should still work. However, many truck mount operations figure they must be over $140 an hour earn an acceptable income.

You will want to take all of your expenses and calculate your break-even point. For example, if your business expenses run $4,000 a month and you can run the machine 6 hours a day 24 days a month; your break-even point would be $28 an hour. Here is the math: 6 hrs X 24 days a month = 144 production hours. Then, $4,000 divided by 144 hours = $28 an hour expense rate.
Now, if you need to earn or net $7,000 a month, you must add $49 an hour ($7,000 divided by 144 hours) to your break-even point to arrive at a total hourly billing rate of $77 an hour. You can do your own math to determine where you need to be on the pricing. Track your actual production rate on various jobs for closer price calculations. Neglected carpet usually requires intensive cleaning.

A demo can earn you the business. Heavy soil may require a pre-scrub. You could demo say a 20 foot hall. I would recommend an air mover for a fast dry-time. The contrast will be so noticeable; they will need to hire you to complete the job. However, some owners are savvy to this and want an entire room or hall cleaned.

Olefin wicking is common and correctable. If the carpet manufacturer allows bonnet cleaning, go back and spray on an encapsulation cleaner. I prefer also to add 1 cup of rinse agent to the sprayer. Then, bonnet with a slightly damp bonnet. The key is low moisture. This will reduce the problem.

No. Many glass cleaner formulations have too high of a pH which can set stains. Others may have a blue dye added to the glass cleaner. On a light colored carpet, even a heat transfer dye removal process will not remove the blue color that has been set in.

Carpet cleaning production rates vary according to a sliding scale when factoring the cleaning variables. For example, JanBid our bidding software uses eight cleaning variables that are rated 1-5, 1-10 or 1-20. The weightiest factors include soil load, cleaning neglect, furniture to move, color of carpet, size of rooms and square footage. The assumption is that you would not use a 12” wand and a 5 gallon extractor to clean a 30,000 sq. ft. ballroom.

When you accurately score the cleaning variables, you are able to then project an approximate production rate. It is common in restaurants where all the furniture is moved to see production rates of 200-450 sq. ft. per man hour depending upon the variable rating. In the lodging and medical care facilities we usually see a range of 450-700 sq. ft. per man hour. Of course, truck-mounted units with power heads will improve the productivity. And, there are exceptions for dark carpet, light soil and high-production machines where you can climb above 2,000 sq. ft. per man hour.

The key is in understanding the variables. Light carpet and heavy soil may require a pre-scrub and 2-3 extraction passes which slows down the process. Then, you also have extra time for chewing gum and spot removal. Overall you will expect to see carpet cleaning production rates in the ranges shown above. Be sure and record your production rates for all of your jobs. Simply divide the total man hours in to the square footage.

If your city runs 18 cents for hot water extraction in smaller buildings and down to 12 cents in large, then encapsulation would likely run about 60% of extraction. With interim cleaning, you tend to go around most furniture and focus on the traffic lanes.

If you are trying to clean neglected carpet with encapsulation, you will need slower passes and the price would be close to the HWE price. Our latest version of JanBid, calculates all the variables in carpet care and offers a price customized to your business.

Encapsulation is considered a low-moisture, interim carpet cleaning process. Many formulations contain a detergent, surfactant and solvent, but with a crystalline polymer. The polymer allows the encapsulated soil to dry into a non-sticky crystallized particle. It is being used in many commercial settings, especially on level loop carpet. The results are normally quite satisfactory.

The process can utilize a machine propelled bonnet, or cylindrical or rotational brushes. It is usually sprayed on and then brushed into the fibers. The encapsulation chemistry surrounds soil particles and crystallizes them to reduce further soil attraction. Routine vacuum maintenance causes much of the soil to be released and removed. It normally has a high production rate compared to wand extraction, and a fast drying time. It tends to reduce wicking problems and prolong the required times between cleanings.

As with most low-moisture cleaning systems, eventually a deep flushing and rinsing action will be required to remove trapped dust mites and embedded soil from the base of the carpet. Encapsulation works on medium soil to extend the time required between hot-water extraction operations.

Several encapsulation compounds have attained the CRI Seal of Approval. Some technicians are using encapsulation for a pre-scrub on heavily soiled carpet prior to hot water extraction. Others have also used the process after extraction, to reduce browning.

Not all dried paint is 100% removable, here are some suggestions. Use a citrus gel solvent spotter formulated for carpet. A gel stays on top of the carpet fibers and slows evaporation allowing the solvent to dissolve the paint. Volatile spotters normally contain tetrachloroethylene or perchloroethylene, suspected carcinogens. Liquid paint removers can quickly penetrate to the carpet backing and loosen or dissolve the adhesives. Both give off fumes that can be hazardous to breathe.

If hardened drops of paint are visible on the tips of cut pile, begin by carefully snipping them off with scissors. This will reduce the occurrence of dissolving and then spreading the paint. Be careful not to cut holes in the carpet. Apply a citrus gel, allow it to sit 5-10 minutes; agitate with a nylon scraper and absorb into a towel. Apply a detergent extraction solution or general spotter and agitate again. Use caution not to fray the fiber. Thoroughly extract with hot water.

If you are unable to locate a citrus gel solvent that works great on paint, contact us. We have it available in pint bottles, 12 to a case.

Reoccurring spots crop up when moisture activates residue concealed at the base of the carpet. Wet cleaning, and sometimes low moisture cleaning, produces capillary action. Excessive and/or dormant spills are then drawn to the surface. If your carpet warranty allows, bonnet cleaning with an encapsulation cleaner immediately following extraction will normally correct the problem. Or, bonnet clean a few days following cleaning. Low moisture cleaning prevents much of the wick-back. However, the spill is still residing untouched on the backside of the carpet.

About 30-years ago, I was shocked to observe the results after cleaning a carpet at a car dealership. It actually looked worse on Monday morning. Apparently all the grease tracked in had been spot cleaned by the employees using copious amounts of cleaner. The grease spills were no longer visible. But, sufficient residue was lurking at the base of the carpet or even on the backside, waiting to resurface.

Another corrective treatment requires placing a white towel over the spot immediately after cleaning. Then, place a weight (20-30 lbs.) on top of the towel and leave 24-48 hours. To absorb spots reoccurring at a later time – apply an encapsulation cleaner, blot with towel, reapply cleaner and then place towel and weight overnight. One thing about reoccurring spots: they are correctable. Don’t give up; even a big-gulp is removable.

I’ve never found the miracle cure. Normally, a two-part red stain remover from a reputable carpet cleaning supply firm will produce the best results. However, most honest carpet cleaners admit not all stains will come out.

One problem occurs when a red stain has been cleaned with other solutions. A two-part dye remover requires mixing according to label, applying moderately to the stain and then placing a damp towel followed by a steam iron. This heat transfer process is also capable of removing some of the “permanent” dye from the carpet. Instead of a red stain, now you have a light stain in the carpet.

With super-effective compounds, be sure to pre-test in an inconspicuous area. Try not to assume ownership of THEIR stain. You are only there to determine if your corrective process works on their spill and their carpet fiber.

Coffee can be difficult to remove due to the natural tannin dye. There are three methods commonly used. A home remedy is to apply vinegar and blot with a white towel. Diluting a carpet acidic rinse liquid 1:5 works on most easy spots. Commercial coffee stain removers are normally effective on difficult or pre-cleaned spills. However, the active ingredient, sodium metabisulfite can bite your nose and is considered hazardous to breathe.

One way to permanently set a coffee stain is to use a high pH cleaner, so if the spot has been repeatedly cleaned, you may be out of luck. Often, coffee stains must be removed at elevated temperatures close to the temp at which they entered the fiber. Formulations from carpet cleaning supply firms usually require mixing with hot water just prior to use, pre-testing the fabric for colorfastness in an inconspicuous area, and then applying directly to the spill. Try to avoid breathing the fumes. If the label specifies, apply moderately (just enough to cover, but not soak, the spot) and then vacuum when dry.

On white carpet, hot coffee can burn the fiber causing a permanent stain. On dark carpet, the coffee stain remover may dry leaving a white powder. It can be removed with a neutral cleaner and towel or by extraction.

Truck-mounted extraction is the most common method of carpet cleaning used in residential work. Of the brands available, slide-in units are the most popular. You will also find that many educated consumers are now asking for truck-mount service. IICRC approved schools and instructors offer regular technician certification classes in most large metropolitan areas. For dates and locations of classes in your area visit:

Do a search at some of the online carpet cleaning bulletin boards and you will find in-depth discussions regarding equipment and chemical preferences. Some suppliers may even lend you a unit to determine if it fits all of your needs. Parts availability and fast repair maintenance are also major concerns.

One method is to drip ink remover on the spot while holding the extraction hose cuff or upholstery wand over the spot. As the ink remover hits the spot, the solution is extracted immediately from the fibers, preventing the ink from spreading. After the spot is gone, apply a mild alkaline cleaner solution, flush with an acidic rinse, and then blot with a towel. Most ink removers are difficult to breathe, so ventilate the exhaust outside if possible.

Colored chalk is challenging but cleanable. However, merely adding a weak solution to the extractor and immediately making repeated passes is ineffective. Always begin with intensive and repeated dry vacuum passes with a beater bar unit. Next, mix your extraction cleaner at a strong concentration in a pump-up sprayer and apply it liberally to the soiled area. After 5-10 minutes of contact time, apply agitation with a brush, the sole of a tennis shoe, extractor power head brush, shampooer, or bonnet.

Add 1 cup of acidic rinse for each 5 gallons of rinse water in the extractor tank and make slow passes across the soiled area. The chalk should disappear. Three common causes for failure are: not enough concentration of the cleaner, inadequate dwell time, and insufficient agitation.

Here are some suggestions for frigid daytime on-the-job protection:

  • Leave your van running with the heater on high, initially at each job.
  • Transport the solution hose inside the facility or home to keep it warm until you are ready to start cleaning. If needed, run the solution hose inside of a spare vacuum hose to protect from freezing. Never leave wands and sprayers outside as they can freeze in just a few minutes.
  • Get your fresh water supply hooked up and the water moving. Make sure you have sink adapters as most outside faucets will be frozen or under snow.
  • You can install thick black foam insulation made for water pipes over the feed line or at least in the places where it would touch frozen surfaces.
  • Immediately run hot or warm water through the hoses and try to keep the flow going. Better yet, install a water supply tank in your van. Once you are set up, start your truck-mount, close all doors possible, and shut off the van engine.
  • Preplan the entire job so solution is always running thru the water supply and solution hoses.
  • When finished, reverse the process. Start the van and disconnect the quick disconnect (QD) from the truck and insert a spare (unattached) mating QD into it. Then disconnect the QD at the wand and do the same thing.
  • Elevate the hose as you walk back toward the truck. This will drain the hose so it poses no threats of future freezing until you arrive at the next job.
  • Empty the wand by attaching the mating QD to the wand and squeezing the trigger. Or, depress the male disconnect with a wrench while draining the water from the wand. When you hook up at the next job it only takes half a minute for the unit to purge the air and begin delivering heated solution.

Don’t rule out the possibility of rescheduling a job when arctic temperatures pose a serious threat to your investment. No homeowner wants house doors standing open in freezing weather.

Most Berber is very difficult to clean. Actually, Berber is not a type of carpet or fiber, but a type of weave. It is identified by its loop pile construction and usually contains small flecks of dark color on a light shade of background. The original wool Berber was a challenge, but not as difficult as today’s Olefin Berber. Berber has been produced with wool, polyester, nylon, olefin or PET (recycled plastic bottles) or with a blend of these fibers.

Fiber content can be determined with a burn test, yet it is tricky because there are also wool blends (containing other fibers). One test is the smell test. When wet, does it smell like a wet dog? If so, it is probably wool, and will require heavy pre-agitation with a pH 8 or below shampoo or encapsulation cleaner and hot water extraction temperatures below 150 degrees.

Some manufacturers of olefin Berber suggest it is safe to clean with bleach. But, bleach is hazardous to breathe and difficult to rinse from the carpet. Unfortunately, Olefin is one of the most popular Berbers and difficult to clean because it is oleophilic (oil loving). Traffic lanes can be especially challenging. Heavily soiled olefin Berber is best cleaned with this process:

  1. Thoroughly vacuum carpet.
  2. Pre-spray with a premium pre-conditioner boosted with oxygen bleach and solvent. A local carpet cleaning supply store can help you with the proper chemical mixtures. Rule of thumb – use a sprayer size where you add 8 oz. of pre-spray, 2 oz. of oxygen booster and 2 oz. of a citrus solvent to the container or sprayer of water.
  3. Pre-scrub the carpet with a damp bonnet (sprayed with the pre-conditioner) after a 15 minute chemical dwell time. The cleaning effort must remove over 90% of the visible soil, or it will require a second treatment and scrubbing. Attempt to keep the carpet as dry as possible by not over-wetting with solution. Use caution on seams as they are vulnerable to separation.
  4. If using a rotary extractor, disconnect the vacuum cuff and scrub the carpet without triggering the water. This will accomplish a good agitation of the fiber prior to extraction.
  5. Extract with high temp. water with an acidic rinse added according to directions.
  6. Either after extraction or after waiting 2-3 days, lightly spray an encapsulation cleaner on the carpet and bonnet clean with a slightly damp or dry bonnet.
  7. Facilitate drying by using an air handler

If the carpet is only mildly soiled, you can reduce some of the above steps except for the acid rinse.

Each building has its own makeup of carpet vs. tile and measuring every single square inch is the most accurate. However, the busier you get, the quicker you will learn to calculate bids without taking a lot of time. Prospects are impressed with accuracy, but unimpressed if you take an hour to calculate a small bid.

A fast and efficient method is to use a roll tape measuring wheel. A digital unit tends to experience battery failure at the wrong time and has a limit in measuring large buildings. As you measure, observe the carpet and soil conditions. Make notes of furniture you must move, special spots, and conduct a thorough pre-inspection. At this time, you also want to point out carpet damage, so it does not become a personal liability after you finish the job.

If you were to measure an office bay and then subtract all the carpet under the desks and file cabinets, you would likely find that the same room takes just as long to clean (by going around all the office furniture) as it would to clean it vacant. The same cleaning formula holds true in measuring and subtracting the wall thickness of every room. The reason is that you must intentionally slow down to avoid scraping baseboards or banging adjacent legs, obstructions and furniture. Electrical, computer, and phone cords must be dealt with and you must cut in around computers and other small items placed under a desk. In other words, you lose substantial momentum in an occupied office.

The quickest way to measure a medium size office facility that contains around 10% tile is to first measure wall to wall – to obtain gross square footage. Then measure the rest rooms, break room, and any other tiled, concrete, or non-used rooms. Subtract that total from the grand total of the carpet and you have the cleanable square feet. I even leave in the square footage of small concrete storage rooms or tiled janitor closets as it is often heavily soiled outside the door of each closet. (I observed in one building that the floor outside the custodial closet was the heaviest soiled area in the building and required six cleaning passes to get it in shape).

Now, if a customer checks your square footage against the amount of carpet purchased, they will find it very close – as overage is added to the carpet installation order. The customer may divide your square footage by 9 to compare with how many square yards of carpet the office contains. In many cases, the question of cleanable square feet and price per square foot does not come up, and that is fine.

If a larger building contains individual departments with different cleaning frequencies, measure and price them separately. Also, consider offering detailed pricing for interim maintenance. Our JanBid software has an individual breakdown of carpet from all types of hard floor surfaces. It then instantly gives you deep clean pricing of carpet, interim cleaning, burnishing, scrub and top coat and deep strip estimates. It takes into consideration your production time, chemical usage, and profit.

We just started cleaning a doctor’s office and everything is going great except for the carpets. The entire office is carpeted with a grey, commercial grade, low nap carpet. There’s no padding with a concrete slab underneath.

The problem is twofold.

1) On a daily basis, patients are spilling soda, tracking in oils & tar from the parking lot, spilling food, and the like.

2) The previous cleaning company had a closet full of Dollar Store foam carpet cleaner, so in general the carpets are saturated with soap. My question is what would be the most effective method to keep up on cleaning all the new stains? It’s not feasible for us to use to or leave behind a full size portable carpet extractor for daily use. Purchasing a small one would be an option.

The other problem is, even when we extract using 3 wet/1 dry pass, resoiling is an issue, with stains reappearing the next day or a week later. Of course, with the problem area being a 100 sq. ft. waiting room, and the amount of spills, it could just be new stains and not resoiling.

A. Your challenge is common with light-colored glue down carpet. After all, there is no pad to absorb those big gulps. To determine if there is substantial chemical build-up in the carpet, pour about 1/3 cup of water in a 2″ circle and agitate the carpet. If foam immediately appears, then there is excess surfactant in the carpet. If the carpet does not foam, but by firmly dabbing a white towel all the soil transfers to the towel, and the carpet looks clean in that confined spot, there is a cleaning chemical residue.

The correction is to extract the carpet 2-3 times (using plain hot water) or until there is no longer dark water or foam returning to the sight dome. I have actually encountered carpet that required 6 passes to flush and remove the foam. And, of course, you must add defoamer to the recovery tank.

Wicking of spots, 1-3 days later is an inherent problem with some carpet. The primary correction is to pre-spray with a conditioner, extract using an acidic rinse, and then dry bonnet immediately after (assuming the carpet manufacturer approves of using a bonnet system). You may then want to consider applying a stain guard protectant. Or, wait 3-4 days and bonnet the carpet with an encapsulation cleaner. The encapsulation process will extend the time between resoiling and remove all the spots that have wicked back.

Here are three suggestions for the manager. Ask them to install at least 6 feet of entry door mats. Ask the employees to confine food and drinks to a break room. Propose a regular maintenance program such as encapsulation monthly, and extraction semi-annually. After all, they are creating the problem and should chip in by paying for the solution.

Your floor or carpet care crew will be more efficient if you do yourself a favor first, and exclude any and all workers that actually don’t have the basic skill set, motivation, strength, interest, and learning ability for the work. In other words, not everyone is cut out to learn and perform carpet and floor care work.

Trying to train someone who is the wrong person for the job is frustrating for both you and the employee. Here is why floor or carpet care is more demanding than typical janitorial work:

  • It requires a technician who can learn and use the chemistry required and the ability to troubleshoot chemical and supply demands
  • The technician will be required to lift heavy mop buckets and buffers, or carpet extractors and keep up with strenuous demands of the work
  • The floor or carpet tech must often work long week-ends or late into the night
  • A worker with a learning or reading disability will require a tutor

Training janitors who do not possess the required skills, and the desire is counter-productive. You end up with employees doing a job they really don’t like. They become frustrated when they are not able to flow with the crew.

And of course even more of a problem is using individuals with no training and they end up messing up the job. Now you have a loss of credibility as an owner or manager, and have to pay to have the job straightened out. This is where we come in, and provide the training so failure and botched jobs should no longer occur.

A hand truck had oil on the wheels and left about 80′ of 4″ spots on and off on the carpet. I had some stain remover and attempted to remove the oil by applying the chemical, then scrubbing with a hand held nylon brush, then using a carpet machine to clean up the area. The oils seem to be gone, but there are now dark spots on the carpet where the spots were removed. It looks like the mistake I made was to scrub the area with a brush. Is it ever going to go back to normal? Is there anything I can do to fix it?

A. From what you described, there is a trace of oil or tar still remaining. During the summer, parking lot sealer and especially patching materials contain tar tend to soften. A normal spotting chemical may not be sufficient. The process may require a carpet spotting solvent such as a gel d’Limonene to dissolve the tar.

If you had 80 spots, you could spray on the solvent and then bonnet with a damp bonnet. Next, extract and then spray each spot lightly with an extraction acidic rinse diluted 1:5 with water and then bonnet with a dry pad. Make sure the bonnet pad does not extend onto any dry areas and is approved for use on the particular carpet you are cleaning. Or, you can perform all the above steps with a soft brush and towel.

An acidic rinse is normally required for tar and heavy grease, to remove the staining properties. Before you try the above process, you could spray the darkest spot with the acidic rinse and lightly blot. After drying, if the spot is gone, you found the shortcut.

First, you will need to know your current production rates for carpet and floors. Here is one formula you can use: If you charge 14¢ a sq. ft. for hot water extraction and clean at 700 sq. ft. per hour, your hourly billing rate is $98 (700 x .14). Without adequate records on previous jobs, you will need to estimate your production times. This will depend upon soil conditions and buildup, furniture to move, strip-ability of the floor finish, clean-ability of the carpet, access obstacles, size of equipment, and skill levels of the cleaning crew, among other things. Our new book, How to Start or Expand a Carpet Cleaning Business walks you through all the numbers.

Your local carpet cleaning supply store will carry rust remover. I would go with a user friendly or safe chemical. Some of the strong acids are corrosive to the skin and lungs.

Whink is a household rust remover that works quite well. Another safe option is to mix your carpet extractor acidic rinse agent 1:5. Spray on, let set 5 min. and then towel. Also, vinegar diluted 1:3 will remove light rust from carpet.

If you are unable to locate a commercial rust remover. We have one that comes in quart bottles, 12 to the case and works great.

High pH cleaners may cause a light colored carpet to turn a dark brown as it starts to dry. This is because the high pH causes wicking of hidden soil lurking on the back of the carpet to the surfaces. So always use an acidic rinse agent on light colors.

Q. Will I over wet the carpet if I’m using a wand and the first pass doesn’t clean it fully (the recovery solution is still dirty) and I do a second pass and it is still a little dirty? Can I do a third pass with the wand or will that cause too much water in the carpet? (I will be using commercial carpet dryers). I wouldn’t want to over wet, but still want it clean.

A. On a heavily soiled carpet, you have no choice but to go over it several times to get it clean. The best way to extract the highest amount of soiled solution from the carpet is to press heavily on the wand to force it deep into the carpet. Only trigger the wand as you pull it back, and then follow the same path and push it back to the start position while applying heavy pressure.

Then, if you had to make several passes, set your carpet dryer immediately after cleaning a room or after cleaning about 200 sq. ft. You can also consider using a dry bonnet on a buffer to absorb as much moisture as possible, immediately after extraction.

Another helpful cleaning tip is to make sure the pre-scrub was sufficient, and it broke up and actually removed a considerable amount of soil prior to using your wand to rinse the soil. The wand is a rinse tool and uses clean water. Your pre-spray and pre-scrub with cleaning agents is what performs the soil emulsification and dispersion.

Oxygen bleach should only be added to a detergent or a standard carpet extraction prespray. It supercharges the cleaning detergent and makes it more powerful. It also bleaches out dull traffic lanes. So you use it on maybe the top 10% of the very dirtiest carpets.

You would never add acidic rinse to a prespray as it neutralizes detergents. You add it to the rinse water so it strips out detergent residue remaining in any carpet. It is especially helpful to use it on light colored or white carpet.

Ideally yes, but overwetting the carpet may cause wicking. The problem with repeated passes is that eventually the carpet is overwet and takes too long to dry. A damp carpet the next day can cause a customer complaint. The challenge is to make enough passes so the heavily soiled traffic lane now matches the edge of the carpet. At this point the return water should be close to clear.

Our training program is very thorough. You will learn all the necessary steps to clean and troubleshoot cleaning problems. The test is open book. Once you pass, you receive a diploma. At this point it is helpful to rent equipment (such as from Home Depot) and then do a few jobs on your own (friends, neighbors, relatives, etc). You do need some experience before most employers will hire you. In addition, most employers look for someone with good communication skills, is well groomed, can relate to people, follows directions, and shows integrity and dependability. A good work record, plus good references is also required by most employers.

Don’t take chances of ruining a carpet, or not getting it clean and losing a customer.

Floor Care

90 questions about floor care expertly answered by Gary Clipperton.

The ceramic tile shown here was waxed (treated with a standard floor finish). Obviously it is peeling off. Floor finishes are unable to adhere to ceramic tile. That is why they should be left untreated, or if a mild sheen is desired, they can be sealed with an impregnating sealer. One other option is to only seal cementous grout, so that it does not discolor over time. This particular tile needs to be stripped.

Keep in mind that many ceramic tiles are manufactured without a gloss. The customer may need to be informed of this. The best process is to thoroughly mop the floor with a good floor detergent. Then, fill a mop buck, or a flatmop bucket with clean water and add 1 cup of vinegar and rinse the floor. When dry, buff the floor with a white pad and then dust mop it. This will not produce a high gloss, as most ceramic tile is more of a matte finish. But at least all the streaks and dull appearance will be removed.

Most manufacturers recommend only 4 coats of finish to be applied within 24 hours. The reason is that the finish dries, but does not cure all the way down through the layers on the same night. Sometimes a 5th coat will even begin to attack the previous coats and show some softening and dissolving. That is because ammonia is used as a carrier to speed up the drying. But too much of a good thing is counterproductive, and ammonia may start to cut into the finish.

You could apply 4 coats one day and two the next, but normally the floor is scuffed and marked up within 24 hours, so you would have to lightly scrub it before applying 2 more coats. However, some high solids finishes with 25%-30% solids are very thick and only require 3 coats on VCT.

Back in the 60’s, Carnauba wax was applied to VCT floors and then buffed. It was a soft, natural wax. Now days almost all floor finish is polymer, formulated from the plastic family. It does come in different levels of hardness. Some of the softer selections may be more suitable for high frequency burnishing. Wax is no longer used on VCT or wood gymnasiums. Polyurethane is applied to most wood floors.

Sealer is normally not required for VCT. Sealer is best used on concrete or old, worn-out VCT that has many micro-holes. The sealer fills those holes so that it builds a gloss without needing to apply 6 coats, or more of finish. Nearly all modern floor finishes contain sealer, so they are all-in-one products.

When you have 10 or more coats of finish on a floor, it becomes extremely difficult to strip it off. The goal is to have 2 sealer plus 4 finish on concrete and 4 coats on VCT in the same night. Every time 2 coats wear off, scrub and apply 2 more. I know of some buildings that haven’t been stripped in several years – with proper ongoing maintenance. The other disadvantage of applying 10 + coats of finish is that when a heavy object (file cabinet, a cart missing a wheel, etc.) is pulled across a floor, it cuts deep through most all of the layers. Now it is a nightmare to try and repair that amount of damage. If you only have 4 or maybe 6 coats of finish, a scrub and recoat normally blends in the deep scrape.

On some finishes, hogs hair is too aggressive and it sands off way too much finish. It can also burn swirl marks in the floor. So matching the burnishing pad to the floor finish is an art and a science. Sampling, and trying different aggression levels is a good approach. You want the pad to buff out the scratches and produce a high gloss without grinding off and powdering the finish.

The latest technology for any natural stone floors is to never apply a floor finish, like we did 30 years ago. Natural stone, including concrete can be ground down to make it somewhat smooth, then a diamond impregnated pad is placed on a heavy machine along with weights. The starting point is usually 400 grit, then 800 grit. Next, a penetrating sealer or densifier may be applied to fill up any holes. Finally a 1,500 grit and then a 3,000 grit is used to polish to a shine. The process does take a while to complete.

A maintenance program might require spraying on a crystallization product, and burnishing with a diamond pad anywhere from once a week to once a month.  Some floors may require a scrub and re-seal once a year. This process could be performed on your floors and then you never strip or finish again. There is equipment available to perform this operation. The only problem is getting a smooth surface on heavily worn and pitted concrete. Several large supermarket chains are removing VCT in some of their buildings and grinding and honing. It is reported to save about 70% of the cost on floor care and eliminates the cost of stripper, floor finish and daily burnishing.

To maintain a high gloss and a hardened surface, burnishing is the best process. Only a burnisher will produce an ultra-high gloss, and harden the finish. Keep the buffer for the stripping operations.

VCT normally requires a deep strip all the way down to remove any discoloration. Just make sure you never apply stripper straight. It is best to follow the directions for the proper dilution. Today’s finishes are enhanced with sealer properties, so you do not need a sealer on VCT unless the tile is heavily damaged and worn. Four coats is sufficient. Apply first coat, and mark it with a red dot. Apply the second coat, and mark it with a yellow dot. Apply 3rd coat and apply the green dot. Finally apply the 4th coat. Dust mop daily, wet mop as required.

Autoscrub the floor before burnishing if the floor has become heavily soiled. Now when the green dot is gone, and up until the yellow is gone, scrub and recoat as required. That prevents the finish from wearing down to the red and allowing soil and stains to penetrate into the VCT. If you allow the red to be removed, you may be looking at a strip job because you failed to monitor and replace the finish when it was required. With a proper maintenance program, the floor may go 12-18 months before stripping is required.

Since a thorough cleaning process should have eliminated residue, check out these possible causes:
Swirl marks that display a buff-pad pattern from pre-burnishing are caused by using too aggressive a pad or a pad embedded with finish and debris.
Swirl marks that display the pattern of the application mop can occur from the following:

Lap marks from applying finish before the previous coat has completely dried. This happens when high humidity along with unnoticed puddling hinders drying. When the finish mop contacts these low spots, the carrier or ammonia in the finish softens the prior coat and causes the mop to grip and pull off previous finish. The finish must be dry to the back of the hand before applying another coat. The technician should walk the area first, picking up light reflections to detect high gloss areas that represent low spots of accumulated finish.

Skip marks appear if the finish is applied too thin. Skip marks are less noticeable than lap marks. Skips occur when the mop separates or “ropes” because there is not enough finish to create lubrication and produce uniform dispersion. The new style flat mops tend to reduce skips.

Leveling problems or applicator drag can occur with some high solid floor finishes. If the air flow or A/C is excessive during application, the finish may start to dry before it has leveled. You want to reduce air flow until the finish has started to skim over, then apply air flow and reduce the humidity. Contact your supplier to discuss leveling or drag problems.

Some application problems are solved by engineering the work-flow pattern. If you can apply finish continuously, without working back into previous finish, you will reduce lap marks. Burnishing may remove the current swirls. If not, try pulling a razor blade angled toward you over the swirls until the surface is even. Then burnish and apply one more coat. Let’s hope that the floor will not require re-stripping.

What you are seeing is a higher reflection level from applying duplicate finish in the overlap area. In other words, if you overlap 4 coats of finish approximately 2-3 inches in the middle of a hall, then you could have up to 8 coats of finish reflecting light from that line of demarcation.

To reduce overlap, use a flat mop and cut the finish exactly along the edge of a particular tile in the middle. Later, to make a more perfect blend, burnish slowly down the middle of the hall. When a deep strip is required, be sure you strip 1-2 feet past where you will apply finish so splashing does not occur. You can also tape plastic to the floor, but that can leave adhesive residue.

You can minimize moisture penetration by applying a lighter coat of stripper and picking it up quicker. Overall drying times are reduced by enhanced air flow and reduced humidity. If you have cause to believe there could be problems, include a non-liable damage clause in your contract. State that you will perform the work to avoid moisture penetration, but cannot be held liable should the floor warp.

One other approach for small areas with only a couple of coats of finish is to dry strip. Spray on diluted stripper and buff with a strip pad. Clean thoroughly before applying finish.

There are a few guidelines to follow. First, most manufactures state on the label that it takes about 40 minutes for each coat to dry (there are exceptions of course). If you have accelerated air flow with a low humidity, the finish will dry faster. So initially look across the floor while catching the overhead or outside light reflections. If you spot any high-gloss areas that are much shinier then the rest of the floor, it probably indicates a low spot where the finish has puddled and you must wait until that spot dries. When the floor appears more uniform in gloss, you can place the back of your hand on the floor to see if it is tacky.

However, a more thorough method is to place a piece of paper on the floor and step on it to see if it slides. If it doesn’t, then the floor is probably dry enough to continue with the next coat. The critical point is not to be in too big of a hurry. If any of the area has not dried and you attempt to apply more finish, you will make a mess. The new finish will cut into the previous coat and leave an unsightly area.

There are a few guidelines to follow. First, most manufactures state on the label that it takes about 40 minutes for each coat to dry (there are exceptions of course). If you have accelerated air flow with a low humidity, the finish will dry faster. So initially look across the floor while catching the overhead or outside light reflections. If you spot any high-gloss areas that are much shinier then the rest of the floor, it probably indicates a low spot where the finish has puddled and you must wait until that spot dries. When the floor appears more uniform in gloss, you can place the back of your hand on the floor to see if it is tacky.

However, a more thorough method is to place a piece of paper on the floor and step on it to see if it slides. If it doesn’t, then the floor is probably dry enough to continue with the next coat. The critical point is not to be in too big of a hurry. If any of the area has not dried and you attempt to apply more finish, you will make a mess. The new finish will cut into the previous coat and leave an unsightly area.

Normally it would damage the wood, as the water content could cause the wood to swell or become warped. If it has been applied, it would again be unsafe to strip it with water-based stripper. Instead, it would require a sanding process. However, there are new water-based wood floor finishes specially formulated for wood.

Newer formulations are designed with improved ingredients so they no longer yellow on their own. However, if they do not have improved ingredients, then the UV light from overhead may cause some yellowing. If the traffic lanes begin to yellow, it could be from parking lot sealant tracked in. Without high maintenance, the traffic lanes may start to yellow.

Parking lot sealant being tracked in along with neglect has caused this VCT to discolor. A deep strip and refinishing will likely clean it up.

If you want to move ahead in your career, you might consider purchasing our Floor Care Program and get the free diploma. Then tell your employer that you have the diploma and would be glad to teach others in your company.

Use the program as a guide. After you have taught a few people, you could send an email to companies in your area such as schools, universities and hospitals. Offer to teach the program for a set fee.

There are different approaches to applying floor finish after a complete strip out. The process may depend on the size of the rooms, equipment available, type of finish used, and overall job conditions. For a larger facility here is a preferred method:

  1. Never apply floor finish unless 100% of the wasted stripper has been removed from the floor, baseboards, and doors. Once you lay finish, it is too late to remove the unsightly residue. Final rinsing assumes that all traces of debris and stripper has been scraped and thoroughly rinsed.
  2. Using a clean dust mop head, dust mop the floor with either a microfiber head or a regular head treated as a tack rag. To tack the head, lightly spray it with a trigger sprayer turned to maximum mist and use the floor finish straight in the spray bottle. Do not over-wet the head, or you will deposit small traces of wet finish on the floor. About three sprays on a 36” head about every 5-10 minutes is about right. Regularly shake out the dustmop in an outside area. The objective is to pick up the fine dust that even an autoscrubber or wet vac has missed. This will produce a smoother appearance for the finished floor.
  3. Using a back-pack finish applicator, flatmop, or 18” – 24” finish mop, start in the back of the room. Position the starting point so the run across the room is the shortest distance. This will reduce any lap marks from a heavy-solids or fast drying finish. Do not leave any skips and try never to go back onto the freshly applied finish. A consistent and even flow is critical.
  4. If you have an adjacent door, maneuver the applicator head into the doorjamb area to coat under where the door will close. Carry a razor blade scrapper and scrape off any bonded debris instead of applying finish over it. When you finish one area, position cardboard boxes on the floor to wipe off your footwear completely, before going into the next clean area, or back to begin the second coat. When finished, place the flatmop head inside a heavy-duty trash bag to eliminate drips on the floor and prevent picking up contamination. Shake out the mop inside of the bag before pulling it out to service the next area or starting the next coat.
  5. Continue onto the next area and apply finish for about one hour before returning to the starting point to apply the next coat. If necessary, unlock a side door so you can enter the starting area without walking on freshly applied finish.
  6. Before applying the next coat, make sure the floor is 100% dry. If in doubt, place a small piece of paper on the floor and see if it sticks. Try to move it with your shoe to see if the area is dry. Or, use the back of your hand. Normal drying time is about 45 minutes. In high-humidity areas, you may need the extra airflow by turning on the A/C or furnace blower. Again, use a razor blade scraper for repeated debris removal.
  7. Apply the second coat in the opposite direction, and do not apply finish within 6 inches of the baseboards and door jambs. Since foot traffic will never walk on the edges closer than six inches, it is desirable to apply finish on every other coat – to the edges. This prevents floor finish buildup along the edges, which is difficult to strip at a later time.
  8. Depending upon the percent of solids, you may want to apply 3 coats of high-solids finish, or 5 coats of regular finish.
  9. Try to avoid moving the furniture back the same day, as the finish may have dried, but not cured. Never drag furniture on the new finish when replacing it.
  10. The best practice is to employ a top-scrub and recoat process during the next several months to prolong the time between stripping. A thorough scrub with a red pad should remove a top layer of damaged or worn finish, and remove all black marks and soiled areas. Never apply finish over a floor unless it passes the inspection of being completely free of noticeable marks, scuffs, and soil.

Laminate contains a permanent plastic / polyurethane coating applied on top of the substrate that should not be waxed or stripped. That would void the warranty. It has a transparent coating, a design layer, which shows the decorative choice such as hardwood or marble, an inner core layer of high-density fiberboard, a resin layer, and finally a backing or underlayment to reduce noise and soften impact from heavy use.

Cleaning instructions are to just mop it with a neutral cleaner or even white odorless vinegar. In both cases you would not use more than 1 cup to a 1/2 mop bucket of warm water. Mops should be firmly pressed out to avoid noticeable residues of water. Abrasive cleaners and pads should never be used. You might consider using a flat mop with a green or blue stripe pad. The stripe would allow reaching down into the grooves.

Occasionally, you could scrub with an autoscrubber and a red pad, or use a brush and then wet-vac. After the floor dries, if it needs buffing to remove any streaks or dullness, use a white pad to slow speed buff.

You only strip out an area that can be scrubbed and picked up before the stripper dries. Many experts teach that it should be a 10′ X 10′ area. I believe this is WRONG. You want to paint out the stripper 7′ wide (which is the left to right arc of a standard swing buffer). Or, if using an autoscrubber paint out about 4-5 machine width passes. Only paint out a distance of 20′-30′ so there is time for one pass, working the edges and a final pass for scrub and pickup. All has to be completed before the stripper dries. If it starts to dry, apply a slight amount of water on the second pass.

If the stripper dries on the floor it MUST be re-emulsified by adding water and scrubbing one more time. When using a swing buffer, you can re-wet the stripper by having gallon jugs of water nearby, or better yet – mounting a solution or shampoo tank to the buffer handle. Make one pass up the path forward, overlapping 1/2 the machine diameter on each pass. Make sure the edges are worked right behind the machine as this makes the edge less slippery and others can walk without falling down. Then it is safe for the assistants can come behind and do the edge work. After going from the back of the area to the front, then make one more pass working from the front to the back, overlapping each pass. Then, squeegee all the stripper back to the edge of the area and pick up with a wet vac.

If you use an autoscrubber to pick up stripper it will tend to plug up the machine. However, if you have already used it for stripping, then just make sure it is cleaned up after each use. You never apply stripper thru the autoscrubber feed tank. Only apply with a wet mop. Make the first pass with the squeegee up and off, and the second pass with the squeegee down and picking up. Then rinse twice with mops. Never use mops to pick up wasted slurry as it is very time consuming and it contaminates the mops.

Placing a towel over a standard mop head was possibly to coat the baseboards every time, which is a bad idea. It is almost impossible to remove 10 coats of finish from a baseboard. You want a low profile to prevent applying finish to door jambs, etc. A flatmop normally coats the baseboard approximately ½ inch, which appropriately covers the bottom of the baseboard and any cracks where water could run underneath.

Flat mops apply a thinner and more even coat. New technicians are less apt to skip areas or spots with a flat mop. When working in commercial markets, the techs should know how to use a flat mop and a wet mop. However, most all operations are moving to the flat mop to apply finish, especially with a backpack feed.

The newer finish mops do not contain cotton fibers, so a presoak is unnecessary. They should be ready to go, except you want to shake them out vigorously to remove any lint.

You could reduce the drying time by 15%-20% if you used a blow dryer AND the humidity was low. On a humid day without A/C, the drying time can be an hour.

If the concrete is rough in appearance, then three coats should be fine. The purpose of the sealer is to seal all of the indentations and pores and build a level, non-absorbent floor for the finish to set on top of. The newest technology is to use two coats of a penetrating sealer and recoat once a year, or polish the concrete with a diamond process.

First, mopping a floor causes to some extent, the spread of soiled water across the floor. Conversely, autoscrubbing should pick up all of the soil. So the floor is much cleaner and keeps the integrity of the shine and appearance at a higher level. This in turn extends the time between top-scrub and refinish and strip outs, and saves the customer money.

Next, make sure your equipment is the largest size possible, so the floors are cleaned faster than mopping, which in turn reduces your labor. This makes the pricing for your service more competitive when you require less labor.

Some stripping solutions are labeled “No-Rinse”. However, failing to rinse is not a good idea. There will always be some type of slurry residue that has stuck to the floor, especially around doorways, along edges, and in corners. An extra rinse allows you to inspect carefully the results, and rework any defects with a razor blade or green pad. Thorough rinsing boosts your level of professionalism.

Normally, unprotected VCT is scraped, gouged, and damaged by chair rollers. If the chair mats have not always been placed under the chairs then pre-existing damage may be observed. Some chair roller damage can be corrected by increasing the stripper concentration (pouring 1/4 cup of straight stripper onto the already wet area) and increasing the aggression level of the strip pad. Then consider using a buildup removal, or high productivity pad, or considering a 100 mesh screen. What you are doing is grinding off the top layer of the VCT. So, slight abrasion or dulling may occur. That is about your only option to correct heavy wear. There are opaque colored chair mats available to cover up any noticeable damage.

Of course prevention is the best approach. You may want to remove the mats once a month and sweep the area, followed by damp mopping the soil buildup. Replace the mats when the floor is dry. Do not apply too much floor finish to the area when you are refinishing the floor.

To remove light build-up, simply use the donut hole and brush the pad thoroughly or shake outside against the side of a building. The least aggressive cleaning method for buff or scrub pads is to rinse in a custodial sink using hot water and a spray nozzle (pressure is important). Stand each pad upright and start at the top and work toward the bottom and then rotate. Allow to drip dry in an upright position.

When finished stripping, immediately place each strip pad in a large trash bag to keep it damp. Then, place the pads in a mop sink and clean as described above. Soaking in stripper is expensive, dangerous, and not eco-friendly, and unnecessary if you keep them wet so they do not dry out. If the pads begin to hold dried floor finish, use a high pressure washer to clean them. Keep in mind that heavily worn strip pads or burnish pads still can be used for scrubbing operations.

If there is a heavy build-up of floor finish and it has been burnished repeatedly, you may consider applying stripper much heavier (fullest concentration applied with a heavy coat), and allow 15-20 minutes for the contact or dwell time. It normally takes longer than 5-8 minutes for complete penetration. A heavier coat is required to prevent premature drying of the stripper. Then, use a buildup removal pad not only on the machine, but for your edge scrubbing pads. Use a machine or autoscrubber that can apply close to 100 pounds pad pressure. A light-weight machine will be ineffective.

If this is not successful, you could try a 100 mesh screen used to sand wood floors. You place it under a worn-out strip pad and only run the machine where the floor is wet with stripper. If you run it dry, you will destroy the floor and it will have to be replaced. (Yes, that is my disclaimer; and you have already voided the warranty, if there is one).

Here is one last option: determine if the floor is smooth and even enough for recoating and without buildup that would show. Determining this is a fine art. Once you have it stripped, but some discoloration remains, apply a heavy rinse coat of clear water. Now, perform an intense inspection. Look at the floor’s appearance all over.

Does the rinse coat mask the discoloration (a 100% blend)? Is there any build-up that protrudes above the water line? If not, this means that the floor is 100% level when looking at it wet. The finish coats will provide the same appearance, blending light discoloration in and providing an even look.

Never apply floor finish over a discolored floor or a floor with uneven splotches. Sometimes you can apply finish to a bare floor that does not appear fully stripped, but still passes the first rinse test explained above. Often a build-up removal pad, a heavier machine, and extra stripper dwell time will solve your problem.

Maintaining a “wet look” is a combination of using a premium high-solids floor finish, applying thin coats, and then using a high-speed burnisher to maintain the shine. Your local Jan/San supplier should be able to help you with the correct selection of a high-speed buffable floor finish. Some finishes only allow an application of 4 coats within a 24 hour period. If more than that is applied, the finish will dry, but not cure. Sometimes the 5th and 6th coat applied the same night will bite into the previous coats leaving a rough texture.

One rule to follow when applying floor finish is to use a 100% plus 1 coat rule. For example, if you used a 25% solids finish you would apply 4 coats which would equal 100% (25% x 4). Then, to add extra endurance and gloss, apply one more coat. If you use a finish with 20% solids, apply 6 coats (20% solids x 5 coats = 100% solids, plus 1 coat for good measure).Thin coats applied with a microfiber pad are best. Always ensure there is adequate drying time between coats (normally 30-40 minutes).

Most manufacturers recommend a curing period of 72 hours before burnishing. At that time, you could mop on a restorer and then burnish the floor with a high-speed burnish pad. Your supplier should be able to recommend the proper color.

Your burnishing procedure would include a thorough dust-mopping, followed by mopping on the restorer product, diluted according to label. Once dry, slowly burnish the VCT making sure the machine does not pause and cause burn spots. Rotate or replace the pad before it becomes soiled. Dust mop again when finished. Repeat the process on a regular schedule before the scuffs and wear degrade the finished appearance.

When the floor starts to dull and fail to respond well to buffing, deep scrub the floor using a green pad under an autoscrubber or low speed swing machine. (This will remove the top layer of finish where all the dirt has been ground into the floor). Rinse the floor to remove any residue, and apply two coats of your high-gloss finish (mainly to the worn traffic lanes). Continue with your buffing program. You would normally scrub and re-coat twice a year depending upon the use and traffic. This will prevent premature wear and loss of gloss.

Don’t forget that daily dust-mopping and spot wet-mopping are critical parts of a professional maintenance program.

Q. What is the best way to strip old finish/dirt from VCT edges around a room? Deck brushes and small-edge scrubbers don’t work effectively. Would razor scraping or light sanding using a screen work? Whatever we do doesn’t seem to work optimally.

A. One option is using an orbital scrubber. Perhaps you could rent an oscillating scrubber from a janitorial supply store. With a rectangular head, it has the advantage of being able to sit right over the buildup and be pushed snug up to the baseboard. Some units come with weights, allowing the unit to tip the scales at 165 pounds. A buildup removal pad will then maximize the aggression level.

You would apply properly diluted stripper, allow contact time, and then position the machine along the baseboard, waiting for it to grind off the buildup. Continue until progress is no longer achieved. Then, squeegee the wasted slurry and repeat up to four times until the buildup is completely removed.

If this does not work, scraping might be the only solution. However, don’t use a household razor blade scraper, as that would provide inferior results. Instead, use a 4-inch, heavy-duty blade with a 14-inch padded handle. Apply the strongest dilution of stripper (according to label) and allow 15 minutes of contact time. If the stripper begins to dry, reapply prior to scraping.

Be extra careful not to gouge or dig the scraper into the tile. You don’t want to leave permanent scratches. The goal is to scrape off the buildup without ruining the floor. Rubber gloves, eye protection, and knee pads are recommended.

If you are working edges the same time you strip the floor, make sure the floor machine or autoscrubber has already been moved over the area to improve traction and walking safety. After scraping, remove the slurry and chunks of dried-on finish with a squeegee.

A floor pad holder with a brown pad on a pole is also helpful to clean and remove buildup from the edges. Squeegee the area and inspect. Mop the edge with clean mop water and observe the results, as this is how it will appear after applying four coats of finish. When the results appear suitable, machine strip or manually scrub the edges one more time. No matter how you do it, the job is labor-intensive.

With just a few computers, I have placed Styrofoam blocks purchased from a carpet cleaning supply store inside the four corners. This elevates them 1″ or more. Make sure the blocks are inside the parameter, so when you place the computer back down on the floor, you have stripped and finished an inch or two under the frame.

Then, take all the wires and gather them to the tightest wire and tape them with masking tape. The objective is to elevate them so they do not touch the floor. With 30 computers, there is no easy way, unless you ask the customer to remove all of them prior to the job.

However, it is best by far (if at all possible) to remove all the computers from the room to prevent stripper and floor finish from being splashed on them.

There are several variables that will affect your production time – including the experience of your crew. JanBid Estimating Solutions shows five additional variables that will also affect your job time. They are: size and speed of your machines (such as an 18” floor machine and a wet vac, or a 30” counter rotating propane stripping machine and large autoscrubbers), amount of furniture to move, edge buildup and discoloration, approximate number of coats of finish or buildup (5 or 15) and if the floor is primarily one large area or comprised of small and congested rooms.

With this in mind, your labor could run as high as 160 hours, but that’s unlikely unless the facility is a medical clinic with 10 X 10 exam rooms. Production times in the 200 sq. ft. per hour range include edging small rooms and using a standard floor machine and wet vac. Your question did not specify the size of rooms or if you can use high production equipment. With large rooms and high speed equipment, your labor would likely be down to 70 hours. In fact, if it is all one large area, with light buildup, no furniture and the highest speed equipment available you could be below 60 hours. Again, the size of your equipment and the other four variables will dictate your final time.

There is another factor that cannot be determined without an accurate history or a removal demo. Does the floor have any type of a permanent sealer applied? If so, this could result in a double or triple strip. You may require 70-85 gals. of stripper after dilution. And 5-6 coats of finish would probably use 80-95 gals (depending if you apply it with a wet mop or microfiber dust mop or automatic application device.

The job layout and equipment will dictate the number of workers you can use. If the job took 60 hours and you ran a 5 man crew, that would come out to 12 hours labor each. However, on a job this large without extensive experience, you may want to recruit an experienced subcontractor.

Most VCT manufacturers discourage the use of stripper and a strip pad on new installations. Stripper will weaken new adhesive and the black pad will dull the appearance with microscopic scratches. Armstrong suggests mopping off their Fast Start Factory Finish and then applying finish. Being somewhat of a perfectionist, I have never found this to be satisfactory. Years ago I used a neutral floor cleaner on 30,000 sq. ft of new VCT followed by 4 coats of finish. Evidently there was enough remaining factory seal that was not compatible with the finish I applied. Three months later it all peeled off. Guess who ate the costs of that mistake.

My recommendation would be to machine scrub with a heavy duty floor cleaner and a hog’s hair beige pad or similar. Green, blue or red pads also work, but red can leave colored burn marks when heeling the machine. You want to clean all adhesive (with mild solvent or razor blade pulled toward you) and make sure black marks and scratches are removed before applying the finish. A Doodlebug and scraper will help detail edges where you often find installer pencil marks.

Plastic chair glides under heavy weight can leave scratches in the floor finish. As you can imagine, felt tabs have a short life. Two different manufacturers sell a 1.5 inch rubber slip-on floor protector with a felt bottom. Two other options are to see if your supplier has a harder floor finish or increase your burnishing schedule.

We recommend putting down your base coat(s) and marking the top base coat with a red marking pencil. Then put down another coat and mark it with a yellow marking pencil. Put down another coat and mark it with a green marking pencil. Put down as many additional coats as necessary.

Train your employees to look for the 3 dots as they scrub the floor. If they see the green dot they scrub and go. If they don’t see the green dot but see a yellow dot they caution you that finish needs to be applied. If they just see the red dot they stop and alert you that finish needs to be applied immediately. By marking the traffic area in several areas you can tell if you only need to apply finish to key areas or over the entire area.

JenMar Systems developed and previously distributed the Stoplight kit, a marking scale to better manage floor care needs. Stripouts can be reduced by monitoring traffic-wear into the base coat. Here are their original instructions:

JenMar no longer markets the pencils. The colors 02086 171T peel off china marker green, 02083 170T peel off china marker yellow and 02059 Red Rouge peel off china marker are available from Gray Enterprise

Another option is to use a lead pencil which is readily available, but harder to view. You can number each coat of finish as it is applied. If you are relying upon workers to track the remaining coats, then the green, yellow and red dot stoplight system is a better choice. If a floor care manager tracks the coats and does not have the colored wax pencils then a minute lead pencil numbering system can work. Just make a note of which tiles contain the ID. Some managers track the wear visually (without marks) in order to prevent loss of finish that requires a deep strip. Of course your goal is to top coat as needed and as many times as possible.

Without personally observing the floor condition, my best advice would be to use a stiff bristle brush on a rotary floor machine and heavy-duty degreaser. Apply the degreaser solution and allow 10 minutes contact time. Run the floor machine over the area, working it slowly and covering a small area at a time. Before the soiled solution dries, wet vacuum and apply two clear rinses. If available, consult the floor covering manufacturer’s cleaning or stripping instructions.

If over-lapping the stripping and under-lapping the finishing does not work, your next best solution is to tape cardboard to the floor along your cutoff line. Apply 3 inch wide masking tape to cardboard that is 2 feet wide. Make sure the tape cuts an exact line along the side of the tile. Go easy on the scrub operation so as not to flood the cardboard or abrade the tape.

On the last rinse, pull up the tape and cardboard. Work the edge (line of demarcation) with a 5×9 green pad installed over the mop head to get an exact blend. Razor scrape if necessary. Use a flat mop or backpack applicator to cut in the line when applying the finish. To deliver a flawless match, normally propane or high-speed burnishing is required to blend the start and stop lines.

Some Betadine stains can be removed with a commercial coffee stain remover. Purdue, the manufacturer of Betadine, recommends a product called B.I.P Code 8 manufactured by Ruhof. The Ruhof website shows the product is guaranteed to do the job.

If the floor is the Formica brand laminate, they recommend only sweeping, mopping, or damp wiping. Avoid using heavy machines. The floor may not hold up to the extra weight and excessive torque, and an aggressive pad or brush can cause scratches that cannot be removed.

It would be best to first locate the manufacturer and study their cleaning guides. Mannington makes a commercial vinyl plank called Nature’s Path. Their online chart shows no damage to the product with an application of alcohol or mineral spirits. If that is true for the floor you are servicing, consider squirting a slight amount of mineral spirits on each asphalt mark and lightly agitate with the center hole of a white buff pad. You could then install a thin white nylon scrub pad over the mop head and clean the floor with an all-purpose cleaner. Or, if the area is large, use an autoscrubber with a white pad.

Mannington’s website shows the only required maintenance is to dust mop and wet mop. So,  you could suggest a price and frequency based on the ISSA times for those cleaning functions. If the area is small, then you would likely apply a minimum trip charge.

Q. Newly installed VCT has burned spots now from burnishing. I have to decide if the problem is the contractor’s or the person using the floor machine. Some tiles have small bumps in them from maybe something under the tile.  I am thinking that the burnisher was used too long in one spot and caused the burned spots. Can you advise me on this type of problem? How many coats of sealer/finish should be used for high traffic? And lastly, how long should the last coat sit and cure before the floor is used full force?

A. If the floor tech is trained, it’s unlikely burn spots would be caused by leaving the machine too long in one place. If there is a burn where the machine encountered a high spot, it is because the burnishing pad exerts increased pressure due to the irregular projection. When you inspect the floor from six feet away and by catching light reflections, you will be able to identify high spots. If it’s a major protrusion, there is no way to avoid a pad burn. It should be the installer’s responsibility to correct them, or to avoid them by leveling the floor in the first place.

The required coats of finish can depend upon the solids content and manufacturer’s directions. Four coats of a high solids finish are normally sufficient for high traffic areas. It can be difficult to obtain proper curing overnight when applying more than four coats. Dry time for careful walking is normally 30 minutes unless the humidity is high. Try to wait a couple of hours before replacing furniture. However, the cure time before sliding boxes would normally be 24-48 hours and longer when attempting to burnish.

Two causes are most likely. First, if any of the wasted slurry (stripper plus dissolved floor finish) dries on the floor prior to removal, it will leave a gray residue. Remaining residue is often identified by the fact that it covers over the tile pattern. Standard mopping may not remove dried-on slurry. Instead, it requires re-dampening the floor and scrubbing with the machine or autoscrubber.

Second, it could be hardened sealer (normally permanent polyurethane or styrene based). Removing sealer may require up to three strip operations. Mix the stripper at the strongest use dilution, allow 15 minutes contact time, and use a build-up removal pad. Also, be prepared to razor blade scrape some of the most difficult areas.

If the VCT is manufactured by Armstrong, they recommend waiting 4-5 days after the installation of new tile before wet cleaning. They also state, “No-scrub and/or no-rinse strippers are not recommended on tile floors less than two years old, because they may affect the adhesive bond.” With those warnings in mind, there are other considerations regarding flooding floors. The primary disadvantage of flooding a floor with stripper is the occurrence of stripper running underneath equipment or baseboards. Then, after the finish coat has been applied the stripper seeps out onto the floor, leaving a noticeable blemish that must be fixed. The second drawback of flooding the floor is extra chemical usage. However, the floor does require a heavy coating of stripper for the chemical to perform its dissolving action. One way to apply the stripper to achieve the ideal thickness or coating is the following procedure:

  1. Dip wet mop into stripper bucket and hold it above the water line for approximately 2-3 seconds, so the mop head can drain.
  2. Place mop on floor next to the baseboard and pull mop 20’ ahead to starting position.
  3. Mop backwards to the bucket with a side-to-side figure-eight motion to evenly apply stripper. The area just painted out should not exceed the normal path of the floor machine when fully moved from left to right (approx. 7 feet wide).
  4. Move mop bucket back another 20’ and repeat operations.
  5. Allow stripper to set 10-15 minutes before starting floor machine on dry tile and working into the wet slurry.

For stripping with an autoscrubber, check the answers found in this column. Regarding a scrub operation, there are a few items to balance. First, the pad selection and the detergent selection must be matched to the soil load and durability of the floor finish. If the pad and chemical are too aggressive, excessive wear may occur and you will end up refinishing the floors at a greater frequency. If the pad is too soft, the machine may not sufficiently remove black marks. If the detergent is not strong enough, you may not sufficiently remove the soil.

Start with a thorough dust mopping to remove all debris. Otherwise, the squeegee and suction hose may plug up, or you will simply redistribute debris around the floor. Use a white, red, or green pad and make a single pass with the detergent turned on and the squeegee down. If the detergent is matched to the soil load, you should see that one pass leaves a clean surface. With high soil loads (such as auto dealer repair shops) you will normally need to make two passes. One to apply the degreaser, and a second pass to scrub, re-emulsify the cleaner, and pick up the solution.

You may need to hand mop the edges, around equipment, and on turns where the squeegee misses solution. Once you observe the results you will be able to regulate the machine speed. Go as fast as possible, yet as slow as necessary. Check out our new Floor Care Training Manual, it has all the answers for you and can help you train any and all helpers.

Removing ice melt or salt residue is definitely labor intensive. Whether you use an automatic scrubber or a mop bucket, this residue normally requires repeated passes and regular changing of the water. Assuming you are cleaning with a mop bucket, you can increase the concentration of your neutral cleaner by about 20%. Mop the solution on heavier than normal. Do a careful and complete pick-up with a clean mop.

A more intensive method is to mop on the neutral cleaner, allow 5-10 minutes contact time, wet vac up the solution, and then rinse, using a wet vac again for the final pick-up. Do not use an acid-based neutralizer on marble because you will risk etching or dulling the finished surface.

Most laminate flooring manufacturers recommend mopping with a 1:16 vinegar mixture (one cup white vinegar to one gallon of warm water) instead of oil-based hardwood floor cleaners. Normal floor cleaners, as well as oil-based cleaners, typically leave streaks and water spots.

One caution is to press out the mop as tight as possible and mop with the grain (assuming it is simulated wood). Another approach is to use vinegar-based Windex and mop with a microfiber cloth. If the commercial floor gets grease tracked in, you may need to mop with a neutral floor cleaner and then follow with the vinegar rinse. Check out our new Floor Care Training Manual.

First, decide if you would like to rent an automatic scrubber from a local jan/san store. If the area is large, this can save you hours of labor. Otherwise, you will need a dust mop with a second clean head, a 17”- 20” rotary floor scrubbing machine, a strip pad, doodlebug with a black or brown pad, two mop buckets with two 24 oz. mop heads and handles, a razor scrapper, a foam rubber floor squeegee, wet vac, commercial stripper, commercial floor finish, and a flat mop for applying finish.

Clear and secure the area and then dust mop the floor to remove dust and litter. You may want to wear rubber gloves and goggles when diluting the stripper (according to label). Be prepared to adjust the mix ratio because black tile can “bleed” onto the white if the concentration is too strong. From the mop bucket (containing the diluted stripper), place the mop into the press momentarily and then apply diluted stripper moderately to the floor. Start at the back and work toward front using a figure-8 motion. Apply stripper to an area approx. 8 feet wide and 20 feet long or at the most, 30 feet long. Be careful not to skip any areas.

After a 20 min. dwell time, start floor machine on dry tile and buff into wet solution. If areas have dried, re-apply stripper. While scrubbing the area, observe if ALL discoloration and finish buildup has been removed. Peer intensely through the slurry to observe cleaning conditions on the tile. Normally, you will make a slow pass side to side and work from front to back. Then, return to the front as you make a second slow (side to side) pass. Try not to splash stripper on walls, doors, carpet, or adjacent areas.

Scrub edges with a doodlebug and razor scrape any buildup, etc. Make sure the floor does not dry and then squeegee the slurry into a puddle at the front and use the wet vac to pick it up. Next, apply two rinses, the first one heavy and the second one with less water. Carefully mop baseboards and wipe any splashes from doors, etc. with a towel. Change mop water often. Rinse mop heads before returning them to the clean water mop bucket. If the floor dries with a super-clean appearance (no shiny or dirty spots), continue to the next area and repeat the procedure. For heavy build-up, it must be stripped a second time.

When the floor is dry, dust mop it with a clean, lint-free head. Apply floor finish to the floor from a gallon jug. There are several handy applicator systems available, or you can drill holes in the jug cap, or with a rubber glove, hold your thumb over the jug opening and distribute evenly to floor. Use a flat mop with a floor finish head to spread finish in a uniform manner.

Avoid skips and overlapping onto areas that are starting to dry. Again, an 8 X 20 area is a good size to re-finish at a time. Then pour out and spread the next adjacent area. Allow at least 30 min. drying time between coats. Apply 4 coats. There are a lot of things that can go wrong for an inexperienced technician. You may want to consider hiring someone experienced to help you until you get the hang of things.

Most commercial finish is self-polishing (dries to a gloss) and will not require buffing or burnishing until later. Once the floor begins to dull from traffic, you will need to start a buffing program. In a church setting, you may want to buff once a month, scrub and top coat twice a year, and strip and refinish every three years. Maintain by dust mopping regularly with a treated dust mop, and damp mop as needed with a mild solution of the cleaner you have. Remember: clean and shiny floors are only kept that way by following a programmed floor care routine.

I would try a liquid rust remover that contains Hydrofluoric or Oxalic acid which is often used to remove rust from terrazzo, tile floors, carpet and other surfaces. A cautionary warning: Hydrofluoric acid is very dangerous to work with and any acid will dull/etch the absorbent marble chips and cement base of terrazzo. Use great care using these products. Strip completely the spot, apply the rust remover, and within 5 minutes rinse. You may have to re-polish the area with diamond impregnated pads or discs.

A 12 inch floor machine or a hand held angle grinder will work best for this. If the acid product does not remove the rust spot, try Comet or a similar bleach-based abrasive powder. Dampen the spot, cover it with about 1/2 inch of bleach-based scouring powder. Cover with cardboard, apply a moderate weight and let it sit overnight. The next morning, clean the area. If either one of these steps works, re-apply finish or re-polish the area to bring back the shine.

The photo to the right shows a floor that is beyond cleaning. It will require replacement. Here is a normal cleaning process. 1. Strip the damaged area with a build-up removal pad and strong stripper. Squeegee and observe the results. If the urine damaged area is close to matching the undamaged area, apply a heavy mop rinse. The appearance and color match you observe will be the same as after applying four coats of finish.

2. If still stained, apply Comet with bleach, and scrub with a strip pad or carefully use a 100 mesh sanding screen (placed under the strip pad). This solution MUST remain wet at all times or the floor will be damaged. Squeegee, rinse and observe. Do not mix chemicals or combine the two steps. All chemical residues must be removed completely before going to the next step. Also, rinse strip pads between steps. If the floor is porous, such as terrazzo the stains may have penetrated deeply and may not be correctable.

A product producing phenomenal results on carpet is CTI Urine Stain Remover. It is very high in hydrogen peroxide. I haven’t tried it on hard surfaces, but on carpet it is unmatched. The directions indicate it can take 3-4 hours for the stain to “bleach out”. You may need more frequent cleaning or to install protective mats under the urinals to prevent future problem or cover uncorrectable damage.

Epoxy floors will buff out just like VCT. Dust mop, mop on buffing compound, and clean the floor thoroughly. Then, burnish with high speed buff pads such as gray or tan, and finally dust mop again. Watch out for any high spots and be careful not to linger on an area and burn the coating.

If it is only 1,000 square feet, I would charge your one-hour minimum. Many contractors would charge $55 to $120 for a one hour service call.

If you are looking for the fastest production time for larger floors, a 3 person crew will outperform any other configuration. Your lowest labor cost comes from the highest production method. An autoscrubber is considerably faster than a single disc buffer with a wet vac and much easier on the back. It should save you 20%-40% in labor unless the areas are extremely small. Effective stripping normally requires a dual disk autoscrubber with heavy brush pressure.

But, here’s the rub. If one person does all the work, he or she will continuously be changing from one task to the next. The constant interruption of each function by stopping, laying aside the tool, picking up the next, and starting the next task is highly inefficient. Even 2 people are somewhat inefficient. The person laying the stripper, scrubbing and blading the edges, and then mopping will not be able to keep up with the autoscrubber. Every time you stop the machine, forward progress comes to a halt. If you use only 1 or 2 people to do all the work, your start and stop times will be excessive.

A three person crew is ideal, because the work progresses with little interruption. It works like this: #1 lays the stripper, #2 runs the autoscrubber with squeegee up around the edge first and then in the middle, #3 performs edge work and hand squeegees the edges, #2 makes a second pass with squeegee down (it is rare for one pass to strip 100% of the finish) and finally #1 and #3 handle the rinsing until it is time for #1 to paint out the next area. Productivity increases as each person keeps focused on one job. Time is lost when changing jobs. Working non-stop utilizes the power of momentum to synergize productivity.

If you used high pressure washing or a solvent cleaner and removed 95% of the gum, normally a high alkaline heavy duty cleaner will finish it off. Mix according to directions and allow 5-10 minutes dwell time. A pump-up sprayer works great for application. Scrub with a stiff broom, brush, floor machine, or autoscrubber, and then rinse or pressure wash again. Steam is another non-chemical approach.

There are several things that can cause a slippery floor after burnishing. First, I would make sure the floor has been dust mopped to remove any fine powdered finish generated by the process. Next, check to make sure that dust mop treatment is not being applied over the floor, or that the dust mop itself is not heavily contaminated with buildup, including dust mop treatment residue that can be left on the floor. Also, check to see if dust wands are being sprayed with furniture polish causing overspray to drift onto the VCT.

Check for any type of silicone or solvent drifting onto floor, such as WD-40 sprayed on chair wheel bearings, etc. Finally, if the finish has worn off, you may still be able to burnish a shine, but not a gloss. Once the finish is worn, the floors will lose the traction supplied by the floor finish. Only a scrub and recoat can fix that problem. Rarely, but occasionally, the problem can stem from a breakdown in the floor finish, incompatibility of products, spray buff compound, or floor detergent residue. If this is the case, you may need to check with your Jan/San supplier.

If the process includes stacking and moving furniture, dust mopping, wet mopping with finish restorer, burnishing, a final dust mopping, and replacing furniture, I would figure 4 ½ to 5 ½ hours, if performed more than once a month. I hope that you will find that over 30% of the floor is covered by cabinets, bookcases, etc. that will not be moved, so you can save that time.

The range in production time depends upon the frequency, density of furniture placement and the amount that must be moved, the size of your burnisher, soil load conditions including number of occupants, internal daytime housekeeping, and the experience of your floor techs. I would base the time on using a 20” electric and not propane, due to potential hazards.

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Assuming the concrete was properly sealed, the floor finish you applied may have proven too soft to resist scuffs. A scuff resistant finish from your local janitorial supply store should provide better results. If in doubt, ask for references that you can visit to observe first-hand the performance of the finish.

The swirl marks were caused by scoring from either using a burnishing pad that was too aggressive for the finish, or one that had a slight build-up in the pad and was held in one spot too long. Your floor tech should be able to correct the problem by a scrub-and-top-coat, and then doing maintenance by using a burnish pad matched to the finish.

Sanding a VCT floor would normally void any warranty. There are some powerful strippers on the market that should remove the finish while using a nylon grit brush, or a black or dark brown strip pad. Your local Jan/san supplier should have the several products available that can do the job. Applying the stripper at maximum strength (per manufacturer’s instructions) and allowing adequate dwell time is critical to success.

We do not sand VCT or VAT flooring, although we may abrade some semi-permanent seals or polyurethane coatings prior to recoating. Sanding would void any warranty on flooring and may damage the surface and create a health and disposal hazard. Should sanding be done on VCT as a last resort salvage procedure, a 100 grit mesh screen disk under a strip pad will accomplish the task, however the surface must be kept wet to avoid damage and airborne contamination. Test a small area (six inches square) by hand prior to widespread use to avoid any surprises and liability for damage. You may also want to involve the customer in the decision making process to avoid problems once the work is complete. Check out our new Floor Care Training Manual.

  • Move furniture
  • Dust mop floor and scrape stickers, gum, etc. Place wet floor signs and secure area.
  • Apply suggested stripper (mixed according to label) with wet mop, flat mop or special applicator and allow sufficient contact time. Pre-plan a pattern that starts away from the water source and only apply to an area that will not dry before scrubbing and picking up solution. This would normally cover 400 square feet or 20 min. ahead of the autoscrub operation. To avoid falls, do not initially walk on the wet stripper.
  • With strip pads under autoscrubber, and starting on dry floor, make a slow pass along the edges with squeegee up. Next, scrub the remainder of the area.
  • Hand scrape and/or doodlebug edges and doorways
  • Squeegee edges and doorways with 24” or 36” foam squeegee.
  • Lower autoscrubber squeegee and make pick up pass, applying water solution thru dispensing system to any dry areas.
  • Thoroughly rinse with wet mop (1-2 times).
  • Make certain the auto scrubber is thoroughly cleaned after using it for stripping or pickup tanks, hoses, and squeegees will become encrusted with dried slurry. This includes the undercarriage of the machine as most stripping solutions will over time damage the metal parts. Some people prefer not to use an autoscrubber for stripping for this reason; others may set aside one machine specifically for this use. Check out our new Floor Care Training Manual.

You can confirm suitability by evaluating the machine’s impact on IAQ, noise level, and the potential of setting off smoke alarms. Probably the most important concern is maneuverability. Will the machine allow adequate access to most of the areas without damage? Too large of a machine in a small area is counterproductive.

Assuming that you are convinced your stripper is superior, your next attempt should include increasing the aggression, stripper-solution concentration, water temperature and dwell time. Did you allow the stripping solution to dwell for 10 to 15 minutes before you began the stripping process? This is a critical step and many people fail to allow adequate dwell time.

  1. You can increase the aggression by using a build-up removal pad.
  2. Use the stripper as strong as the label allows.
  3. Apply a heavier coat of stripper for maximum dwell time. Don’t let it dry!

Most importantly, be prepared to repeat the strip operation up to three times. I trust you priced the job high enough to cover the aggravation, wasted finish, and extra strip operation.

Multi-layers of finish or an underlayment of sealer can be difficult to remove. Assuming the stripper you chose is a highly active and a powerful commercial product, you may need to repeat the operation three times. Here are some tips: mix the stripper at the lowest recommended concentration ratio, apply the stripper extra heavy, allow longer dwell times, and use a build-up removal or high production strip pad.

You may need to hand scrape some areas, but you have one other option. If repeated attempts are unsuccessful, there could be permanent sealer on the floor. When you apply your first heavy rinse to the floor, closely inspect it for any color variations or uneven ridges. If the freshly rinsed floor appears immaculate (zero ridges and zero discoloration), it will look the same after applying about four coats of finish.

Of course you want to reduce the amount of stripping required by regular maintenance including scrubbing floor and top coating. You may also want to test other stripping products available from local Jan/San suppliers.

Slurry that has totally dried will normally require re-stripping. During the actual stripping process you can add water to the slurry to re-emulsify it. If you use a swing buffer (floor machine) you can install a shampoo tank to feed the water. If using an autoscrubber, always have water in the solution tank for your second pass. Then you can apply more liquid to the floor wherever it has dried. If there is only a small spot, you can often razor scrape it out and re-apply finish.

First of all, I would recommend a thorough dust mopping of the dry floor with a treated head. You want to remove all the grit you possibly can from the floor so the autoscrubber pad does not grind it into the finish. A properly treated head provides mild agitation and an almost magnetic attraction to soils without leaving oily residues. If the sand is still wet from melted snow, use a wet vac to remove it and get the floor dry.

Next, I would place a clean door mat in front of the maintenance room door so the autoscrubber wheels are cleaned on their way to do the job. I would also increase the inspection and cleaning frequency of the floor pads. Pads with grit in them will quickly damage the finish and make more work for you.

Finally, I would increase the cleaning detergency and frequency by at least 20% to confront a heavier soil load that is encountered during inclement weather.

You should also make certain that adequate length walk-off matting is in place and that it is cleaned or changed often enough to prevent major sand migration onto the finished floors.

Spray buff solutions or restorers are typically formulated to pre-condition the floor for removal of black marks and scuffs and to assist in buffing out scratches. A white pad run by itself over the floor will normally fail to produce a high shine. However, most spray buff formulations or restorers, when used with a high-speed burnishing pad, harden the finish, remove scratches and produce a much higher gloss. They are worth the investment in maintaining high appearance floors.

Most drain opener products contain sodium hydroxide and register a pH of over 13. This caustic action can remove color from VCT or VAT tile. You may need to strip and refinish the area or apply a light coat of a terrazzo seal that is formulated to restore color in hard surface floors. It’s possible the damage is permanent.

If you had two rooms side by side that had been stripped thoroughly and you applied 4-5 coats of finish they would be identical in appearance, cleaning and stripability unless you:

  1. Used a different floor finish or sealer in one of the rooms
  2. Incurred a high humidity in one room or lack of full drying time between coats
  3. Applied more coats of finish to one of the rooms, allowing a buildup of finish
  4. Burnished one room regularly and not the other
  5. Used a different stripper next time to strip out the floor.

Q. The senior custodians were trained to burnish between each applied coat of finish on vinyl tile. Time has been over the established five (5) year strip cycle and now the current crew is trying to remove the old finish with great difficulty. They have, 10 times, applied stripper, allowed 5 to 8 minutes of dwell time, agitated, scrapped, and wet vacuumed, and the finish remains. Time is running out to complete this task, for the students return in a few weeks and reservations wants this room back on line right away? What suggestions do you have to speed up this process?

A. If there is a heavy build-up of floor finish and it has been burnished repeatedly, you may need to apply the stripper much heavier (fullest concentration applied with a heavy coat), and allow 15-20 minutes for the contact or dwell time. It takes longer than 5-8 minutes for complete penetration. A heavier coat is required to prevent premature drying of the stripper. Then, use a buildup removal pad not only on the machine, but for your edge scrubbing pads. Use a machine or autoscrubber that can apply close to 100 pounds pad pressure. A light-weight machine will be ineffective.

If this is not successful, you could try a 100 mesh screen used to sand wood floors. You place it under a worn-out strip pad and only run the machine where the floor is wet with stripper. If you run it dry, you will destroy the floor and it will have to be replaced. (Yes, that is my disclaimer; and you have already voided the warranty, if there is one).

Here is one last option, since you are running out of time. After all that you have achieved, perhaps the floor is smooth and even enough for recoating. Determining this is a fine art. Once you have it stripped, but some discoloration remains, apply a heavy rinse coat of clear water. Now, perform an intense inspection. Look at the floor’s appearance all over.

Does the rinse coat mask the discoloration (a 100% blend)? Is there any build-up that protrudes above the water line? If not, this means that the floor is 100% level when looking at it wet. The finish coats will provide the same appearance, blending light discoloration in and providing an even look.

Never apply floor finish over a discolored floor or a floor with uneven splotches. Sometimes you can apply finish to a bare floor that does not appear fully stripped, but still passes the first rinse test explained above. I hope that the build-up removal pad, heavier machine, and extra stripper dwell time will solve your problem.

Actually, vinyl and linoleum are two vastly different products, so the first thing you must establish is which one you are dealing with. The World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) states that “Vinyl will melt if a lighted match or cigarette lands on it, linoleum can’t.” They should know the facts, so try a test on a piece somewhere out of the way.
Vinyl sheeting will withstand heavy stripping with a high alkaline stripper better than linoleum, so you do need to test. Avoid the abrasive pad, hot water, high alkaline approach on linoleum.

Most likely the low spots contain a double buildup of floor finish. Whenever heavy coats are applied, the finish tends to settle into the low spots and embossed grout lines. So, instead of planning to strip 4 coats, you may need to gear your process to strip out 8 coats. This would include mixing the stripper at maximum strength (unless the flooring is linoleum), applying it extra heavy, allowing the full dwell-time (usually 15-20 minutes) and then using a high-productivity build up removal pad.

In addition, be prepared for several stripping operations and extra razor blade scraping. You can also “heel” the machine over the low spots (at the 3 o’clock position) as long as the floor is extra wet, but be careful on seams and use a mild pad if you are on linoleum. Consider using a scrub brush that will reach down into the depressions.

Avoid any wet sanding with a mesh sanding disk, which voids any warranty and may not be able to get down into the grooves. If, after the rinse, no discoloration shows, you may be able to apply the finish without a complete strip-out. Let us hope that two or three attempts will do the job.

Q. I have a 10 year old cork floor in a kitchen. It is made of tiles pretreated with water based urethane that have been given several layers of a topcoat of water based urethane. The floor was cleaned with a substance recommended by the manufacturers that contains d-limonene, a surfactant, and 5% ethanol and it is diluted in water. The owner complains that the floors have never looked clean; they always look as if there is grease build-up on them. This year, in the heat of summer, the floor became sticky. Every footstep is audible; socks stick to the floor. Re-cleaning the floor doesn’t change this in any way. The manufacturer recommended using TSP diluted well in water and rinsed many times to get all residues off, and then dried. I’ve done this, but it remains sticky. It feels as if the urethane is melted, or something like that. It felt that way before the TSP was used. In a small area, I’ve redone the TSP on the off chance that there remains some grease residue, and I even dared to scrub, and the urethane coat (not all of it) came off, and then the floor seemed less sticky in that area. There is still a coat of urethane covering the cork, so the TSP didn’t get down to cork. It’s less sticky but it’s still sticky. What is going on? The manufacturer says they’ve never seen/heard of this happening. They’re not keen on re-sealing it until the problem of what is going on is clear – I suppose they fear that resealing won’t solve it. Any help is much appreciated.

A. It would be unusual for polyurethane to melt or become sticky unless a paint remover type chemical has partially dissolved it. Your removal process for sticky substances using TSP and d-limonene should be OK. However, without a thorough rinsing, the surfactant added to the d-limonene could leave a sticky residue.

For difficult build-up removal using TSP, add it to HOT water and then scrub with a green nylon pad or heavy floor machine to get better penetration. Then, wet vac and rinse. It is always good to pretest small areas with different cleaning techniques to compare different results. Your previous attempts probably did not obtain 100% soil removal.

If the polyurethane is worn off, then the cork could be absorbing cooking oil, which will resist removal. If there is water damage or warping, replacement might be necessary. If the polyurethane is still in good shape, there should be a noticeable sheen. So, if there is still a protectant coat in place, then refinishing is an option.

Your local janitorial supply store should have a refinishing process, chemicals, and instructions. There are newer water-based products that do not emit uncomfortable fumes.

Q. My company cleans a lot of new buildings. A lot of our clients are using “fake hardwood” (vinyl plank) in their offices. Those floors are usually very easy to maintain on a daily basis, but we been noticing a lot of clear scuff marks that don’t seem to come off. What is the proper way to maintain those floors? Should we seal them? Should we buff, scrub?

Floor Care Training ProgramA. More than likely the floor you are trying to clean is laminate. Laminate flooring has several layers: a wear layer which is a protective, transparent coating, a design layer, which shows the decorative choice such as hardwood or marble, an inner core layer of high-density fiberboard, a resin layer, and finally a backing or underlayment to reduce noise and soften impact from heavy use.

Always use low moisture cleaning procedures, preferably with a neutral cleaner or mild acidic rinse (vinegar diluted 1 cup per 2 gal. mop bucket). Mops should be firmly pressed out to avoid noticeable residues of water. Abrasive cleaners and pads should never be used. Laminate should never be sealed or finished with a polymer floor finish. It can be buffed with a white or low aggression pad to remove marks and scuffs, and to restore the natural sheen.

Q. One of the colleges that I clean has a lot of high spots on the VCT floor. After burnishing the floor with a 28″ propane machine using a blue burnishing pad from Pioneer Eclipse, I see a lot of burned spots on the floor. Is there any way to prevent this from happening?

A. Yes, remove the protruding tile with a hot air dryer, grind down the floor and replace the tile. You can reduce the occurrence slightly by visualizing in advance each high spot and firmly pressing down on the burnisher handle to alleviate burns. Or, consider a slightly less aggressive pad. To repair a burn, use a razor blade scrapper and pull it toward you, over the burn. Then as required, scrub with a green pad and carefully paint on the floor finish with a microfiber towel, 2-3 coats, applying it only to the bare spots.

Q. We have tile floors throughout the building where I work and the floors are looking awful in the halls, where much traffic occurs, as well as under lunch tables where the tile is mopped numerous times daily. We have it on our weekly/monthly nightly cleaning that the floors are to be buffed once a month, but I have been informed that this should occur weekly (yes/no?). I have questions about the difference between burnishing and buffing; I honestly know nothing about either. We have approximately 80 families that enter our building and 80 children in the building 5 days a week. What should our monthly floor cleaning be like? Buffing or burnishing and how often?

A. Based on your description and estimated traffic, it would be unlikely that a reasonable shine and uniform appearance would last longer than two weeks. Weekly burnishing would be ideal; but if the budget prohibits, then twice a month would be a major improvement.

There are a few things that will prolong floor appearances such as: adequate entry matting (a minimum of 5 feet, or 12-15 feet if possible) that is vacuumed daily, thorough dust mopping once a day or more often, and using a mild detergent or disinfectant accurately diluted that does not soften the floor finish.

You mentioned challenges under the tables. Have you considered protective nylon or felt chair and table leg tips?

Buffing is generally achieved by using a standard speed 175-300 rpm floor machine and a white or red pad. The normal gloss level that is achievable is perhaps an 80%. Burnishing requires a high speed machine (normally 1200 rpm +) and a burnishing pad such as beige, gray, or hair impregnated. The shine or gloss level should result in an ultra-high shine with the proper floor finish, assuming sufficient coats of finish remain on the floor (normally 4-5).

Burnishing produces a slight temperature rise which is believed to harden the floor finish, making it more durable and able to hold the shine longer.

However, burnishing is not an end-all. Once the gloss begins to degrade, a thorough scrub and re-coat will be necessary. It would be common for a building of your description for this to be required 2-4 times a year. Normally two coats of floor finish must be applied after the deep scrub. The cleaner used should be a typical floor cleaner and not a floor finish stripper. The goal is apply finish away from the edges where no traffic has occurred, so a resulting edge buildup is curtailed.

Q. Would a flatmop application of the floor finish be better than the standard mop bucket and mop?

A. You should experience reduced finish usage from decreased discard levels with a flatmop.

Prior to cleaning the finish mop, there normally remains 6-16 oz. of floor finish that is rinsed down the drain. Ok, I have never actually measured the exact amount. And, it does vary by mop size and amount of downward pressure exerted by the mop press on the bucket. I have calculated the inverse absorption level. It is not uncommon for a 24 oz. rayon mop to require a quart of finish before it is ready go.

In addition, it’s not uncommon to dump out 1-2 quarts of contaminated finish from the mop bucket during clean-up. A daily routine with this level of waste is certainly costly. With the flat mop application system; there is possibly 2-3 oz. of product in the pad. And, with the absence of a bucket, zero finish to discard.

It is unlikely there would be any product savings from the application technique. If three heavy coats are applied by a standard mop to produce the desired gloss level, then a flat mop application would normally require four to five coats to obtain the same gloss level. This example would vary depending upon the solids level and actual thickness applied per coat.

Here is the problem; heavy coats can double the drying time, and they may result in streaking from inadequate leveling and possibly incur reduced scratch resistance. Wet mops normally require a heavier application in order to reduce skips.

The design of a microfiber flat mop lends toward a uniform application of thinner coats. As mentioned, thinner coats speed up the drying time, improve the appearance, and can increase durability.

Diversey/Johnson, the manufacturer of several floor finishes, suggests an “average” coat of finish might leave 3 microns of finish per coat. Of course, this varies with the percent of solids and the thickness of the application. With a recommended application of five coats, this would produce 15 microns or 3/5 of a mil.

No matter how you apply the finish, and using the above guidelines, you would still shoot for 15 microns to obtain optimum appearance and durability. You could do that with three coats, but five thin coats are better.

From an appearance standpoint and for ease of application, you will find a flat mop superior to the outdated mop and bucket. You should experience labor savings, as the flat mop width can be twice that of a wet mop. You could always try one out and calculate the savings for your own operations. Normally, the workers love the reduced drag and diminution of back muscle strain.

Q. What is the exact procedure for obtaining the “wet look” on VCT? A client wants 6 coats of high solids finish and the floor burnished. At what point do I burnish and how?

Maintaining a “wet look” is a combination of using a premium high-solids floor finish, applying thin coats, and then using a high-speed burnisher to maintain the shine. Your local Jan/San supplier should be able to help you with the correct selection of a high-speed buffable floor finish. Some finishes only allow an application of 4 coats within a 24 hour period. If more than that is applied, the finish will dry, but not cure.

One rule to follow when applying floor finish is to use a 100% plus 1 coat rule. For example, if you used a 25% solids finish you would apply 4 coats which would equal 100% (25% x 4). Then, to add extra endurance and gloss, apply one more coat. If you use a finish with 20% solids, apply 6 coats (20% solids x 5 coats = 100% solids, plus 1 coat for good measure).Thin coats applied with a microfiber pad are best. Always ensure there is adequate drying time between coats (normally 30-40 minutes).

Most manufacturers recommend a curing period of 72 hours before burnishing. At that time, you could mop on a restorer and then burnish the floor with a high-speed burnish pad. Your supplier should be able to recommend the proper color.

Your burnishing procedure would include a thorough dust-mopping, followed by mopping on the restorer product, diluted according to label. Once dry, slowly burnish the VCT making sure the machine does not pause and cause burn spots. Rotate or replace the pad before it becomes soiled. Dust mop again when finished. Repeat the process on a regular schedule before the scuffs and wear degrade the finished appearance.

When the floor starts to dull and not respond well to buffing, deep scrub the floor using a green pad under an autoscrubber or low speed swing machine. (This will remove the top layer of finish where all the dirt has been ground into the floor). Rinse the floor to remove any residue, and apply two coats of your high-gloss finish (mainly to the worn traffic lanes). Continue with your buffing program. You would normally scrub and re-coat twice a year depending upon the use and traffic. This will prevent premature wear and loss of gloss.

Don’t forget that daily dust-mopping and spot wet-mopping are critical parts of a professional maintenance program.

Q. In a daycare setting, is it safe to apply 5 coats of finish or will it create a safety hazard for the kids and the staff? This school used a contractor who only applied one coat of finish when the VCT tile was laid. They have been open now for 3 months and after nightly mopping and daily traffic the floors are dulling out and looking scratchy. Is it too late to offer monthly spray buffing on the floors?

A. Most VCT warranties recommend 2-3 coats of a commercial floor finish to protect new tile from abrasion and stains. One coat will not provide enough of a base to respond to buffing. By now, it is unlikely that any of the first coat is still remaining. Spray buffing will only produce a slight sheen, which will not hold up.

What you need to recommend is a deep scrub and application of 3-4 coats of finish. Four coats will provide superior traction (non-slip surface) compared to just one coat. The only exception might be on the kitchen floor when it is wet. Some kitchens place rubber mats in front of the dishwasher. It is difficult to get more than four coats of finish to cure well in one evening. Often the 5th coat bites into the previous four and leaves dull, ropy spots.

For maintenance, you could propose a monthly spray buff or better yet, burnishing with a high speed machine. Most daycares require a scrub and top coat every 6 months, and possibly a deep strip annually. This especially true if they have a sand box or dusty play area outside. Unless there are 2-3 coats of finish, the buffing will only produce an artificial shine (one that lasts a couple of weeks). On-going maintenance is required to prevent permanent damage to the finish and, eventually, the tile.

Q. I maintain the VCT floors in a 10,000 sq. ft. medical building. The floors were given one coat of finish by a post construction cleaning company. I then added 4 coats of Syntec Duraguard 25. I autoscrub with a red pad twice weekly, dust mop every night. Burnish after autoscrub. I have been scrubbing and recoating the heavy traffic areas occasionally. Recently, in preparation for winter grit and salt, I added 3 coats. That makes for 8 to 10 coats in the main hallways. Is this too much finish? Can this make the flooring even more slippery when wet? Was I correct in thinking that additional layers of finish would give me more to work with when I need to autoscrub every night come winter?

A. Undoubtedly, 8-10 coats of finish are producing an outstanding gloss. And, this heavy application should wear for an extended period of time. However, two negatives include, extra labor and chemical required during your stripping cycle, and reduced traction when the floor is wet. The heavy thickness of finish levels out imperfections and produces an ultra-smooth surface.

I would recommend only adding additional coats to the traffic lanes when there is noticeable wear. Make sure you have extra matting for inclement weather and continue with a red pad on the scrub operation so that the floor is microscopically “roughed up”, which could improve traction.

Q. How do sticky floors occur, and how do we prevent them? We use Johnson Diversey floor finish (3-5 coats) with a quat disinfectant floor cleaner from Hillyard.

A. Of course, the obvious contributor would be heavily soiled dust mops and wet mops. Or possibly, using wet mops with a heavy concentration of detergent each time and allowing them to dry unrinsed.

From there, I would confirm that the exact mix ratio of your disinfectant is followed. Too heavy of a dilution could leave residue. And make certain it is, indeed, a quat and not a phenolic, commonly used in health care facilities such as yours and prone to damaging floor finishes. Finally, check overuse of a spray buffing solution or restorer.

Normally, a clear water rinse followed by burnishing will remove sticky residues. Just make sure the burnish pads are rotated, cleaned, and replaced as necessary. The old adage that if a little bit does a good job then a lot more will do even better is certainly counterproductive when it comes to floor maintenance. More than likely, overuse of products is the cause of your sticky problem.

Q. We have a 3,000 sq. ft. banquet hall floor of VCT, used pretty much daily for dart leagues, parties, receptions, banquets and meetings from September through May. The 10 or 12 banquet tables and 100 chairs with plastic glide feet are dragged and this scratches and damages the floor beyond belief. To make matters worse, the schedule does not allow for an appropriate maintenance schedule.

The building houses an additional 7,000 sq. ft. of hard floor. The facility has no auto scrubber, no burnishing machine, and no time to institute a proper maintenance program. We have a 2 speed swing machine and a wet vac to do all the work.

There appears to have been pigment leeching from the stripper and pad leaving the blue tile faded looking, scratched, and blotchy. This floor needs to be stripped, refinished, cured, and burnished at least once, if not twice annually, and, at the very least, a burnisher should be purchased. It is dry and damp mopped daily, but the workload leaves little time for burnishing, or deep scrubs and recoats, especially September thru May when heavy use prohibits the removal of obstructions.

Still, the gold standard is demanded. I have done this work for 30 years and I can’t get through to them; bookings and lost revenues are far more important. Either I am out of my league or they are. Any words of advice would be appreciated. I’ve been there almost 8 years and I know what I should do, but the economy in this area isn’t exactly bursting.

A. Unless the facility is willing to place value on floor appearance by opening their pocket book, you are just banging your head against the wall. You could demonstrate proper floor maintenance by borrowing, renting, or asking your Jan/San supplier to lend you a demo unit to burnish 1/3 of the room.

Then, suggest that an investment in proper equipment will greatly enhance the floor appearance. This, in turn, should improve customer satisfaction levels. Next quarter, work on an autoscrubber. Remember; you can only do what you can do, with what you have to work with. But never stop trying to bring excellence to your job assignment.

Q. Can you give me a detailed procedure for top scrubbing a tile floor? Chemical usage, color of pad, proper equipment, etc.

A. There are several ways to accomplish this. In a small restroom or around toilets, you could use a scrub pad on a pole. Normally, you use a floor machine or an autoscrubber depending upon the size of the area.

Here is a short answer to your question. Dilute a floor cleaner (neutral or slightly alkaline) according to the label’s directions and mop the solution moderately heavy onto the floor (approx. 200 sq. ft at a time). Or, shower feed from a handle mounted tank on your floor machine. Scrub with a blue or green pad (1-2 passes).

Work small areas so the solution does not dry on the floor. Hand scrape any difficult spots. A 5″ blade pulled toward you works best for blending. Wet vac and rinse 1-2 times. Inspect carefully while rinsing to re-blade any visible soil, bumps, burns, etc. Areas of discoloration will show thru the rinse water and indicate a need to rework the area. Do not apply floor finish over a marked, soiled, or discolored floor.

If you use an autoscrubber, shower feed the floor cleaner thru the machine. Make the first pass with the squeegee up and the second pass with it down. Apply one rinse. Finally, dust mop the dried floor with a clean pad to remove any debris, and then apply finish. If heavy traffic has worn off the finish, apply the first coat in the center of the traffic lane only. Then, apply the second coat, still keeping away from edges as much as possible. Avoid heavy recoats along the edges or you will experience an eventual buildup.

There are actually a lot of details to master concerning blending areas, knowing when to use 1 coat vs. 2 coats of floor finish, keeping the finish application light at the cut-off lines, reusing burnishing pads for top scrub, and a host of other variables.

Q. What is the best method and products for cleaning new VCT floors in a day care center? What price per sq. ft.?

A. Armstrong, for example, recommends cleaning the floor with a floor cleaner and then applying 3-5 coats of a finish containing 16%-22% solids such as Armstrong S-480 Commercial Floor Polish. Others are likely similar.

My experience has shown that a floor machine with a floor cleaner and green pad will remove additional scratches, black marks, and embedded soil much better than just mopping the floor. Always prep for finish by scrubbing.

On the East Coast, we usually see a range of 20 to 40 cents a square foot on new unoccupied VCT. The point spread is based on area, number of rooms, coats of finish, etc. 2K is considered small and 10K is considered large. We use an eight point scoring system in JanBid to zero in on the winning price.

A slow speed (175 rpm) floor machine works well to buff out a gym floor. Usually a red pad with a wood floor polish does the best job. Before buffing, dust mop, then use a slightly damp flat mop to remove any spills.

Your numbers show a possibility of 15 or more coats of finish in the last year. I would recommend you perform a test strip in a small area first. Determine if there is a permanent seal under all those coats of floor finish. From this, you will see if it takes 2 or 3 strip outs.

You won’t believe this, but I have seen contractors go in at 50 cents a square foot and not turn a profit. They expected close to 200 sq. ft. per hour and ended up with 20 sq. ft. per hour, down on their knees with razor scrapers.

A job like this is too difficult to guess in advance how long it will take. A pre-test will, at least, give you some idea of the task difficulty. Then, all you have to do is figure out how you can possibly do this work without shutting off access to large areas of the store. Be very careful contracting for this one. JanBid will definitely help you price this one accurately.

I’ve seen a wide range in pricing depending on all the variables. For example, small kitchens with lots of equipment to move could go as high as $.75 per square foot using a truckmount and a hydro spinner. It’s not unusual for the moving of equipment to consume 25% of the labor.

Larger kitchens or restrooms with little to move could go for $.30 and yet large vacant areas using an autoscrubber could go for $.12. In your case, you will want to establish a sliding scale depending upon size, difficulty, equipment to move, and productivity of the equipment you have available. When possible, do a test area to determine the finished product you will be able to deliver showing the resultant color of the grout. Try JanBid, it will produce accurate numbers for you.

On a floor this size in Arkansas, I have seen prices starting at $.22 a square foot to deep scrub and apply 2-3 coats. This would be a standard G.C. spec.
On the other hand, the same job with small rooms and a high gloss requirement (4-5 coats of finish) often commands up to $.50 square foot. The percent of solids and quality of the finish also affects how many coats are required.

With that range in mind (assuming the account is already profitable) quote an affordable price that dissuades them from going out for other bids. The quoted range assumes the floors are ready to go and that you have productive equipment, and it includes all expenses and profit. Two men should be able to finish it in one day, or slightly more. JanBid is a snap when bidding floor care.

There are several variables that have an impact on pricing. Once you are experienced, pricing by the square foot is the fastest method. However, your floor care survey form must include the extent of difficulty, which is often dependent upon the degree of heavy build up and the requirements for detailed edging. The amount of furniture to move is a major consideration as well as the room sizes. With all of this in mind, your pricing for a small and difficult job could start at 50 cents a square foot and range down to below 20 cents for a large supermarket. The number of required coats of finish also affects your pricing.

If you calculate your pricing by the hour, you might find your production rate as low as 120 square feet per hour or as high as 500 square feet per hour. This will be determined by the effectiveness of your stripper and the efficiency and size of your equipment as well as your personal work speed. Some contractors total up the estimated labor, equipment, and chemical costs and then triple that to arrive at the billing rate. JanBid make bidding easy.

In metro Oklahoma I would expect to see a range of $.25-$.38 cents a square foot on a strip and 4 coats of finish for 10,000 sq. ft. The price range would need to take into consideration: access, buildup, neglected edge work, layout and number of small rooms. In addition, it could be higher if moving considerable furniture. If your facility is medical/professional, then you will likely have smaller rooms. You will probably find a scrub and top coat (2 coats) at about 60% of the initial strip price. JanBid personalizes the prices for any city.

More than likely, competitive pricing in your area would be in the neighborhood of 35 cents a square foot for a job this size (plus or minus 20%) depending upon travel time, edge buildup, coats of finish to remove, coats of finish to apply, and whether it is one room or ten rooms. A three person crew is the most efficient. In Lake Charles, a typical wage for a general helper would be around $10 an hour, and over $15 for an experienced floor tech.

You will probably want to use equipment of a larger size. By doing so you should be able to increase your production time 30-100%. A scale of economy would likely indicate a 20% discount for accounts this size. Just momentum alone will improve your production rate.

Here are several variables that can affect your production time: (1) level of training for your crew, (2) access to an autoscrubber or at least a 20″ floor machine with shower feed tank, (3) no furniture to move (4) no more than 5 small rooms. If you have to compensate for any of these factors, your time could easily increase by 50%. Your price of $800 comes out to just over 21 cents a square foot which is doable. With a helper you could scrub and lay 3 coats of finish in as little as 5.5 hours (add more for the above conditions). That would give you $145 an hour from which you would subtract labor, chemical and all your expenses before paying yourself. Our new edition of JanBid Estimating Software can easily and accurately give you all the answers you are looking for.

Your pre-bid inspection should include identifying if certain areas receive more traffic than other. Inquire about suggested scrub and re-coat and deep strip frequencies. Medical facilities have more than average furniture density. Hopefully you can determine the ease or difficulty of access, the equipment you have at your disposal, the traffic the floor gets, and the interim maintenance it receives.

Since the customer is asking for every other week service that would indicate the facility receives fairly heavy traffic. To move chairs and other light furniture and then mop and burnish would probably take 2-2 ½ hours (+ or – 25%). Your production times will vary depending upon the size of equipment that you have available. If your billing rate for specialty work to an existing janitorial account were to run $35 an hour, the charge might be over $70 a time (more if you do not provide the janitorial service).

If you are burnishing twice a month, you will probably need to scrub and top coat all the traffic lanes three times a year. A scrub and recoat is needed when the floor begins to show wear that the spray buff, mop-on restorer, or burnishing can’t conceal. The frequency depends on the traffic and the quality of maintenance.

One coat of finish works for light traffic and two coats for heavy. Heavy traffic includes building usage such as equipment and carts being drug across the floor, inadequate door mats, sand from outside the building, lack of plastic chair protectors, insufficient dust mopping, excessive spills and a waiting room with tile. It is safer to quote a scrub and top coat per time and let the customer decide how often they want it performed.

Not knowing what city you are in, or your labor rates, expenses, and required profit margins, it would be difficult to pin point the cost per square foot. Likely it would run in the 14-20 cents a square foot range for a scrub and top coat. An annual or bi-annual strip would likely run in the 28-45 cents range because just moving all the furniture and equipment could take 3 hours. You probably will not be able to use an autoscrubber because exam rooms are typically 10X10.

A flat mop/backpack floor finish applicator will speed up the job and make it much easier. Depending upon the experience of your crew, pre-existing buildup, the size of your equipment, and amount of furniture, expect 4,200 square feet to take up to 14-20 man-hours to strip and finish. Again, all the variables require a sliding scale for pricing, which you must observe first-hand and then decide.

Your floor or carpet care crew will be more efficient if you do yourself a favor first, and exclude any and all workers that actually don’t have the basic skill set, motivation, strength, interest, and learning ability for the work. In other words, not everyone is cut out to learn and perform carpet and floor care work.

Trying to train someone who is the wrong person for the job is frustrating for both you and the employee. Here is why floor or carpet care is more demanding than typical janitorial work:

  • It requires a technician who can learn and use the chemistry required and the ability to troubleshoot chemical and supply demands
  • The technician will be required to lift heavy mop buckets and buffers, or carpet extractors and keep up with strenuous demands of the work
  • The floor or carpet tech must often work long week-ends or late into the night
  • A worker with a learning or reading disability will require a tutor

Training janitors who do not possess the required skills, and the desire is counter-productive. You end up with employees doing a job they really don’t like. They become frustrated when they are not able to flow with the crew.

And of course even more of a problem is using individuals with no training and they end up messing up the job. Now you have a loss of credibility as an owner or manager, and have to pay to have the job straightened out. This is where we come in, and provide the training so failure and botched jobs should no longer occur.

Our training program is very thorough. You will learn all the necessary steps to clean and troubleshoot cleaning problems. The test is open book. Once you pass, you receive a diploma. At this point it is helpful to rent equipment (such as from Home Depot) and then do a few jobs on your own (friends, neighbors, relatives, etc). You do need some experience before most employers will hire you. In addition, most employers look for someone with good communication skills, is well groomed, can relate to people, follows directions, and shows integrity and dependability. A good work record, plus good references is also required by most employers

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Managing Your Cleaning Business or Service

You could require the cleaner to take a cell phone camera shot when finished. Take one of the telephone, one of the inside of the booth, and two outside the booth, and text the photos to you along with a time/date stamp. Obviously, you will need something on the booth that will clearly identify it. The next best (though more expensive) thing is to have someone inspect and document the cleaning soon after each booth is cleaned.

I doubt if you could qualify as a non-profit corp. unless you are an educational institution, a research foundation, or a religious organization. In your area the Washington, DC web site is They indicate you can incorporate for a fee of $185 and must have $1,000 on balance in your bank account. They also offer basic details about preparing your articles of incorporation.

Also, check to see if you can file without an attorney. Trade name registration is $50 and they have a kit you can download. If your assets and net worth are still minimal and you are not concerned about litigation, you could set up shop in most cities for under $100 as a sole proprietor. Sole proprietor registration usually takes 10 minutes. Then, as you grow and have assets to protect, you can switch to a corporation. But, it’s always good to check with an attorney to see if you have unknown exposure for your intended operations.

In addition to analyzing and verifying all the financial data, I would appraise the non-tangible value of the good-will. Accounts come and go. If you are serious about the business, visit the largest and most profitable accounts at night (sign a non-compete, non-disclosure contract if necessary). Determine if any customers are high maintenance and how smoothly the operation runs.

The next step would be to ask the seller if you could go with him on a customer visit. If things are progressing, mention to the customer you are considering working in and managing the business including his account. Once you have the customer’s confidence, tell him you are purchasing the business. Communicate with integrity, yet remember: a business divorce and re-marriage often functions best when performed in stages.

Prior to the purchase; evaluate customer fit. Does rapport occur naturally? Does the current service level match customer expectations? Have past QC inspection reports been satisfactory? What complaints have been received in the past? Have customer service issues been handled in a timely manner? Why are margins low? Is the company known for low-ball pricing? Does the company maintain high levels of customer loyalty?

Find out what makes the business tick. Ask for a 90-day guarantee from the seller that each account will switch over or the purchase price will be reduced. That puts pressure on the seller to work for a smooth transition. Consider hiring a mentor who will work with you personally.

A fidelity bond covering your staff is a smart investment. It is inexpensive; normally under $150 in most cities for 5 workers covering up to $10,000 in theft. The kicker is that it only pays upon conviction, which is not always easy to obtain. Still, having bonding is often the magical key that allows you to obtain a customer’s keys and provides a better night’s sleep. Consider hiring a mentor who will work with you personally.

It’s perplexing to see how some contractors bid so low and still stay in business. I suspect if they really knew in advance how little they would net, they might reconsider.

So, here is a tip. If you know the price is way below where it should be, suggest a partial clean several nights a week. A partial clean omits dusting, spray-and-wipe, and detailed vacuuming. Generally, this can reduce the price 25%-35% on a given night.

Our JanBid software calculates this for you. Secondly, always calculate your projected monthly net income on every bid. Determine how many hours it will take you to service the account (train, inspect, bring supplies, etc.).

Ask yourself if this hourly rate (monthly billing divided by monthly management hours) will earn your desired monthly income. There are some jobs you cannot afford to do.

A cleaning audit could collect and process data for worker productivity (sq/ft cleaned per hour), safety and OSHA conformance, itemized cleaning costs, best practices, product and equipment effectiveness, review for outsourcing or bringing back in-house services, or quality scores, among other things.

A quality inspection system could vary depending upon the frequency of inspections that you want to maintain. Probably the most common frequency is once a month of all cleanable areas in a facility, or a minimum of one inspection per FTE (full-time equivalent) per month. Time allotted can vary with the coverage. It will take longer to run an inspection with 25 or more items and a scoring of 1-10 then with a simple inspection of pass or fail for 10 items or cleaning tasks.

It’s not unusual to see government contracts of over 1 million sq/ft requiring a fulltime quality inspector. This is to ensure conformance to contract. One FTE QA person is usually able to inspect all of the employee’s quality performance once a month in that 1m sq/ft facility.

New workers might require an inspection more often, until their performance reaches the desired skill level. I must admit that it has been close to 40-years since I last studied random sampling, standard deviations, and confidence levels. Basically statistical sampling requires a certain representative sample compared to the whole population size to arrive at the desired confidence interval or level (+ or – percent of accuracy).

There is an online calculator that allows you to enter the population sample size (i.e. number of desks cleaned per month) and the proposed sample size to view the calculated confidence interval. Basically, the larger the sample size (increased inspection frequencies), the higher the confidence level.

One of the objectives of cleaning inspections is to locate deficiencies that need to be corrected. Another is to find reason to praise workers for a good job. The required focus is the area cleaned by a particular individual or team, and not square footage. A savvy contract administrator or cleaning manager might maintain monthly records indicating a quality percent score for every individual and/or team.

In practice, it is all about customer satisfaction and contract compliance. You end up inspecting areas often enough, plus retraining and re-motivating workers, to achieve the desired quality inspection scores needed to reach and exceed high customer satisfaction levels. Or, in some government contracts, you inspect to avoid financial deductions for non-performance of contract.

Midwestern billing rates on the high end for small accounts can run from $30.00 an hour and $.20 a square foot per month for a 2,000 square foot office cleaned once a week, down to a $14.50/hr. billing rate and $.07 cents for a million square feet cleaned nightly in a Midwest city. Everything else will likely fall within these parameters.

Finding good subcontractors can be challenging. You are never certain about their integrity, cleaning and management skills, level of quality, and dependability until they have performed a few jobs for you.

One contractor who is part of our network reported excellent results by placing employment ads on A critical aspect is to qualify potential subs by checking their references. Next, plan to give them a test job that you carefully monitor. Watch closely and evaluate their performance capabilities. You might decide that they are not the people you want to partner with. Also LinkedIn has a cleaning subcontractor board that is very active. We have subcontract agreement forms which are a part of our Independent Contractor Training manual.

There are too many unknown variables to give you an exact answer. For example, will it be day cleaning or night, full-time or part-time crews, team or zone cleaning, and do you know the estimated production rate as related to the cleaning specifications. Will the dusting and detail work along with wall-to-wall vacuuming be required daily, every other day, or weekly?

If you hired part-time workers and they cleaned as a team, say at 3,200 sq. ft. per hour, you would need 5 workers cleaning for 2.81 hours each. If one team used 3 workers and the other team used 2 workers you would need two complete sets of equipment. That would normally consists of: dust mop, mop bucket, press and mop, trash barrel on wheels, vacuum, and all the hand cleaning tools to stock two janitorial supply closets.

To be on the safe side, provide some back-up equipment such as an extra vacuum. If it is a medical building, then additional restrooms would likely require a janitor cart for restocking disposables and holding cleaning supplies. And, you may want to invest in a sprayatizer for spray cleaning of restrooms at least once a week.

Depending upon the floor and carpet care frequencies, you might borrow the required equipment from another building. You would probably need a carpet extractor, floor machine for bonnet/encapsulation cleaning and strip and refinishing, wet vac, and a burnisher, along with all the required supplies. If there are a lot of halls and fewer desks, a self-contained walk-behind extractor would speed up the process. A 20″ floor machine with a solution feed tank is great for encap and scrub and recoat, and a 20″ electric burnisher is probably about right. A two person project floor/carpet team works best. And, more than likely one Saturday a month would be sufficient to maintain the carpet and hard floor surfaces.

The pre-planning process basically answers these questions: “What has to be done, how long will it take, what supplies are required for each person or crew to accomplish the job, and how many crews are required to clean the building in the allotted time”.

Q. I have some accounts that I been cleaning for over three years. The price on some of these was based on me paying my employees $8.00 per hour. Now, with me giving the employees a yearly raise, I have to pass this down to my customers. And other accounts are bid too low. How do I go about raising my prices? I have a big fear that they will look elsewhere if I do. Thank you.

A. First of all, I’m sure you know the timing is not advantageous to raise prices, especially when business owners are looking for ways to reduce operating costs (including janitorial services). With that said, understand that you also risk opening up the contract for competitive bids.

If you feel some of your contracts are not turning a required profit, there are some strategies you could pursue. Make sure the quality and service you provide is superior and the customer is pleased with your overall service. Then, you could explain that your starting employee wage is now 30% below the current prevailing wage for your area (see

Out of fairness, you want to keep up with the increased cost of living by paying your workers what they need in order to survive. Then, mention how much you would like to bill as an increase to help out your crew and ask the contact if he or she thinks management would be open to that increase.

This approach is risky, yet palatable. So, if you feel an increase is necessary, be prepared for some tough negotiations. If possible, offer some perceived value-added services that would cost you little or nothing and still be a perk to the customer.

Normally franchises that do not procure accounts for you, charge a low monthly royalty (often below 10%). They can be high-profile companies that generate leads with ongoing TV advertising.

Franchises that secure accounts and resell them to you, typically charge three times the monthly gross for the acquisition fee. And, their monthly royalty can run 20%-30% on top of that.

The problem with allowing someone else to bid the accounts for you is that you could purchase an account and then end up earning minimum wage for all of your hard work. So, if you do sign up with a franchise, make sure you purchase janitorial bidding software to determine in advance if the account is under-bid.

Even though the franchise brokers may take a majority of your profit, they do offer the service of procuring accounts for you. If you lack marketing skills, business skills, or have a challenge with the English language, then a franchise broker could be an option. You can always Google “litigation” followed by the franchise’s name to discover if they are experiencing integrity problems.

Most contractors who invest in a cleaning contractor training program and secure their own contracts, immensely enjoy keeping 100% of the revenues. With this scenario, you answer to no one except the customer. To obtain training on starting your own business, Google “cleaning contractor training programs”. These programs can help you with the marketing, bidding, and management.

This is a problem with no easy answers. Years ago, I failed to have a backup for my strip and wax crew. One helper was gone and the other one called in sick. My problem was that at 7PM, I had to start the strip and refinish for an entire daycare, including moving all the furniture. To this day I don’t know how I did it, but at 6 AM everything was finished and they were ready to open 30-minutes later.

After I learned the hard way, I started requiring a certain lead time for a call in – such as 2-4 hours. Then, in my recruiting, after I had hired my best prospect, I would tell my second best choice, that I would be glad to put them on reserve, as a back-up. So I could call them when I had someone off, and they hopefully could fill in. Then, when I had my first job opening they would be pre-qualified and ready to go.

Always try to have a back-up for late notices. Perhaps, friends, neighbors or relatives. It needs to be a priority to find 1-2 backups so you can get the work finished on time.

It can be ok when you first start and actually need cleaning experience, but it does have its drawbacks. Here are some actual stories from my past. About 20 years ago I helped set up my first contractor in the business; serving as their consultant. Eventually the owner was doing so well he no longer needed my services. Later, I had seen a report that he had expanded to several million a year. A couple of years later I phoned him just to see how he was doing. He was working an hourly job and had lost his two big box accounts. One had gone out of business and the other was fickle (little or no loyalty to its contractors). Since he had put all of his eggs into two baskets; when his accounts went south, so did his entire business. Here is a guideline for all cleaning contractors: It can be unwise to allow one account to provide more than 30% of your income.

About six years ago a contractor out of L.A. called me to see if I would clean (subcontract) the carpet cleaning in about 5 Hollywood Video stores. I asked them what they were paying. They said 6 cents a square foot. I said, “Did you mean 16 cents?” which was the national average then. I politely declined by telling them that back in 1974, I was charging 8 cents a sq. ft. for commercial. The moral: always follow your own pricing models by knowing your break-even point and required profit on every potential job.

And finally, about 25 years ago, I agreed to sub- contract the floor and carpet care for a large New York Contractor. It included servicing several Dallas mall stores. About a month later several pails of floor finish and stripper showed up on my porch. It was payment for doing the labor. What a nice surprise. The moral: watch out who you take on as your partner. A solid marketing plan to canvas your trade area can land your own accounts. Then you can keep 100% of the gross. If you are looking for training materials, check out our JanBid Estimating Solutions and Janitorial Success marketing manual.

Experience has taught all of us that reduced cleaning frequencies result in increased cleaning times. In your case the increased cleaning time would be similar in going from APPA level 2 to an APPA level 1. Each of the 5 levels (increasing upwards) adds 15-%-20% more time. So, the cleaning time would increase by at least 30% – 40%. Our JanBid recalculates the nightly cleaning time to increase the time slightly when the building is cleaned fewer times.

There are health risks by allowing surfaces to go unclean for an entire week. Recent outbreaks of MRSA prove that employees in any work environment are susceptible. Health and safety are at risk and this can increase absenteeism. A cutback in cleaning frequencies could result in employee illness which in the long run will cost the employer more.

If you are satisfied with the price per hour that you are earning on the current 2,000-4,000 square foot jobs, then you can easily calculate a sliding scale. First, divide the monthly fee on the 2,000 square foot building by the exact square footage. Then, divide the monthly fee you receive on the 4,000 square foot building by the exact square footage. If both buildings are similar and cleaned five days a week, you will have your base rate for the monthly square footage charge.

For example, if the 2,000 square foot building paid $380 a month for five days a week that would equal $.19 a square foot. If the $4,000 square foot building paid $520 a month that would equal $.13 a square foot. If you are bidding a similar building, cleaned five times a week (just three times larger), you may consider bidding at $.12. The larger the building, the lower your square foot price must be to remain competitive.

There are many other variables to consider when pricing your bids.

If a building requires six days a week, you would add 16.7% to the price and for seven days add 28.6% to the square foot price. If the cleaning expectations and specifications are different, you must also compensate for that in your price. Cleaning demands can be affected by several variables including density of people, condition of building, layout, interruptions, cleaning equipment and skills, etc. Pricing by the square foot assumes you have kept records on other jobs to identify the variables, cleaning specifications, hourly earnings, and production times.

Check out JanBid, it takes away the hassle, guesswork and hours of crunching numbers and gives you an accurate bid in just minutes. There is nothing like it.

I would recommend using personalized workloading software specific for schools such as Cleaning Management Software that we market. It is available on a download with a 30-day free trial. It also projects chemical usage as well. The school RFP should have plenty of details to construct manpower coverage. Once you know the FTE (full-time equivalent) demand, the math becomes easy. One caution is to have a tight definition for non-cleaning expectations. Don’t let chair setups at midnight catch you by surprise.

It’s perplexing to see how some contractors bid so low and still stay in business. I suspect if they really knew in advance how little they would net, they might reconsider.

So, here is a tip. If you know the price is way below where it should be, suggest a partial clean several nights a week. A partial clean omits dusting, spray-and-wipe, and detailed vacuuming. Generally, this can reduce the price 25%-35% on a given night. There is bidding software that calculates this for you.

Secondly, always calculate your projected monthly net income on every bid. Determine how many hours it will take you to service the account (train, inspect, bring supplies, etc.). Ask yourself if this hourly rate (monthly billing divided by monthly management hours) will earn your desired monthly income. There are some jobs you cannot afford to do.

JanBid allows you to automatically bid at three different levels of cleaning.

There are factors unrelated to price that become part of the equation. There could be situations where a close friend or family member is bidding against you. Guess who will likely win the contract? Also, things like your references, quality assurance program, safety program, aseptic cleaning procedures, and overall sales presentation could be determining factors.

Landing bids is a numbers game and don’t expect to win every one. If you bid the contract for $5700 a month with 15 hours a night, six times a week, your bid comes out to $14.62 an hour. If you landed the bid at say 20% less or $11.69 an hour, I am not sure that you would want it at that price.

Customers, who decide only on the lowest price, remain loyal to the company who will submit the lowest bid the next time around. Besides, if you land every bid you submit, it could indicate your pricing is too low. The important thing is to remain in contact with each prospect in case they become unhappy with their original contractor.

Our Contractor Training and Certification program will provide all the help you need to land more contracts.

We have a proven system for every area of your business.

Granted, it is a challenge. However, there are ways to start your business part-time. You want to only quit the day job when your cleaning income has increased to equal what you make during the days. So, it can take longer to build the business to make a good living. One plus is that smaller accounts are normally cleaned once a week on the weekend. They may only bring in $200 to $400 a month, but several of them can add up. Pursuing small accounts in your local area is the best place to start.

Networking with others is also the soundest marketing strategy. Since you may not have a list of current business references, you can try this approach. Ask friends, neighbors and relatives to help you in getting bid opportunities. It isn’t about who you know, but who they know.

One incentive is to ask your contacts to help you obtain bidding opportunities, and then give them a gift certificate when you land the contract. A nice meal for two is a good gesture. By following this strategy, your circle of friends will vouch for your performance, integrity, and dedication to keeping the building clean. Their personal word of endorsement may carry a lot of weight, and convince the business owner to choose you.

Medium size offices can take a couple, two or three hours for a 2, 3, or 5 times a week clean. So that is also doable, and you can survive the extra hours, and still get up in the morning. Putting in long hours is sometimes the short term price of building your own successful cleaning business.

There are customers that are ok with you working days and cleaning at night. They feel you are extra ambitious. You can always return their phone calls during your breaks, lunch hour, and after work. Texting is also good for communications.

On a day off you can pass out marketing flyers (you will have 40 of them in our Janitorial Success program). Start with businesses closer to home. That way you can tell the contacts that you live just down the street.

Explain to your prospects that you are a local family business. They don’t have to call a corporate headquarters in another city or state, and put up with red-tape and long waits to get their needs met. Since you live in the area, all they need to do is pick up the phone and you will be there.

A lot of smaller accounts prefer a local business that gives personal attention. They might have been burned by large corporations promising everything and delivering little. To close the deal it helps to convince them that you are out to prove you are the best cleaning company in the area. By doing so, it builds your reputation and you gain referrals, and word of mouth advertising. And that is why you are motivated to do a better job. Convince the prospect they will be extremely satisfied with your service.

In summary, here are the steps to follow:

  1. First invest in the National Pro Clean Contractor Training program. You will have JanBid and Janitorial Success to ensure your bids are accurate and professional, and your marketing appears professional.
  2. Start small, near your home and set goals to land once a week cleaning accounts.
  3. Recruit friends, neighbors and relatives to help you obtain bid opportunities. Tell them you will buy them a nice gift certificate of appreciation when you land the contract.
  4. Don’t be afraid to let the prospect know you are a small, local, family business.
  5. Consider taking the Contractor Training Test and receive your Professional Cleaning Contractor Certification from our Pro Clean College. Your diploma will impress the prospect that you are qualified to provide the best service available.
  6. Use your spare time to pass out fliers and answer phone calls during the day.
  7. Assure the prospect you will do a better job because you are motivated to keep happy customers.
  8. Manage your business by using our Cleaning Managers Dashboard and inspect your cleaning quality by using our Q.C. Inspection Form to ensure you are doing a good job.
  9. Keep repeating steps 2-8 and you are on your way to success. You own your own company and call all of the shots. You can build it so a team of workers do the cleaning for you, and you manage their work.

Maybe the company you left your bid with only hires cleaning companies that call back 2-3 times. This qualifies them as a highly motivated contractor who wants the account. Secondly, often a prospect accepts a bid, but then the current contractor works harder to turn things around. So for a little while the prospect is somewhat satisfied.

Whenever I was disappointed that I never heard back, my wife use to say, maybe they have other priorities and you are not on their mind at the present time. So, I began to take another approach. From the first time I walked into the building and each time thereafter, I always looked for a reason to call them back. In fact, you need to invent a reason for calling them back, or stopping by as a follow-up.

Inside our Cleaning Managers Dashboard, and JanBid there is a section that allows you to list all of the deficiencies you have noticed and make detailed notes. Our Janitorial Success Manual contains a list of 18 reasons why cleaning contractors get cancelled. Your objective is to discover things the prospect may not have thought about. Now, as a concerned contractor you need to develop a plan that is well executed.

Your main objective is to demonstrate a concerted concern about the appearance and sanitation level of the prospects facility. In fact, at some point hopefully the prospect may come to the conclusion that you care more about his or her cleaning program than the current contractor. You build a relationship of trust because of your expertise and professionalism.

Once you qualify as number two on the prospects list of best choices for a cleaning contractor, it can be just a matter of time you become number one. If you have to work hard to get the account and then do a better job, it shows you competitors will have a hard time getting the account away from you.

Account retention is crucial in keeping your business profitable. Our new Cleaning Managers Dashboard outlines specific strategies to pursue. Here is brief summary of the areas you must excel:

  • Repeat business and customer loyalty is built on customers being treated well and their feeling that you and your company are competent and concerned about their needs
  • Make sure your entire staff performs all activities in a friendly manner. Grouchy, rude, argumentative, disconnected, or impolite staff will drive customers away. No one wants to be treated disrespectfully.
  • Collect ongoing information about each customer so you become knowledgeable and can engage in most any discussion they initiate
  • Surpass expectations and make your visits memorable
  • Demonstrate that you are responsible for all of your actions
  • Keep all of your promises
  • Listen more and talk less
  • Take care of an angry customer immediately
  • Recruiting top cleaners by only selecting the best workers
  • Interviewing, qualifying, and training professional technicians
  • Providing direct supervision or on-site management to monitor and track performance
  • Providing innovative cleaning systems, equipment, and chemicals
  • Provide on-going training systems that prevent operator errors and increase skill levels
  • Promote team effort and cooperation
  • Stop by or phone the customer to make sure they are happy with the work. Follow-ups can also lead to additional work and referrals.
  • Performance feedback also allows you to improve cleaning results and resolve any issues.
  • Extend kind deeds of extra service. It will eventually come back to reward you. Going the extra mile costs little, but the payback is huge.
  • Train everyone on your staff that they should act as if they are the only personal contact that the customer has with your company, and conduct themselves as if the entire image and reputation of your company depends upon them.
  • Solve all cleaning problems and eliminate deficiencies
  • Add value by either reducing costs or improving cleaning results
  • Determine if you are continuously fulfilling customer expectations
  • Keep focused on what it will take to get your contract renewed and identify what the customer will lose if you are cancelled.
  • Developed obstacles that would stop a competitor from trying to take over your
  • Construct barriers and impediments that reduce or prevent client cancellation
  • Offer a satisfaction guarantee
  • Follow an exact Complaint Response System
  • Resolve cleaning problems or issues so they do not continue to repeat themselves
  • Deliver predictable and consistent service outcomes
  • Provide a comprehensive employee training program that reduces complaint

We have a proven system for every area of your business.

Automotive upholstery cleaning is approached much like standard carpet cleaning. For light touch-ups you can use a foaming shampoo, or an encapsulation cleaner with a brush or car wash mitt. Use approved spot removers for coffee, tar, ink, grease, etc. not readily removed by the shampoo or encap process. Apply the spotter to a towel and gently blot. Towel-dry the upholstery when finished cleaning.

You will find most floor mats heavily soiled and will require hot water extraction. The process would be to pre-spray with a heavy duty carpet traffic lane cleaner or a premium pre-conditioner. Agitate with a horsehair brush, or soft nylon bristle brush. Another method for agitation is to use a car wash mitt and then extract with an upholstery wand using clear hot water in a portable extractor. Again, towel dry when finished and allow good airflow to reduce the drying time.

A small ozone machine works wonders on pet odors and tobacco smoke.

We have a proven system for every area of your business.

I would try a chlorinated cream cleanser with a white or blue nylon scrub pad. Make sure you only scrub with the grain and then rinse.

Window washing has several cleaning time variables including operator experience, size and productivity of equipment, ease of access, soil condition of glass and size of windows. Sometimes it is easier to break the window size down into small, medium and large for bidding purposes. Many contractors figure 1 to 3 minutes per side depending on the size, soil condition and access for first floor windows and interior. This time may or may not include set up, ladder movement or removing obstacles. Then, you would calculate your hourly billing rate based on all expenses, frequency of cleaning, income potential of the account and desired profit.

Many janitorial contractors who offer window washing, charge $25-$45 an hour. Suppose you cleaned small windows in one minute – those that were easily accessible and not too soiled. If you were a winding washing specialty company and your billing rate was $60 an hour, then you would charge $1.00 per side. Or, suppose the windows are not cleaned often and heavily soiled (project work). You might charge $3.50 for first floor and interior, $4.50 for 2nd and $5.50 for 3rd floor and above. New construction window cleaning will take 3-5 times longer.

The important thing is to track your own production times and then develop a pricing chart that reflects your required profit level. You could even do this by starting at home. A recent report indicated 70 window washer deaths last year in the U.S., indicative of the high cost of workers comp. Some projects (especially high-rises) are best subcontracted to a professional service.

We have a proven system for every area of your business. Learn More…

Land More Cleaning Contracts

Here are just a few approaches to use:

  1. Identify and map out your immediate trade area. You can do this by drawing a large circle on a map around your business or home that in turn reaches out 20 minutes in drive time in each direction. You will lower your cost and be most effective in your own backyard. Obtain the print out of all the businesses in each ZIP code for your trade area. Our new Cleaning Manager Dashboard accomplishes all of this for you.
  2. With your marketing flyers and business card begin visiting all of the businesses in your trade area that represents the type of prospects you would like to clean. Your written or email strategy might include the note that: “We are large enough to service all of your cleaning needs, yet small enough to provide personalized service.” Or, “We are located right in your backyard and ready to impress you with our superior cleaning service”. Our Janitorial Success manual now contains 40-marketing flyers for just about every situation.
  3. Open the conversation with the receptionist: “I’m _______________ with______________. We are located right down the street and clean accounts in the neighborhood. I’d like to ask your manager if I could provide an office cleaning bid, just in case your people quit. It would be like a backup bid you could keep on file – and it’s free.” (Smile Big). Our one hour video explains 12 Secrets to Landing Cleaning Contracts.
  4. If they insist they already have someone they are happy with and don’t need a backup bid, ask if you could make a note when the contract is up for renewal and make future contact.
  5. Even if the receptionist (gatekeeper) does not let you pass, make conversation with them. Create a positive impression. You will be amazed at what you can learn from the receptionist if you handle the conversation correctly.
  6. When you do the building walkthrough and site inspection, take note if the bid specs really meet the needs of the building. If not, offer to rewrite the bid specs to address current service issues.
  7. Locate as many cleaning and service issues or problems as you can. Janitorial Success shows 18 reasons why cleaning contractors are canceled. Construct your bid proposal to address all of the deficiencies that you noticed.
  8. Differentiate your company from the competition – do you use vacuums with HEPA filtration to improve indoor air quality? Do you do background checks on your staff using e-verify? Do you offer Green Cleaning? Are all of your employees trained to eliminate cross-contamination? And the list goes on. Determine your best niche and exploit it.
  9. Prospect companies that are similar to, or of the same type that you may currently clean. If you have an “in” with realtors, insurance companies, banks, or medical offices, expand your marketing coverage to focus on these markets. Use one of our flyers for each specific category along with letters of recommendation.
  10. Make application to be placed on bid lists. Check local branch banks and ask them how they contract for cleaning services. Some banking institutions contract nationally but others contract regionally. If you can get on a regional bid list you could pick up multiple accounts.
  11. Visit the after-hours mixers for your local area Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau, or a local leads club such as BNI. Normally, you can make an initial visit to see if there is a good fit for your company. Networking is an important avenue to land more bid appointments.
  12. Ask for referrals or leads from everyone you know. This could include current clients, family, friends, church, clubs, PTA, or any organizations that you belong to. When you get a lead from someone, send a personal thank you note. And, if you get that account, follow up with a gift certificate.
  13. Consider expanding your service coverage such as cleaning apartment communities, cleaning their move-outs, and also providing their common area and clubhouse cleaning. Consider expanding carpet cleaning, floor care, and upholstery cleaning for all of your customers. Our Contractor Training Program includes a comprehensive Carpet, Floor, and Upholstery Care training program, including testing and certification.
  14. Establish a telemarketing program. Since we have personally landed over a thousand contracts using telemarketing, we can show you all of our secrets. Read our booklet included in the Janitorial Success Manual. We have set up our Cleaning Manager’s Dashboard to track and help run your entire telemarketing and direct mail campaigns.

Your closing average will improve by using a winning presentation that we have developed for you. In addition, most customers prefer to study a contractor’s webpage before they make a final decision.

Land more Cleaning Contracts Learn More…


Contractor Ratings

You can take our tests and rate yourself. Then, use our Janitorial Success Program to expand your talents.

Contractor Marketing Skills – Rating Scale (Rate each question on a scale of 1-10 )

  1. Determination, discipline, and focus– Sufficient motivation to sacrifice and achieve important goals?
  2. Marketing plan, strategy, and quotas– Vision statement, target markets, media plan & weekly quotas established?
  3. Aggressive promotion and prospecting– Massive action to get the word out by following a well-planned approach?
  4. Networking– Actively working circles of influence, contacts, and referrals?
  5. Image– Do all public relations contact points favorably impress prospects including; phone messages, literature, personal appearance, vehicle, etc?
  6. Believability and Credibility– First brain-friendly – impressive eye contact, posture, movement, dress, appearance, smile, voice, and pleasant humor?
  7. Presentation– Presentation book with fliers, case studies, and important industry information establishing needs for thorough cleaning systems?
  8. Quality performance– Demo performed to convey floor or carpet superiority? Qualified and impressive references along with customer buildings that can be toured?
  9. Bidding accuracy– Bid performance tracked and prior productivity data collected and analyzed? Working knowledge of adjusting cleaning variables for each contract?
  10. Negotiation and closing skills– Program adjusted to fit customer needs?  Has rapport been established so negotiation and closing expertise are effective?

Total Score ______

A perfect score of 100 is unlikely.  Individual areas below a seven will need improvement and below five should demand immediate attention. Re-evaluate your score quarterly. A low score should be quickly addressed by studying and applying the principles from the Janitorial Success Program and Jan Bid Software.

Customer Retention – Performance Rating (Please rate each of the following items on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being poor and 10 being perfect.)

  1. Performing to customer expectations
    All cleaning specifications are clearly defined prior to the contract start date.  Cleaning expectations and level of quality are agreed to by both parties.
  2. Professional Staff
    Quality workers are recruited and thoroughly trained. Cleaning staff has memorized the posted list of cleaning requirements. Workers are trained in safety, chemical usage, equipment operation, building security, and all company policies.
  3. Motivated workers
    Staff is encouraged to perform to high standards and they are validated with adequate appreciation. Advantageous pay and benefit plans attract and keep quality people.
  4. Quality control program
    All work is inspected on a regular basis. Workers are shown and taught how to correct and prevent cleaning deficiencies. Regular monitoring ensures that nightly performance meets or exceeds customer’s expectations.
  5. Customer relations
    Customers are encouraged to provide performance feedback. A “be of service” attitude is always conveyed. All customer requests are handled in a professional manner. Customers receive special thanks – such as birthday cards, notes, etc.
  6. Communications and follow-up
    Customers can easily reach you. Voice mail response time is prompt. Workers are quickly informed of changes in service or complaints, etc. Prompt follow-up ensures all corrections or adjustments exceed customer expectations.
  7. Handling complaints
    Customers are encouraged to phone or leave a note regarding any service issue. Problem areas are quickly inspected and workers are trained to make corrections to prevent future complaints. Customer receives apology and assurance of prompt correction of all cleaning problems. A caring attitude is conveyed.
  8. Worker growth
    Workers receive performance evaluations or regular feedback on their overall performance. Employees receive written reprimands for substandard performance. On-going training program sharpens skills and builds teamwork.
  9. Support Systems
    Superior cleaning chemicals and procedures are employed (and adequately stocked) ensuring exceptional results. Up to date equipment is well maintained and utilized.
  10. Customer Cheerleaders
    Level of service and follow-up exceeds customer expectations. New prospect referrals and letters of recommendation are received. Contracts are renewed because of superior performance and satisfied customers.

Total Score ____

A perfect score of 100 is unlikely. Individual areas below a seven will need improvement and below five should demand immediate attention. Re-evaluate your score quarterly. Our Janitorial Success program can help you improve your score.

Start a Successful Cleaning Service by Avoiding these 10 Fatal Blunders

By Gary Clipperton ©2021 fifty-year industry veteran and expert

When I started my first contract cleaning service in 1974, I promptly added carpet and floor care to my janitorial services.  Fortunately, I had previously worked five years for a nationwide cleaning chemical manufacturer and knew which cleaning products to use, and how to train people.

However, I had no training, experience, or knowledge about bidding.  My expertise in hiring, training, and running my own crews was limited.  And, my accounting was primitive at best.  So, I began studying and reading everything I could find about small business success. Unfortunately, most of my education consisted of trial and error.

As you know, mistakes made from trial and error are expensive in the business world.  You can underbid jobs and lose money, or go broke. Failing to set aside funds for expansion, like purchasing a new set of equipment can hinder your growth. You can market the wrong way to the wrong crowd and spend a lot of money with zero results.

Here is my main concern for newer cleaning companies.  You can get on the Internet and study quick answers given about bidding, marketing, operations, cleaning solutions, or just running your business.  You watch a YouTube video and gain a false sense of confidence thinking you have the answers to all the problems you face. Do you suppose those YouTube videos come from savvy consultants who have set up hundreds and even thousands of new contractors?

Hopefully, you realize you need expert coaching, proven systems, and a comprehensive training program to become successful in the business.  One small book won’t cut it.  To compete successfully in today’s very competitive market requires in-depth knowledge and a proven system for each phase of the business.

When you mess up with your presentations, pricing, personnel, the scope of services you offer, negotiations, failure to use comprehensive training systems, poor bookkeeping and invoicing, quality control inspection programs, or whatever, it isn’t your customer’s responsibility to come to the rescue and show you how to straighten it out.

So here are my top ten mistakes you must avoid.  By staying clear of these blunders, you can avoid being driven out of business and among the 75% of business owners who fail in the first five years.

  1. Not using a startup checklist from a professional source. Do you have an accurate checklist from an experienced coach that shows you step-by-step everything you need to get started? Just winging it and hoping for the best is very risky.
  2. Not projecting your startup or expansion costs, priorities, and schedule for completion can blow up in your face. If you are a road contractor building a bridge and only have half enough to finish the job, you’re going to find yourself in a pickle. You have to count the costs in advance and establish plans to acquire what is needed even if it is piecemeal.
  3. Not reviewing the top 11 marketing approaches found in our Cleaning Manager’s Dashboard and initially narrowing it down to 5 powerful strategies that will help you land new customers. And while we are at it, some marketing strategies are a total waste of time and money. Do you know which ones those are? That’s why I keep stressing that a little bit of knowledge can make you dangerous to yourself.
  4. Failure to offer a customized and personalized bid proposal to each prospect. You may need to include photos, bullet points, before and after photos of things you have cleaned, industry certifications, and specific lists of the exclusive things you offer set you apart from the completion.  You also need a proven presentation to close a higher percentage of the proposals. By the way, our Janitorial Success manual contains 50-marketing flyers for just about every occasion and industry.
  5. Not possessing knowledge on how to close contracts, or sell against low ball bids, and huge corporations. Generic and dull proposals fail to make a dynamic first impression. You need a packet and a powerful presentation that sets you apart as an expert.
  6. Assuming some ball-park numbers will win you a lot of bids. Some pricing formulas may not even be close. On the other hand, JanBid Estimating Solutions has proven to be one of the leading programs that accurately provides very detailed pricing for every type of business. With JanBid you truly become an expert who can’t be taken advantage of and it also makes sure you don’t cheat yourself. In just a few minutes you will have a professional-looking proposal that is win-win and helps you land your fair share of profitable contracts.
  7. Not understanding how independent contractors and leased employees can be used without getting yourself into legal problems with the Feds. If you ever get behind on payroll taxes your bank account could be seized.
  8. Not using a complete office suite to keep all of your employees, insurance, overhead, and business expenses up to date. If you don’t track trends and net profit, how do you know how much you can pay yourself? Our Cleaning Managers Dashboard helps you with this.
  9. Failure to have critical systems in place with full-documentation for receiving, handling, and correcting cleaning complaints, advanced training systems focused on troubleshooting and diagnostic skills, detailed procedures for background checks, employee discipline and termination, building safety and security, and eliminating cross-contamination. Our operations manual covers all this and more, plus a new in-depth training on Coronavirus.
  10. Not understanding and using proven processes, procedures, standards, and systems from qualified experts who will assist you in keeping things on track and propelling your business to success.

Studies prove that new business owners who lack proper training easily bite the dust. It makes sense to get a hold of all the smart tools you can utilize on your trip to achieving high levels of success. We are here to help you.

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