Are your hard floors looking dirty even after they are mopped? Is there no shine left in your floors? Maybe your floors were recently stripped and waxed, but now a few months later, you cannot even tell it. Below are some basic steps to care for your VCT floors that will provide a consistent shine.
VCT is short for vinyl composite tile. This is the type of floor that you see in most hospital hallways and many other commercial buildings. Some people just call it “tile” floors, but I find this ambiguous since ceramic tile is becoming more frequent in commercial buildings.
VCT has been around for many years. The most common size is twelve inches by twelve inches. You may also find eight by eight inch tiles in older buildings, but this will commonly be ACT (asbestos composite tile). ACT has been phased out, but if your building has it, the tips we give below will work on either type of floor.
The steps in care for your VCT floor are pretty straight forward. You may have heard terms such as strip and wax, buffing, polishing, and scrubbing. We will also explain each of these.
Stripping and waxing is a term that refers to removing the existing wax on your floor and applying new wax. Wax is also referred to as “finish” and these two terms are interchangeable. Stripping is a labor intensive process where low speed buffers (floor machines that run 175 rpm) are brought in and remove the wax. First, a mop is used to apply stripper, which should be allowed to sit for ten to fifteen minutes. Then, the low speed buffer is run over the floor with an abrasive pad for stripping. The result is a combination of old wax and stripper that is then vacuumed or mopped up. This process is repeated until all of the wax is removed.
In areas where there is much of wax, it will be necessary to repeat the stripping process. However, in areas where there is high foot traffic, the wax remaining is usually not heavy and easy to remove. Also, small pads or razors are used against walls or in corners to remove the wax that the buffer cannot reach.
During the strip, a second solution of floor rinse and water is used to clean the floor and prevent the old wax from drying back into the floor. If the old wax dries, then the stripping process must be redone to remove the wax again. Once the floor is stripped, the floors should be rinsed once more to remove any loose remaining wax or particulates, and ensure a clean floor to wax.
The floor must then be allowed to dry completely before any wax can be applied. Wax is applied in coats. The first coat is applied by a mop and allowed to dry. Then each additional coat is applied. Depending on the specifications and desired shine, the number of coats of wax is determined.
If a high, lustrous shine is desired, it will typically require six to eight coats. Four coats of wax will deliver a medium shine.
After the above steps are completed, your floor is now stripped and waxed. After the last coat of wax is dry, the floor is safe to walk on. It is advisable to allow the floor two to three days to completely “cure” before performing any high speed buffing.
Buffing or polishing refers to using a high speed buffer on the VCT floor to bring back a shine and make the wax harder. High speed buffing is done one of three ways: propane, battery operated, and electric. High speed buffers run between 1500 rpms and 2000 rpms depending on the manufacturer. We prefer the propane buffers out of the three we mentioned.
Scrub and recoat is a term that refers to using a light rinse on the waxed VCT floor with a low speed machine. The floor is not stripped, but just the first coat or two of wax is removed. Then, wax is applied to renew the shine of the VCT floor. A scrub and recoat is a good interim method to be used between stripping and waxing.
How often should a floor be stripped and waxed? There is no right answer to this question, because each floor is different. A good rule of thumb is to strip and wax at least once a year. Some floors may need to be stripped and waxed twice a year or more. High speed buffing should be done at least once a month. If a VCT floor has high foot traffic, it can be buffed once a week to maintain a good appearance. Scrub and recoats can be done at the half way mark between strip and waxes.
Even a brand new VCT floor should be stripped and waxed. New VCT comes from the manufacturer with a factory sealer, but usually cannot stand up to high traffic.
The most important step of any VCT floor is sweeping and mopping. VCT floors should be swept and mopped daily to prevent dirt from scratching and marring the appearance of the floor. Mopping should be done with cold water and a neutral cleaner. If hot water is used on a waxed VCT floor, it can cause the wax to come up with the mop and also gives the wax a cloudy appearance. Also, do not use harsh cleaners to mop a VCT floor. Bleach or ammonia based products will strip wax off of the VCT floor. If you cannot find or run out of neutral cleaner, just use plain cold water. Then, find a suitable neutral cleaner when you resume the maintenance the next day.
To recap the above steps:
1. Sweep and mop your VCT floors daily.
2. High speed buff your VCT floors at least once a month.
3. Strip and wax your VCT floors at least once a year.
4. Scrub and recoats may be done interim of stripping and waxing. (every 6 months)
By following the above steps, or making sure your janitorial provider does, will provide a VCT floor with a desirable shine and appearance. It will also increase the life of your VCT floors. If properly cared for, VCT floors can last for forty years or more.