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How to Clean, Strip, Seal, and Finish your Floors

Keeping your floors looking like new is an easy way to ensure safety and sanitation while pleasing guests and enhancing your establishment's overall appearance. Stripping, waxing, and sealing / finishing your floors is the best way to combat scuffs, dirt, and unsightly damage. Check out this guide for more information on all three steps and the right tools to get the job done!

Tips for Effective Floor Cleaning and Maintenance

Sweeping and dusting is a highly effective way to keep your floors free of dirt and grime, but consider adding these additional steps to your routine for even more effective cleaning!

Oreck XL2100RHS 12 inch Lightweight Upright Bagged Vacuum Cleaner
  • Take care of spills and messes immediately. If left untreated, they can become a safety hazard and will be much harder to clean later.
  • Place floor mats in high traffic areas, especially spaces which see increased exposure to outdoor elements. These offer great protection to preserve your floor surfaces.
  • Diluting acetone-based fingernail polish remover can be very effective for removing difficult stains on tile or laminate flooring.
  • Using a vacuum cleaner for larger messes can be a huge time saver. Be sure to check out this Commercial Vacuum Cleaners Buying Guide to choose the right one for your establishment.

How to Clean Your Floors

Types of Flooring
Do's Dont's

Hardwood

Hardwood

Opt for a brush with soft bristles

Vacuum on a low or gentle setting

Use a microfiber dry mop head to pick up dust and dirt without risk of damage
Avoid using a damp or soaking mop, as excess water will damage the surface

Abrasive bristles on brushes or scrubbing tools will scratch and scruff the floor

Harsh bristles on the "beater bar" of vacuums can scratch and ruin floors

Limit exposure to direct sunlight

Laminate

Laminate

Opt for a brush with soft bristles

Vacuum on a low or gentle setting

Abrasive bristles on brushes or scrubbing tools will scratch and scruff the floor

Marble

Marble

Opt for a brush with soft bristles

Vacuum on a low or gentle setting

Use a microfiber dry mop head to pick up dust and dirt without risk of damage
Avoid using a damp or soaking mop, as excess water will damage the surface

Abrasive bristles on brushes or scrubbing tools will scratch and scruff the floor

Harsh bristles on the "beater bar" of vacuums can scratch and ruin floors

Bamboo

Bamboo

Opt for a brush with soft bristles

Vacuum on a low or gentle setting

Use a microfiber dry mop head to pick up dust and dirt without risk of damage
Avoid using a damp or soaking mop, as excess water will damage the surface

Abrasive bristles on brushes or scrubbing tools will scratch and scruff the floor

Harsh bristles on the "beater bar" of vacuums can scratch and ruin floors

Limit exposure to direct sunlight

Tile

Tile

Opt for a brush with soft bristles

Vacuum on a low or gentle setting

Abrasive bristles on brushes or scrubbing tools will scratch and scruff the floor

Harsh bristles on the "beater bar" of vacuums can scratch and ruin floors

Vinyl

Vinyl

Opt for a brush with soft bristles

Vacuum on a low or gentle setting

Abrasive bristles on brushes or scrubbing tools will scratch and scruff the floor

Harsh bristles on the "beater bar" of vacuums can scratch and ruin floors

Linoleum

Linoleum

Opt for a brush with soft bristles

Vacuum on a low or gentle setting

Abrasive bristles on brushes or scrubbing tools will scratch and scruff the floor

Harsh bristles on the "beater bar" of vacuums can scratch and ruin floors

Tools To Clean Your Floors

The first step to maintaining attractive floors is keeping a daily cleaning routine. A thorough stripping should be done only after a period of time that sees a large amount of foot traffic causing excessive wear and tear. However, using the following products on a daily basis, as well as right before stripping your floors, is a great way to get rid of daily dirt, dust, and outside contaminants.

Heavy-Duty Authentic Amish-Made Corn Broom
  • Brooms: A broom is a simple, yet effective, way to gather dirt and debris found on hard surfaces. It's helpful when covering a large area, such as kitchens, hallways, breakrooms, and dining rooms.
  • Floor Sweepers: Use a floor sweeper to gather dirt and dust from a variety of surfaces. This is also a great option for quickly and easily cleaning large areas, such as kitchens, dining rooms, and office spaces. For more information, check out this Floor Sweepers Buying Guide.
  • Janitorial Brushes: For tougher grime, use a janitorial brush on hard surfaces. This is ideal for removing tough grease and dirt. For more information, be sure to check out this Janitorial Brush Buying Guide.
  • Dusters: While cleaning away dirt is critical, don't forget to keep your floors dust-free as well! Unlike brooms, a duster will trap dust instead of spreading it around or into the air.

Scrubber Type and Features

For heavy duty cleaning power, consider using a floor scrubber. Designed for commercial and industrial use, scrubbers cover an impressive amount of surface area with efficiency, speed, and power. Consider the following factors when choosing a scrubber to keep your establishment clean.

Scrubber Battery Types

Pacific 875425 S-28 28 inch Walk Behind Orbital Auto Floor Scrubber with Transaxle Drive - 260AH Batteries with Charger

Lead-acid batteries are versatile and easy to replace. They come with a low initial cost and can accommodate the high current required for large motors. However, they do require maintenance and emit corrosive gases if not properly cared for.

An Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) battery is a special type of lead acid battery that doesn't degrade as easily as other lead-acid battery types. One of the safest lead acid batteries available, it provides a more efficient discharge and recharge cycle. However, they do come at a higher cost.


Types of Scrubbers

Pacific 855401 S-20 20 inch Walk Behind Auto Floor Scrubber with Pad Assist Drive - 130AH Lead Acid Wet Batteries with Charger
  • Orbital Scrubbers: Offering the highest down pressure available, orbital scrubbers are able to provide unmatched cleaning and finish-removal capabilities. The pad is rectangular, making it perfect for cleaning in tight spaces or alongside a wall or curb.
  • Disc Scrubbers: Disc scrubbers allow for easier and more efficient cleaning in open areas. A true round design will provide users with great maneuverability to meet the toughest cleaning challenges in rooms of all shapes and sizes.
  • Brush Scrubbers: A brush scrubber includes a series of small brushes intended to clean your floor surfaces without spreading around dirt and debris. Its smaller design makes it ideal for tight spaces and businesses on a budget.

Scrubber Drive Types

Pacific 855406 S-20 20 inch Walk Behind Orbital Auto Floor Scrubber with Traction Drive - 140AH AGM Maintenance Free Batteries with Charger

A transaxle, or traction drive, will propel the unit forward for increased efficiency and ease-of-use. This feature allows every member of your cleaning staff to use these machines with ease.

Units with pad assist drives require the help of the pad to keep the machine moving along. While this may make the machine more difficult to push, it can ensure a more thorough clean, as the pad touches every part of the cleaning path as it moves forward.



Cleaning Chemical Comparison

Type of Chemical
Ideal For Heavy Cleaning General Cleaning With Auto Scrubbers Mopping Solution
Step and Sign

Step and Shine

Vinyl tile, vinyl, asbestos, linoleum, rubber tile, concrete, flagstone brick, terrazzo, and sealed wood

Strike All Purpose Cleaner

Porcelain, chrome, plastic, linoleum, and vinyl
All Surf

Strike All Purpose Cleaner

Concrete, porcelain, chrome, plastic, and vinyl

Floor Science

Asphalt tile, ceramic, concrete, linoleum, marble, quarry tile, rubber, terrazzo, tile, vinyl, resilient, and non-resilient floors
Pine Cleaner

Pine Cleaner

Vinyl, linoleum, rubber tile, concrete, and ceramic tile
Glamoroso

Glamoroso

Concrete, ceramic tile, quarry tile, grout, and rubber mats
Easy Paks

Easy Paks

Terrazzo, marble, slate, vinyl and vinyl asbestos, asphalt tile, ceramic tile, and quarry tile
Spic and Span

Proctor & Gamble Spic and Span

Quarry tile, vinyl, linoleum, rubber, and concrete
Spic and Span

Proctor & Gamble Spic and Span Powder

Vinyl, linoleum, rubber tile, wood, and ceramic tile

Stripping Floors Overview

After giving your floors a thorough cleaning, you may notice deep scratches, stuck on dirt, or other worn down areas. Stripping the floor removes worn down, deep scratches or embedded dirt and creates the foundation for a fresh, new layer. Once stripped, wax your floors for a brilliant shine and protection against every day wear and tear.


How to Strip a Floor

Floor Stripping

1.) Choose a floor stripping chemical that's appropriate for your floor type. Follow your floor manufacturer's suggestions in regards to cleaning chemicals. Often using the same brand as the last floor wax you used will yield desirable results. Refer to the chart below for more information on matching the right chemical to your floor type.

2.) Ensure proper ventilation in the area you are working in. It is important to wear protective clothing and start by testing your stripper in a small corner.

3.) Determine how you'll divide the floor and in which direction you'll be moving. This is important to decide before you've started so as to avoid letting the finisher harden or trapping yourself away from the exit. Work farthest from the exit, and plan on stripping about 100 foot sections at a time using your floor scrubber.

4.) Line three buckets or small trash cans with trash can liners. Fill one with the water and stripper solution, another with clean water, and the third with your tools including scrubbers and scrapers. Be sure to stock up on safety apparel for you and your employees including gloves, safety glasses/goggles, dust masks, and protective coats.

Oreck CK91010 HydroVac Cordless Commercial Scrubber

5.) Use a mop to apply stripper in small sections. Thoroughly coat the floor, but be sure not to saturate or flood the area. Its important to test new products in a small, not immediately visible area first to ensure they work well and won't cause permanent damage to your floors.

6.) Use your floor stripper according to the instructions. This will scrape away wax build up. Use any other scrapers or brushes you've stored in your bucket for hard to reach areas including corners and up against baseboards if necessary.

7.) Remove the wax buildup and stripper solution. Use a wet-dry vacuum, squeegee, or a squeegee attachment on your floor scrubber.

8.) Repeat these steps in sections to let the stripper soak in before scrubbing. If necessary, repeat over sections of flooring that have more build up.

9.) Mop the floors with clean water and allow to dry. This ensures all stripper and wax residue is removed from the floor surface.

Stripping Chemical Comparison

Chemical Name
Image Ideal for Light/Normal Stripping Heavy-Duty Stripping Floor Machine Stripping

Sierra by Noble Chemical 2.5 Gallon Non-Ammoniated Stripping Floor Finish - 2/Case

Vinyl tile, vinyl asbestos, asphalt tile, linoleum, rubber tile, concrete, flagstone, terrazzo, and ceramic tile

Sierra by Noble Chemical Instant Floor Finish Emulsifier
Sierra by Noble Chemical 2.5 Gallon Instant Floor Finish Emulsifier - 2/Case

Vinyl tile, vinyl asbestos, asphalt tile, linoleum, rubber tile, concrete, flagstone, terrazzo, and ceramic tile

Diversey Floor Science Non-Ammonia Floor Stripper
Diversey Floor Science 95116002 1 Gallon Non-Ammonia Floor Stripper - 4/Case

Vinyl tile, vinyl asbestos, asphalt tile, linoleum, rubber tile, concrete, flagstone, terrazzo, and ceramic tile

Overview of Sealing and Finishing Floors

The last step to complete your floors is sealing and finishing them. For this, it is highly recommended to use a rotary floor machine to effectively remove the stripping solution. Plus, it will buff, scrub, clean, and polish your floors for a bright, shiny visual appeal.

Shop for Rotary Floor Machines

Floor machine considerations

When choosing which floor machine is best for you, take the following factors into consideration:

Oreck 550MC Orbiter Multi-Purpose Floor Machine

Size: Depending on the size of the areas you wish to polish, you'll want to get a machine that will create the right size cleaning path. The larger the area, the larger the cleaning path you'll want. This ensures efficient and timely removal of the stripping solution. This is especially important to ensure the stripper won't harden or cause corrosive damage to your floor or supplies.

Horsepower: Look to horsepower for determining speed, efficiency, and power. The lower the horsepower, the more economically-friendly the machine will be. Typically, the higher the horsepower, the more rotations per minute (RPM) you'll get out of your machine. However, some machines include dual speed capabilities, giving more versatility and options when it comes to buffing and polishing floors.

RPM: Your machine's rotation per minute capabilities are a determining factor in what you're able to accomplish while finishing your floors. RPM considerations include what type of floor you have, what you want to do, and what pad you plan on using with the machine. Again, look to the How to Choose Floor Pads guide for pad, floor, and RPM compatibility information.

Shop for Floor Machines

How to Wax a Floor

Finish your floors for a protective, glossy shine sure to impress guests and create an inviting, clean atmosphere. Follow these steps for the best results when waxing your floors.

Sierra by Noble Chemical 2.5 Gallon Acrylic Floor Finish - 2/Case

1.) Read all instructions found on your floor wax or finisher. Depending on the product and its ingredients, procedures and dry times may vary.

2.) Use a brand new mop head. Using a new mop head each time you wax is important for not setting dirt and grime back into your floors.

3.) Ensure proper air flow. Most finishes do not contain as many harsh chemicals as floor stripper. However, it's good to avoid inhaling too many fumes by allowing fresh air to circulate the room.

4.) Line a bucket or small trash can with a trash can liner and fill with wax. This makes the wax more accessible as you mop the floors. When you're done using it, simply dispose of the wax-filled liner for easy clean-up.

5.) Dip your mop in the bucket and apply a thin coat of wax to the floor. Avoid soaking the mop and use a wringer to get rid of excess wax if necessary before making contact with the floor. Work toward the exit to avoid becoming trapped.

6.) Allow time for wax to dry completely. How long it takes the wax to dry will depend on the temperature and humidity level in the room. The wax should be completely dry before moving on to the next step to ensure it has been properly attached to the floor.

7.) Repeat the application process as necessary. Most floors will require 2 to 5 layers of wax. However, be sure each layer is completely dry before beginning the next. This will avoid any unsightly wax buildup.

8.) Buff and polish using a floor machine to obtain a brilliant, glossy shine.

Once you've determined what machine would work best for you, be sure to find a compatible floor pad. They also play a role in ensuring the overall cleanliness of your floor. Also check out this guide on How to Choose Floor Pads for more information.

Expert Tip


Rotary floor machines can accommodate pads, discs, and bonnets that are both up to 1" larger and smaller than the "standard" pad size. For example, if a machine lists its pad size as 12", it is compatible will all 11" and 13" pads as well.


Restorer / Finish Chemical Comparison

Chemical Name
Image Use With Instructions
Sierra by Noble Chemical Spray Buff Restorer

Vinyl tile / vinyl asbestos

Asphalt tile

Linoleum

Rubber tile

Terrazzo

Sealed wood

Quarry Tile

Marble

  • Spray a fine mist of concentrate onto the floor just prior to buffing.
  • Use a spray buff pad and buff to a high shine.
  • Turn pad over or replace as necessary.
  • For best results, do not overwet.
Sierra by Noble Chemical Anti-Slip & Gloss Restorer
1 Gallon Sierra by Noble Chemical Anti-Slip & Gloss Restorer Floor Finish   - 4/Case

Vinyl tile / vinyl asbestos

Asphalt tile

Linoleum

Rubber tile

Terrazzo

Sealed wood

Quarry Tile

Marble

Mop-On Restoring:
  • Dilute with water and apply an even coat with a clean mop
  • Allow to dry thoroughly
  • Buff or burnish for a wet look shine
Automatic Scrubbers
  • Dilute with water and apply with a medium flow
  • Allow to dry thoroughly
  • Buff or burnish for a wet look shine
Sierra by Noble Chemical Acrylic Floor Finish
Sierra by Noble Chemical 2.5 Gallon Acrylic Floor Finish - 2/Case

Vinyl tile / vinyl asbestos

Asphalt tile

Linoleum

Rubber tile

Concrete

Flagstone

Terrazzo

Ceramic Tile

  • Spread a liberal coat of finish evenly across the floor with a clean mop or applicator
  • Allow each coat to dry 30 minutes
  • Apply two or three coats depending on gloss desired
Sierra by Noble Chemical Fast Drying Floor Finish
Sierra by Noble Chemical 2.5 Gallon Fast Drying Floor Finish - 2/Case

Vinyl tile / vinyl asbestos

Asphalt tile

Linoleum

Rubber tile

Terrazzo

Sealed wood

Quarry Tile

  • Spread a liberal coat of finish evenly across the floor with a clean mop or applicator
  • Allow each coat to dry 45 minutes
  • Apply two or three coats depending on gloss desired
Sierra by Noble Chemical High Performance Extended Wear Finish
Sierra by Noble Chemical 2.5 Gallon High Performance Extended Wear Finish - 2/Case

Vinyl tile / vinyl asbestos

Asphalt tile

Linoleum

Rubber tile

Terrazzo

Sealed wood

Quarry Tile

  • Spread a liberal coat of finish evenly across the floor with a clean mop or applicator
  • Allow each coat to dry 1 hour
  • Apply two or three coats depending on gloss desired
Rejuvenator Grout Restorer & Stain Remover
1 Gallon Rejuvenator Grout Restorer & Stain Remover - 4/Case

Ceramic Tile

Grout

  • Apply solution directly onto floor and spread with a mop or deck brush
  • Let sit for 5 minutes
  • Agitate the solution using a low speed floor machine or deck brush
  • Recover dirty solution with a squeegee or wet-vac
  • Rinse floor using clean water and allow to dry
Diversey Floor Science Floor Finish

Vinyl / Vinyl Composition / Vinyl Asbestos

Asphalt

Rubber

Terrazzo

Marble

Slate

Unglazed ceramic and quarry tile

Brick

Granite

  • Strip floor according to label directions
  • Apply 2–3 uniform medium coats using a clean mop
  • Allow each coat to dry 30-45 minutes
  • Additional coats will provide higher gloss in ultra high speed applications
  • Buff, spray buff or burnish as desired
Diversey Floor Science Spray Buff Floor Restorer

Vinyl / Vinyl Composition / Vinyl Asbestos

Asphalt

Rubber

Terrazzo

Marble

Slate

Unglazed ceramic and quarry tile

Brick

Granite

  • Remove gross soil such as heavy tar, paper, gum, etc., and then dust mop
  • Fill spray bottle with product and lightly spray a 4 x 6 ft. area
  • Using a spray buffing pad, make one pass with machine to spread product
  • Make two passes to buff to a high gloss
  • Do not overwet

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