Denise Hanson, Technical Manager at BICSc, highlights the importance not only of correct cleaning methods, but also proper flooring identification.

Recognition and identification of the various floor types can be both difficult and complex.

While the initial groupings of resilient floors, soft floors, stone floors and wood floors are reasonably easy to identify, identifying the floors that fit into these overarching types is where the difficulty begins.

Resilient flooring includes many different manufactured products including linoleum, sheet vinyl, vinyl composition tile (VCT), cork (sheet or tile), and rubber.

Generally, cleaning professionals can differentiate rubber and cork floors, but problems can arise when identifying vinyl or linoleum. Often there is a realisation that the floor is actually a type of linoleum after the application of an ammoniated stripper, and the colours of the floor begin to bleed.

Let’s look at these floor types in more detail:

LINOLEUM Linoleum is a natural floor on a continuous roll which is composed of fillers, for example ground cork, wood flour and mineral powders mixed into a paste with binders such as boiled linseed oil, natural resins and pigments. This paste is then compressed onto a roll of woven hemp or canvas backing by the hot rolling process.

The process was developed in the Scottish town of Kirkcaldy during the middle of the 18th century and the product is still made in the same way. Of increasing importance, Linoleum is made from renewable resources and it is a totally natural product. Additionally, Linoleum is biodegradable, so it does not add to waste problems, giving an environmental edge to this type of flooring.

A good way to identify Linoleum products is to check the backing – which is fine as long as the floor isn’t already in

place. If the floor is laid, I would recommend looking for a repeat in the pattern if there is one: the likelihood is that the floor is not lino, as with a natural product there is no repeat in the pattern.

VINYL Vinyl flooring is a durable flooring material made from a combination of natural and synthetic polymer materials that come in large, continuous flexible rolls or tiles. This flooring has a protective outer wear layer above a digital graphic film layer: this layer then sits on an internal layer of felt.

This means varied and unique designs can be used on the finished article. The large rolls minimise the number of seams required, which makes it ideal for areas where fall prevention is a key concern – such as healthcare or retail flooring. However, the lack of seams can make maintenance more difficult and expensive as, if an area is damaged, the whole section of vinyl sheet needs to be replaced rather than just a tile.

Identification of vinyl floor can be done by looking for a repeating pattern and design in a sheet laid flooring – tiling is also identified this way.

There is also a melt and burn test that can be carried out, but this should only be carried out in an inconspicuous spot and I would recommend only with extreme care.

This technique involves heating a needle and inserting it into the flooring type, with different results depending on the type of floor. When this is done to linoleum floor you will find the needle penetrates easily and the resulting crater can be easily scraped off. There will also be an odour of burning wood. With vinyl flooring the needle will still penetrate easily but the crater will remain.

Having correctly identified the type of flooring, the cleaning professional can then choose the appropriate cleaning maintenance programme for the area. As these flooring types require different products, pads and care for their allocated lifespan to be achieved.

BICSc’s new Technicians Courses aim to provide practical skills for the care of the differing flooring types. The first Technicians course will deal with resilient floors and the course aims are as follows:

• For candidates to understand which flooring types are classified as resilient.

• To provide knowledge on the periodic treatments suitable for resilient floors.

• Practical training to deep clean and reseal a resilient floor.


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