Concrete floors have been used for decades, which says a lot about the longevity of the product. However, without proper care and maintenance, the investment made in these floors can be wasted.
In order to correctly care for concrete, it’s important to first understand its composition and strengths and weaknesses. Concrete is a mixture of four basic ingredients (along with possible additives): water, cement, sands and aggregate of varying sizes. As a flooring material, concrete is extremely durable but it’s not bulletproof. And because it’s created in the field, not a factory setting, no two slabs are the same. Many factors can also affect the final product, or finished floor, including changes in the water to cement ratio, the type of sands and aggregate utilized, how (and how well) the floor is finished at time of installation and the weather. These uncertainties affect the appearance and strength of a concrete floor.
Concrete floors are relatively easy and inexpensive to maintain, so long as the rules are followed: don’t utilize cleaners that contain sulfides or hydroxides since they will soften concrete; avoid Nylo grit brushes as they will effectively act as a grinding tool and remove any shine and gloss that has been intentionally imparted to the floor; and never use a pH neutral cleaning solution, nor an acidic one.
The average pH of a fully cured and hydrated Portland cement-based concrete is 9.5 to 9.7. Utilizing a neutral cleaning solution (with a pH of 7), will dull the floor since the cleaner is mildly acidic to the concrete.
As with pH neutral cleaning solutions, cleaning with just water is not recommended either. Water helps release some of the soils on a floor but it’s unable to emulsify and draw soils and oils off of it. When left behind, this ultimately leads to a dull-looking floor.
Instead, choose a specialty cleaner that is formulated for concrete, which will draw the small grit particles and insoluble oils out of the surface pores of the floor. This will help to prevent contaminants from penetrating and staining the surface. A concrete specific cleaner is most ideal as it’s designed with a pH level similar to that of concrete, improves densified and polished concrete floor sheen, leaves behind no detergent residue and contains no harmful chemicals to etch or mark the surface.
Regular maintenance of concrete is required for optimal flooring performance. This involves sweeping the floor to remove all loose soil and debris with a dust/dry mop, and using an auto scrubber with proper amounts of water and cleaning solution, as well as the right pads and brushes to scrub the floor. Pad type will vary depending on the frequency of cleaning, along with the types of soils and contaminants found in the facility. Pads are generally used on refined, polished floors, while brushes are more often used on hard steel trowelled or broomed surfaces. Frequency of floor cleaning is based on the amount of foot traffic, soilage and the importance of the floor’s visual appearance.
Peter Wagner is the emerging markets development specialist within the supporting products development group of Curecrete Distribution Inc. Peter has more than 35 years’ experience in the flooring industry. For the past two decades, he has been involved in the installation and maintenance of densified and polished concrete. Peter can be reached at [email protected].