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De-ice, not destroy

Protect your floors from the damaging effects of ice melt

A gentle December snowfall brings to mind romantic connotations of intimate gatherings and winter wonderlands, cozy fires and warm blankets.

Except for you.

If you’re a building manager, you’re less focused on “the moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow” and more worried about slush, mud and ice and what they’re doing to your beautiful lobby floors. Each accumulating inch brings an extra pound of stress to your life.

Nevertheless, winter is nearly here, so what’s your plan?

The benefits and burdens of ice melt

The snow and ice are coming, it’s just a matter of when—and how much. Which means you’re going to need ice melt to keep your sidewalks safe and your parking lots clear. Most of the available choices all work in a similar way: by melting snow and ice, and creating a brine. This brine has a lower freezing point than water so it helps break the connection between the ice and the ground.

Rock salt – also known as sodium chloride – is the most common de-icer; it’s been around forever, it’s cheap, widely available and very effective. Other chlorides, such as magnesium chloride and calcium chloride, are also types of salts and are common ingredients in commercial de-icing products.

These salts, however, pose certain environmental issues and can corrode not only concrete and metal surfaces, but also contribute to groundwater contamination and harm some vegetation.

Of course, that’s just the damage to the outside; these chemicals are also getting tracked through your front door on the soles of every shoe and boot that cross your threshold—not to mention all of the water, grime and mud that hitches a ride.

All of that means potential damage to your floors. Salt de-icers leave a white residue that’s not only ugly but can also dull or even permanently mar your hard-surface flooring. And on wood floors, these chemicals can draw moisture from the wood, increasing the risk of dry rot and splintering. Some of the other salts, such as magnesium chloride and calcium chloride, often leave an oily residue that can cause damage and also create a slip hazard.

Tips to get ahead of floor care

Now’s the time to get your facility or office building ready so you’re not caught off-guard when that first wintry mix hits the radar. Consider the following tips:

  1. Spread salt the smart way – Put the shovel away and instead reach for a fertilizer spreader to apply the ice melt. This will ensure an even distribution and also prevent applying more than you need. After all, the extra will just end up on your guests’ shoes and eventually on your floors.
  2. Give your floors an extra layer of protection – Before that first snow, consider applying a durable acrylic finish that can serve as an extra barrier from the elements.
  3. Lay the floor mats – I know, they’re not the most attractive addition to your lobby, and they cover up those beautiful floors you work so hard to keep shiny and looking new. But long runners and big commercial floor mats will soak up a great deal of what gets brought in, saving you time and money long-term.
  4. Add additional floor care to your daily routine – In the end, there’s no magic bullet. Plan to clean your floors an additional two or three times each day (or more depending on the number of people you see). Keep water and sludge from pooling and sitting on your floors for any extended period of time.

Better yet, partner with a commercial janitorial and maintenance firm that has the experience to handle all aspects of your floor care. SG360 can not only provide floor maintenance throughout the day, to stay on top of the snow, but also handle any other floor needs, no matter the season. Through our experience working with office building, medical facilities, schools, special use venues and everything in between, we can troubleshoot causes and corrections for dull or streaked floors, help with preventive maintenance to reduce floor damage, and restore and maintain your floors through burnishing and buffing.

Our team can also determine if your floors should be stripped or if a scrub and top coat will work, and we also offer a green floor care program that’s friendly to the environment as well as your occupants.

Basically, we can take floor care off your plate, so winter can truly become a wonderland once again. Grab some eggnog!

Perry Patterson is the area manager of the northwest Arkansas location for SG360, a facility services company specializing in environmentally friendly janitorial services, as well as facilities management, restoration services, and inventory management. How do you prepare your facility for the challenges of winter weather? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or on Twitter @ServiceGroup360.