You can never be too clean right? Well, that depends on how you’re cleaning. When thinking of disinfecting, we think we should do it as frequently as possible and with a strong, high pH disinfectant like bleach. This may be appropriate for non-porous surfaces like ceramic or metal, but it should definitely not be used on finished floors.
This goes for medical clinics as well, most of which use vinyl or laminate floors. Why? Because abrasive cleaners and ammonia or chlorine based cleaners strip the finish off flooring. Floor finish has a neutral pH of ~7.5, which requires a pH neutral disinfectant to effectively clean. Once this finish is stripped, it can’t be buffed away. Not only do caustic and abrasive chemicals reduce the glossy finish of flooring, they also increase porosity: forming crevices that increase the harboring and growth of pathogens. In short, cleaning too frequently with too strong of chemicals actually has the opposite effect of what’s desired.
Furthermore, steam mopping and excessive wet mopping can have a similar effect. Steam and excess water can seep into spaces between laminate flooring, causing it to buckle. On hardwood, too much water will cause expansion which can lead to cracking at the seams, hence creating new homes for pathogens and making your flooring look bad. Oil-based soap is not recommended for any type of finished floor either. Although it makes them look shiny, it has a sticky finish that traps dirt and germs.
So we know we can’t use oil-based detergent, too much water, ammonia or chlorine-based cleaners, so what CAN we use? Well, frequent sweeping, dust mopping, and vacuuming is the first step to disinfecting. The second step is applying a proper dilution of a pH neutral floor cleaner (find one here on the EPA registry). Some might tell you to dilute vinegar to clean finished floors, but this is not recommended for hardwood. The best choice is to find a professional-grade, floor-specific cleaner. The even better choice is to leave your commercial disinfecting to the professionals.
-Elizabeth Carter, Office Manager at Country Club Janitorial, LLC