ROUTINE MAINTENANCE It is generally accepted that all things require maintenance and ceramic floor finishes are no different. Recent worldwide developments have altered the nature of ceramic floors. Maintenance of these surfaces is fairly easy to achieve where appropriate processes are used. Daily sweeping and washing to remove soiling remains the most basic method. Daily sweeping or vacuuming is very important to remove loose soil, sand, mud or other forms of debris that collects on a floor.
Loose soil provides an abrasive load that can damage glazed surfaces, leaving a hazy or soiled appearance in high traffic areas. These areas soon start looking different to areas unaffected by abrasion, detracting from the bright polished finish favoured by people. In addition to the worn appearance, the cleaning of this area will become more difficult as the surface alters. Most loose soil and sand can be collected by creating soil traps at the entrance prior to walking onto the flooring. An entry mat should allow sufficient positive contact of both feet prior to entry to remove most of the soil. If animal entry points are used, the same precautions should be taken as a great deal of loose soil will be deposited by the family pet. Washing the flooring should remove visible soiling where the correct amount of cleaning agent is used. Residual streaks, detergent marks and films can result from use of excessive cleaning agent, detracting from the gloss. Adequate rinsing of the floor or using a no rinse detergent will correct the issue.
Effective cleaning usually can be achieved by normal washing or scrubbing with warm water and a pH neutral sulphate-free cleaning agent. Greasy deposits can be removed with a detergent incorporating an organic solvent or a highly-alkaline detergent (pH >9), but these should be used for only occasional cleaning. Overuse of acidic cleaning agents may result in grout attack and cause hazing of glazed tiles. The occasional use of abrasive cleaning agents can be beneficial but should be restricted to unglazed floor finishes. Abrasive cleaning methods should generally be avoided as they can contribute to excessive wear. Appropriate cleaning agents are available including proprietary abrasive cleaning agents that will not wear or scratch.
Appropriate abrasive methods can be used to remove stubborn stains on polished and profiled glazed tiles. It should be noted that regular use of scrub and rinse cleaning machines fitted with abrasive pads, other than the finest grades, is likely to damage the surface of some tiles, and may result in gradual loss of thickness in the wear layer. When a tile has a profiled surface, the process may differ as soil and cleaning agents tend to build up on the surface. When such profiled surfaces require cleaning, adequate dwell time and agitation is required to dislodge the soiling prior to complete removal. Agitation can be achieved using appropriate cleaning pads or brushes. Such methods will dislodge most forms of soiling including build-up of past cleaning agents and soil that collects in recesses.
Steam and high pressure cleaning methods may occasionally be appropriate in some installations. It is important to ensure that the cleaning agent is completely removed by a final rinsing with clean water. Household soaps are not recommended as they tend to leave a slippery scum, particularly in hard-water areas. Apart from normal usage or obvious misuse, surface contamination can arise from the following: (a) Efflorescence. (b) Residual cement film. (c) Surface sealing materials. (d) The reaction of cleaning agents with hard water. (e) Unsuitable cleaning agents. (f) Overuse of high alkaline detergents. (g) Flexible additives left on surface areas. (h) Coloured oxides deposited through grouting. (i) Moss, algae, leaves stains, bark stains, wood stains, rust marks, pot plant marks and leaching.