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Can you use an orbital scrubber for chemical-free floor stripping? | Tennant

​​Floor stripping is an important maintenance task for facilities with glossy epoxy floors common in commercial and industrial spaces like shopping centres, warehouses, hospitals, and indoor sports centres. 

While epoxy floor coatings are strong and durable, they won’t last forever, and you’ll need to schedule regular maintenance to keep your floors looking great. Aside from your regular daily/weekly cleaning schedule to remove any dirt and surface marks, you’ll need to keep your floor glossy by stripping the top layer or two, then recoating them. 

Traditional floor stripping techniques
Traditional floor stripping meant using harsh chemicals to lift the top layers of your floor finish. You’d need to wait for those chemicals to do their job and dissolve the floor coating. Then you’d remove the waste products and slurry from the floors. There were a few problems with this method:

  • It wasn’t good for the environment - Where possible, it’s best to use natural and low-tox cleaning methods
  • It was time consuming - In between mixing and spreading the chemicals, waiting for them to work, and then cleaning up, it took a long time (especially when you’re covering a large floor area)
  • It was expensive - Not only because you’d need to purchase a large quantity of chemicals, but because you’d need to pay for long hours of labour
  • It was dangerous - Harsh chemicals meant cleaners needed to spend even more time taking extra safety precautions, plus longer downtime due to smells and safety issues (a real issue in many environments which now operate 24/7)
Modern floor stripping with minimal chemicals
Fortunately, there are much better techniques available now - including mostly chemical-free floor stripping. Technology like orbital scrubbers mean you can remove floor coatings quickly and easily - it’s detergent-free with minimal harsh chemicals.* After your floors are stripped, all you need to do is re-apply your coating - once it’s dry, your floors are good to go.

*Note that scrubbers can’t get into floor crevices, so you may need to use a small amount of chemical product there.

It means you can get the job done more quickly, more safely, for a lower cost - all with minimal disruption to operations. 

So, how does it work? Let’s go through the steps involved in floor stripping with minimal chemicals so you can confidently order the right equipment and follow the right processes for better floor maintenance.

6 steps to floor stripping with your scrubber
1. Get the tools
The best way to strip your floors is using an orbital scrubber. These machines are generally multipurpose, but with the right brush head, you’ll be able to scrub off the top floor coating. You’ll need an abrasive rectangular pad or a surface prep pad securely attached to your scrubber machine so you can strip the floors. You may also need a small quantity of chemicals to take care of stripping in crevices. Plus, you’ll also need enough fresh coating to recoat the floors when you’re done.

2. Prepare your floor
Move any furniture and obstacles to give you a clear surface to work with. You’ll also need to use a sweeper and dust mop to clear any dust, dirt, and debris.

3. Strip the floor without chemicals
Using your orbital scrubber, ensure your solution flow is set to low and your squeegee is lowered, then proceed to scrub all the hard floor surfaces you’re stripping. Your floor machine should be able to get into even some of the tightest and most awkward areas to minimise manual labour.

You’ll want to move at a steady pace to ensure you remove just the top 1-2 layers of coating. Any more than that and you’ll need to use more supplies when you go to recoat. And any less than that, and you won’t remove enough of the top layer, which might mean there’s still dirt and marks embedded in the floor finish. So keep scrubbing until the top 1-2 layers are removed and there are no visible marks on your floor.

4. Finish cleaning up
This step is so easy when you use an orbital automatic scrubber, because it has a built-in cleaning function. As you’re scrubbing the floor, a little solution is used to catch any airborne particles and the squeegee collects the floor coating as you scrub it off. If there are any spots your scrubber can’t fully cover (like in a doorway or under a drinking fountain), get a wet/dry vacuum cleaner​ to properly remove any particles. The final step in cleaning is to go over the surface with a microfibre cloth to pick up any remaining dust to ensure your new coating goes on a clean and clear surface. 

5. Add your new coating
Now that your top layers are removed and your floor is clean from debris, it should look clean and free from shoe marks and scratches, but dull (not the usual glossy texture). Apply fresh floor coating to the surface using the instructions for your specific floor type. This will ensure your floor stays protected and will restore the usual glossy, reflective appearance.

6. Wait for it to set and dry
While a full epoxy floor coating can take up to 3 days to set and cure, you’re only redoing the top 1-2 layers. So your floors should be useable within a couple of hours, depending on the type of products you use.

Do we still need the traditional methods?
While chemical-free floor stripping would be ideal, it won’t always be possible - some floor types and scenarios may require chemical stripping. However, in nearly all situations, minimising chemicals used in floor stripping using advanced orbital scrubbing technology is the fastest, most affordable, and most economical way to restore coated floors. And it’s a lot better for your people and the environment, too. 

Want to know more about going detergent-free or chemical-free? Need floor stripping advice? We can help. Reach out for a chat with our friendly team and we’ll advise you on the best floor maintenance and cleaning techniques and equipment for your situation.

Tennant Company is a recognized leader in designing, manufacturing and marketing solutions that help create a cleaner, safer, healthier world. With a vision to become a global leader in sustainable cleaning innovation that empowers our customers to create a cleaner, safer and healthier world, Tennant creates solutions that are changing the way the world cleans. Tennant products include equipment used to maintain indoor and outdoor surfaces, as well as TennantTrue® financing solutions, equipment parts, service, and maintenance to help ensure superior cleaning performance from your Tennant machines.

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