By Eric Segbefia

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Maintaining the glossy appearance of floors is labor intensive, and therefore costly. Another drawback is the way that this interference disrupts the daily routine of building occupants.

For years, experienced facility managers have tried to implement cost-saving changes to their floor care program. And that's because:

  • It's a logistical nightmare to coordinate the stripping of floors across multiple facilities
  • All that back-and-forth communication with everyone involved takes time
  • And it's a detail-oriented process to organize, submit, review, discuss and award the bids to contractors
  • Blocking-off busy areas while still trying to maintain the daily flow of business activities is not an easy task
  • Having to move away what is on the floor is frustrating
  • And that having-to-wait until the floor is dry to re-enter makes certain areas impossible to ever strip and recoat which leaves the floors unprotected
  • It's also a hassle to move things back to exactly where they belong on the floor
  • And it's hard to get rid of those bad smells that linger in the air after the job is done
  • Not to mention the growing concern for those who have chemical sensitivities

The problem is that their combined efforts have produced only minimal reductions in cost—mostly for the reasons that are explained in this article.

Fact 1. There is a conflict of interest

The elevated cost of labor to maintain the professional appearance of floors is largely due to the chemistry formulation of the products being used. Most floor polishes require burnishing, stripping and recoating. This in turn consumes the bulk of most floor care budgets.

The business of selling chemicals trumps the science of creating them

Although developing a floor polish that lowers labor input makes economic sense for the customer—the fact is—Manufacturers profit from products that need repeated applications throughout the year.

This duality of interest, and the reliance on old technologies for new and improved results have made the development of any lasting solution an impossible goal.

Fact 2. The strategy is to control demand

The initial price to replace a floor seems to far outweigh the price to protect it. Polymer manufacturers and polish formulators were quick to capitalize on this misconception with a comparatively inexpensive solution. Floors need protection, and to protect the flooring material from damage, these liquid mixtures of plastic particles were meticulously engineered to increase product usage in three ways:

First: The product always needs multiple layers to achieve optimum performance.

Second: The floor polish is not very durable. Abrasion removes thin layers of the product. Film thickness can only be restored by adding newer coats.

Third: The product needs yearly removal and re-application.

The process of stripping a floor is time-consuming. But the old polish needs to be removed and then re-added in order to protect the flooring material

Originally, the only way to have a shiny floor was to strip the product off and to recoat.

In the mid-1960's, mechanical equipment was introduced as the alternative way to extend the glossy appearance of floors without having to remove the old polish as frequently. This new way of doing things gained rapid popularity primarily because the degree of technical sophistication needed to create a more durable product did not yet exist.

With time, performance features like gloss retention, stain, scuff, slip and scratch resistance were added to the mix. Meanwhile the problem of durability remained unsolved. And the more features were added to the product, the more complex the challenge of durability became. The reason is, when a new chemical is added to produce a specific feature, it automatically neutralizes the outcome effect of another chemical already in the mix.

The complexity involved in formulating a product-based solution allowed machine maintenance to quickly emerge as the best possible way to extend the durability of any floor polish. Activities like spray buffing, and high speed burnishing now became the standard operating procedures.

The objective was achieved:

  • The emphasis was switched from product performance to equipment and staff performance.
  • As a result, more resources were allocated to floor maintenance.
  • This shift in focus protected the business model that chemical companies put in place to ensure repeated application of the product throughout the year.

Today, what is needed is a longer-lasting solution that lowers labor costs. However, the options to reduce those costs are limited by a systemic approach that remains unchanged—not because producing formulations that are durable is beyond modern-day technology—but rather because the strategy is to control demand.

Figure 1—The damage to the surface of floor polish results in a loss of gloss because of inability to reflect light

Fact 3. Plasticity is the industry

Floor selection matters. Yet despite the many factors to consider—like installation time, safety, cleanliness, aesthetics, and more—the real cost of any flooring material is always in proportion to the amount of maintenance it needs over the duration of its lifespan. It is the long term cost of ownership that is important.

The value of a floor product can only be measured by the amount of labor it needs in order to maintain its professional appearance

When considering ways to lower their costs, many facility managers focus on schedules, workloads, equipment, staff reduction and things like these—but little attention is given to product performance.

A floor polish that is more durable will not require as much labor to address the normal wear and tear caused by pedestrian traffic. Therefore, the performance of floor polish and its capacity for greater durability becomes an important aspect of this equation.

The problem is that floor polish is generally not a durable material. As shown in Figure 1, the constant exposure to the abrasion of traffic damages the surface. It becomes rough and loses its ability to reflect light. Not only does this tarnish the glossy appearance of floors, but the plasticity of floor polish also controls how much labor is needed to restore its professional look.

This lack of product durability is what creates a need for staff interference.

Figure 2—Example of activities performed (from slowest to fastest based on equipment used) to compensate for the lack of durability in floor polish

As shown above, different activities require different types of mechanical tools. But regardless of the equipment that is used, there is labor involved—labor that would otherwise not be required if the product on the floor was durable and longer-lasting. This makes the plasticity of floor polish the most important issue at hand.

Fact 4. Durability is your key

The status quo in floor care says that the rapid deterioration in the appearance of floors is normal. But this sidesteps the underlying issue of durability in the product that is used. More specifically, it is the chemical formulation of most conventional floor polishes that is the problem.

The fact is—when floor products underperform you overspend

Did you know?
Increasing the number of months between strip jobs can significantly reduce your labor costs by up to 30-40% or more. The same is true of other activities such as burnishing and recoating

As shown in Figure 2, it is this asset of durability that determines the degree of work required to restore the glossy appearance of floors.

Traffic patterns, loss of gloss, chemical staining, scuff marks and other similar issues are all symptoms of a product that is underperforming.

The solution lies in thinking outside of the established framework. Because the development of a more durable floor polish is not beyond the reach of modern-day technology. But a non-durable product—one that gets used often—surely benefits chemical companies and other related industries.

Figure 3—When a more durable polish is used, only a single coat is needed to reflect light and keep shining

Did you know?
When using long-lasting products you reduce the need to strip, recoat and burnish your floors

Audio clip of interview with clients who are now using a more resilient floor polish
(Length: 00:02:01)

A product that is durable reacts differently to abrasion than a conventional acrylic-based finish. It stays harder for longer. That is important.

As shown in Figure 3, the single-layer of protection that is formed over the surface of the floor becomes very hard. This gives it the long-lasting ability to shine by reflecting light.

Most importantly, because the product stays harder for longer, it does not simply delay—but rather, eliminates—the need for any spray buffing, high-speed burnishing, deep scrubbing, yearly stripping or recoating. This generally results in a significant reduction of floor care costs.

A side-by-side comparison of product performance after year one—Emerging floor technologies are gaining popularity primarily because they lasts longer than acrylic-based products. As seen here, durable floor products eliminate the need to restore the glossy appearance of floors. They limit the need for equipment, maintenance, and storage space. And this gives to facility managers the ability to shift resources to other more important areas.

A new approach that limits the interruptions of floor care is what crusader Eric Segbefia recommends:

Fact 5. Effects on human health

Aside from the financial implications of using a more durable floor polish, the adverse effects that floor care products have on human health is another factor worth considering. The following chemicals are commonly used in cleaners, degreasers, floor polishes and strippers:

At levels only above 0.1 ppm, this colorless gas can cause acute health problems

Did you know?
Many chemicals used in floor products are classified as pesticides by regulatory agencies

Diethylene glycol butyl ether
Tributoxyethyl phosphate
Dipropylene glycol
Monomethyl ether
Sodium hydroxide
Diethyl phthalate
Ethylene glycol monophenyl ether (EGPE)
Diethylene glycol monoethyl ether (diEGEE)
Dipropylene glycol methyl ether (diPGME)
Sodium silicate
Potassium hydroxide
Alkylphenoxy polyethoxyethanol


This chemical—or its aldehyde equivalent—is used in most floor polishes in order to inhibit the growth of microorganisms in the mixture. Research shows that respiratory irritations, headaches, fatigue, nausea, nasal congestion, asthma, and skin rashes are common side effects. Extended exposure may even cause cancerous tumors to develop in the nasal cavity and upper respiratory tract, even at levels too low to cause noticeable symptoms.


Another ingredient that is commonly used in floor care products is ammonia. Symptoms associated with exposure include coughing, burning and tearing of the eyes, runny nose, chest pain, and cessation of respiration. Exposure of the eyes to high gas concentrations may produce temporary blindness and severe eye damage. Skin exposure to high concentrations may cause burning and blistering.

Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether

This ingredient is used primarily in floor strippers to penetrate and liquefy the hardened layers of acrylic floor polish. Clinical tests show that this grouping of EGBE chemicals—2-butoxyethanol, n-butoxyethanol, glycol ether EB, and butyl oxitol—is toxic to liver, kidneys, lungs and red blood cells. One study even concluded that EGBE could cause lasting health effects from even a single exposure if used without appropriate personal protective equipment and good ventilation.

Although the common belief is that these chemicals may adversely affect only those that handle the product, the evidence points to other probable alternatives.

The antimicrobial properties of floor products is another trend that is growing in importance
(Length: 00:03:58)


The best way to cut floor care costs is to select a polish with greater durability because:

First. A longer-lasting product removes the need to continually restore the glossy appearance of floors. This lowers the amount spent on labor, products, equipment, maintenance, supplies, storage space, etc.

Eric Segbefia talks about what he calls the mathematics of floor care
(Length: 00:01:10)

It's easy to explore the impact potential that better floor chemistry can have on the metrics that matter to you most

Did you know?
These numbers are based on data published by the worldwide authority on professional business practices in the cleaning industry, the ISSA

Second. The simple decision to use a more durable floor product leads to less frustration.

  • No more logistical nightmares trying to coordinate the stripping of floors across multiple facilities
  • No more time-consuming back-and-forth communication with everyone involved
  • No more of that detail-oriented process to organize, submit, review, discuss and award the bids to contractors
  • No more blocking-off busy areas and still trying to keep up with the daily flow of business activities
  • No more of that trying-to-move-away what is on the floor before the job starts nightmare
  • No more having-to-wait until the floor is dry to re-enter
  • No more hurrying-to-move things back to exactly where they belong stress
  • No more of those bad smells that linger in the air after the job is done
  • No more serious concern for those who have chemical sensitivities

And most importantly—

Third. When a durable product is used, the interruptions that are linked to floor care are greatly reduced because the product becomes:

Like a floor over your floors.

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