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When it comes to cleaning hard surface floors, the first reaction is usually to pick up a mop. But, according to many experts, a vacuum, a scrubber drier or a steam cleaner is just as good a choice.

Recent studies in the US have shown that using a vacuum to clean hard floors can deliver better results, be more efficient and improve indoor air quality. A Backpack Vacuum with a HEPA filter is found to be very effective for removing soil from hard floors.

While brooms and mops leave fine dust and do not reach edges and corners, the vacuum sucks up and removes all the dust, even the fine dust. It removes all the soil. Vacuum typically does better job than mops at reaching dirt in cracks and corners. This is especially important with uneven floors. Mops tend to glide over the surface and miss dirt in the grout lines.

Vacuuming rather than dust mopping reduces the need for burnishing by 60%. Collecting dust and soil with a vacuum also makes mopping easier because there is less dirt to remove. Another study in a US university says it took a janitor 47 minutes to dust mop and wet mop one classroom. Using a vacuum and then a damp mop reduced the cleaning time for the same space to 25 minutes. The time savings were realised in not having to move furniture around and in not having to replace the bucket water.

Hard surfaces floors by their basic nature require constant attention so that the dirt and liquid do not damage them. Natural hard surfaces are of marble, granite, limestone, kota, brick, slate, natural wood and parquet. Synthetic hard surfaces include concrete, tiles, mosaic, vinyl, terracotta and laminate. All these floors require maintenance to increase their life. Traffic on these floors brings in a lot of dirt and grime which if not cleaned properly, leave scratches and the floors lose their shine. Spilled liquid like oil or coolant also seeps inside and thus, leaves permanent patches on the floor.

“Industrial Vacuum Cleaners remove dirt by suction, avoiding friction on the floor thus reducing damage to a great extent,” says Rajiv Ranjan, Regional Head, Forbes Professional- Cleaning Technology. “All hard surfaces are different in terms of durability, longevity, resilient power and porosity. So, each one of them will require a different schedule of vacuuming. Vacuuming is a must, without which the next process of cleaning like scrubbing, drying and mopping are compromised as the dirt gets scrubbed to the floor and gets stuck on it due to moisture.”

While vacuuming hard floors, the floor tool must be chosen as per the floor. A hard bristle would scratch the polished floor, so a tool with soft bristles or only with soft padding will be most suitable. A hard bristle may work better for industrial floor due to the type of dust / dirt accumulation, but might not suit wooden flooring or say high gloss polished marbles. Some of the industrial vacuums will have large fixed, wheeled floor tools which will be least suitable for hotel or commercial areas where marble, granite or tiles are used but will be best for concrete, mosaic or cement surfaces. For wet cleaning, the cleaner must have good quality of rubber strips rather than brushes for optimum performance.

“Frequency of vacuuming hard surface will depend on the amount of traffic and the kind of traffic in that area. A shopping mall with high footfall will require vacuuming twice or thrice a day, whereas for offices, vacuuming once a day is sufficient,” adds Ranjan.

“When very large floor spaces need to be routinely cleaned the simplest way perhaps is using a Scrubber Drier to get the best results. Some large scrubber-driers have ride-on capability and do the job of a steam vacuum cleaner by simply running over affected areas. They also combine the ability to collect litter with steam, detergent and a vacuum. The largest of these machines is capable of cleaning an area up to 6000sqm area in a single hour,” states V Balathandayutham, Manager- Product Support, Roots Multiclean Ltd.

The scrubber has water dispensing and scrubbing brush. An auto scrubber, may be a walk-behind or ride-on, is a self-contained auto scrubbing floor machine. This equipment scrubs and dries the floor in one pass. The machine uses either a cylindrical brush or a rotary brush/pad, which mechanically removes the dirt from its place. It literally scrubs the floors – of marble, tile, PVC or vinyl – using a rotating disc or cylindrical brush with the aid of the dispensed cleaning solution which helps in the scrubbing process. The resultant residue is then collected by a system of squeegee connected to a powerful vacuum motor at the rear side which removes dirt, debris and cleaning solution from the floor and deposits into a collection tank for later disposal.

One round of scrubbing would always be adequate for a well maintained floor. “However, when the dirt level is higher, we may need to scrub the floor more than once. The adjustment of the brush pressure suitability depending upon the dirt level will yield desired results and productivity also.”

Vivek Mata, MD, Charnock Equipments Pvt Ltd, says that Steam Cleaners have been known internationally to clean hard surface floors very effectively. “But the demand in India for steam cleaner is yet to catch up. India is a very potential market since we are now getting very conscious of the need for keeping our surroundings, our workplaces and homes clean and bacteria free. Though there are different kinds of steam cleaners for floors, only a few give quality performance that provides value for money. One should be careful in selecting hard floor steam cleaners. Not only are these cleaners expensive, the hard floors itself are quite expensive. A wrong floor cleaner can spoil the floor.”

The types of hard floor that these steam cleaners clean best are ceramic tiles, vitrified tiles, hardwood and even linoleum floors. The advantage of steam cleaner is that one can do away the use of chemicals that may ruin or harm the quality of the floors over a long period of use. That way steam cleaners are environment friendly.

Another attractive feature of steam cleaners is that they are very simple to use. Some even have dual purposes, wiping & wet mopping and vacuuming. This is possible with the turnable head of the cleaner that can do both tasks. Most have very durable and washable brush, mat or cloth that can be easily detached from the steam cleaner. Another benefit a high temperature of steam kills bacteria and germs thereby disinfecting the floor.

In short, the basic features of a floor steam cleaner are: it is easy to use; it does not make use of any chemical; it manages to clean as well as sanitize; it dries fast; does not makes use of mops or buckets; it has durable cloth pads and finally, it can be used for any type of hard floor surface.

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