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Regular mechanised cleaning and maintenance not only ensures dirt-free joints, but it also increases the life of the tiles

Tackling cement film

On a newly laid fine stoneware tile floor, the first step is to remove any coarse dirt by sweeping or vacuuming. Mortar or plaster residues, varnishes and paints can be removed with a blade. There is also cement film left after grouting the tiles. The surface must first be thoroughly wetted with clean water before applying the cement film remover so that the joints between tiles become saturated and are not damaged by the acid in the cement film. Once the surface is set, use a cleaning machine. There are two different methods:

Method I

A slow-running single-disc machine (150rpm) which applies a high torque to the surface is suitable. The machine should be equipped with a detergent tank, an additional weight and a pad carrier with microfiber pads. Only synthetic microfiber can penetrate the porous surface structure of fine stoneware tiles and remove dirt particles. The secret is the electrostatic charge inducted by friction which attracts dirt.

First apply the cement film remover (in a solution of approximately 5%) in strips, section by section. While it is taking effect (approximately five minutes), the floor is to be scrubbed several times in well overlapping circular movements so as to achieve even removal. When applying detergent to and working the areas to be cleaned, ensure that the cement film remover does not dry. Apply additional detergent from the tank as and when necessary.

Next vacuum up the dirty solution with a large, powerful wet & dry cleaner. Be sure to change the microfiber pad at regular intervals, that is, after cleaning an area of 20 to 30sqm, when the pad’s dirt-absorption capacity has been exhausted. Soiled disc pads cannot simply be rinsed out after use, but must be washed in a washing machine before re-use.

The area cleaned with acid must be rinsed with plenty of clean water, then vacuumed with wet & dry vacuum.

Method II

As an economical alternative to a single disc machine, a compact floor scrubber with microfiber rollers can be used to apply the cement film remover. Here again ensure the cleaning solution applied on the floor does not dry up. While it is taking effect (approximately five minutes), pass the machine over the prepared area several times with the microfiber rollers at medium contact pressure. This simultaneously cleans the joints. Vacuum the dirty solution and finally run the scrubber-drier to rinse the floor with plenty of water, using the one-step method.

The high contact pressure of microfiber rollers is a critical factor for achieving the best possible cleaning result on fine stoneware tiles. At up to 130g/cm² (average contact pressure), it is many times higher than that of disc brushes (40g/cm²) because the contact area is much smaller. The speed of rotation of the microfiber roller (approximately 1,100rpm) also plays an important part in achieving a good cleaning result.

The high rate of rotation used in the roller technology ensures no dirt remains in the microfiber. It is a self-cleaning technique. There is no need to change the microfiber rollers while cleaning, as they retain the same cleaning efficiency throughout. This also dispenses with the need for time-consuming washing of the microfiber rollers after the floor has been cleaned. They just have to be rinsed under the running tap.

For mechanical maintenance cleaning, a compact scrubber-drier with a roller scrubbing head and microfiber rollers can be used. It applies a three to five per cent solution of fine stoneware tile cleaner evenly, brushes it in and vacuums up again in a single operation. With this cleaning system, joints are always cleaned thoroughly, too.

For maintenance cleaning of smaller areas and for cleaning hard-to-access places, use of specially designed scrubber-drier or a twin-compartment wet wiping trolley with a microfiber mop is ideal.

The detergent used for cleaning fine stoneware tiles should have good moistening properties. Tenside-free detergents help prevent re-soiling.

Inevitably, fine stoneware tiled floors that have been subjected to wear and tear for years and only been maintenance-cleaned by wet wiping must be deep cleaned at certain intervals using a machine and the two-step method. Depending on the type and degree of soiling, a tenside-free fine stoneware tile cleaner or a strongly alkaline deep cleaning agent with good moistening properties should be used.

As for initial cleaning, the following sequence could be followed:

  1. Apply the detergent section by section and do not allow it to dry on to the floor. There is no need to pre-soak the joints since the grouting material is alkali-resistant.
  2. While the detergent is taking effect, work the area to which it has been applied with the single-disc machine or the roller floor scrubber.
  3. Vacuum up the dirty solution.
  4. Rinse the floor with plenty of clean water.

Though the micro porous structure of fine stoneware tiles makes them more demanding, if they are cleaned regularly greying can be avoided. This will enable the tiles’ original properties to show to advantage and cater fully for the anti-slip aspect.

Type of Stone tiles

There are different types of fine stoneware tiles with treated or untreated surfaces. They are divided into:

  • natural finish
  • brushed finish
  • slightly polished finish
  • polished finish
  • structured finish

All fine stoneware tiles have a microporous surface, small dirt particles can penetrate and become embedded. The result is a greying that presents a major challenge to floor cleaners. The only way of dislodging the dirt from this surface structure is to use special cleaning agents with a good moistening capacity, powerful machines and microfiber cleaning textiles.

Niels W Buhrke, Freelance Journalist,
Gerd Heidrich, Kärcher
Primary publication in “rationell reinigen” magazine / Germany

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