Nothing says class more than a stone floor. However, both marble and granite can be expensive to procure. Lapses in maintenance will shorten their lifespan, necessitating unaffordable replacements, or worse, leading to a shoddy appearance.
Here is a compendium of common challenges and practical solutions for stone floor cleaning from industry experts themselves.
Suresh Khadka, Executive Housekeeper, InterContinental Muscat
The main characteristic of stone floors is that they are absorbent. If not cleaned and maintained regularly, the chances of efflorescence, rust spots, yellowing stains, oil spots, weathering, ageing, fading etc are more.
The biggest challenge to maintaining such floors depends upon which area of the facility they are used in. For example, marble/granite is used in the vanity counter of hotel toilets/bathrooms; the chances of this staining are high as it absorbs soap scum (which is acidic), and the non-drying of water for a long time leaves water marks and causes marble etching.
Similarly, in restaurant areas, liquids like tea, coffee, carbonated drinks, sauces, oil and spices may spill on the stone floor. Once this happens, it is very difficult to clean since the spilled liquid has already been absorbed by the stone. Tyre marks, oil and grease in the entrance, lobby or parking areas have a similar effect.
If these are not cleaned up quickly, it is very difficult to remove the stains later with regular cleaning.
Even though both granite and marble are hard materials, they are still not resistant to the long-term ravages of dust and soil particles. Therefore, regular cleaning with a dust collector or marble-friendly duster/mop (which will not scratch the marble) is a must.
Regular cleaning alone cannot keep the floor glossy and shining; grinding and polishing are important too. However, excessive grinding or cutting of the marble can also shorten the lifespan of the floor.
Marble stone floors must be kept dry and ventilated; it is better to avoid excessive humidity. Moisture in the environment will cause hydration, hydrolysis and carbonation of the marble stone. This can lead to the formation of water spots, white blooms, weathering and other things that will destroy the stone.
Scratching of the surface should also be prevented. While shifting heavy items, people often forget about this. Their carelessness can result in heavy scratches that will destroy the charm of the floor.
Speed of the machine: Normal RPM machines will do, with simultaneous polishing and spray of chemicals. If a high-quality shine is desired, use ultra-high-speed machines with more RPM.
Weight of the machine: In general, a heavy machine is more effective for the highly dirt-concentrated areas because of its downward force over the pads. At the same time, lighter and faster floor polishing machines give a good finish.
Polishing ads: There are different types, generally colour-coded according to nature of their work – from cleaning to polishing and buffing for gloss shine.
Avoid these chemicals
Acidic cleaners like vinegar, and bleach should not come into contact with marble. Even a lemon wedge can begin to eat into marble within seconds. Many rust-removing solutions contain acid; keep them away from marble as well. It is also advisable not to use steam or hot water while cleaning marble, as it will damage the shine of the floor.
Md Parvej Miah, Senior Manager – Housekeeping, Sublime Facilities Management Ltd, Bangladesh
My team uses a microfibre soft mop or cloth along with warm water and soap-based mild chemical for floor cleaning. The biggest challenge in maintaining marble/granite floors is the damage caused by sand particles.
One may adopt floor mats to extend the life of such floors. We are also using polishing machines with 1200 to 1500 RPM to clean and polish marble floors.
Tatjana Ahmed, Director of Housekeeping, Hyatt Hotels Dubai
In high traffic areas, it is a challenge to keep the deep shine of marble floors. Floors are often subject to furniture movement; in this case, heavy maintenance needs to be scheduled.
There are many different processes available to extend the life of floors, depending on your budget and how sustainable you want to be. One very good solution is diamond pads. With these, one can maintain floors without any chemicals, making the task very environment-friendly.
In single-disc machines, you should look for the right diameter for each area that needs to be cleaned, and the speed. Depending upon the focus on sustainability, there are many chemicals in the market to strip and polish floors. Acidic chemicals should be avoided, so should bleach; they will only harm your stone floor.
Samir Sabu, Director, Soma Specialties Pvt Ltd shares his knowledge of ideal processes and floor maintenance techniques, and Sachin Surie, Director, Surie Polex provides tips for cleaning and prolonging the life of stone floors (in the boxes).
Nature of stone
Granite and marble are as different from each other as chalk and cheese. Granite is hard, resistant and does not get scratched or damaged easily. Hot temperatures do not affect it much. On the other hand, marble is composed of an interlocking mosaic of carbonate crystals, whose primary sedimentary textures and structures have already been modified or destroyed. Granite is sturdier, but marble is more preferred for its beauty and variety.
Granite comes in various colours but the thumb rule is, darker the colour, harder is the stone. Lighter the appearance of granite, the softer it is; at times, it can become softer than marble too. The maintenance of harder granite floors is relatively easy. Softer ones need all kinds of protection, like all marble floors do.
Granite can have lots of pin holes which get exposed when grinding floors. The slurry created by grinding settles inside these pinholes, giving it a whitish appearance. If polish is applied right after grinding, the gloss will also get scattered and make the stone look worse than the initial condition. The slurry has to be cleared from the pinholes before applying polish.
Granite polishes can be in powder form or a polymer-based polish. The latter can also act as a sealant after application.
Stone floors become dull over time due to harmful polishing chemicals, high foot traffic movement, scuff marks from shoes, dirt and dust that settle on the floors. The beauty of any stone depends upon its ability to reflect the light falling on it i.e. its gloss levels. Keeping gloss levels intact requires periodic polishing.
Marble polishing can be a tricky task. A simple crystallising agent can make the floor look great for a couple of months. Then, it slowly eats away at the marble’s composite.
Advanced floor pads
The deep shine we see on polished stone is achieved by rubbing the stone with a series of abrasive materials, mainly synthetic diamond abrasives. Nowadays, the most preferred polishing process is using diamond-embedded non-woven synthetic fibre pads which look like regular floor cleaning and maintenance pads, but have synthetic diamond abrasive powders ingrained in the fibres. The most useful attributes of these pads are that they:
- Work on all types of marble, unlike chemicals which may/may not work on different types of marble floors.
- Enhance natural colour, providing mirror shine and consistent finish on most floor surfaces.
- Can be used for daily floor cleaning and maintenance to maintain high gloss levels.
- Increase the lifespan of gloss on marble as chemical coatings get worn off sooner due to footfalls and constant cleaning.
- Prevent damage caused by harmful chemicals. Crystallisation, for example, changes the structure of the top layer of the floor, which will cause serious damage to the floor in the longer term.
- Reduce load on the machine used during the crystallisation process, thereby reducing breakdowns of the machines, and their maintenance costs.
- Are easier for operators to use, unlike crystallisation, which requires highly skilled labour.
- Work faster than other products with longer life – last up to twice as long as other products.
- Avoid chemicals which use wax and create conditions for slipping and accidents.
Choosing a machine
Marble and granite polishing is the acid test to check the performance and power of a single-disc scrubber. In the conventional polishing process, when the chemical polish has to be dried onto the floors by running the machine over it, friction makes the process difficult. The machine’s motor should be powerful and the drive system has to be designed for efficient running with enough torque to take on the load required for polishing floors.
Ways to prolong floor life
Use foot mats of suitable quantity.
Keep the floor mat clean.
Dry mop at regular intervals.
Refill joints with epoxy/resin/marble glue and seal joints with grout sealer. Apply proper sealers on the floor to avoid any staining.
Do structural hardening while grinding, polishing and re-polishing.
Use a neutral floor cleaner (Ph balanced for regular cleaning).
Regularly buff high-traffic areas using liquid crystalliser or powder crystallizer.
Use diamond spray pads at regular intervals to maintain sharp gloss.
Avoid excessive use of red pads for buffing/cleaning. Use diamond spray pads instead for regular maintenance.
Use granite tile cleaner to remove excess cement from surfaces.
For cleaning or polishing the marble floors, the quality of diamond abrasive and chemicals will determine the level of gloss achieved.
For professionals who polish newly laid floors, we recommend a single-disc grinder with a 3 HP motor; its heavy weight helps in lip page removal and also gives sufficient pressure to the pads for grinding and honing raw floors.
For marble maintenance professionals, we recommend machines with 1.5 HP motors. These machines are used to apply and dry chemicals on the floor; because of friction, a heavier machine will not be easy to handle.
The advent of new polishing pads made of non-woven synthetic fibres embedded with diamond abrasives has taken away a large chunk of the load from machines. Now, they work easily with just water while grinding or honing, enhancing the life of single-disc scrubbers.
Ideal stone floor cleaning practices
Use a neutral floor cleaner to loosen grime. Don’t scrub till the grime is loosened. For greasy floors, use a heavy-duty floor cleaner.
Set up dry mop, wet cleaning and re-polishing cycles.
For sandstone floors, specialised floor cleaners can remove rust marks and extra cement
Use a black pad with rust remover on a single disc machine for algae removal.
For maintaining sandstone, special sandstone sealers are recommended after cleaning.