Whilst we at Slip Safety Services offer professional deep cleaning services, we do understand that not every leisure club – or perhaps not every environment within any given club – necessarily needs our assistance right now. In many cases, centres could improve the aesthetics of their floors, and potentially their safety, themselves with some fairly straightforward to implement changes to their cleaning regime.
What does that look like? Well, there are several elements to a cleaning maintenance regime, but this paper will focus specifically on the deep cleaning side of things.
In our experience if you cannot achieve a good result yourself with a deep clean, it’s pointless trying to improve your day-to-day cleaning, because it simply won’t get you anywhere. Just as your weight can creep up on you, because you eat an extra few calories every day so over time this translates to a weight gain, your floor surfaces’ cleanliness can also creep up on you quite soon and you may not realise just how bad things have become because you’re used to seeing the floors every day (and you might not actually know how they should really look).
If you want to lose weight, you simply cannot do it sustainably as a one-off – you need to do it bit-by-bit over time. Your floors, conversely, will not improve bit-by-bit through daily cleaning if they have gone past a certain point of no return. You need to intervene with a one-off deep clean before you can then seek to maintain that standard.
An effective deep clean:
Now, it’s worth mentioning at this time that what we are talking about here is doing an effective deep clean, in other words one that will make a transformative and long-lasting change. Remember that our goal with this process is to restore the floor back to as close to “as new” as possible. A few tips on how to tell if you’ve achieved this or not:
- If the floor has any texture or profile in it, when it’s effectively cleaned you shouldn’t really be able to see this:
- Once effectively cleaned, floors in leisure clubs’ wet areas should feel slip resistant. Push your fingers down at a 45 degree angle when the surface is wet. If it still feels quite slippery, you probably haven’t removed all the contamination
- Lastly be aware of what looks like calcium but could be sodium hypochlorite. Whilst calcium build-up can typically be removed using acidic cleaning products and the right method, calcified sodium hypochlorite is imperious to chemicals. If you have this problem then, trust us, don’t waste your time trying to remove the build-up yourself; give us a call. If a fairly strong acidic product is poured onto what looks like calcium but there is no fizzing reaction, you almost certainly have sodium hypochlorite instead.
So what do we need to do to deep clean a floor in a leisure centre effectively? There are several elements to successful deep clean.
Time is certainly a key factor. When we speak with people who’ve been in the leisure sector for many years and they talk about a deep clean, what they tend to mean is: “we’ll buy some pizzas, 10 of us will stay a few hours extra at the end of the shift, and we’ll spend a bit of time trying to clean the poolside floor.” Actually, this is a really inefficient and ineffective way to try to do this. The people are almost certainly just getting in each other’s way; they’re rushing; and it’s a clear sign there’s no understanding of how long this process really takes. They’d be better off having, let’s say, between two and four people working over several nights to try to get the standard up, than trying to blitz it in one go with lots of people.
As a rule of thumb, we would – with our professional teams – typically be able to clean between 150 to 250 square metres per night shift with a team of two to three people. The typical poolside with a 20 to 25 metre pool is probably about 200, square metres. So we would normally finish this in a night, all things being equal (depending on the level of contamination).
On your floors with your own team, it may take you two or three nights even to come anywhere close to achieving the same kind of results. That’s because of the other elements of the system that we’ll talk about, but it’s something you need to be aware of. And it’s one factor that people don’t necessarily understand fully, and therefore it house deep cleaning often fails because insufficient time is allocated to the process. What feels like a lot of resource goes into it but the results are almost invisible.
Key learning: effective deep cleaning is hard work and takes time
We typically recommend one of our teams coming in every six months to do a professional deep clean as part of a planned preventative maintenance programme for your floors. We think this frequency works for a number of reasons, including the fact that it’s regular enough from the perspective of having a pendulum test results and certificate of compliance that such evidence is relevant in the event of any claims, but also that that’s more or less the time that it takes four floors to start at a great level, and when they could do with a bit of topping up.
So think about the frequency that you need to do deep cleaning at. Clearly, the better you do your day to day cleaning, the less frequent the deep cleaning may need to be.
We use different types of equipment for different jobs depending on the floor type, what contamination is on the floor, what kind of drainage is available and various other factors. But often when we visit leisure centres, they may have only a traditional rotary scrubber drier or perhaps only deck brushes. One of the keys to an effective deep clean is getting the right level of pressure on the floor and getting agitation of the surface in such a way that dirt becomes dislodged. So if you have low pressure and little mechanical agitation, you’re likely to get some poor results. Conversely, if you have high pressure and high agitation, you’ll probably getting better results.
The traditional blue deck brushes are in the vast majority of cases, not the right kind of material to use because their bristles are very stiff, they will skirt over the tops of any profiles within the surface, and won’t actually get down into the depths of the pores, which is where the dirt actually accumulates. We would recommend a softer brush or pad, which can physically flick out and dislodge the dirt from within the pores of the surface.
Secondly on equipment, you come to the point around pressure, and you will get much better pressure using a buffing machine (a slow speed buffing machine) that you would with a scrubber dryer, for example. In many cases, you can actually achieve even greater pressure by hand using deck scrubbing. But that’s assumes that operatives are putting a lot of effort into the job. Cleaning large areas very well by hand is a time-consuming and physically-challenging thing to do.
On certain types of floor, a cylindrical machine may be more effective than the traditional rotary type of machine.
In our decades of experience, to do an effective deep clean which will remove all contamination and leave the floor clean and to a high level of slip safety, you will need to use a chemical of some kind. There is equipment on the market that will claim to work with no chemical but to achieve both aesthetic and safety, in our experience, a chemical is needed in this environment. A floor can look aesthetically clean but not be safe: contaminants which are invisible to the naked eye may not have been fully removed.
The chemicals you use should be driven by the type of contamination present. So if you have heavy calcium build-up that would need one type of chemical, whereas body fat build-up would need another, shoe traffic contamination another. One of the failings we see in cleaning is that people try to use the same chemical and process for a kitchen as they do a poolside and that is doomed to failure. In most cases in the leisure sector, you will need to be using an acidic chemical to do a deep clean because the types of contamination present will not be broken down by an alkaline chemical (for example calcium).
As well as choosing the correct chemical for the job, you need to use the right dilution. Typically to get a chemical that is COSHH appropriate for you to use, you’re going to need to use it in quite a strong dilution to achieve much – e.g. 50% chemical and 50% water. Most chemicals’ recommended dilution ratios aren’t really designed for the heavy build-up of contamination that is often present on leisure club’s floors.
As with anything in life, the more you do something successfully, the better you understand how it works and the more able you are to consistently achieve the right result. This, therefore, is where it might be challenging for you, because your staff probably don’t have huge amounts of experience at undertaking effective deep cleaning of leisure facility floors. The more challenging the cleaning requirement, the less we suggest you should consider trying to do the work yourself.
Method to use:
Let’s bring this all together into a methodology for you to try.
- Prepare everything you need and check that machinery is working, you have sufficient chemicals, pads etc.
- Remember that you’d like the floor to be as dry as possible. Now this doesn’t mean you need to get towels out to dry the floor but what we don’t want to do is to pre-wet, the floor. If you pre-wet the floor, you have then over-diluted the chemical. Once it hits the surface and gets mixed in with all of the water present, its effectiveness will fall.
- Work in a small area. We would suggest working on something like five metres by two metres, at a time. You can then go through this process in a diligent manner and give yourself the best chance of success. So mark out the area in some way once you’ve decided the area of floor to work on.
- Apply the chemical in the correct dilution to the floor. Typically in leisure the floors are such that this can safely be done with a mop and buckets, or with a spray bottle. So you can dilute the chemical to whatever level is needed, or not as the case may be, within the bucket or the bottle. The products can then be applied to the floor.
- Next, you must agitate the chemical into the floor. What we mean here is not that you are spending five minutes scrubbing one single tile. But that every tile, or every part of the area gets an even level of fairly decent agitation. As we said earlier, there is a there’s a difference achieved by having more or less pressure on the floor, as well as by the type of physical agitation (e.g. rotary vs cylindrical). Plus the pad or brush used, so a green pad vs a red brush for example will see different results.
- Continue to agitate for between five and 20 minutes. But importantly: do not let the floor dry out. The cleaning process will liquify the dirt, so the last thing we want to do is to let that dry back into the floor. So continue to agitate and keep the floor wet by spraying over some additional water if needed. Many poolsides, for example, can get quite hot, which means that liquid will start to evaporate.
- Next you need to remove the chemical. Sprinkle or spray over some water and then either ideally use a wet vacuum, or use a squeegee and push into a drain, to physically remove the chemical and the liquefied contamination. Remember, if you were cleaning your dishes at home, and they were particularly stubborn with grease or food stuffs on them, the first thing you would do would be to soak them in some washing up liquid. And the way we’re cleaning this floor is no different: we’re finding the right product for the floor, we’re applying it to the floor and we’re actually allowing it some time to do its work. However, in this case we are agitating it throughout that process, but returning to your dishes…. the immersion into the washing up detergent is not what actually cleans the dishes, the bit that actually cleans them is the process of rinsing them off under the tap. And your floor is exactly the same so it’s really critical that there is some kind of removal of the chemical contamination, water, etc from the surface. Without that, effectively, you’re not cleaning anything: you’re simply moving dirt around.
- Next, it’s really important to do a rinse. This has a particular benefit when it comes to safety, because the smallest amount of contamination on the floor can negatively affect the slip resistance of the floor. But it’s also important from an aesthetic perspective. You cannot afford to let the dirt dry back into the floor; any dirt in the pores will act as a magnet for additional dirt to cling to, meaning the floor will quickly resoil. You may feel that you’ve done a good deep clean but if any residues are left on the floor, it will start to resoil again quickly.
- Lastly, once the floor has been cleaned, it’s then important to allow it to dry. Firstly, because this enables you to see the end result you’ve achieved and check that you’re happy with this or not. Secondly, because, any dirty footprints walking over a wet floor are likely to mark up the floor, and potentially undo the good work you’ve done.
Remember to try a small area first:
We would encourage you to try that out first on a test patch area of 2-4 tiles or 50cm by 50cm to see if you can get the kind of result you’re looking for. If you can then next try it on an area of, let’s say, 3m by 3m. And once we’ve done that successfully, we can feel comfortable that we can replicate that results across the floor.
So what happens if I try this and I don’t get the results that I’m looking for?
First, why might I not get the results I’m looking for if I try this myself? Well, there were a number of reasons why this may not work for you, as you’ve hopefully picked up within the explanations of the process: if you have contamination that doesn’t match the chemical that’s available to you, for example, you’re unlikely to succeed. We could take you to a leisure club and use one product on the poolside floor successfully then use the same product on the changing room floor and have totally different results so matching the floor type and contamination to the chemical could be one reason. Chemical suppliers may claim that product x cleans contaminant y but that’s not necessarily the case.
Secondly, if you’re able to achieve a good result on the test area the small test area but can’t replicate that across a bigger area, it’s likely that there’s something around the equipment that isn’t quite working for you. So when you’re doing a test area by hand. It’s possible to put some very large amounts of pressure onto the floor by leaning into it. And that can achieve a good result but perhaps the equipment you’re planning to use will not be able to replicate this.
Third it could be down to the diligence of your staff. It’s impossible to know how hard people are working, or how effectively they’re working, unless you’re there with them. And even then, you can’t really know what’s going on in someone’s head.
For this to work you need to tick all the boxes outlined above, essentially.
If you do try this method and struggle with getting the right results, then we would certainly encourage you to give us a call and see if we can come in to help. It’s very rare we cannot get a great result one way or another. Seeing is believing. And we would love to show you what we can do.
Here are some examples of us cleaning the uncleanable to give you an idea of what an effective deep clean really looks like: