Surface Master

Vinyl Cleaning

How To Strip and Seal Vinyl Floors

Painting or repainting walls serves multiple purposes, such as enhancing their appearance, providing a protective layer, fixing any damages, and preventing wear and tear. Similarly, stripping and sealing a vinyl floor is based on the same principle. Over time, the glossy and shiny appearance of vinyl flooring may fade away, leaving it dull and lackluster. If your workplace’s vinyl flooring is in such a condition, it might be time to consider a strip and seal procedure. In this article, we will discuss what a strip and seal is, the step-by-step process involved, and why it’s necessary to have it done regularly. At In-Tec, we have assisted many clients with the strip and seal procedure, and we highly recommend doing it at least once a year.

What is a strip and seal and what does it achieve?

One of the most basic questions that people often have about strip and seal for their workplace floor is what it actually is. Before deciding if you need one for your floor or figuring out how it works, it is important to know what it is.

When a new vinyl floor is installed, it appears shiny and polished. However, over time, the sealant on the floor may lose its shine due to constant foot traffic, scratches, and wear and tear. This is where a strip and seal process comes into play.

A strip and seal involves removing the old sealer, neutralizing the floor with a solution containing a PH neutralizing additive, and then applying new coats of sealer. Although strip and seals can be performed on various types of flooring, including vinyl, lino, tile, and marble, In-Tec primarily performs strip and seals on vinyl floors for their clients.

One way to tell if the sealer on your floor is old and requires re-sealing is to look for the mirror finish versus a dull, matte finish. Alternatively, if the floor looks dirty, it may be a sign that the old sealer is clinging to dirt. If you compare a premise that has undergone a strip and seal to one that hasn’t, the difference will be immediately apparent.

In essence, a strip and seal is a process of rejuvenating old and dull sealed floors and making them appear new and shiny again. This process also leaves the floor looking clean. Regular strip and seals are a good way to keep your floor looking its best over time.

How does a strip and seal work? [7-step process]

Moving forward in our discussion, we now come to the question of how the team at In-Tec Commercial Cleaning carries out the process of stripping and sealing vinyl floors. In this section, we will take you through the entire procedure step by step, so that you gain a thorough understanding of what is involved in a strip and seal.

While some parts of the process may be a bit technical, we will do our best to present the information in a way that is easy to comprehend.

So, let’s get started and take a closer look at how our team goes about stripping and sealing vinyl floors.

1.   Do a risk assessment

Before our team of cleaners begins any major tasks, the first step they take is to conduct a risk assessment of the building. This involves familiarizing themselves with important areas of the building such as exits, fire extinguishers, power and water supply, bathrooms, and so on. Essentially, they are doing all the necessary preparatory work to ensure a smooth and safe job execution.

During this process, the cleaners also clear the area by removing any obstacles that may obstruct the job, such as tables, chairs, and bins. This step is crucial in ensuring that the cleaning process is carried out as efficiently as possible.

You may be wondering why the cleaners need to acquaint themselves with the site. Are they different from the regular cleaners who come in every week? The answer is yes. The team members responsible for conducting the strip and seal of vinyl floors are different from the regular cleaners. This is because they are specially trained to perform this task and have the expertise required to ensure that the job is completed to the highest standards possible.

2.   Pre-vacuum the floor

When it comes to cleaning any type of floor, it’s important for the cleaner to carry out a pre-vacuuming step. This involves removing any surface dirt, dust, or residue that may be present on the floor. Additionally, any visible marks, stickers, blu tack, or gum stuck to the floor are also removed during this process. By doing so, loose or adhered materials are cleared, ensuring that the cleaning procedure is conducted on a clean slate.

The objective of pre-vacuuming is to ensure optimal results later on in the process. Any dirt or debris that is left on the floor could interfere with the stripping and sealing process, leading to subpar outcomes. Therefore, by conducting a thorough pre-vacuuming step, the cleaning team can ensure that the subsequent steps are executed correctly and that the final outcome is up to the expected standard.

3.   Use floor stripper to mop the floor

The cleaners have completed some preparatory work to ensure that the site is ready for the strip and seal process. Now, it is time to commence the stripping process, which is the first step in the procedure. The cleaners begin by diluting a floor stripper chemical with water in a 15-litre mop bucket. It is essential to dilute the stripper with cold water, as hot water will render it ineffective.

Once the solution is prepared, the cleaners saturate a clean microfibre mop heavily with the mixture. They do not ring out the mop, as this allows the cleaner to flood the floor with the stripper, ensuring that the entire floor is evenly covered. The amount of time the stripper solution is left on the floor varies depending on the number of coats of sealer previously applied. If there were only one or two coats, the sealer would come off quite quickly. However, if there were three, four, five, or more coats, it would take longer to remove.

Although the sit time can vary, it generally takes anywhere between 10-20 minutes. During this period, the cleaner must ensure that the stripper does not dry on the floor. The stripping process is a crucial step in the strip and seal procedure, and the cleaner must execute it correctly for the process to be successful.

4.   Use the commercial swing machine

To begin, let’s explain what a swing machine is. You may have seen it used by a character in a movie or a TV show. It is a machine used for polishing floors and, in this case, to agitate the stripper solution.

After the cleaners apply the stripper solution, they need to agitate it to effectively loosen the sealer. This is done using a swing machine or rotary scrubber. At In-Tec, a Polivac machine is used.

As the swing machine moves left to right, it scrubs the stripper with a circular pad that spins. A highly aggressive black or emerald pad is used, which, if correctly used, removes the sealer but does not damage the floor surface. It is crucial that the stripper does not dry during the scrubbing process. A good commercial cleaner will only work on an area that they can effectively clean.

Due to the size of the machine, it can be challenging to reach the hard-to-reach areas. This is where a steel wool or doodlebug, a rectangular pad at the end of a pole, comes into play. While using the Polivac, the cleaner also cleans up any edges or bits around furniture using a handheld scrubber.

The swing machine or rotary scrubber is an essential tool in the strip and seal process. Its proper use ensures that the stripper solution effectively removes the sealer from the floor without causing damage. The cleaner must be meticulous in their work to achieve the desired results.

5.   Wet and dry vacuum the floor

If you thought we were almost at the end of the process, think again! Our cleaners still have three important tasks to perform before the floor looks new and shiny.

Once the cleaners have scrubbed the sealer off, they use a wet and dry vacuum to remove all the residue, which is a mixture of stripper and sealer. This must be done before the floor becomes dry; otherwise, the cleaner would have to restart the entire process.

From the outside, stripping and sealing may not seem like a difficult task. However, as you can see, the cleaner must always be vigilant in keeping the floor wet and avoiding any dry spots. Even a small dry spot can ruin the entire process and force the cleaner to start over.

In conclusion, the process of strip and seal is not as simple as it may appear. It requires attention to detail and a great deal of care to achieve the desired results. The final outcome, however, is a shiny and new-looking floor that is sure to impress.

6.   Mop the floor with clean water  – twice.

After the wet and dry vacuum step, cleaners always mop the floor with hot water and a clean mop to remove any remaining residue. Once the floor has dried, it is then mopped a second time, but with cold water and a neutralizer added. The purpose of this step is to ensure that the floor is neutralized and ready to be sealed.

The cleaner uses a clean microfiber mop for this step to avoid any contamination. Besides neutralizing the floor, mopping it also allows the cleaner to perform a defect check to ensure that no spots have been missed and that any extra hard sections have been re-stripped.

You may be wondering why the floor needs to be neutralized. The reason is that the stripper solution used during the stripping process is highly alkaline, with a pH of around 13. To ensure good adhesion of the new sealer to the floor surface, the floor surface needs to be neutral.

7.   Apply the sealer

Let me break down the final step that will give you a brand new looking floor. Our cleaners will follow these steps to seal your floor.

Once the final mop has dried, our cleaners will use an applicator, which is like a big flat mop, to apply the sealer on the floor. They soak the mop in the sealer and lay down lines of sealer onto the floor, filling all the voids.

To ensure the sealer does not dry, the cleaner must keep a wet edge, just like painting a wall. They will work their way out of a specific section, making sure they are off the floor by the time they complete that section.

For standard floors, 4 coats of sealer are applied to achieve the best finish. If 4 coats aren’t enough, we would apply another. Between each coat, the sealer must be left to dry, which can take anywhere from 15-45 minutes, depending on the humidity and heat within the building.

It’s important to let each coat dry completely, or the other coats of sealer will soften the previous coat, leading to a patchy appearance. A good cleaner should not rush through applying each coat of sealer.

After all the coats of sealer have dried, the floor should be left for a minimum of 1-2 hours before any furniture is put back and/or people walk on it. Ideally, the floor should be left for longer, and that’s why we usually perform strip and seals after hours or on the weekends, giving the floor plenty of time to dry before the next working day.

So there you have it, a complete rundown of how a strip and seal works.

Why you need a strip and seal done on a regular basis

Throughout this blog, we have provided a comprehensive explanation of what a strip and seal is and the step-by-step process involved. But why does it matter to you? You may be wondering why you need to get a strip and seal in the first place, apart from the obvious reason of achieving a lustre on your floors.

There are numerous reasons why a strip and seal should be carried out on floors regularly, and we will explore them here.

Firstly, a new seal will add more sheen to your floors, making them look brighter and more attractive. Secondly, regular strip and seal can help extend the life of your floors, reducing the need for frequent replacements.

Additionally, a strip and seal can reduce the risk of scratches and marks on your floors, providing a barrier against germs and abrasions. The process also makes the floor more robust and easier to clean.

Would you rather have a dull and dirty-looking floor, or a shiny, mirror-finish look on your floor? The second option is clearly more appealing. Neglecting to have a strip and seal done regularly can be an expensive mistake in the long run.

In conclusion, a strip and seal is a highly beneficial process for your floors, ensuring they remain clean, shiny, and last longer.

Is a strip and seal the right option for my flooring?

The condition of the vinyl floors in your workplace can be a tell-tale sign that a strip and seal is needed. Do they appear dull or have scuff marks that weren’t there before? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it’s time for a strip and seal.

A strip and seal can revitalize your floors, and it’s recommended to have them done yearly or more frequently. Including them in your scope of works will allow you to have a clear idea of when they’ll be done, and you won’t have to worry about scheduling them in.

Our team of professional cleaners at In-Tec are well-trained in performing strip and seals, and we use quality equipment and chemicals to ensure the job is done correctly.

If you need a strip and seal or have further questions about the process, schedule a call with a Surface Master Technician.

Vinyl Cleaning