FM Articles

Easy-to-Maintain Rubber Flooring Attracts Facility Managers


Floor coverings represent a significant investment in any facility, which makes caring for them an important part of a facility maintenance program. The goal of a good maintenance program is to extend the useful life of the flooring while contributing to that always-important first impression as students, parents, patients, employees and visitors enter a building for the first time.

What defines a good maintenance program varies from building to building and, depending on the variety of floor coverings in a single facility, from floor to floor, based on the type of flooring that is installed. Thanks to its composition, rubber flooring probably offers the simplest maintenance regimen.

Rubber flooring is a sustainable material made from renewable natural rubber that is extracted from the sap of tropical rubber plants, as well as synthetic rubber. Depending on the manufacturer, the product may also contain natural fillers to supplement the high-quality natural and industrial rubber, as well as environmentally compatible color pigments that are free of lead and other heavy metals.

Rubber Flooring Repels Dirt and Bacteria
The floor’s dense, nonporous surface helps repel dirt and bacteria. As a result, the floor tends to stay clean longer and can be maintained with regular dust mopping. When a deeper cleaning is required, a mop and tap water will often suffice. One manufacturer also offers a cost-effective and sustainable cleaning system that combines water and scrubbing pads that are designed for all levels of maintenance needs, from the periodic cleaning of small spaces to the more intense post-construction cleaning. In either case, the floor does not require waxing, stripping or the application of sealants, saving considerable time.

As a result, schools like Howe Manning Elementary School, in Middleton, Massachusetts, are finding additional time to address other maintenance concerns and enjoying cost savings associated with cleaning and finishing supplies that are no longer necessary. The school, which features a modern sustainable design and state-of-the-art technology to accommodate up to 750 students and 50 staff members, includes rubber flooring throughout entryways, corridors, classrooms, stairwells and the cafeteria.

“We clean the floors with basically ionized water,” said Steve Clifford, director of facilities. “There are no chemicals, detergents or soaps used. So that adds to a lower cost footprint,” adding, “We’re reallocating our labor force to various things, including glass, vacuuming and other maintenance activities.”

Maintenance is Less Intrusive
The absence of harsh cleaning chemicals, waxes and strippers also means maintenance is far less intrusive. Large areas of a building do not need to be closed down for extended periods of time while floors are cleaned and waxes applied and allowed to dry. Even emergency spills can be cleaned up quickly, without the need to move people and the fear of compromising the air they breathe.

Because air quality is not negatively impacted, schools that install rubber flooring no longer have to schedule floor maintenance on summer breaks and other long holidays. Just ask Rusty Bonner, head custodian at Christa McAuliffe Elementary School in Concord, New Hampshire, where rubber flooring supports a vision of open, collaborative, flexible and technology-integrated multi-use learning spaces.

“The elimination of coatings and chemicals has been a breath of fresh air, literally,” said Bonner. The absence of fumes often associated with the application of these substances has positively impacted the well-being of the maintenance staff, as well as students and teachers.

“Just a few regular washes with little more than water erases any staining, allowing the floors to easily maintain their new appearance,” added Bonner. This is especially beneficial in spill-prone areas, including the cafeteria and art rooms.


Healthcare Facilities Appreciate the Benefits of Rubber Flooring
Similarly, healthcare facilities that operate 24/7 do not have to move patients while floors are cleaned, which is one of many reasons administrators at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Florida, selected rubber flooring to cover a majority of the hospital’s 180,000-square-foot patient- and family-centered expansion.

“We’ve had staff and patients in the past who experienced allergic reactions to the chemicals we had to use,” said William Lubin, director of environmental services at the hospital. “We don’t have that challenge any longer with rubber.”

The hospital also appreciates the ability of rubber flooring to resist staining. The floor covering’s natural density not only allows it to stand up to water, chemicals and other liquid spills, but also disinfectants, betadine, blood and urine.

Additionally, slip resistance, especially as it relates to flooring finishes, was important. According to Lubin, “The floor is safer, as it doesn’t require any coatings or strippers. That’s because stepping on a floor covered with a stripping agent can easily result in a fall,” a message not lost on elementary school administrators responsible for the safety of young children.

At the same time, the hospital staff is confident the floor meets the strict hygienic requirements of a healthcare facility. The same closed surface that resists dirt also inhibits the growth of bacteria, making rubber flooring naturally bacteriostatic and fungistatic.

Steam Cleaning Offers Non-Disruptive Cleaning Method
To make cleaning regimens in healthcare settings even less intrusive and more effective, organizations are taking advantage of steam cleaning. A steam cleaning system provides healthcare facilities with a non-disruptive cleaning method that relies on steam to deep clean resilient flooring in occupied patient spaces.

One system in particular uses distilled water – no chemicals – to create superheated dry steam that is delivered under pressure at more than 150°C. The steam loosens dirt, grease and sticky oils from flooring surfaces, while the high temperature of the steam deep cleans and emits no VOCs and the associated smells, contributing to improved indoor air quality. A single tank of water can clean approximately 4,000 square feet of flooring. Because the tank is not pressurized, water can be refilled at any time during the cleaning process without waiting for the machine to cool down, eliminating delays and allowing for continuous workflow.

This same steamer uses a specially designed microfiber pad that does not become saturated as it absorbs dirt. This contributes to short drying times and reduced chances for slips and falls. Additionally, the cleaner’s lightweight, sleek design and small size allow for maneuvering in tight spaces.

The cleaner was developed to overcome cleaning issues in areas where mechanical scrubbing cannot be accomplished on a daily basis. These areas include occupied patient rooms, bathrooms and shower areas, as well as intensive care units and neonatal intensive care units.

Rubber Offers Quiet Environments and Comfort Underfoot
In addition to a simple maintenance regimen, improved indoor air quality and stain and slip resistance, the staff at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital was attracted to rubber flooring for its acoustic properties. “The quiet the flooring provides is paramount to the recovery of the children we care for,” said Jesus Sardinas, director of facilities.

Selected in large part for the quiet it contributes to the healing process, resilient rubber flooring also offers added cushion underfoot, an important consideration for nursing staff who work around the clock on their feet. “The rubber is softer to walk on,” said Sardinas. It’s also more comfortable for teachers who spend long periods of time on their feet and maintenance staff tasked with keeping the floor clean.

But more than any other benefit rubber flooring offers, it is the floor covering’s simple cleaning regimen that consistently attracts facility managers. “The product is a little more expensive,” said Lubin. “But when you consider the long-term cost savings it delivers, the floor offers good value. You save in time, labor, chemicals, costs, etc.”

Tasha Hughes is a Marketing and PR Specialist at nora systems, Inc.