Keep It Clean

Determining which is more popular, carpeting or hard-surface flooring, is like riding a roller coaster. For years, educational facilities had been removing carpeting as fast as they could because it was perceived to cause indoor air pollution. Today, however, its use in newly constructed elementary and secondary schools has jumped significantly.

When it was remodeled in the 1960s, the famed Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco installed acres of carpeting covering its lobby and common areas. Forty years later, designers decided carpeting was out and replaced most of it with marble, stone and tile flooring.

No matter which trend is taking precedence at the moment, the interest in tile and hard-surface flooring has unquestionably increased in recent years. In fact, in 2006, more than 3.3 billion square feet of tile was sold in the U.S. — up nearly 50 percent over 2000.

Today, many architects and planners of hospitality properties tend to favor hard-surface flooring over carpeting because it helps them create a variety of moods — everything from soothing and relaxing atmospheres to sleek and hip styles — which is often hard to do with carpet.

This also means there is a lot more tile that must be cleaned. Properly cleaning tiles requires some knowledge about the most common types of tile found in hotel properties, along with the skills and training necessary to clean it correctly. (See story on the types of commercial tile.)

CLEANING TILE

Ceramic tiles are essentially a practical, low-maintenance flooring material. “Yet, even with regular cleaning, they are porous and can get dirty and stained, especially in heavy-traffic areas,” says Mark Cuddy, director of sales-East for Tornado, a manufacturer of professional cleaning equipment. “And the grout areas tend to have even greater porosity, which is why they often discolor so quickly.”

Regular maintenance should include sweeping or, preferably, damp mopping or vacuuming to reduce grit and protect indoor air quality. Additionally, Cuddy suggests cleaning tiles by the gentlest means possible, such as using warm water, using green or pH-neutral detergents and mopping with gentle agitation, if necessary.

When more detailed and extensive cleaning is necessary, new cleaning products should always first be tested on a small, inconspicuous area. Additionally, Cuddy warns that abrasive cleaners and some conventional rotary floor machines can actually damage and wear away the protective surface of ceramic tiles, as well as the decorative design, and should not be used on ceramic tile floors.

“Some housekeeping professionals will even use acid-based cleaning solutions to clean heavily soiled ceramic tiles,” says Cuddy. “But they can damage the glaze and loosen and discolor the tile. Also, the acid can be dangerous to the user as well as harmful to the environment.”

Instead of conventional cleaning chemicals and rotary floor machines, Cuddy suggests selecting environmentally preferable cleaning chemicals and using low-moisture cylindrical brush floor machines or multi-purpose floor machines, which also incorporate cylindrical brush technology and can be used on both hard-surface and carpeted floors.

Cylindrical machines use brushes instead of pads, so they're often better able to reach deep into porous areas to loosen and remove soils, explains Cuddy. Also, they tend to have greater contact pressure on the floor, which helps them remove soil from hard-to-reach pores. “The machine does more of the actual work, which means that less water and chemical are necessary, making them more environmentally responsible,” he adds.

The use of ceramic floor tiles goes back to the fourth millennium B.C. Later, the Romans introduced tile making in western Europe and its use spread as they occupied more territories. But, as mentioned earlier, its popularity has gone up and down. One likely reason is that tile can be difficult to keep clean. However, with new technologies, including new cleaning methods, systems, and equipment, whether tile is popular or not, we now have practical and efficient ways to keep it clean.

Tile Types

We often hear people say a hotel property has ceramic title. But what is ceramic tile? It is often used as a broad category that includes, correctly or not, all types of tile made from clay and nonmetallic minerals. There are four common types of tiles: ceramic, porcelain, quarry and Saltillo.

Ceramic tile is made from clay through a process, called “firing,” that includes baking it at high temperatures. The process makes it extremely durable and resistant to alkaline, acids and most cleaning chemicals. It can withstand loads up to 100,000 pounds per square foot, does not easily scratch, has considerable abrasion resistance and if properly maintained will show little wear for years.

There are five types of ceramic tile:

  • Type 1 is suitable for walls and areas with light foot traffic.

  • Types 2 and 3 are used in areas with light to moderate traffic in residential settings.

  • Type 4 can be used in commercial facilities with minimal foot traffic.

  • Type 5 refers to heavy commercial tile found in shopping centers, hotels, restaurants and similar facilities.

Porcelain tile is also made from clay, but using a dry-press method and then firing it at high temperatures. It also is highly durable and is used in facilities that have moderate to heavy foot traffic.

Quarry tile is most often installed in commercial kitchens. Produced by the auger extrusion method, the tiles are fired at more than 2,000 degrees F. The dark red color comes from the minerals in the body of the clay. They are not glazed and don't have patterns. Quarry tile is often used in more practical, industrial settings because it is easy to clean and extremely durable.

Saltillo tile is sometimes called Mexican tile and is often used because it doesn't have as finished a look as other tiles. The tiles may not always be perfectly square, may not lie flat, may vary in texture and color, and may even have chips and cracks.

These are viewed as signs of authenticity rather than as flaws. Similar to other forms of tile, Saltillo tile is fired but at much lower temperatures for longer periods of time. Some may even be sun baked.

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