How to Maintain Rubber

Commercial Rubber Flooring Maintenance

 

General Instructions

  • Maintenance Required.  Growing technology has enhanced the durability of flooring products immensely. Yet, our fast-paced world still renders a lot of wear on our floors from spills to rolling carts or foot traffic. Regular maintenance and preventative measures can significantly prolong the new look of your important investment.
  • Supremacy of Manufacturer.  The following information is the accumulation of many years of experience, the guidelines of regulatory flooring agencies, and the instructions provided by the leading manufacturers of flooring products. The manufacturer of your flooring product may have unique guidelines that should be given seniority over the general advice given by Wolfe Flooring.
  • Documents and Samples.  Retain the sales receipt and any product description from the purchase of the goods. If possible, document the manufacturer’s name and the manufacturer’s full product description, including color. Furthermore, retain a sample of the rubber for comparisons. For insurance purposes, it is prudent to safely store a photograph of your new product.
  • Not Initial Care.  The following guidelines are for regular maintenance, not initial care. Most likely, the initial care that your flooring needs is different than regular maintenance. Generally, new flooring products need about 12 to 72 hours after the installation before they are ready for furniture, regular foot traffic, or cleaning, etc. while the adhesive cures. Glueless or loose-lay products are ready for immediate use.
  • Generic Intent.  These instructions are for normal rubber flooring in common environments. Techniques, products, etc. change and some situations are very unique; thus, Wolfe Flooring assumes no liability for omissions, errors, or outcomes. These instructions may not apply to special situations. You’re welcome to call us for a specific professional address of your situation. Please exercise general caution implementing any of the following guidelines.
  • Staff Training.  Train your personnel using the manufacturer’s instructions. Print these instructions as needed.
  • MSDS.  Collect and retain each material safety data sheet (MSDS) for cleaning agents.
  • Caution Signs.  Place caution signs or safety cones in the area before starting any maintenance in a professional or commercial environment. Do not remove the signs or cones until the floor is completely dry and all supplies and equipment is properly stored. Also, use caution signs or safety cones if the floor becomes wet or develops a trip hazard.
  • Attic Stock & Storing.  Retain extra rubber flooring for the possibility of future repairs. Keep your extra materials in a dry place that stays between 40°F and 90°F. Store your rubber laying on a flat surface. Do not stack more than eight boxes high. Align the boxes so that the material is fully supported. Rubber will conform over time.
  • Entrances.  Keep the outside entrance areas (e.g., sidewalk, service entrance, grand portico, driveway) free of sand and debris. Non-staining walk-off mats (avoid rubber mats) and budget-friendly entry rugs are strongly recommended at your building’s entryways (both inside and outside) to catch most of the soiling. Use mats at the entrances to a commercial kitchen and at the top and bottom of escalators. The mass majority of the soil and grit that will fall into the room will do so in the first six feet of the entrances. Transitional mats should be cleaned recurrently; otherwise, the mats will accelerate the soiling.  Read a blog article on an overall strategy.
  • Rugs and Underlayments.  Area rugs are infrequently used atop rubber, but if you are using an area rug. Never allow moisture to become trapped under your rug. Use non-slip underlayments under rugs to prevent possible dye transfer and to prevent the rug from sliding or “walking.” Small rugs are especially prone to slip on smooth rubber. The grip that is provided by a non-slip underlayment can prevent a nasty fall. Underlayment also benefits by absorbing a portion of the impact of each footstep, which means that underlayment helps the rug experience less crushing.
  • Sweep or Vacuum.  Sweep or dust-mop your commercial rubber flooring once or twice per day using a flagged brush. You can also use a vacuum cleaner without a beater bar. Sand and grit are among the greatest enemies against your rubber's sheen and will act as abrasives to scratch and dull the finish.
  • Mop.  Sweep the dry particulate before mopping. Damp-mop your rubber floor with water or an appropriate cleaner to remove stubborn soiling. Replace your mop water frequently to avoid an unsightly residue. Do not saturate your rubber. Excess or frequent exposure to moisture can cause adhesive failure (in some cases). Use water only or a floor cleaner with a neutral pH of 7. Do not use strong solvents (e.g., alcohol, acetone, turpentine, etc.). If you use a cleaning product, be careful to remove any residue.
  • Soiling, Stains, Spills, and More.  See our Rubber Spot Cleaning Guidelines.
  • Keep Dry.  Keep your rubber floor dry, unless the rubber is intended for a designated wet space (e.g., poolside patio). (Rubber flooring in a designated wet area should be a loose-lay install or have a special adhesive and also should have a higher friction coefficient [i.e., more surface grip].) Wet rubber presents the risk for (1) slipping, (2) mold or mildew, and (3) adhesive failure (depending upon how your rubber was installed). Be especially mindful of walk-off moisture or drips when weather conditions outside are wet or snowy. For safety, immediately dry-mop or use towels to wipe the floor dry. Immediately place your caution signs or warning cones if you expect an on-going risk or you have a residual of moisture after mopping. Fans will accelerate drying. Warm air is more effective than cold air to dry up moisture.
  • Mechanical Cleaning.  If ordinary damp-mopping is not cleaning the floor sufficiently, you may elect to scrub your rubber floor. Scrubbing the floor can be done (in a small area) with a deck scrub brush with soft bristles or with a rotary machine. For mechanical scrubbing, use a 3M™ General Purpose Floor Brush 53 with 1-inch, 22-gauge nylon bristles or a 3M™ White Super Polish Pad 4100 or brush with equal or less abrasiveness. (NOTE: The General Purpose Floor Brush 53 is not intended for a rubber with a raised texture.) Combine the pad or brush with a low-speed rotary machine (spinning at 300 RPM or less). Keep moisture at a minimum and vacuum or dry-mop the excess moisture as quickly as possible. Work in small sections (100 to 200 SF). Use a diluted, mild, alkaline cleaner (7 pH to 8 pH) with warm water for accumulated dirt or oily residues. Do not leave a residue of cleaner on your rubber flooring. Rinse the floor with clean, cold water. Then, again, vacuum or dry-mop the excess moisture as quickly as possible. Use scrubbing equipment sparingly due to the water required for this cleaning method. The floor may become dull (1) if left with a residue, (2) if scrubbed excessively with an abrasive brush or pad, (3) if scrubbed at a speed above 300 RMP, or (4) if exposed to a solvent or acid cleaner.
    The luster of a rubber that includes natural wax is restored by periodic brushing with a bassine natural bristle brush. Natural wax emerges over a 30-day periord.---Mannington High-speed buffing may create a higher sheen or luster. The buffing machine is outfitted with a 3M™ White Super Polish Pad 4100 and burnished at 1,100 RPM. Consult your manufacturer for more details and to determine if your rubber flooring is a candidate.
  • Generally, sealers are unnecessary for rubber flooring. In some cases, some finishes will peel or flake if your rubber floor is not suitable. Some rubber is suitable for an application of wax or an acrylic sealer to increase the sheen. Apply with a mop head using rayon yarn (about 5" x 18"). Read the instructions by the manufacturer of your rubber.
  • Scuff Marks.  Remove scuff marks and black heel marks using water and a towel. If water does not work, try a nonabrasive, diluted, alkaline cleaner (7 pH to 10 pH). If the marks are widespread, see Mechanical Cleaning. Rinse away the a residue of cleaner with clean water, and dry the floor as quickly as possible. If the cleaning agent is insufficient, use mineral spirits, rubbing or isopropyl alcohol, lighter fluid, or acetone if necessary. ( CAUTION:  These solvents are flammable liquids and can cause adhesive failure. Do not allow a solvent to get into the joints of the rubber. Solvents are not for widespread application.) Apply the solvent to a white cloth. Then, use the cloth to remove the marks. You may need to reapply finish, if your floor appears dull afterward and previously had an approved finished applied. Most likely, your rubber has a built-in wax which will re-emerge within 30 days.
  • Mold.  Kill mold or mildew with Lysol Disinfectant Spray (10.8 - 11.8 pH) or Clorox Bleach (~11.9 pH). If you use bleach, create a mixture of bleach and water (1:15 ratio or 4 ounces of bleach for 60 ounces of water). Rinse the bleach residue off when you’re finished. Warm, dark, and humid environments accelerate mold. So, suppress the growth of mildew by keeping the area cold, well lit, and dry. You may want to consider using a squeegee or towel to dry the surface quickly and using a fan to circulate the air.   CAUTION:  Test a small area first to confirm that the rubber is not adversely affected. Also, remember that adhesive (if used) might be damaged by these cleaning agents.
  • Repairs.  Tend to repairs immediately to limit exposure and to keep repair expenses as low as possible. Place a caution sign on or near a damaged area if a tripping hazard develops. Place painters’ blue tape or a mat over a transition or flooring that is loose. Rubber with a burn, a gouge, a cut, or unappealing scratches needs to be repaired by piece replacement or by section replacement using a method that matches the original installation.
  • Spiked Heels.  Walking on commercial rubber with stiletto or spiked heels, especially those with worn spiked heal caps, will cause excessive wear which is often not covered under warranties.  According to Mohawk, a "high heel can concentrate as much as 2,000 pounds per square inch on the floor" when the heel's diameter is about 3/8" at the point of contact.
  • Furniture Placement.  Relocate furniture occasionally to distribute traffic patterns.
  • Furniture Legs.  Rubber can tolerate a limited amount of pressure per square inch (PSI). Prevent indentations due to heavy weight concentrated upon the legs of furniture by using casters with a flat undersurface made of glass, wood, or hard plastic. A caster should be no less than 3 inches in diameter, depending upon the weight of the object. A wide caster will disperse the weight of the furniture better than a narrow caster. Avoid heavy furniture with ball-type casters which concentrate the PSI. Use felt protectors on the bottom of furniture that is moved frequently. Change your furniture pads periodically. Hard plastic or metal tabs on the bottom of furniture can scratch rubber.
  • Chair Mats.  Chair pads are required under desk chairs (including those with roller casters) to preserve appearance and prevent accelerated wear. Rubber with a smooth surface needs a mat of 110 mils (0.11″) thickness. Rubber with an irregular surface needs a mat of 170 mil (0.17″) thickness. Purchase a mat with a felt or smooth bottom (i.e., no cleats). Add a thin underlayment under the chair mat if the mat will not remain stationary, if the mat is too noisy, or the rubber has an irregular texture. Do not permit sand to remain under a mat.
  • Moving Furniture and Heavy Equipment.  Sliding or dragging furniture or equipment over your rubber may scratch or cut the surface. This advice is especially important if your rubber has an irregular surface. Rolling a heavy load (i.e., a load that exceeds the PSI weight limit) over your rubber floor may leave indentations. Loaded pallet jacks and portable aerial hydraulic work platforms (a.k.a., mobile scissor lifts) present risks. At a minimum, use 1/4-inch hardboard runways.  See our expanded guide, How to Protect Flooring, to learn more.  The Plywood and Masonite section and the Moving Tools section are most applicable.
  • General Renovations, Painting, or Major Events.  If you will be renovating, painting, moving in or out, etc., then read our guide, How to Protect Flooring.
  • Pets.  Most commercial properties will not have pets, but pets are present in select environments (e.g., veterinarian offices, zoos, police academies, etc.). As with humans, pets can track in dirt, mud, etc., so attempt to keep your pet's paws clean. Keep your pet's nails trimmed so that its nails do not scratch the surface of your rubber flooring. Finally, address urine and other accidents as quickly as possible. Some rubber flooring will absorb urine; solid rubber flooring will only absorb trace amounts of urine. Greater vulnerability is between pieces of rubber. First, clean with a dry towel, mop, or sponge. If your rubber does not have polish or wax added, then mist the rubber with a disinfectant or wipe with a towel dampened by a disinfectant. (Try to prevent a disinfectant from seeping into the joints because some disinfectants can create problems for adhesive. If you elect to use a disinfectant, it may alter your polish or wax finish.) Remove the cleaning agent's residue using cold water. Wipe your floor dry once more.
  • Plants.  Do not set a potted plant directly on your rubber flooring. Excess moisture migrating from the plant may ruin the floor. Place a waterproof tray underneath. Over time, your floor may oxidize from light at a different rate than exposed flooring, as would be caused by a rug covering your floor.
  • Temperature.  A steady temperature is best for all flooring products. Maintain temperatures between 65°F and 85°F to avoid substantial contraction or expansion. Rubber possesses broad tolerance for temperature fluctuations without permanent damage, but rubber's flexible nature creates susceptibility to temperature changes. Cold temperatures make rubber contract; hot temperatures make rubber expand. Extreme fluctuations can make rubber flooring press upward or create gaps between pieces.
  • Heat.  Avoid placing an appliance directly on your flooring that produces high levels of heat. Refrigerators and ovens are known to produce heat that can permanently damage your flooring. Avoid direct exposure to heat from radiators, hot-air registers, and other heating devices. If you have a radiant floor heating system, be cautious to not exceed the limit (which is commonly at 85°F to 90°F) established by your manufacturer. Excessive heat can cause rubber to discolor or expand.
  • Sunlight.  Deflect direct sunlight away from rubber to prevent fading, discoloration, or thermal expansion.
  • HVAC.  Change the filters in your air conditioning system regularly to minimize pollen and other airborne particulate.