Cleaning solutions shouldn't be set in stone
30 September 2016
Most people are creatures of habit when it comes to stone cleaning products. They find a brand and stick to it. The problem is that your favourite manufacturer or someone else may have developed something even better. With so many treatments now available, it’s worth checking out the options, explains Lisa Breakspear, sales & technical director, Fila UK
A new stone floor cleaning product may offer improved environmentally friendly or safety benefits, or higher coverage – or it might enable you to tackle a problem that your regular product can’t.
Acid descalers are a good case in point. They can be very effective at removing cementitious residue and limescale deposits from acid-resistant material. A lot of traditional formulas contain hydrochloric acid, which omits unpleasant fumes. These aren’t just potentially harmful and very unpleasant for the applicator, they can enter air conditioning units and cause further damage. They are also corrosive and may eat into grout and steel/aluminium trims, profiles and pipes, showerheads and kitchen hoods, etc. But there is an alternative. Choosing a ‘buffered’ acid solution eliminates all of these problems, cleaning rather than attacking. And a buffered acid can also remove a host of other horrors, including rust stains and saline efflorescences from terracotta.
In terms of the universal pH-neutral cleaners there are an array of regular detergents available but there are also highly concentrated formulas that can be used at various dilutions. The ‘ordinary maintenance’ dilution of the cleaner can be increased for a builder’s clean on delicate surfaces and for ‘extraordinary maintenance’ of very dirty surfaces. Dig deeper and there are products that can be used on both stone and ceramics. An example from Fila’s range is PS87; it’s a three-in-one cleaner, stain remover and wax remover. At full concentration, it’s only suitable for porcelain but, when diluted, it can be used to remove built up organic dirt and grease from unpolished natural stone. Versatile products like these can tick a lot of boxes, providing a cost effective solution and freeing-up valuable shelf space.
There’s a new breed of specialist products that can clean and renew stain-proofing with each application. These can be particularly useful for kitchen worktops and bathroom vanity units, which can become very difficult to maintain if left unsealed or as a sealant becomes worn. But make sure that any product specified for kitchen environments is certified as safe to use in food preparation areas.
One of the most important cleans is the post installation or ‘builder’s clean.’ Finding a quality product for this procedure is imperative. If a stone floor isn’t properly cleaned before a sealant is applied, then any residues will become trapped between the stone and the sealant. As a result, the sealant’s ability to penetrate the surface will be compromised and the surface will be more difficult to maintain. It may, ultimately, also result in an expensive sealant removal job. Using a quality detergent eliminates these problems because it breaks down the dirt and residues. On an acid-sensitive floor, look out for a pH-neutral cleaner that can be used at a higher concentration or, on acid-resistant stone, porcelain and ceramics, opt for a buffered acid preparation.
If you do need to strip back a floor and reseal it – as a result of a poor initial clean or a refurbishment – always establish what type of sealant has been applied first – is it water or solvent based? The sealant will then need to be removed with the correct product to avoid damaging the substrate and to ensure that it is removed effectively. Then, the surface should be given a thorough wash using an appropriate cleaning product and resealed again – perhaps choosing something new that will provide extra benefits?
When it comes to sealants, many people stick to solvent-based formulas because they know that they work well. Yet, comparable water-based treatments are now available. As well as benefits in terms of safety and the environment, many water-based sealants can be applied with residual moisture present, unlike solvents, so they can speed up a job and save you money. They can also contribute to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points, so are a feather in your cap for eco-installations.
It’s certainly worth reviewing what’s on your shelves and what’s happening in the marketplace. Research & Development focused companies are constantly improving existing lines and developing new treatments – and they could prove to be valuable assets in terms of your own business.