Hard Floor Care: Tips, Tricks, Techniques and Observations

You rest your weary arms after applying your final coat of floor finish and can’t help but look back at your work of art. You take a few minutes to reflect on the amount of work that went into your floor care project and then smile in satisfaction knowing that you just accomplished something – a job well done.

Hard floor care, deep scrubbing, and/or stripping and finishing a vinyl composite tile (VCT) or terrazzo floor surface is hard work. However, at times we are our own worst enemies. We make the project harder than it needs to be.

Here are a few tips, tricks, techniques and observations that I know will help you create your floor care work of art:

Floor Stripping Concentrates like two (2) things:

1. WATER – yes, water – make that cold water. Nine times out of 10 we dilute our floor strippers incorrectly. We still think “more is better”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead of automatically diluting your floor stripper at 1:4 (1 gallon stripper to 4 gallons of water) try mixing your floor stripper at 1:8. And then utilize time, which is the next thing that floor strippers like…

2. TIME – this one hurts the most. We hate to wait! In case you didn’t realize it, we humans are impatient creatures. TIME, Time, time…. Please apply your floor stripper liberally to the area you intend to work in – and WAIT. Yes, wait for 30 minutes. Keep the solution wet. Don’t let it dry out. But, wait. The reward of actually stripping the floor one time is yours to grasp if you only would exercise some patience. Thirty (30) Minute Dwell Time. Try it.

Stripping Pads or Stripping Brushes?

1. The answer: Yes

2. Use a stripping brush when you know there are more than 10+ coats of finish on the floor. After picking up the stripper slurry, liberally apply water to the floor and go over the entire surface one more time using a standard black stripping pad.

3. When there are less than 10 coats of finish to remove, I suggest using the 3M Hi-Productivity Strip Pad. Always use a “cushion” pad between the Hi-Pro and the machines pad driver. I prefer to use a Red Pad. It seems like the Hi-Pro grips the Red Pad the best, which keeps it in place.

Go “Thin to Win”

1. Regardless of what Old Joe told you when he taught you to apply floor finish, applying many thin coats of finish is always – did I say, “Always” – better than applying 2-3 heavy, thick coats. If the manufacturer sales rep or distributor sales rep tells you differently, simply smile and ignore their ignorant advice. (Or, just call BS, like I’ve done a time or two. It’s fun and elicits interesting facial expressions from them).

2. Apply thin coats helps with the following:

3. Drying, more importantly the “curing” of the finish. Think about it… finish dries from the top down. A coat of finish could feel dry to the touch, yet still be in liquid form under that surface skim that’s dry. Let the darn coat dry and cure. Your finish will last longer and be more durable.

4. Avoiding “hazing”. When you apply too many thick coats, the water in the floor finish needs to evaporate. If you capture that moisture under multiple thick coats of finish, hazing will appear. It looks like a white cloudy spot under the finish. The only solution to fix hazing is time. If the hazing doesn’t go away over time, your only real solution is to strip the floor again. Grrr. I’m not a fan of extra work.


1. Some people will tell you that if you “score” or scratch floor finish prior to applying the stripper solution that it will help the solution penetrate faster. I have tried this technique many, many times and have not found this to help. It only added time to the overall project making it less productive.

2. Stripping Pads are cheap when compared to time. Labor cost will always be greater than product cost. When your stripping pad is full, flip it over to use the other side and when both sides are full, get a new pad. Don’t stretch out the use of a pad, you’ll only be stripping that section of floor again. Be smart. Use your tools wisely.

3. Please re-read #1B above. If there’s one piece of advice that I live by it is “let the product do the work for you”.

Nichols has many hard floor experts on staff. If you have doubts or simply want to lay down a challenge to us, we stand ready for your call or email.

Work smarter not harder.

If you are interested in Hard Floor Care CITS Certification for yourself or your team, we are offering a course at our Bowling Green Open House on May 11th. Registration materials will be available soon!