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Keeping Up Appearances: Shopping Mall Floor Care

The mall is certainly the focal point of many communities both large and small. It is a place not only to shop but also to meet and socialize. The heavy traffic that most malls generate also generates another concern-how to keep it clean!

Obviously the area that gets the most abuse is the flooring. Many designers these days are using multiple types of flooring, including:

Ceramic/Porcelain Tiles:

These are glazed and fire finished, and come in a wide variety of colors and textures. The advantage of porcelain tiles is that they are stain resistant and have a very hard finish. The trend nowadays is towards textured tiles because they have increased slip resistance. This extra texture requires the use of cleaners that can float the dirt/grime out of the textured surface-otherwise it will always look dirty.

Brick and Pavers:

This inexpensive type of flooring is widely used. However, brick and clay types are porous and need to be sealed to prevent staining. This typically involves some type of acrylic wax or sealer. But these sealers can be a maintenance concern in the long run because they will eventually trap dirt, especially in the grout joints, and thus require frequent stripping. The need for floor finish will also mean that the shine can quickly look washed out in high traffic areas because of the necessary daily cleaning. So, although the initial purchase of bricks and pavers can be low, the upkeep can add to the actual overall cost.

Quarry Tile:

A dense clay tile that has been glazed. Again, these come in a wide variety of colors and textures. They are more stain resistant than bricks/pavers but still require some form of protection from staining in high-traffic areas.


These are primarily pieces or chips of marble/limestone bonded together by cementitious materials. It can be treated like marble (below) in the care and refinishing. Choosing a finish: best to use natural shine from a polishing cream and then protect with a non-acrylic, non-acid type stonehardener that will not trap dirt! For extreme protection choose a resin-based sealer that will PENETRATE and provide long term stain resistance. Available in matte, low gloss, and gloss finishes, this sealer is extremely hard and will not require stripping, and will not be washed out by daily cleanings and solvents.

Agglomerate Marble Tile:

Like terrazzo, they are made by bonding together marble and limestone chips, and then colored to a wide range of colors glued together by a polyester type resin. Will take a high natural looking shine to appear like true marble or limestone. These are less expensive than true marbles or limestones but are highly durable when treated correctly. The most common mistake made with these materials is to wax them with a hard type of wax. This then requires the use of a stronger type of stripper which can eventually break down the resins which hold the tiles together. This constant attack makes the tile susceptible to fracture and staining. However, a natural polishing cream can bring back a nice shine even in dull tiles. Combine this shine with the stone hardener and you will be surprised how well it can look again. The agglomerates respond more quickly to refinishing than do the true marbles and limestones. They are a good choice of flooring if a stone tile look is desired.


True marbles are densely packed, recystallized metamorphic limestones. They are comprised of calcium carbonate, the same ingredient as chalk. The color is typically white with streaks of black or gray. True marble can also be red to yellow but typically these are more expensive and are not used for flooring. The crystals are intertwined and for this reason can make the care of marble more difficualt than non-crystallized types of stones. The hardness is between 3 to 4 mols of hardness-this is soft compared to quartz which is 7 and diamond which is 10. This explains why unprotected marble can quickly become scratched and dull looking.

Limestone, Travertine: (both polished and honed finishes)

These stones come mainly in shades of brown and tan. They are composed of unrelated layers of calcium carbonate cemented together into a single mass. This explains why it is easier to create a new surface with limestone and travertine than with a true marble. Limestone is often called “marble” because, commercially speaking, any carbonate rock that will take a polish is referred to as marble. Limestone can be refinished easier without diamond grinding than true marble because of this structural difference in the stones. The aluminum oxide in the refinishing cream will do the surface “sanding’ or smoothing of the stone to create a new layer.

Granite: (both polished and flamed finishes)

If a stone could be chosen on the merit of durability, without regard for price, this would be it! Granite is extremely hard-7 on the mol scale (diamond is hardest at 10). It is an igneous rock composed of quartz, feldspars and mica and several other ingredients depending on the color and type of stone. The best finish is “flamed” which means that it has been heated with oxyacetylene torches to cause the top layer of the stone to literally break away, creating a special non-slip and very durable surface. Polished granite is also highly durable but is very slippery when wet. However, flamed granite can quickly become dirty looking if you don’t use a cleanser that will float the dirt out of the many tiny crevices created by the special finishing process.

Stamped Concrete:

This is a new form of concrete “stamped” with a special mold when poured to give a certain look or texture. Made to look like tiles, it can be very cost-effective for flooring. If color is desired, the color is often mixed with the wet concrete or applied later with a sealer. The most durable sealer is one that penetrates. Note-silicone based sealers don’t penetrate well, plus will break down under daily cleaning as well as trap dirt. A resin-based sealer can be colored with a special collodial dye that is chemically formulated to bind with the sealer and not chip, fade, or leach out. When sealed with a resin-based sealer, the concrete is virtually stain-resistant. This is also great for engineered concrete toppings as well (special concrete that is trowelled over a floor that is self-levelling).

Other possible types of stone are: slate, bluestone, and sandstone.


This highly reflective surface is achieved by grinding the raw stone with a high grit of diamonds and then buffing with special polishing compounds (usually oxalic acid and lots of water) in the marble shop. This polishing closes the pores of the stone so that light is reflected back by the underlying crystals of the stone.

The stone is highly sanded but has not gone through the polishing phase of the treament. This dull appearing stone is more slip-resistant and will usually not show wear patterns. Since the stone is more open in structure it will need protecting by a sealer or by using the best cleansers available to float the dirt out of the pores of the stone.

This finish is related only to granites-they are heated to cause the mica to “pop out” of the stone which creates a more slip-resistant surface.

The challenge is using products that will effectively clean all of the above. All types of stone and tile can be successfuly cleaned with the cleansers STONECLEAN & STRIP and STONECLEAN “60”- “Strip” should be used for the deep-cleaning of tile and stone and the grout, and “60” for the daily cleaning.

Look at the floor: if the grout is dirty looking then the floor may not be getting as clean as it could be. If a coating such as acrylic or certain other types is being used it is probably trapping and welding in the dirt into the lower grout joints. Use finishes that will not trap dirt into the coatings.

Waxes, urethanes, and silicone/silane-based sealers can all trap dirt in the finish, because they gradually breakdown chemically and allow the dirt past what is supposed to be the layer of protection. One of the most problematic coatings for this situation is a polyurethane used to seal grout, for it can be extremely difficult to remove.

The cleaner should also be able to “float” the dirt/grime out of the grout joints.

The cleansers mentioned above, and others like them, work in a very unique manner. They contain no acids or bleaching agents. Instead, their sophisticated formulations are comprised of chemicals which create a three-step cleaning process in one action, to “bite” the contamination and carry it off of the surface:

  1. A couple of the ingredients are brought down to the surface of the stone/tile by a special molecule to provide bite on oil-based substances.
  2. A special blend of surfactants takes the oil plus a total spectrum of contamination and brings them into solution with the water.
  3. The surfactant-bound particles then tie in a packet with another ingredient that floats them to the surface away from the substrate. Another chemical compound serves to keep the bound particles and packets in solution and keep them from resettling.

All the ingredients are blended in an exacting manner so as to create this particular type of cleaning action.

STONECLEAN “60”, as the daily cleanser, also contains an extremely small amount of an insoluble organic which sinks to the surface of the stone/tile. This substantially alters the hydroscopic (water extracting) effect of the cleaning process, so that the only thing left behind is a very slight, very clear moisturizing layer. Thus cleaning is achieved without surface dehydration. This also generally eliminates the need for a thorough rinsing as the water will evaporate from above the stone/tile instead of from inside the pores of the actual surface.

MARBLE/LIMESTIONE/AGGLOMERATE TILES: Keep the finish clean and clear with natural refinishing methods-this means some kind of cream or powder buffing, and it is best to use one that is non-acidic (such as containing potassium oxalate instead of oxalic acid) to help prevent damage. Then protect the shine with a stone hardener which will not trap dirt into the protective finish. STONEHARDENER 2 POLISH is an easy spray buff hardener that will offer added abrasion resistance plus greater slip resistance and a better shine. Since it will never trap dirt it will not require stripping, but periodic use of the refinishing products wil be needed from time to time.

BRICKS & PAVERS: Again, it is best to use a protective finish that will not trap dirt or be extracted by daily cleanings or solvents. This will help prevent the finish from looking washed out and also from trapping dirt into the grout joints. For porous materials (also concrete) use a product called TEK-SEAL. This product, as well as STONELOK SEALERS are water-borne stable sealers that use high-tech ploymers, which are blended into the solids that provide the shine so that they are unable to trap dirt once thoroughly cured. They will also not breakdown under daily cleanings. They are “breathable” finishes that will prevent surface buckling and delamination. No more complete stripping for re-coating, just infrequent touch-ups by cleaning and re-coating.

CERAMIC/PORCELAIN TILES, QUARRY TILES: To keep these materials fresh and new looking, use the proper cleanser. Again, if the grout is dirty it is an indication that your cleanser is not cleaning the tiles well enough. These types of flooring tend to get old way before their time if not cleaned properly.

In general, use of the proper cleanser for the surface is important with all flooring materials.

A few pointers about floor cleansers:


  1. Non-acid, so it will be safe for all types of flooring, plus the carpet and other fixtures.
  2. Has unique “floating” abilities to bring the contamination to the surface where it can be easily mopped away.
  3. Has the ability to cut through grease and get deep down contamination even from porous stones and tiles.
  4. Can effectively remove dirt from textured finish flooring such as some types of tile and also flamed granite.
  5. Again, it is great for multiple types of flooring.

The daily cleanser used once the floor has been deep cleaned should be easy to use as well. It is safe for all types of flooring plus it can be highly diluted (1 to 60 with a walk-behind scrubber). Both cleansers also contain NO DETERGENTS so they won’t leave behind a residue (which just serves to more easily catch dirt) or pollute the environment.

Keeping up appearances in high-traffic shopping malls is no easy task. Avoid coatings that trap dirt into the finish and the grout, by using cleansers that can float out the dirt for easy removal. This will go a long way in making the cleaning job easier and more efficient. Using a safe cleanser, that has the ability to be used on all types of flooring, will help simplify the cleaning process as well. No two malls, nor floors, are exactly alike, but using the best (not cheapest) product available will always make the task easier in the long run.