Glossary of Floor Care Terminology

  1. Abrasion Resistance: Ability of a floor finish to withstand scratching and scuffing

  2. Acrylic: Type of polymer used in floor sealers, finishes and restorers

  3. Adhesion: Process of bonding together. Poor adhesion of a floor finish can cause peeling, flaking and powdering

  4. Alkali: On the corrosive end of the pH spectrum. Most degreasers and floor finish strippers are alkaline. Sodium and potassium hydroxides are examples of alkalis used for this purpose. Hydroxides can leave a white powdery residue that require rinsing. These alkalis are being replaced by monoethanolamine (MEA) in some floor finish strippers.

  5. Anti-foam Agents: Additives: necessary in floor coatings to reduce bubbles and foam when they are applied. Bubbles and foam interfere with continuous film formation and can cause pin holes and craters when the bubbles break during the drying and curing process.

  6. Anti-slip: An important characteristic of floor finishes. Many floor sealers, finishes and restorers are tested by Underwriters Laboratories (UL). The standard for slip resistance is widely accepted as a static coefficient of friction rating 0.5 or above.

  7. Asphalt Tile: Floor tile manufactured with a mixture of fillers, coloring and synthetic fibers using asphalt to bind the components together. This type of flooring can release its colorant and asphalt (bleed) when wax strippers with high levels of solvency are applied. When stripping asphalt tile it is always a good idea to test wax strippers on a small inconspicuous area before proceeding with a full strip.

  8. Auto Scrubber: Motorized floor machine that dispenses cleaning solution, scrubs the floor and vacuums it up in one pass. Auto scrubbers operate using rechargeable batteries or with an electrical cord. They clean the floor more thoroughly than mopping and allow workers to clean more area in less time.

  9. Bleach: An oxidizer that will severely deteriorate the floor finish. Bleach will also ruin fabrics, carpets, clothing – just about everything it comes in contact with.

  10. Bleeding: Removal of color from a floor tile during the wax stripping process.

  11. Black (Heel) Marks: Black marks left on a floor finish from the rubber heel of a shoe. Grocery carts, platform trucks, hand trucks and fork lifts can also produce black marks.

  12. Bloom or Blush: Condition in which moisture has condensed upon and becomes trapped by the floor finish film, rendering a haze over the surface. This situation may occur when high humidity conditions are present. Good ventilation will reduce the chance of this happening.

  13. Buffable Floor Finish: Floor finish that responds well to being buffed with mechanical action. A floor machine or burnisher with a buffing pad, is typically used for this purpose.

  14. Buffer: Slang term for a rotary floor machine. Rotary floor machines may also be referred to as “swing machines” or “side to side” buffers. Buffers use round floor pads and usually operate between 175 and 400 rpm.

  15. Buffing: Polishing or smoothing process generally achieved by using a rotary floor machine equipped with a buffing pad, brush, special screens or honing discs.

  16. Build-up: Heavy deposit of floor finish, wax, dirt and grime. It is caused by adding several layers of floor finish over dirt without deep scrubbing the old layers away first. Build-up is frequently found along baseboards and in corners.

  17. Burnish: Process similar to buffing, but at very high speeds. A high speed machine (burnisher) is used to enhance the appearance and higher gloss polish of the floor finish. High speed burnishers typically operate at more than 1000 rpm.

  18. Burnisher: High speed rotary machine that is used to polish existing floor finish. You must use a pad that is designed to rotate at your machines high rate of speed. These machines are powered by battery, electrical cord or propane. They can produce exceptional levels of gloss when used in conjunction with burnish compounds.

  19. Carnauba Wax: Natural wax obtained from carnauba palm. Recently, floor maintenance products have replaced carnauba with synthetic waxes such as polyethylene waxes in floor finish formulations. These synthetics are more durable and economical than carnauba.

  20. Ceramic Tile: Clay tile with a hard glazed surface. It is commonly used on floors and walls of restrooms. Wall tiles are frequently glazed (high gloss) while floor tiles have a matte finish (not glazed). Grout used to install these tiles can hold dirt, soil and bacteria between each tile and are difficult to keep clean.

  21. Cleanser: Powdered or liquid cleaning product containing abrasives, surfactants and frequently a bleach. Do not allow this type of product to contact the floor finish. Cleansers (especially with bleach) will attack and deteriorate the finish.

  22. Chalking or Powdering: Loose, powdery substance that may be present after a floor finish is buffed or burnished. It can be a major source of floor finish discoloration if not removed. Dust mopping after burnishing can prevent this problem.

  23. Clarity: State or quality of appearing clear or transparent to the eye.

  24. Cleaning: Process of removing marks, dust, contaminants and other materials from the floor surface.

  25. Coalesce: Process of blending or fusing together. For instance, the particles in a floor finish coalesce to form a tight continuous film. This film becomes a smooth and polished surface. If the floor finish did not coalesce when it dried on the floor, the floor would be dull and powdery.

  26. Coalescing Agents: Ingredients added to floor coatings to assist in the film formation. The coalescing agent allows the latex particles in a floor finish to fuse together during the drying process resulting in a smooth, continuous film that adheres tightly to the flooring.

  27. Color Stability: Ability of an applied floor finish to resist fading or discoloration from exposure to oxygen, sunlight and water. There have been major improvements in color stability of floor finish ingredients.

  28. Concrete: Mixture of sand, gravel, Portland cement and water that forms a very hard surface when dry. It is one of the most common floor types found in buildings. Other types of floors like vinyl and vinyl composition tile are often laid over the top of concrete.

  29. Conductive Floors: Floors containing metal or other conductive materials to drain off or prevent static electricity build-ups or discharges.

  30. Continuous Film Formation: Film formed on the floor is continuous to prevent cracks or openings in the floor’s finish. Cracks can allow water or detergent to penetrate into and underneath the coating.

  31. Copolymer: Chemical molecule made from two or more types of monomers. Copolymers are preferred over a single polymer (monomer) in floor finishes, sealers and coatings. These copolymers when cross-linked become tougher and more chemical resistant.

  32. Cork Floors: Cork comes from the bark of the cork oak tree. The bark is ground into small pieces, mixed with resin, then pressed into sheets. These sheets are applied to the floor like linoleum. It is sensitive to many chemicals

  33. Coverage: Amount of square footage that a gallon of floor finish, sealer or restorer will yield when applied according to label directions.

  34. Crazing: Small irregular cracking or breaking in a floor finish film or coating after it has dried on a surface. These cracks allow dirt and soil to penetrate. Crazing can result in deterioration, chalking, dulling and rapid walk-off of the finish.

  35. Creaming: Separation of a layer of the dispersed phase of an emulsion polish to the surface of the liquid continuous phase. This can be seen as a ring on the inside surface of a container on top of a liquid emulsion.

  36. Curing: Aging process that allows a floor sealer or finish to fully bond and harden. Some floor finishes can take several days to reach maximum hardness. Burnishing can speed up the curing and hardening process.

  37. Damp Mopping: Mopping a floor using a mop dipped in a mild cleaning solution and wrung out tightly. Daily mopping of floors covered with floor finishes should be done using a neutral pH floor cleaner.

  38. Detergent Resistance: Degree to which a floor finish film exhibits no apparent deterioration when spotted or cleaned with a solution of a non-abrasive, non-ammoniated detergent.

  39. Dirt Embedment: Soil that has been ground into and is trapped in a floor finish. This can be caused by a lack of proper floor cleaning and scrubbing, burnishing dirty floors, applying finish over dirty floors and using the wrong cleaning agent or floor pads.

  40. Discoloration: Darkening or color change visible to the naked eye. It can be caused by a number of factors including oxidation, embedded dirt and poor maintenance.

  41. Drag or Mop Drag: Physical resistance between the mop and a floor finish during application. It is usually caused by not having enough finish in the mop or applying finish before the prior coat is dry. It often results in streaking.

  42. Dry Bright Finish: Floor finish that dries to a gloss without buffing. Many dry bright finishes can also be buffed or burnished.

  43. Dry Buffing: Floor polishing technique that uses an appropriate floor machine and floor pad. Never dry buff floors containing asbestos.

  44. Dry Stripping: Method of removing a floor finish by using an appropriate floor machine, floor pad and spray stripping solution. This method is not recommended for floor containing asbestos.

  45. Dry Time: Length of time required for a floor finish to dry. The dry time usually refers to the time required before another coat of the same finish can be applied on top of it with no adverse affects such as drag, bloom or blush.

  46. Durability: How well a floor finish resists overall wear.

  47. Dust Mopping: Removing dust and loose soils from the floor surface with a dry or treated dust mop.

  48. Ease of Application: Amount of (mop) drag encountered when applying the floor finish.

  49. Efflorescence: White powdery substance on the surface of concrete or brick.

  50. Emulsions: Compound of liquids that do not mix (insoluble) with each other. For example, water insoluble polymers being suspended in water, using emulsifiers to produce waterborne coatings of non-water soluble ingredients. These non-water soluble polymers are then evenly spread onto a floor surface where they dry and protect the surface from water and other foreign matter.

  51. Factory Finish: Temporary finish applied to a floor covering by the manufacturer that provides protection during manufacturing, shipping and installation of the flooring. The factory finish must be removed before applying the floor finish.

  52. Fish Eyes: Small circles that appear in a floor finish after it has dried. This can be caused by applying too heavy of coats of finish or by too much agitation during the application. This condition has also been called birds’ eyes.

  53. Flexibility: Ability of a floor finish to bend and flex without powdering, cracking or peeling.

  54. Floor Finish: Product about the thickness of waxed paper that covers a floor or other surface for the purpose of protection and/or appearance.

  55. Floor Machine: Machine used to scrub or polish a floor. Sometimes called a rotary machine, “swing machine” or “side-to-side” machine.

  56. Free Rinsing: Ability of a product to be rinsed from a surface without leaving a residue.

  57. Freeze-Thaw Stability: Floor finishes should be able to survive freeze-thaw cycles and still remain effective. Antifreeze agents, pH adjustments and surfactants all can contribute to freeze-thaw stability. Note: If floor finishes become frozen, it is important to allow the finish to completely thaw out and return to room temperature before using it.

  58. Gloss: Shiny appearance exhibited by a hard surface floor coated with finish. Visual gloss will vary with the surface porosity, color and viewing angle. Generally, porous floors will have lower gloss than non-porous floors and dark surfaces will appear glossier than light colored surfaces.

  59. Gloss and Solids: Amount of solids (usually zinc) in a floor finish. Amount of solids in a floor finish product is not a sure way of determining gloss or durability. For instance, two coats of a 16% solids floor finish will typically produce higher gloss than one coat of a 32% solids floor finish. Applying thinner coats will dry more quickly and are more durable than thicker coats.

  60. Gloss Retention: Ability of applied floor finish to retain its gloss under normal wear conditions excluding exposure to water.

  61. Grout: Filler or matrix used between ceramic tiles on walls and floors. The grout should be sealed before the surface is used.

  62. Haze: Floor finish film that reflects unclear or foggy images. This can be caused by rushing the recoat, applying finish too thick and/or use of improper floor cleaners

  63. Healing: Ability of a floor finish to be repaired after scratching, scuffing and marking.

  64. Heeling: Technique of applying pressure to the edge of a floor machine and pad to remove stubborn marks and scuffs. Care should be taken to avoid burning or damaging the floor surface when using this technique. This should only be done when using low speed rotary machines.

  65. High Solids Finish: Floor finish that has 20% or more of non-volatile solids. The solids are what is left on the floor after the finish has completely dried.

  66. High Speed Floor Finish: Floor finish specifically designed to be used with a high speed floor machine. Typically, the product will have UHS (ultra high speed) listed on the label.

  67. High Speed Floor Machine: Floor machine (burnisher) that operates at 1000 rpm or above.

  68. Hiding: Ability of an applied finish to cover scratches and imperfections.

  69. Impact Resistance: Ability of a finish to resist damage from being struck by a sharp blow.

  70. Islanding: When applied finish is not adequately anchored (poorly bonded) resulting in migration of film-forming materials to small pools scattered over the surface, surrounded by uncoated areas.

  71. James Machine: Laboratory device used to determine slip resistance on a hard floor surface by measuring the static coefficient of friction

  72. Leveling: Property of a freshly applied finish to spread and dry to a uniform and streak free appearance. Leveling is the measure of floor coatings wetting and spreading properties. Poor leveling properties may result in gloss reduction, streaking, cratering and islanding.

  73. Leveling Agents: Substances added to floor finishes to form smooth surfaces, free of mop, brush or applicator marks.

  74. Linoleum: Generic term for flooring material that is installed in sheets. Most of this material today is sheet vinyl and not linoleum. Linoleum (vinyl) is easily damaged by a variety of chemicals.

  75. Mar: Mutilation of a floor finish film that is only repairable by recoating.

  76. Metal Interlock: Floor finish that provides improved detergent resistance and ability to remove film. A metal salt is added to the polymer emulsion to provide this special binding and interlocking.

  77. Minimum Film Forming Temperature: Minimum temperature at which a floor finish will form a continuous film on a floor surface. This can vary depending upon the floor finish ingredients. However, the temperature at which most floor finishes lose their ability to film form on a cold floor is about 45-50 degrees F.

  78. Mop Contamination: When finish or wet mops are not properly cared for after each use and become unsanitary. This can cause major problems when applying or maintaining finish. Keeping mops clean are necessary for effective floor care.

  79. Mottling: Physical migration of floor finish film from smooth, even distribution at time of application to small discrete pools of material, resulting in a blotchy or spotty appearance.

  80. Neutralizer: Chemical used after stripping a floor with a high alkali stripper that neutralizes the alkali left on the floor by the stripper. This type of chemical is not needed when using a “no rinse” type stripper.

  81. Neutral Cleaner: Cleaner with a pH that is generally between 7-9. Floor cleaners with pH levels outside of the neutral range (including bleach) can attack the floor finish and dramatically shorten its life span

  82. Non-Buffable Finish: Very hard floor finish that is not repairable by buffing.

  83. Non-Volatile Solids: Amount of the floor finish that stays on the floor after everything has evaporated and the finish has cured. It is expressed as a percentage. Most floor finishes have non-volatile solids of between 16-24%.

  84. Orange Peel: Pitting of a floor finish or surface that makes it look like the skin of an orange.

  85. Particle Size: In an emulsion it is the actual size of the suspended droplets. Typically, the smaller the particle size the clearer the emulsion.

  86. Peeling: When floor finish pulls away from the floor surface in large flakes or strips. It is caused by poor adhesion, usually related to alkali residues.

  87. pH: Measurement of the acidity or alkalinity of a substance as a percentage of hydrogen ranging from 0-14. Zero being a powerful acid and 14 being a powerful alkali. Typically, neutral pH is in the 7-9 range.

  88. Pitting: Small holes that form in a floor finish or hard surface. A common cause of this are “spiked” heel shoes.

  89. Plasticizer: An ingredient of a floor finish that makes it more flexible and less brittle. This is accomplished with an additive which reduces intermolecular forces in the polymers.

  90. Plasticizer Migration: When a plasticizer in a floor mat or floor material transfers itself (migrates) into the floor finish or sealer. This is responsible for the discoloration sometimes found around or under floor mats.

  91. Pop: Slang term used to describe the change in the appearance of a floor finish when it goes from a dull hazy look to a bright brilliant shine. High speed burnishers can produce this “wet look”.

  92. Porous: Surface with many tiny openings that readily absorb moisture. A porous surface will require more finish or sealer to fill and smooth out these openings.

  93. Powdering: Partial or total disintegration of the floor finish film resulting in fine, light colored dust. It is the result of abrasion of the surface during burnishing or from heavy traffic. Be sure the floor pad being used is not too aggressive for the finish being used.

  94. Preservatives: Floor finishes are susceptible to bacterial contamination. This is why finishes contain small amounts of antimicrobial agents to prevent microbial deterioration. These preservatives protect the unopened container, but do not substantially protect finish after it has been used. This is why it is important to never pour used floor finish back into a container of unused finish.

  95. Presoak: It is a good idea to presoak mops in water before using them. This will open up the fibers of the mop to allow even absorption of floor finish or cleaning chemical. It will also wash away any loose fibers or residues that may be present in the mop.

  96. Recoating: Applying successive coats of floor finish (after floor is prepared by doing a deep scrub with a rinse free cleaner or completely stripped). Care should be taken to ensure floor will properly bond with finish. Allow plenty of drying time between coats of floor finish.

  97. Re-emulsification: When a new coat of floor finish attacks and softens a partially dried coat of floor finish. It can cause streaks and dulling. Allow plenty of time between coats for drying.

  98. Resilient Tile Floors: Flooring that will give under impact and certain loads and then return to its original form without damage. Vinyl composition tile (VCT) is an example of a resilient floor.

  99. Resoiling: When a floor surface begins to soil after cleaning.

  100. Restorer: Product used to restore a floor finish without recoating. It can be sprayed and buffed, mopped on and buffed or included in the daily scrubbing solution.

  101. Scratch: Damage resulting from the movement of a hard pointed object. Deep scratches usually require recoating or refinishing to repair.

  102. Scrub and Recoat: A process, short of stripping, used to restore floors when they become embedded with soil and have excessive scuffs, scratches and marks. This is usually done with a free rinsing, deep scrub chemical and a blue or green pad used at low speed. Sealer is unnecessary. Less floor finish is required than a strip and finish job.

  103. Scrub n Shine LLC Minnesota’s premier floor coating professionals. MN Commercial Floor Maintenance Contractors.

  104. Scuff: Disfigurement of floor finish resulting from an abrading or scraping action. It is usually repairable without recoating.

  105. Self Polishing Finish: Finish which dries to a gloss without buffing. Sometimes called a “dry bright finish.”

  106. Slip Resistance: The resistance a floor finish provides when people walk on it with their shoes. It is measured as a slip coefficient by the James Machine. A rating of 0.5 is considered the minimum safe coefficient.

  107. Soil Release: Ability of a floor finish to release soil that is attached to it. Some finishes have better soil release than others.

  108. Solids, Non-Volatile: The film or percentage weight of material that is left after the volatile materials have been evaporated. Non-volatile solids are the true solids that make up the actual film that dries on the floor surface. Floor finishes typically have nonvolatile solids between 15% and 25% by weight.

  109. Solids, Total: Combination of the volatile and nonvolatile solids in the finish minus the diluent content. It is expressed as a percentage of all ingredients.

  110. Spray Buffing: Application of a spray buff chemical and buffing the area with a floor machine with appropriate spray buff pad.

  111. Spreading: The action of flowing out over a surface during application.

  112. Stain: Blemish or deposit on a floor surface that cannot be removed with conventional cleaning methods. It is embedded into the floor and may be permanent.

  113. Streaking: Areas on a floor surface that are not uniform and visibly duller. Dirty mops and/or applying finish in too thin of coats are common causes.

  114. Stripper: Product used to remove floor finish from the floor without damage to the surface.

  115. Stripping: Process of removing old finish from the floor surface and surrounding baseboards.

  116. Tackiness: Sticky, gummy character of a floor finish allowing the surface to attract and hold dirt, dust and soils.

  117. Tack Rags: Special cloth that wrapped around a broom or dust mop and used on a floor surface to clean up fine particles, such as dust.

  118. Thermoplastic: Polymer which can return to its original shape after being softened or heated. Technically, floor finish polymers are not thermoplastics. But many companies have adopted a modified acceptance of the word thermoplastic to mean that the finish can be returned to its original condition with high speed burnishing.

  119. Traffic Wear: Marring or deterioration of a floor finish by foot and mechanical traffic.

  120. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC): Organic compounds which evaporate into the air. Regulatory agencies are currently restricting and regulating organic compounds in all industries. Solvent based gym floor sealers and finishes are being reformulated to meet stricter VOC regulations.

  121. Walk-Off Mats: Entrance matting used to reduce and eliminate the soil that gets into a building. Matting will prolong the life of the floor finish.

  122. Wet Look: High shine floor appearance produced by using a floor machine and a special finish or restorer. The floor reflects as if it is still wet even after it is dry.

  123. Wet Mops: Mop used with cleaners for cleaning, stripping and picking up spills from floors.

  124. Zinc or Metal Crosslinking: Extremely small amounts of Zinc or other metal compounds are sometimes used to provide increased hardness and improved removability to floor finishes.