Floor Finish Basics

A clean, shiny floor is important anywhere you are – at a commercial facility, retail shop, office complex, and even at home. There have been many breakthroughs in floor finish technology over the last few years; from green, zinc free polymers to versatile ultra compatible high gloss floor finishes.  As floor care technology expanded, so did the chemistry involved. Here are the basics of floor finishes:

An acrylic polymer is a type of plastic. They make up the biggest part of the solid material in floor finishes. Their function is to give the finish its strength, durability, and shine. The polymer is dispersed in water forming a polymer emulsion.

Natural wax used to be included in just about every finish. Its purpose was to change the softness or glossiness of the finish.  Synthetic waxes have replaced natural waxes to improve the finishes’ durability, gloss, and reparability.

Flexing agents called plasticizers are used to ensure that the finish does not crack after it has set. It is important to be aware that for the first six months to a year after a new vinyl floor is laid, the plasticizer has a tendency to make its way to the surface. This can penetrate into a floor, which can make it soft and tacky, which leads to scuffing and stickiness.  To avoid this, use tiles that have been sitting in a warehouse for a while rather than using tiles fresh from the factory.

Soluble resins help the finish level properly. They also make it easier to strip the floor when it needs to be refinished.

Surfactants are surface-active agents that help the finish disperse across a floor.  Surfactants can also produce bubbles in the film, which could create craters.  To resolve this issue, a foam suppressant is added to the solution. Other preservatives are also added for improved appearance, hardness, resistance, durability, etc.

How fast a floor finish dries and sets depends on a few different factors. In a perfect environment, it can be as short as thirty minutes. With high humidity, it can take a few days to fully cure. Once the floor has cured, it should withstand cleaners, spills, and floor buffers or burnishers.  However, over time, the floor will need to be recoated or stripped and refinished because foot and other traffic will naturally wear the finish.

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