Floors in communal areas of flats take a beating, but keeping them clean and in good condition can set the tone of the building. When choosing cleaning contractors it can be tempting to go for the least expensive option, but do make sure to get the right mix of general and deep cleaning to keep them looking better for longer.
For many of us the rule of thumb in our own home is either weekly or fortnightly. Or you can always rely on the barefoot test – you’ll soon feel when the mop and vacuum need to come out, and it is all too often! Multiply the dirt and debris you find in your own flat by the number of units in the block and you’ll get a picture of what the communal areas are coping with.
So, what’s a good regime? As ever the Internet is full of ideas and we’ve looked around for the consensus for you. Do bear in mind that leaving hard floors to dry is often involved and you need to take care to warn people of hazards. You might also need to consider people’s allergies to cleaning chemicals. Should the worst happen, your buildings insurance should provide third party and employers’ liability cover, but do check your policy.
A good general rule for the average household is to vacuum twice a week, and have your carpets professionally cleaned once a year. For high-traffic areas like communal lobbies, you may need to vacuum and clean more often, and work out the best regime for your budget.
The downside of carpet cleaning can be having a wet carpet for 12-24 hours, so you might want to consider dry cleaning, because carpets can be trodden again almost immediately, but then you will also want to consider allergies and asthma among other building users and give them fair warning when chemical cleaning is planned.
So, in the dry carpet cleaning vs. steam cleaning debate, it’s important to clear up the myth that steam cleaning is chemical free. The steam itself does not clean carpet. Instead, the machine sprays detergent onto your carpet. Hot water activates the detergent on the carpet fibres — alkaline for synthetic carpets and acidic for wool or natural fibre carpets.
A wet-vacuum, usually part of the same machine, then sucks up most of the water on the floor. This should be enough to remove any cleaning solution and should leave little residue behind in the carpet. If anyone in the building has particular health concerns such as allergies and asthma, ask for cleaning non-toxic or hypo-allergenic cleaning solutions
Linoleum, which made its first appearance in the 1860s, is recyclable and biodegradable, making it one of the most, eco-friendly flooring options on the market. It’s also a surface that, with proper care can withstand decades of use and, with modern patterns, can look stylish too.
To prolong the life of a linoleum floor and keep it looking like new you can use a dry, microfibre mop to remove dust and debris in high traffic areas daily. Weekly cleaning (more often of you have messy neighbours!) need not involve expensive chemicals: hot water, vinegar, and a few drops of dish soap will do the job, followed by a clean water mop to remove any residue. Be sure to have “Wet Floor” warning signs displayed after mopping.
Once or twice a year, a deeper cleaning is needed to remove dirt that has become embedded in the surface and restore the natural beauty. A good way to do this sprinkle baking soda and scrub, followed by the usual weekly routine. Again, there’s no need to expensive, harmful chemicals. Indeed, you may have residents who are allergic to them.
Ceramic tiles are wonderfully easy to maintain and can take most cleaning agents without losing their shine, and they won’t scratch easily. Unfortunately, they do hide dirt and germs, so regular cleaning, not just sweeping, is advisable.
Sweeping or vacuuming will remove grit that can dull and scratch the surface before you mop. Ask your cleaners to use a micro fibre mop that will do a perfectly good job and, because it will work better when not saturated, your floors won’t take so long to dry.
Is it true that you need special, expensive cleaning products for laminate flooring, or is it an urban myth? We think the later, as long as you take basic precautions when cleaning laminate floors.
Laminate is hard to protect completely from scratches and stains and an unlikely choice for a communal lobby. If you do have it, be sure to sweep regularly to gather up any debris and dirt. Use a soft brush, as stiff bristles could cause accidental damage and scratches to your floor. A good tip is to sweep in the direction that the floor was laid so you can scoop up any bits and bobs that might have fallen between the grooves on your floor.
Clean up any spillages right away, and don’t allow any liquid, not even water, to sit on the floor for a long time. It can stain the surface of the floor and damage the protective layer of your laminate. Don’t leave the floor to dry naturally clean after mopping either, but ensure it is wiped with a dry cloth or towel.
Again there’s not need for harsh – or expensive – chemicals. If you’ve got mud caked into your floor, or any other messes, or if your floor is looking dull from dirt, you can gently clean it with a vinegar-based solution (a quarter of a tea cup in a litre bottle should do the trick.
But here’s what you really came for, isn’t it? That one pesky stain you just cannot lift. Whatever it happens to be, there’s a way to sort it out. We’ll run through a few of the worst offenders and a solution to clear them up.
Other useful tips are to remove chewing gum or grease with a plastic knife. Just freeze the grease with a sealed ice pack (not ice cubes that will melt) first. A bag of peas will work. Heel marks? A standard rubber will probably erase these.
Our top tip? A really good, big doormat, to catch the muck on people’s feet at source.
With winter approaching you might be also interested to read our blog on gritting for communal areas here.
Reviewed 25 April 2022
The sole purpose of this article is to provide guidance on the issues covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited trading as Deacon accepts no liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.