Webinar: Alternatives Analysis on Floor Wax Stripping Products

Tue, Apr 12, 2016
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM PDT


Currently, floor wax is used extensively in schools and public buildings to give a glossy appearance to vinyl composition tile (VCT) flooring. To maintain these floors, the wax must be regularly stripped and reapplied. Floor wax strippers are a concern because they contain VOC solvents, toxic solvents and other toxic ingredients, and have high pH. Several years ago, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) estimated that VOC emissions from floor wax strippers in California amounted to approximately eight tons per day.

During this webinar, Dr. Katy Wolf will present the findings and results of a project that addressed three methods for reducing or eliminating the risk of exposure to these strippers to maintenance workers, students, teachers, building workers and the general public. These methods include: developing two alternative low-VOC, low toxicity strippers; testing three alternative types of coatings that can be applied to VCT that make wax stripping unnecessary; and testing seven types of flooring replacements for VCT that do not require waxing or stripping. Dr. Wolf will also present a cost analysis of using VCT and the alternatives.

This project was conducted by the Institute for Research and Technical Assistance (IRTA), a nonprofit organization, and was sponsored by the Western Sustainability and Pollution Prevention Network at the University of Nevada, Reno and IRTA with funding from the US EPA Pacific Southwest Region and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Over the last 20 years, Dr. Wolf has served as the director of IRTA and has led projects that have reduced the use of hazardous substances in California by more than 100 tons per day.  


About the Project

Floor wax stripping products are used in thousands of commercial buildings,  public buildings and schools to maintain the look and integrity of floors.  These products often contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that  contribute to photochemical smog. Many of the VOC solvents in the  strippers are also toxic and can cause toxicity problems for janitors who  apply them, tenants of the buildings, visitors to the buildings and children  and teachers in the schools.

WSPPN subcontracted Dr. Katy Wolf from Institute of Research and Technical Assistance (IRTA) to test and analyze alternative flooring and  to test coatings that do not  require waxing or stripping.  kwolf overseeingDr. Wolf is well known in the P2  Community for past research  projects that she has done.  Some of Katy’s more recent  projects include an alternative  graffiti remover; alternatives to  release agents for parts  manufacturing, concrete  stamping and asphalt  manufacture and application;  and alternatives to methylene  chloride consumer product paint  strippers. There are many other  studies posted on her site:  http://www.irta.us/.

During the last year, IRTA recruited and worked with schools and public  buildings to test the alternatives. Two different stripper suppliers helped  Katy formulate and test promising alternative floor wax strippers. IRTA is  working with both suppliers to develop strippers based on the new surfactant  that will have very low VOC content. Screening tests were conducted on  some of these strippers and IRTA tested two different strippers at the San  Francisco City Hall. One foamed too much and the other was not quite  aggressive enough. A supplier is modifying the formulations based on the  results of the initial screening tests.

Next IRTA installed three different types of coatings on the flooring at a  Riverside school and four different types of flooring at two Riverside schools.  The coatings and alternative flooring will be inspected monthly with the  coating and flooring suppliers during the school year. The flooring that  requires floor wax is widely used today and is called vinyl composition tile  (VCT). The floor wax strippers that are commonly used generally meet the  VOC limits established by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). These  are 3% VOC for light and medium buildup and 12% for heavy buildup. IRTA  will try to develop alternatives with 1% VOC content; this is the limit set by  the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) in their  certification program for janitorial products. Virtually all of the strippers  used today also contain ethanolamines which can be toxic and IRTA will try  to formulate alternatives that eliminate these components.

IRTA worked with the coating suppliers to apply three different types of  coatings over the VCT in a well-used hallway with  three doors to the outside at a Riverside school.  Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 11.14.17 AMThese included a vinyl coating, a polyurethane  coating and a UV curable coating. None of the  coatings require waxing or stripping and they can be  cleaned with plain water or a neutral cleaner. IRTA  also worked with alternative flooring suppliers to  coordinate the installation of four different types of  flooring in two Riverside schools. Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 11.14.24 AMThree of the  alternative  flooring types— sheet vinyl,  sheet vinyl with  cushioning and  linoleum—were installed in the same  school hallway where the coatings were  applied. One additional type of flooring  was installed in another Riverside school  hallway where there is substantial traffic.  This coating is Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT).  None of these types of flooring requires  waxing or stripping and they can be  cleaned with plain water or water with a  small amount of vinegar.

What’s Next?

IRTA plans to test a modified DuraChem stripper with the Riverside Unified  School District. IRTA plans to regularly monitor and inspect the coatings and  the alternative flooring installed in the two Riverside schools with the  suppliers. The flooring suppliers are very interested in the results of the  project and have invited IRTA to give a presentation in January.

Dr. Wolf said, “The suppliers think that this is a landmark study. It will be  the first time that there will be information to compare the cost and  performance of VCT with waxing and stripping to the cost and performance  of coatings and alternatives flooring without waxing and stripping.”

Katy will finish the project as she always done with a thorough report that  evaluates and compares the performance and cost of the alternatives to the  currently used methods. WSPPN will likely organize a webinar once the  project is completed, so stay tuned.