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. Dr. 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. These 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. Three 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.
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.