Why Your Floors Are Sticky: Residue Matters

by EnvirOx

“Why are my floors sticky? I just cleaned them!” We hear this all the time. The same problem that causes sticky floors also causes restroom odor, sticky carpets, and above all else, surfaces that you can’t seem to keep clean.

The culprit? Residue.

Specifically, cleaning chemical residue. Why does this happen? Aren’t cleaning products supposed to make things cleaner?

The problem with conventional cleaning chemistry

To answer that question, we’ll have to look at the chemistry behind cleaning products. There are three main ingredients in cleaning products.

Residue Diagram

  1. Solvents
    Cuts through dirt to deliver the surfactant.
  2. Surfactants
    Lowers the surface tension of water, suspending dirt and making it easier to wipe away.
  3. Water (Yes, water!)
    Acts as vehicle for other components and dirt.

Surfactants leave residue on surfaces. How much? Well, that depends on how much was in the cleaner to begin with — more does not equal better here. If you’re not using dilution control for your cleaning products, that’s probably why your bathroom floors are sticky.

With that said, there are some cleaning chemistries that leave more residue than others, especially when used improperly. For instance, many healthcare facilities use a quaternary disinfectant to clean their floors. Aside from being only one step of a two-step process, quaternary chemistry is incredibly sticky. These floors turn black quickly!

Apart from the obvious sticky results of residue, residue build-up can also cause other problems. That sticky film on surfaces is the perfect place for bio-film to grow. According to the CDC, bio-film happens when bacteria sticks together on a surface. This allows it safety in numbers; bacteria in these kinds of bio-films are “up to 1,000 more resistant to antimicrobials than the same bacteria in suspension.” That’s pretty resistant bacteria– and bio-films are pretty persistent as well.

Residue also causes odors to linger. If what’s causing the odor is embedded deep in a sticky film, you better believe it’s going to keep coming back. This is especially problematic in restrooms, for the obvious reasons. A truly clean bathroom doesn’t smell like anything; no fragrances or air fresheners sprays are needed when the floors are kept residue-free.

Fixing residue problems — and your sticky floors!

Now that we know what the problem is, how do we fix it? There are a few easy things we can do.

  1. Use residue-free or low-residue cleaners.
    1. Many cleaners claim to be residue-free. The more you understand about a particular product’s chemistry, the better. EnvirOx’s hydrogen peroxide products, for example, react to organic materials, leaving only water and oxygen after the chemical reaction is complete.
    2. Do a test yourself! Glass cleaning is a great way to see the amount of residue in a product.
  2. Use dilution control dispensing for concentrated cleaning chemicals.
    1. Concentrated cleaning products are much more economical than ready-to-use bottles, but if a janitor can simply pour the concentrate into a mop bucket, you’ll see big residue issues.
  3. Follow proper cleaning techniques.
    1. The most common problem is disinfecting surfaces without cleaning first. The CDC recommends a two-step disinfection process: clean first, then disinfect. This cleaning should remove any residue from the disinfectant, preventing build-up.
    2. Things like dirty mop water and dirty towels can put down more soap than they pick up; make sure your tools are clean and picking up the dirt.

And there you have it! The reason why your floors are sticky, your bathroom odor won’t go away and your surfaces are so hard to keep clean. It’s amazing how much easier cleaning gets when you pay attention to this one thing.

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