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Top tips for transport floors cleaning

Tips for cleaning transport safety flooring

Correct and thorough cleaning is an essential part of floor maintenance to ensure your transport flooring looks and performs as it should.

The surface profile of an Altro transport floor ensures that foot and floor connect even when surface contaminants are present. Kept clean, the surface aggregates are of sufficient size and number to break through these contaminants thereby reducing the risk of a slip to one in a million. If dirt and contaminant are allowed to accumulate on the surface of the flooring, it could increase the risk of a slip to as high as one in two.

The good news is that effective floor cleaning is a straightforward process. We’ve developed some tips to help you establish your own cleaning regime, or to enable you to offer guidance to your customers, including a focus on problems like chewing gum and graffiti.  

We have step-by-step guides available to download. Our manual cleaning guide is ideal for daily use as well as a deeper, monthly scrub. Our steam cleaning guide is recommended for deep cleans, which we suggest take place at least every three months, as well as dealing with certain spillages (see correct kit).

Altro transport safety flooring cleaning guide - manual

Altro transport safety flooring cleaning guide - steam

These guidelines have been developed in association with Delia Cannings, Director of Education and Training, Environmental Excellence Training & Development Ltd.

Click here for tips on cleaning our construction Altro safety flooring products.

1. Single out the soil

Cleaning is much easier and more effective if you identify the type of soil on the floor and choose the right equipment and detergent to get rid of it.

Realistically, the soil you tackle will be a combination of types. The following guide will help you identify what the soil is made up of so that you can decide how best to tackle it.

Material, or matter, is either organic or inorganic depending on what it’s made of:

Organic: There are three types of organic soil:

  • Material that is alive such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa (tiny animals). This will be common on public transport vehicles and includes food waste and skin cells
  • Material that was part of a living thing which includes food, but also sawdust and rubber shavings. This is likely to be carried on footwear
  • ‘Man-made’ material including plastic fragments, mineral oil and paints and glues. These may be found after maintenance and repair work

It is important to know if soil is organic; if it is, it’s an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and will need disinfecting or steam cleaning.

Inorganic: This is soil made of material that has not been part of a living thing and does not contain carbon. It includes glass, salt and rust.

Soilage such as mud tends to be a mixture of both organic and inorganic material.

Whether organic or inorganic, soil behaves in a certain way when you try to clean it:

Soluble: This is soil that will dissolve in water such as sugar. Because it dissolves, it is generally easy to deal with.

Insoluble: This is the type of soil you are most likely to come across; it won’t dissolve in water so will need detergent to remove it. Examples include oil and skin. Other examples are plastic fragments and threads but these would be removed at the first stage of cleaning by sweeping.

Insoluble soil can be greasy or particulate:

Greasy:  This is soil which sticks to surfaces and smears when touched. Examples are oil, fat and grease. This is likely anywhere food is present but also, as vehicles leave behind oil and grease, it will regularly be carried on foot into public transport vehicles.

Particulate: This is soil in powder form, examples being sand, skin and broken fibres.

It is very likely that you will find greasy and particulate soil together as the powdery soil will stick to any grease it comes into contact with.

Abrasive: This is soil which may scratch a surface, for example, sand or rock salt.

Stubborn/tacky:  This is soil which may stick to a surface, for example, chewing gum or adhesives.

So, materials will belong to more than one of the categories as one is what it is made of and the other is how it behaves: Salt spilt from a container is an inorganic, particulate soil which can be swept, or vacuumed, up. Salt spilt onto a wet surface is an inorganic, soluble soil that can be washed away.

2. Correct kit

Choosing the right kit isn’t just about the size and type of area you are in, it’s about the right equipment for the soil you are dealing with.
For example, if dealing with an organic contaminant such as vomit or a food spillage, steam cleaning would be most effective as its temperature helps remove most bacteria.

To maintain your equipment and ensure you are not transferring soil and bacteria to the floor being cleaned, it is vital to clean the equipment after each use. This needs to be part of the overall regime.

The first step in any effective regime is to sweep up any particulate and/or abrasive soil.

Manual cleaning: Using a mop, bucket and/or deck scrubber. This is most effective on walked-in soil and ideal for a daily clean.

For a thorough clean and to be effective on other soil types, particularly stubborn/tacky or greasy, mopping alone is not enough;  it is important to use a deck scrubber too (see visual guide). This is preferable to pressure washing which distributes the contaminants, making them harder to clean away, and risking transference to fixtures and fittings.

If you’re dealing with impacted mud, it needs agitation, followed by sweeping or vacuuming BEFORE using a wet cleaning method (manual or steam).

Steam cleaning: Using a mechanical steam cleaner. This is very effective for cleaning organic soil as the temperature of the steam helps remove most bacteria. It is ideal for deep cleaning. As well as cleaning the flooring, steam cleaning is ideal for cleaning table tops, particularly ‘forgotten’ areas such as edges, ledges and underneath. It’s also a good option for window frames; the lack of detergent means no residue is left behind to stain the clothing of unsuspecting commuters.

To effectively clean the flooring around table and seating legs and feet, use a battery-operated oscillating head scrubber. This will agitate the dirt so that it can be cleaned away with a mop and water.

3. Precise product and potency

Choosing the right detergent for the soil you are tackling is the only way to clean effectively.

It’s also important to dilute according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Not enough detergent means a less effective clean. Too much detergent can leave a film on the flooring that reduces slip-resistance and attracts contaminants, encouraging bacteria growth.  It is also a common cause of staining/discolouration and problems associated with chemical damage such as shrinkage.

The properties within detergent lift and hold soil so that it isn’t redistributed during cleaning. It is important to leave detergent on the flooring, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, to give it time to do this. What makes one detergent different from another is how acidic or alkaline it is. This is measured using the pH scale which runs from pH0 (most acidic) to pH14 (most alkaline).

Alkaline:  A detergent measuring above pH9.5 works by dissolving fat and emulsifying soils. So an alkaline detergent such as AltroClean 44™ is ideal for greasy and organic soils (e.g. tar). The more alkaline the detergent, the more effective for removing grease but the more corrosive it becomes, which can damage paintwork  so thorough rinsing is very important. Alkaline detergent is also effective for removing ingrained mud.

Acidic: A detergent measuring less than pH5 is acidic and a good option for inorganic soils such as lime scale.

Neutral: Neutral detergents (pH7) are less aggressive and contain fewer chemicals. This makes them more user friendly, with less environmental impact.

Neutral detergents are effective on everyday levels of contamination, including mud, across a range of surfaces, but will not cope as well with heavy soiling.  They are also not as effective for greasy dirt and fats where an alkaline detergent would be more suitable.

Combined disinfectant detergent/cleaning sanitiser: When cleaning organic soil such as food or human waste, this reduces bacteria growth, which is important when maintaining hygienic standards.

Take a look at the products we recommend using with Altro safety flooring.


White marks on the floor? It’s probably alkaline cleaner that hasn’t been rinsed off. Rinse again with clean water and this should remove the remaining detergent. Alternatively, use a rinse-free product.

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