Rubber gym floors can be a great alternative to hardwood athletic floors. They are not as sensitive to changes in temperature and are often considered to more durable for alternative uses, beyond the traditional gymnasium sports. Many think they would be much easier to maintain. The fact is, cleaning rubber gym floors does require some special attention and care.
Even though rubber athletic floors are made of synthetic material, they are still extremely porous and can hold dirt just below the surface. This quite often makes them difficult to clean. Dirt can also act as miniature marbles, causing the floor to become slippery, even in dry conditions.
Cleaning Rubber Gym Floors
Many years ago, I was working with a facility that had a large training facility. There were several thousand square feet of light grey, synthetic surface gym floor. They had tried everything to get the floor clean, including automatic scrubbers, heavy-duty cleaners and even some stripping. The only thing that had any effect was a heavy dilution of floor stripper, a single disk floor scrubber and a lot of labor dollars. Worst of all, the stripper was actually removing the color from the floor and bleeding into other areas.
In an attempt to help them, I tried several processes. The one that worked was a hydrogen peroxide based cleaner that removed the build up of chemical residue and lifted the soils out of the porous floor. The best part was the entire process took only minutes and was effective when done with an automatic scrubber.
Much like all other cleaning, this was not an issue of needing more cleaners or more pressure, all it took was to understand what we were dealing with. Then, it was a simple task.
Sealing Rubber Gym Floors
Many manufacturers do not recommend sealing synthetic flooring and I do not advise you to go against their guidelines. Many times you can void the warranty on the floor and even cause damage by using the wrong finish on a floor. That being said, there are many products on the market that are designed for synthetic floors. The biggest difference in these specialty sealers for synthetic floors is that they are more flexible than traditional coatings, allowing it to move with the floor rather than break and peal. They seal in the pores, and provide a smooth surface. This not only makes it much easier to clean, but makes the floor safer by allowing the dirt and dust to be removed with a dust mop.
The relatively deep pores quickly absorb the finish which is why a sealer is used rather than a traditional floor finish. Most people don’t necessarily want a synthetic rubber floor to shine, but want to provide a clean-able surface that has great traction. I previously published an article about the difference between sealers and finishes that you can find here.
Stripping Synthetic Rubber Floors
Just like the coatings that is used to seal rubber floors, the stripper to remove it has special properties as well. Many times the harsh solvents in traditional strippers can cause a number issues when used on synthetic surfaces. They can cause the floor to dry out, they can remove the color, as I talked about above, and they can even dissolve the flooring material itself. Any of these issues are not easily fixable and can permanently damage the floor. As always check with supplies and product manufacturers prior to any product on these sensitive floors.
Keeping a synthetic rubber floor clean and looking great isn’t really that difficult, as long as you understand how they work and use the proper procedures and materials. They are extremely durable and can be a great addition to your facility.
If you have an experience with sealing or cleaning rubber gym floors, please share your experiences below in the comments section.
*Note* The views expressed in this post are based on my own experiences. All flooring and chemicals can require different types of care. Always use caution and check with the manufacturer of both flooring and floor care products prior to performing any maintenance on any type of floor. Cleaning rubber gym floors can differ from flooring materials and manufacturers.