how to clean sticky floors

Why You Have Sticky Floor and How To Fix It

Sticky floors can be a very frustrating issue. It can seem like there is no answer to the problem. You mop and scrub away only to have the floor end up stickier than when you started. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Having someone walk across a floor that you have spent a lot of time cleaning, only to hear their shoes make that sound. That ‘tape being pulled away from the roll’ sound that is cleaning the soles of everyone’s shoes. Well, I have good news for you. A sticky floor can be fixed. And it really isn’t that difficult once you get to the bottom of the cause.

Why Floors Are Sticky After Mopping

There are 2 core reasons that a floor may be sticky. It is either caused by use or by cleaning. “Use” can be anything from something that has been tracked in, or spilled on the floor. In short, it is not caused by cleaning. If you have ever had a soft drink spilled on a floor, you know that the residue left behind is very difficult to remove by simply mopping. You have to mop and mop, over and over to get it cleaned up. And even then, it may not solve the problem.

But if you stick with it, you will eventually get the residue removed. It just requires multiple cleanings. If you know that the stickiness is caused by floor use, then the solution is simply more cleaning.

The second, and in my experience, most common reason for a sticky floor is cleaning. Yes, the same cleaning you do to control what gets spilled and tracked onto the floor. (This is why it is so common) Cleaning can easily solve a sticky floor problem, but it has to be done correctly. With the correct cleaning products and tools.

How To Clean Sticky Floors

Believe it or not, your cleaning efforts may be the cause of your sticky floor. That can be a difficult thing to hear. You have spent a lot of time trying to get the floor clean, but there are 3 key reasons that that can play a part in cleaning causing a sticky floor. Too much or too strong of a cleaning solution, the wrong cleaning solution and dirty water. It can even be a combination of all 3!

Too Much Cleaning Chemical

How To Clean Sticky Floors Too Much ChemicalUsing too much cleaning chemical is often the main reason that floors become sticky. The soapy residue dries and is left behind. Even the mildest of cleaning solutions, if used in a heavy dilution, will cause floors to become sticky.

A common mindset is that more cleaning chemical makes a cleaner floor. But this is not the case. Ever. Floor cleaning chemicals are designed to be effective at a specific dilution. Use too much and it can be a sticky floor disaster.

One way to reduce the amount of cleaning chemical you use is to have a dilution station in a mop closet. These dilute the chemicals for you. In many cases, floor cleaners are super concentrated and can be difficult to measure the correct amounts.

With a dilution station, all you have to do is push a button to mix the water and cleaning chemical. This removes the guess work and can save you a lot of money.

The Wrong Cleaning Chemical

Sometimes sticky floors can be caused by using the wrong cleaning chemical to remove soils from the floor. An example can be found in the section above. If you have, in fact used too much cleaning chemical on the floor, the residue that is left behind is the cleaning chemical. Even by using the correct amount, it is going to be next to impossible to remove floor cleaner with the same floor cleaner, right?

Another example would be removing salt residue from a floor during the winter months. Salt residue will make a floor sticky. In both cases, a different cleaning solution is needed to remove the tacky film. Luckily, in both cases the stickiness is caused by the same issue, pH. The pH of a chemical is what removes soils from the surface. If you are dealing with an alkaline soil, you will need an acidic cleaning chemical to remove it. Most floor cleaners, even ‘neutral’ floor cleaners are slightly alkaline, as is salt. If you use a alkaline to remove an alkaline, you end up with a sticky surface. Switch to a neutralizer to eliminate the stickiness. Easy, right?

Cleaning With Dirty Water

how to clean sticky floors dirty waterWhen you first begin to mop a floor, you have a nice clean, fresh bucket of water. But as you wring the dirt out of the mop, into the bucket, the water isn’t so clean anymore. The more you mop, the dirtier your water gets. That is the same water that you are still attempting to clean with.

Dirty water will cause a floor to be sticky. There are several alternative options to the traditional mop and bucket that can reduce or even completely remove dirty water from your floor cleaning. Mops made from microfiber hold onto dirt much more effectively. There are also mop bucket options that keep the clean and dirty water separate.

Another option that all but eliminates the use of dirty water to clean floors is an automatic scrubber. These mechanical machines scrub the floor while applying cleaning solution and then vacuum up the dirt water. This is a very effective method for cleaning floors!

No More Sticky Floor

If you are struggling with a sticky floor, don’t be too concerned. Sticky floors are easy to remedy with a little knowledge and cleaning know-how!

Once you get the floor clean, it becomes important to keep them that way. Keep in mind the steps you took to clean the sticky floors and don’t fall back into old habits.

When you are able to narrow down the cause, you may need to re-educate your cleaning staff and/or change your cleaning chemicals. This is a small time investment compared to what is saved in the long run.

Battling sticky floors uses up valuable time that can be spent elsewhere. Not to mention that they can also ruin your floor finish or even the floor.

Put these tips into action and you will quickly see a substantial improvement in your overall cleaning program.

No one likes for their work to not show results. And nothing kills spirit like still having a sticky floor after the hard work of mopping.

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5 replies
  1. Ken the Janitor
    Ken the Janitor says:

    In my junior/senior year of high school I worked at a local burger joint. This would be back in 1999, 2001. The owner refused to use mops and buckets for cleaning the hard floors. Instead, he had us use a pump-up sprayer to apply degreaser, brush the tough spots, then use a wet vacuum to suck it all up. We included the restrooms in this process. Overall it took us about 15 minutes to clean the floors.

    The results were very high traction, super clean floors, and the men’s room didn’t stink. New hires would often complain, saying that mopping would be faster or easier, but the boss insisted that mopping just spread the grease around. Plus, mopping invited cutting corners, such as using the same solution in the restrooms and kitchen.

    For the past 13 years, I’ve worked the evening shift at an elementary school, and this post inspired me to try something different in my restrooms. I clean three sets of restrooms nightly. Until a week ago, I used a fresh mop bucket for each set of restrooms, totaling 12 gallons of cleaning solution. Honestly, the end result was fairly mediocre. I struggled with a persistent odor in the boys’ rooms particularly.

    So, inspired by my old restaurant experience, I bought a pump up sprayer, pulled the industrial wet vac out of the closet, and started wet vacuuming the restroom floors. I learned a few things doing this:

    1. No need to sweep. Just pick up any large debris. Step saved. No more kicking up dust with who-knows-what on it.
    2. Less solution used. I’m now using a little over two gallons of solution on the restroom floors. That’s about six times less nightly!
    3. More dwell time. I pre-spray all the fixtures, spray the floors, wipe all fixtures dry, sanitize touch points, then vacuum. The built in dwell time helps with emulsifying the soils.
    4. While the vacuuming process itself takes longer than mopping, I’m actually spared several mop closet visits, and essentially breaking even on total time spent on set up, cleaning, and equipment cleanup.

    Now, my restrooms smell like NOTHING at the end of the night, and still smell clean after a day of hard use, plus the floors are noticeably higher traction without stickiness, and the grout is progressively getting lighter. No more wasted effort with a mop, now my work is actually truly productive.

    Sorry for the length of this post, I just wanted to share the success. Thank you so much for an inspiring blog!

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      That is a great story and why I write this blog. It is awesome to hear about success like this. Keep up the great work! School cleaning is challenging work and I commend you for putting in the effort to improve your results! Glad it is paying off for you.

  2. Ken the Janitor
    Ken the Janitor says:

    Thanks! I agree that cleaning schools is challenging. There are a lot of obstacles to overcome, many times placed by administration. But, it can be rewarding with the right mindset. I prefer to think in terms of protecting the health of everyone who enters the building.

    I’ve filled in at other buildings and been surprised at the complacency displayed by other custodians. I can’t really blame them, though. Our district’s attitude can be summed up as “It’s just cleaning.” Any fool can swing a mop, right? So since budgets are tight, let’s cut back on the custodial department. That, I think, is the largest obstacle to overcome in such a bureaucracy: selling the importance of cleaning, doing it properly and for the right reasons. From what I can tell, this seems to be the situation in most school districts across the U.S.

    Like you’ve mentioned in other posts, most people want to do a good job, but are given inadequate education and tools, resulting in well-meaning but wasted effort. I’m trying to “be the change” I want to see.

  3. Lia M.
    Lia M. says:

    Really good article. When we first started our house cleaning company, the main reason for sticky floors were too many chemicals. We recently started using eco-friendly products and it’s working great! Almost everything we use now is green.



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