How to Maintain Safe and Attractive Flooring in Senior Living Centers During Winter
Aging adults appreciate being able to gain access to first-class healthcare within a safe, germ-free environment. Yet residents of senior living centers (and their families) may not realize the intensive planning that goes into making these facilities secure and attractive. Facilities managers must work diligently to create sanitizing systems that reduce the chances of accidental slips, trips, and falls while maintaining the highest degree of aesthetics. Their behind-the-scenes cleaning protocols are especially important during colder months.
What makes October to April particularly dicey? Wintertime offers a host of precipitation varieties, including sleet, freezing rain, ice, and snow. Each person who enters the building brings cool or frozen moisture, but also tagalong dirt, debris, small rocks, and de-icing chemicals. As these unwanted items cross the threshold, they become trapped in textile flooring, ground into grout, and spread across hard surfaces. If they’re not immediately stopped or cleaned, they cause buildup and slick spots.
If it sounds like a fruitless battle to keep interiors performing at their best during winter, there’s good news: Facilities managers can win against muck and mire with a little forward-thinking planning.
1. Map out foot traffic. Which areas are most in need of TLC, particularly when it’s messy outside? Answer this by mapping the foot traffic throughout buildings. For instance, a first-floor public restroom located near the visitors’ entrance is going to need more attention than a private bathroom on an upper level. Other spaces have similar foot traffic rhythms. Knowing this, facilities managers can create protocols for day-to-day routine maintenance, interim cleans, and restorative cleans.
At milliCare, we frequently help generate foot traffic maps to inform our clients’ next moves. Having a better understanding of how traffic flows throughout any facility provides improved understanding of how often floors need to be treated (and with which products). Ultimately, all types of cleanings, from daily vacuuming to dry-polymer solution deep-cleans, should work in tandem to protect floors — and the people who walk on them.
2. Install proper entryway systems. Many facilities managers feel helpless as they watch particulate matter and liquids enter their buildings. However, they have options to keep the outdoors away from their indoor floors. Research shows that 20 feet of a properly designed entryway system featuring the right mixture of walk-off matting and runners catches a full 80% of tracked-in wetness, mud, and particulates.
So what’s the answer to effectively mitigating the remaining one-fifth of grime making its way into the center? Every area should be routinely maintained as soon as it’s installed. Critical locales like entrances, hard-to-soft surface transitions, break rooms, cafeterias, and elevator lobbies should get special attention from the get-go. That way, errant spots and spills won’t take a toll on the health and appearance of the facilities.
3. Take a quick chemistry class. Not really, of course! But it’s good to know the basic chemistry and alkaline levels of products like ice melt and rock salt. Facilities managers, grounds crew members, and floor care providers should get on the same page when it comes to what kinds of chemicals are being distributed on exterior walkways and in parking lots. After all, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, and calcium chloride will affect carpeted and hard-surface flooring differently.
Even floors well coated with acrylic or polyurethane finishes may become oily or even stained if common ice melt chemicals are allowed to sit. In fact, a floor may seem dry from far away, but the film left behind could attract soiling and foster an unsafe slipping hazard. Ideally, senior living centers should perform demos ahead of wintry mixes to discern how surfaces react to chemicals (as well as how to neutralize residue effectively).
4. Put up signage, but don’t assume it’s a panacea. Every year, people 75 years and older are at increased risk of falling. When winter hits, they may be up to 20% more apt to take a serious tumble on a wet surface. Rather than putting residents in harm’s way, facilities personnel must protect them by putting up signage, blocking off corridors, and staying on top of carpet and hard-surface floor maintenance.
That said, signs and cones can be missed by those who can’t see clearly, have limited mobility and flexibility, or use assistive devices like canes and walkers. Consequently, staff should remain on high alert to help residents navigate untreated floors until they can be addressed by janitorial team members.
Winter, like all seasons, has its advantages. It’s picturesque and fuels memories of youthful adventures. But icy precipitation belongs outside, not inside a senior living center where it can cause problems. By installing entryway systems and setting up comprehensive daily, interim, and restorative cleaning protocols, facilities managers can keep wintry conditions where they belong.
Want help creating a wintertime flooring maintenance schedule? Contact your local milliCare technician today.