Salt applications cause issues for facilities maintenance
When it is icy outside, the first line of defense is often
the use of ice melter compounds. They effectively melt the snow and ice, and in
some cases they provide some granular traction compounds. This creates a safer
environment for pedestrian and vehicles, while minimizing the potential
liabilities related to slip and fall accidents. But that first line of defense
outside triggers a second line of defense that results in added costs related
to cleanup and maintenance.
The grit-like material can create a slippery environment on
hard floors, ironic since ice melt is used to help prevent slip and falls. Ice
melters are generally hygroscopic, which means they attract moisture from the
atmosphere. This chemical property causes the ice melter particles to begin
dissolving and start the ice melting process in outdoor applications. When
these hygroscopic materials end up inside a building, they tend to create a
damp and very slippery situation if not cleaned up effectively and constantly
throughout the storm event.
The biggest challenge to the floor cleaning process has
always been the chemical reaction that takes place when mildly alkaline
all-purpose floor cleaners or carpet cleaners interact with the ice melt
chemistry. This creates a cloudy solution that inevitably leaves mop streak
marks, squeegee streak marks, or white crystalline residues on carpet and
matting. It seems that no matter how many times a floor is mopped or
autoscrubbed, it tends to continually create these streak marks. This is the
result of a chemical reaction that takes place when the two meet.
In the past, adding vinegar to floor cleaning solutions
minimized floor streak marks and residues from tracked-in ice melters.
Unfortunately, this had the adverse effect of making the inside of the building
smell like a Caesar salad! Newer products have been formulated to help to
minimize the streaking and residues left on floors; however it still requires
an active, ongoing cleaning process during the entire storm event.
In addition to the interior maintenance that results, salt
tracked into facilities can contribute to the corrosion and failure of parts in
doors, escalators and in other areas that can be costly to replace.
As we move to more futuristic solutions, we see the
development of residue-free ice melters coming on the scene. The effect on the
reduction of time, money and effort spent on internal building maintenance is
Building owners are investing in electrically heated matting
for outside entranceways and electrically heated concrete sidewalks. These
approaches have a considerable initial cost. However, they are indicative of
the high level of motivation to control the time and effort that goes into
creating a safe outdoor environment, and a clean and safe indoor environment
while minimizing liabilities related to slip and falls.
One thing we know for certain is that the snow and ice
storms will not stop coming, so continuous development in these sciences is
necessary and welcome. Snow and ice management professionals also need to do
their part to minimize the interior impact of their operations by adhering to
best practices related to deicer applications. After all, we all need to
maintain a highly effective first level of defense, as well as a highly
efficient second level of defense.
Mark Warner is Education Manager for ISSA’s Cleaning
Management Institute. He has been involved in the cleaning industry for over 30
years and is a past member of the ISSA Board of Directors. Contact him at
This article originally appeared in Snow Business magazine, the official publication of the Snow & Ice Management Association. To learn more about SIMA and additional resources that are available to snow professionals, visit www.sima.org.