Feature Article - February 2011
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Maintenance Series: Gymnasiums

Beauty and the Beast: Maintaining Your Gym

By Dawn Klingensmith


If the bleachers are a gymnasium's beast, a well-tended floor is its beauty. A gleaming gymnasium floor is a pride point for schools, not to mention a focal point if mascots and other icons are part of the surface.

But keeping the floor clean isn't merely for aesthetics. "It's also a safety issue—grimy floors become slippery," Arrowsmith said. "And it's also financial because the long-term result is that grit wears down the surface quicker."

Gym floor maintenance begins at the building's entrances. Walk-off matting helps remove grit from shoes that would otherwise abrade the gym floor like sandpaper, dulling the surface. Many would argue that gym floor preservation begins by banning street shoes. Indeed, wherever possible street shoes should be prohibited on gymnasium floors; even rubber-soled athletic shoes can damage the surface due to grit embedded in the tread. However, banning street shoes isn't always feasible.

Frequent dust mopping also prolongs a gym floor's beauty, especially in high-use facilities. One hardwood flooring manufacturer recommends that a gym floor be dust-mopped after every two hours of use.

Dust mops require a degree of care that might surprise people. There are treatments on the market for cotton dust mops that are said to attract dirt. These must be applied properly (usually through the mop's backing), and in the correct amount. Then, the mop is rolled up and placed in a plastic bag for 24 to 48 hours, which allows the treatment to work its way through the cotton fibers. If you skip this step and use the mop immediately after treating, you'll transfer oil to the floor and create a slip hazard.

When re-treating the mop, a spray bottle may be used and the treatment applied directly to the fibers at least one day prior to mopping. For daily care, the mop should be shaken vigorously to release the dirt and dust clinging to the strands.

Wet mopping also is necessary, though care must be taken because the wrong kind of cleaner or too much water can damage the wood. Wet mopping removes the sweat, soils and spills that dust mopping leaves behind. Arrowsmith's staff wet mops three times a week in winter and perhaps once a week in the milder seasons; however, some cleaning product companies recommend floors be wet mopped daily.