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Sweeping: An Effective Method for Preventing Soil from Entering Your Facility

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SweepOf all the processes available to the people in charge of maintaining a building, none is more under-utilized than sweeping exterior areas. To recognize the importance of sweeping you must understand a few key facts in regards to everything that is done to clean the interior of a building:

1. According to industry studies, 80 percent to 94 percent of the soil in any facility was brought into the facility through foot traffic.

2. According to industry studies, it takes approximately 36 linear feet of matting to remove 99 percent of the soil from the shoes, while 12 feet of matting will remove 80 percent of the soil.

3. If you were to install brand new flooring in a building, lock the doors and not allow anyone into the building, you would essentially never have to maintain the floors again.

An important fact to understand is that the soil tracked into your facility every day is what drives your floor maintenance. Without dirty, soiled shoes walking across your floor they would look great and require no maintenance.

So the question becomes, “How do you stop soil from entering your building?”

The obvious first step is to install a proper two-mat system, which is an integral part of soil prevention efforts. However, most facilities do not have the space or budget for the 36 feet of matting required to remove virtually all the soil from the shoes.

Some facilities have resorted to using blowers to blow soils away from entrances; however the soil will just blow back over time. It has been reported that because gas-powered blowers do not have emission controls, using one of these blowers for one hour emits the same amount of greenhouse gasses as driving a typical car from Salt Lake City to New York and back.

A cost-effective and environmentally friendly addition to your soil prevention program is a sweeper. Sweepers help by collecting the soil that can be tracked in from entrances and parking lots so that it is contained, removed, and disposed of properly.

If you choose to utilize a sweeper, you will need to determine which one is right for the soil you need to pick up, as there are two basic types of sweepers. The first type of sweeper is a “direct-throw” sweeper, which works like a lobby pan and a broom, sweeping debris straight into a hopper. This type of sweeper is designed for small, fine debris such as sand and dust all the way up to items such as cigarette butts. These sweepers are usually available in manual or powered versions and are generally lower in cost. If you do purchase a manual sweeper, be sure to check if the brush is geared on both wheels, because, if it is not, it may cause you to leave debris when making a turn.

The other type of sweeper is an “overthrow” sweeper, which brings the debris up and over the broom so that it can throw it into the hopper from above. The biggest advantage of this design is that it allows the operator to use the hopper to a fuller capacity, which makes the sweeper more productive. While this type of sweeper is efficient with smaller debris, it is most effective on larger debris such as leaves, crushed cans and papers. These units are battery-powered and generally used to cover larger areas.

When used in a soil-management program, sweeping is extremely effective at keeping soil out of a building. In a recent study, sweeping alone with no matting in place was found to stop 66 percent of the soil from entering a facility. When combined with a proper two-mat system, sweeping is an effective, crucial, and efficient part of a system that will help to stop soils from entering a facility and damaging the flooring.

The ultimate benefit of adding a sweeper to your soil prevention program is the fact that the more soil you contain and properly dispose before it enters your facility, the lower your maintenance costs. If you are struggling with budget costs and how to get everything accomplished with the hours allotted and the budget you have to spend, a sweeper may just be part of the solution.

Richard “Bo” Bodo is the Director of Business Development at Windsor, an IICRC Master Textile Cleaner, and contributor to industry standards, publications, and training programs. Bo has more than 12 years of industry experience in both chemicals and equipment and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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