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How Do You Clean Cork Floors?

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Compiled by FacilitiesNet Staff

Cork is a resilient flooring option that is becoming more popular because of its green benefits, its softness and its unique look, among other reasons. That naturally begs the question: How do you clean cork floors?

The answer depends on the type of cork floor. Although classified as resilient flooring, cork floors have many of the same characteristics as wood flooring with regard to handling, installation and finishing.

Traditional, natural-cork tile and cork floating floors are handled and maintained like wood. Contractors sometimes install unfinished cork and stain or finish it on site. But most cork floors receive a factory finish of urethane, acrylic or wax. Urethane and acrylic finishes are maintained similar to wood: Damp mop with not too much water.

Managers should identify the type of finish on the floor — polyurethane, wax or oil. Each one requires different maintenance procedures. No matter the type of finish, though, workers should not  autoscrub a cork floor because water is the enemy of wood and cork.

Most manufacturers have a technical staff that can answer managers’ questions about these products, and some offer on-site training. To ensure long-term success, managers should take advantage of these opportunities before starting a floor-maintenance program.

Sometimes a cork floor features a vinyl backing and a vinyl wear layer, which is maintained more like a vinyl floor.

Waxed cork needs a great deal of work to maintain, and few housekeeping crews know how to use real paste wax.

Regardless of the finish used on these floors, cleaning crews must follow the manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines. They should avoid applying standard, liquid floor finishes on cork because these floors require occasional stripping, but the chemicals involved could damage the cork.

A screen-and-recoat procedure similar to that used on a wood floor is more advisable because it will prevent the factory coating from wearing off. If the factory coating does wear off, homogeneous cork has color all the way through, so crews can sand and refinish it similar to wood floors.

Veneer-cork products have a thin layer that provides their unique visuals, but cleaning crews cannot sand them. So if the factory coating on a veneer wears off, the floor is ruined. Homogeneous cork floor tiles are the more durable option for managers who have a choice when selecting cork for high-traffic areas.


Flooring: Expanding Alternatives by Christopher Capobianco