The Wax-Free Patient Care Tower

KAllen Wax-Free1

When one of my clients, a major hospital in the northwest US began discussions regarding their new critical care patient tower several years ago, they were adamant about having various flooring types installed throughout the tower that wouldn’t require waxing.

The normal questions came up: Are there products available that meet those criteria? Yes. Were any of those hospitals able to forego the use of wax beyond six months? No, they weren’t.
Well, why not?

One of the reasons is mindset. The sheen of a floor is equated to cleanliness – the shinier the floor, the cleaner it is perceived to be. Another reason is failure to communicate with staff. Maintenance instructions can be provided and explained to the Director of Environmental Services, who in turn, provides the same information to nearly all of the staff. The problem being that the one person that doesn’t know about the wax-free policy will keep busy waxing just about every square inch of flooring during the night shift! Then, there is the problem with an “unprotected” floor staining. Finally, there are the sales people. Knowing that a hospital has chosen to take the no-wax route, sell them a product by another name, but in the end, it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing – wax!

Armed with all of the reasons why wax made its way into previous facilities, the staff’s desire to eliminate the wax made them overwhelmingly in favor of finding a way to overcome the obstacles. The elimination of wax and the wax stripping products was bound to be better for indoor air quality, the environment and minimizing down-time for the patient rooms and operating suites, as well as the entire facility.

After mock-ups of various floors were evaluated in the existing patient tower, the Hospital made the commitment to go wax-free. Terrazzo flooring was installed in the main lobby and concourse areas. Rubber flooring was installed throughout the Emergency Department, surgery department and other areas where a seamless product was required by code. Through testing prior to installing, only one surgical product was found to be able to leave a trace-stain on the floor. As a result, a color was selected to minimize its appearance. Wood-look vinyl plank and stone-look vinyl tile flooring was installed throughout the Imaging Department, patient rooms and patient corridors. The research and development division of a major floor maintenance product manufacturer provided exact specifications for cleaning products, buffing machines, etc. to maintain the factory shine. The Hospital posted floor maintenance instructions in every housekeeping closet and on every cart. The staff was then properly trained.

The critical care patient tower was finished in January, 2009. To this day, the Hospital reports they are happy with the floor selections and do not have one square inch of wax applied anywhere in the entire facility. So, yes! A hospital can be wax-free beyond six months!