The chemistry of floor preparation

The chemistry of floor preparation

When you wash your clothes, you put your shirt in the wash with water that has a pH of about 6.5 or 7. Then you add your laundry detergent and it raises the pH to about 8. This change in pH is one of the actions that helps drive dirt away from the fabric. You don’t want to move the pH too much, however, because the fibers in your shirt will only take so much abuse.

Now let’s talk about concrete. In many ways, concrete is more durable and chemically resistant than is a shirt. That means that for concrete we need to move the pH down to about 4 and then shock the floor by jumping the pH to around 12 so that contaminants let go of the concrete. In fact, with this shock, a little concrete also usually lets go. Have you ever walked over concrete with your socks on and seen them get dusty? If we try to stick a floor coating to particles that can come off when you walk over them, we are not going to have a durable surface coating.

There are really two kinds of dirt, some react to high pH, like fats and oils, some to low pH, like minerals, rust, and concrete. By moving from a high pH to a low pH cleaner, you remove both families of dirt. Don’t forget to stop the chemical reactions with a couple of thorough scrub rinses, so that reactive gases are no longer being generated. In short, use specialty cleaners to make the job go faster, be cheaper, and produce better end results.

So the idea when preparing a floor for a flow-coated surface is to be sure that what the coating is sticking to will not want to move. But where do you get such powerful cleaners that they will help create big jumps in pH without damaging you or the surface? These powerful cleaners are strong enough to create “dishpan hands.” And if they saturate your clothing and remain wet in contact with your skin long enough, they can create red spots and even pH burns. Fortunately, these cleaners dilute easily with water, and adults will usually recognize a little tingle on the skin from a wet spot, and then rinse before any lasting irritation occurs.

Big box stores usually don’t want to carry these powerful cleaners because they cannot control who buys them in their over-the-counter environments. These stores do not want to shoulder the liability of selling to children who may not be used to working with strong chemical solutions. This is why these specialty cleaners are usually sold only by specialty companies that have a customer base of responsible adults. Contractors and experienced professionals who regularly use strong tools to reduce their work time are able to safely produce the intended end results.

For more than 40 years, Durall has been making specialty-cleaning chemicals for cleaning log cabin timbers, refrigerator coils, artificial heart valves, and nearly 400 specialty uses. Two of these products have proven invaluable in the application of floor coatings. Using Durall’s Degrease Rite emulsifies the grease and fats and brings out oils and contaminants that react to high alkaline chemicals.

Then shifting immediately to Durall’s Dura Klean with its water softeners and penetrants, brings the surface pH down to a low pH of nearly 3. Next a couple of fresh water scrub rinses stop the chemical action and usually leave the floor at just a slightly acidic pH around 6. That pH creates the squeaky feeling on many surfaces that helps adhesives and coatings adhere well.

For a detailed quote of materials needed to apply epoxy paint to your floor, please visit our free cost analysis page at

For more information, contact Chris Biesanz at or phone 1-800-466-8910 or 952-888-1488 (24/7).

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