Monday, April 28, 2014

Floor Finish Solids

This article was originally published in The Cleanest Image.

Floor finish solids are an extremely important part of any floor finish. In fact, the solids are really all that is used after floor finish is applied.

The solids are the plastic or polymer molecules that are left on the floor when you apply finish and can have a big impact on the performance of the finish. The size and make up of these polymer molecules can very from brand to brand and can require different types of maintenance. Chemical liquids such as water, emulsifiers, wetting and leveling agents make up the remainder of the floor finish content. But in the end though, the solids are what make up to protective coating that you rely on. 

If you take types of polymers and the liquids out of the equation and focus on the floor finish solids numbers, the percentage of solids is the usable product left after drying. If you think of it like a glass of water and sand, the sand would represent the solids. So if you take a gallon of 18% floor finish, the solids would represent 23oz of the total 128oz in a gallon. The more solids, the more usable product per gallon.

Common sense would say that higher floor finish solids would always be the better purchase, but this is not always true. Just like any mixture of liquid and solids, the more solids, the thicker it gets. If you have ever worked with a high solids (22% or higher) it will usually be quite a bit thicker. Once the solids content goes above 25% the finish does not want to spread out and level very fast. Since most finishes are designed to dry quickly, they begin to harden before they have spread out smooth. This can result in uneven gloss, mop swirls and cause very thick patches of finish that take a long time to dry. All of this is because the drying takes longer. Floor finish dries from the top down. As the liquid evaporates, a film is left on the surface which traps moisture and keeps the solids from setting up properly. When the liquid is thinner, it spreads out as it is applied and with the additional liquid, it takes longer to dry.

These properties are constantly being tweaked by the floor finish manufactures so more solids can be used, while delaying the drying process until after the product has been applied. With new technologies in polymer science, the higher solids floor finishes are becoming more effective and easier to use.

When you are trying to choose a floor finish, it becomes a matter of performance vs. the amount and type of maintenance. Higher solids finishes are more durable but can be difficult to apply and repair with maintenance. Since the polymer density is higher, they can also be more difficult to remove with traditional chemical stripping. This is all variant on the specific finish that is being used. The best suggestion is to compare finishes yourself and talk to others who have used them. Every application and environment is different as well as the make up of the finish. Choosing the correct percentage of floor finish solids is not as important as proper application and maintenance. The way a product is used is always what determines its success.


  1. Some of these finishes are pretty tricky for a cleaning service to deal with. The thinner, smoother finishes are much easier to care for.

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