Better Cleaning Means Less Callbacks
The dreaded callback. Just hearing the word strikes fear into even the most experienced painter! There are fewer surefire ways to cut your profit and time down to nearly nothing than having to return to a jobsite to fix something that shouldn’t have been an issue before. One way to keep yourself in the clear from the gitgo is to keep a neat and tidy workspace and do all the necessary prep work. The more energy put into this, the smoother the job will go.
When I work on a customer’s instruments at my guitar shop job, I make sure I have everything I need in front of me so I can keep my workspace compact and keep track of all of the small parts. I try to make sure all of this is right because just like with paint, I don’t want a customer calling back telling me about how there are still issues with their piece—because it’s going to take up my time to redo it when I could be using that time to make money!
For some ideas in how to get your cleaning and prep squared away I talked to Brian Osterried and Kristen Uiselt of PPG, Mark Mundwiller of Benjamin Moore, Eric Fischer at Intex (makers of PFC Rags), and Mark Monique of Savogran, a Norwood, MA based maker of cleaners, removers, solvents, and repair products.
Starting off on the Right Foot
(Or the left, if you prefer.) Many problems painters face can be solved by taking that extra few minutes to get the surface ready to accept a new coating. Mark Monique opens the discussion by offering some wisdom: for best results, he advises, use products specifically formulated for pre-paint cleaning. “Cleaning is essential for proper paint adhesion. It will remove unwanted material or contamination from the surface. However, sudsing or foaming cleaners can leave a residue on the surface which can potentially create adhesion problems between the substrate and the new coating.”
Mike Mundwiller agrees that cleaning before you apply the paint is as important as cleaning after—it’s just a different type of cleaning. “I am sure everyone has heard the saying that paint is only as good as the substrate to which it is applied,” he said. Yep, we certainly have! “Typically, a contaminated or unclean substrate results in adhesion failure. Worse yet,” he adds, “the cause of the failure can be viewed during the failure analysis, thus showing the poor preparation by the applicator.” Ugh. Who wants to be found out like that?
Brian Osterried at PPG brings up some additional points. “Use drywall compound or spackling to fill holes and smooth out rough areas of the wall [and] once the compound is dry, lightly sand it with a fine-grit (150-200 grit) sandpaper. And be sure to wash walls and trim with water and a sponge!” he reminds us.
With all that done, you’re ready to roll (or brush)! It’s so good to be able to know with confidence that you’re setting yourself up for success and you’re setting your customers up to have a beautiful and long lasting coating. Just like when I work on someone’s instrument, I jokingly tell them that I don’t want to see it again. If I don’t, I did my job right.
From the Great Indoors to the Great Outdoors
Everyone knows that as soon as you take your work outside, there’s a multitude of factors that come into play that make your life more difficult. Whether it’s exterior painting or staining, our experts have some ideas to get the job prepped right every time. Mr. Osterried came to the rescue again with more guidelines to set you up for success: “Cover any shrubs or bushes near the structure to be painted with a tarp or drop cloth and spray all surfaces to be painted with clean water, completely wetting the surface. Apply a cleaning solution of four ounces of 100% powdered Tri-Sodium Phosphate (TSP) or phosphate-free substitute with one quart of liquid bleach and three quarts of water to the wood surfaces with a garden sprayer or a heavy nap roller cover.”
Still have those pesky stains? Keep going. “Remove any mildew or stubborn stains by scrubbing (a nylon bristle push broom works well for this) but do not allow solution to dry on the surface,” he advises. “Wash the surface with clean fresh water to remove the cleaning solution, then allow the surface to dry for 48 hours. After that, scrape and sand to remove any loose or peeling paint, then use exterior spackling compound to fill holes and smooth out rough areas. Once the compound is dry, lightly sand if necessary.” You can also, if needed, remove old caulk and apply an exterior acrylic latex caulk to all joints and around windows and doors, he concluded.
For decks specifically, PPG’s Kristen Uiselt has a specific process. “A properly cleaned deck is a necessary first step towards staining, protecting, and beautifying the customer’s wood surface. Using the right product at the beginning of a project can save time and money down the road, allowing you to move on to your next project quickly and avoid going back to a job site for frequent touchups.”
Be careful with a pressure washer, she continues, as it has the potential to damage the wood if the pounds per square inch (PSI) is set too high or if the nozzle is too close to the surface. “Skip the power washer and simply use a standard garden hose for cleaning, in addition to a wood cleaner,” she recommends. “While water is a great start for removing dirt and grime from the surface of a customer’s deck or other wood structures, a deck cleaner removes dirt, mold, mildew and algae stains to help provide beautiful stain results. Wood cleaners remove four times more dirt than water alone.”
The great outdoors might not be so great if you’re on a job, but keeping these tips in mind, you may not have to be there again and again!
Cleaning up to Leave
I know from experience that when I’ve been doing something long enough, I might take a few liberties and skip a step here or there, but it’s always useful to get back to basics to make sure my quality of job is what it should be. Mark Monique had a few suggestions to get the best clean. “Work from the bottom up to prevent streaking,” he said. “Generally, coarse rags and a sponge work well for the application of the cleaner. Some glossy surfaces may require an abrasive pad to dull the surface which will improve the new paint bond to the substrate and a final general cleaning to remove any dust, splatters and overspray is always a good idea.”
As always, remember to observe all safety precautions when working with any of these. As long as you keep everything here in mind, you’re got a great start to make sure when you finish on a job, you never see it again…until they bring you back to do the rest of their house. And remember: don’t mess with cleanup!
Good Tools + Good Rags = Fast Cleanup
A conversation with Eric Fischer of Intex, makers of PFC Rags
Why is it important to have the right cleaning supplies for the job?
It’s important to have the proper cleaning tools for any job, and to be prepared, for many reasons. Accidents and spills happen, and it’s imperative to clean up any mess as quickly as possible to protect affected surfaces from damage or staining. It can also be very costly to repair or replace a surface that has been damaged from spilled paints, stains, or chemical cleaners. For a pro, that could be the difference between making a profit on your work or dipping into your margins.
What types of products should painter have on board for quick cleanup?
Painters should always have a good supply of thick, consistent and absorbent wiping cloths or rags on hand at all times. A good wiping cloth, like our Precision-Fiber® Cloth Rags, will help you to clean up messes quickly and easily. Rags can help you to quickly wipe up spatter, spills, and drips with ease. When these issues are addressed immediately you lessen the chances that you’ll need to use a paint thinner or similar cleaner to help get rid of the mistake. Other good tools and supplies to keep on the jobsite include sponges, commercial cleaners, or paint thinners, or even just a little water.
How do different types of textiles help handle different situations?
There are many different grades of wiping cloths and rags. Each come with their pros and cons for each job. Traditional recycled rags are a good all-purpose cleaning rags and can be used for many dirty applications. The problem is they are made from recycled clothing and you never really know what you’re going to get when you open the box. Seams, cuffs, stains…even bodily fluids! Usually they are the cheapest option, but not the most professional.
New rags offer more consistent quality, color, and performance. Within new rags you’ll have washed and unwashed options and made-to-spec wiping cloths. For professional painters, we highly recommend prewashed grades for their absorbency and low-lint performance. Typically, painters will stick with the all-white t-shirt knits and the premium performance of Desert Storm tan knits. Made-to-spec options have come into existence over the past 15 years or so and are manufactured to be a rag. These are typically designed to be ideal for either general cleaning purposes, or specifically for tasks like staining.
You’ll also see painters using terry towels and white shop towels (painters towels) for really dirty or tough jobs due to their strength and versatility. Typically, these are used in surface prep or cleaning prior to the job, and sometimes after a job is complete for a general wipe down of their work area. Terry towels and painter’s shop towels are not typically good for use when cleaning up paint or stain while working, as they will lint and are bulkier than a typical knit rag.
What does Intex bring to market?
Intex’s proprietary Precision-Fiber® Cloth—PFC® for short—is a game-changing entry into the paint and cleaning rags category. It is a versatile powerhouse wiping cloth suitable for all painting, staining and cleaning needs. It’s made in the USA from 100% brand new material. Every piece is identical to the next, with superior performance vs. traditional textile wiping cloths and rags. Each piece is super strong and cut to exacting spec, and resusable if rinsed or washed out.