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Everything in Moderation: A Scrubber's Guide to Soap

 bulldog gym mat cleaner suds

We’ve long been conditioned to judge the cleaning power of soap by the bubbles it produces. However, science tells a different story. Whether you’re washing your floors, cleaning dishes, or doing the laundry, the suds you are seeing are not actually doing the cleaning. These are just soap molecules trapping air in a spherical pocket. While bubbles are quite attractive to look at, that may be all they are good for. In fact, it’s the soap molecules in the water that hold the true cleaning power. Therefore, the more suds you see does not automatically mean the better you are cleaning.

D.O.M.S.

Think of suds like delayed onset muscle soreness (D.O.M.S.). As coaches, we are challenged with teaching our athletes that soreness is not a smart way to gauge hard work. While soreness may be a natural by-product of a workout, it’s not the only indicator of a good workout, just as suds is not always a good indicator of cleaning power.

If you own a walk behind scrubber like the Bulldog WD20, you likely are adding detergent to your clean water. A common question we see all the time is, “How much detergent is appropriate to add for each time you clean?” To help, we have pre-measured our Bulldog Mat Cleaner into single-use packets to ensure you have the right amount of soap. However, not everyone buys our detergent, and even if you do, there are a few things to consider even with pre-measured packets.

Foundations

When you first start using a floor scrubber, we recommend that the first several times you clean be with water only. Because of the porous nature of most rubber gym mats, and because mopping is really just pushing water around the floor, there’s likely soap already absorbed deep in your mats. Many first-time floor scrubber users will notice a buildup of soap suds behind the brushes as well as in their recovery tank when cleaning with just water. It may take as long as a week to get all of that built up soap and dirt extracted from your rubber flooring.

Once you have gone through your “foundations” phase, you can start adding detergent to your solution tank. The age-old nutrition advice that seems to always hold true whether you preach paleo, IIFYM, clean-eating, keto, etc. – “everything in moderation” – even works with your floor scrubber. You must understand that the amount of suds you see being put down when you are cleaning your gym floors is not an indicator of how well the scrubber is cleaning. Just like you tell your athletes that extreme soreness could mean severe damage to your muscles, too much suds could mean problems for your scrubber too. In other words, don’t give your scrubber rhabdomyolysis!

Anatomy & Physiology

All scrubbers have a way of monitoring the level of dirty water in your recovery tank. If you open the recovery tank of a Bulldog WD20, you’ll see a cylindrical mesh screen with ping pong balls inside. This is your screen float. When the recovery tank fills high enough, the water pushes the ping pong balls up, blocking the vacuum intake. Not only is this protective of the vacuum motor and inner electronics, it’s also an indicator that it’s time to empty your recovery tank.

Programming

With training, we set a goal and write out an overall plan. This plan can be a yearly plan, such as for an annual fitness competition, or something more frequent, like weightlifting meet prep. Within this plan, there are smaller goals set along the way, broken down into cycles that can range anywhere from 3-8 weeks. These cycles can further be broken down into daily goals, or the infamous workout of the day (WOD).

Your cleaning program should not differ too much from this philosophy. You should have monthly tasks, weekly tasks, and daily tasks. Just like your fitness program, you must stick to the program to see the best results and hit your goals. For now, we are focusing on soap, and how to avoid the issues that are brought along with using too much of it. However, if you want to see a recommendation for "best practices" you can implement in your cleaning routine, you can check out Box Pro Mag's recent article "Best Practices to Achieve a Clean and Healthy Gym."

Workout of the Day

Just like your body needs a good balance of pre-hab, mobility, recovery, and “constantly varied functional movements at high intensity,” your floor scrubber requires planned maintenance to stay in shape too.

How Much Soap is Necessary

We sell Bulldog Mat Cleaner in pre-measured, 2 oz. packets for your convenience. However, no gym is created equal, therefore the amount of solution you will use to clean your entire gym may be different than the next gym. Even though the solution tanks may be the same size, some gyms may not require a full tank to clean the whole gym, while other large gyms may need more than one tank-full.

The clean solution tank on a Bulldog WD20 Floor Scrubber holds 11 gallons of liquid and will cover roughly 5,000 square feet per tank before having to refill.* We recommend you use one, 2 oz. packet of Bulldog Mat Cleaner per tank-full.

*This is based on using the “moderate” water setting

Consider This

As was mentioned above, not every gym is created equal. Your gym may be smaller or larger than 5,000 square feet, or maybe you like running the WD20 on the highest water setting.

If you are finishing with clean water left in the solution tank, there are a couple of things to consider:

  • You do not have to empty the solution tank after each use. The unused clean water can stay until the next time you have to clean, and all you need to do is top off the tank.
  • When topping off a partially filled tank, be sure not to add another packet of soap. Affiliates that do this end up with a host of issues that come along with using too much soap.

These issues will be covered later in the article.

If you own a larger gym and are needing to refill the tank in order to clean your entire facility, you may not need to add another packet of soap. There should be a decent amount of soap residue left in the tank to cover the rest of the facility. If you are concerned that the first half of your gym is getting all the soap lovin’, then cut a corner of the packet and only use half per tank.

Everything in Moderation

We’ve all heard the concept of “everything in moderation” and aside from a few exceptions, it’s a great rule to follow. No matter your nutrition philosophy, eating in excess can have negative effects on your body. We teach our athletes to push their limits when working out, but we also need to teach them when to reign it in to avoid overuse injuries. Your Bulldog WD20 is a robust, tough piece of machinery just like one of your athletes, but it is important to do what is necessary to avoid overuse injuries.

What Happens When You Use Too Much Soap

At the beginning of this article, it was mentioned that we are conditioned to look for a build-up of plenty of suds to be confident that we are truly busting the dirt. Yet, we now know bubbles do not indicate strong cleaning power. In fact, too much suds can be a problem for your Bulldog.  

If you’re using too much detergent because you’re worried about putting a lot of suds down, you could be filling your recovery tank with excess foam. The excess foam will cause the ping pong balls in your screen float to rise, blocking the vacuum intake, and causing you to have to empty the recovery tank more frequently. What was once a highly convenient way to clean your gym mats, is now frustrating because you are wasting time emptying the tank more than necessary.

Aside from wasting time emptying the recovery tank more frequently than you need to, too much soap can have other, more detrimental effects on your scrubber. What we see from virtually all detergents is that over time, a nasty, snot-like scum starts to build up inside the recovery tank. If this build up reaches the screen float, it can clog the mesh and decrease the suction of the vacuum, making it difficult for your scrubber to pick up water and dry your floors.

The recovery tank and screen float are not the only parts affected by excess soap. The clean water solution filter located on the bottom of the machine has a mesh screen that can also become clogged with soap snot.

Rest & Recovery

Let’s face it, no matter how much of a fitness freak you think you are, true adaptation to your fitness levels only happens with proper rest. Likewise, daily recovery methods are critical to being able to perform day to day and make it through your grueling training week. Your Bulldog WD20 requires day to day maintenance to keep it running strong and performing at elite levels, too.

 The Cool-Down

Every time you finish cleaning your facility with your scrubber, you should be rinsing out the recovery tank to eliminate the dirt and soap residue left behind. If you neglect this, you will quickly end up with nasty grime coating the walls of your recovery tank. Even worse, you will get that buildup of snot-like soap scum around the screen float, wreaking havoc on your vacuum function. Make sure you are checking the screen float after each use, and for best results, hit it with the hose while you’re rinsing out the recovery tank.    

Remember that you don’t have to empty the solution tank if you have water left in the tank after you're finished cleaning. However, checking the clean water solution filter frequently could be beneficial. The clean water solution filter is easily removable and takes seconds to check for clogs. It’s small and can be rinsed under a faucet easily, therefore there should be no reason for it to end up obstructed. Make sure the solution tank is drained before removing the clean water solution filter or you will have a spill on your hands. If you forget to drain the tank and you do have a spill, well, it's not the end of the world because you have a floor scrubber that will vacuum that water right up!

bulldog scrubber clean solution filter

Deload Week

Every successful training plan includes a planned deload that can range anywhere from a few days to a whole week. Apply the same principle to your Bulldog WD20 floor scrubber. Just like a deload in training doesn’t mean stopping your workouts completely, the deload week for your scrubber is similar. We recommend using only water in your tank at least once a month. Remember at the beginning of this article, in the foundations section we talked about running your floor scrubber without soap to draw out the soap that has been absorbed into your mats. Even though your Bulldog WD20 has a powerful vacuum that leaves your mats virtually bone dry, the porous nature of most gym mats will still cause some soap retention.

There are no specific guidelines to follow during your deload, as there are endless combinations of scenarios unique to each gym. However, a good rule of thumb is to run your scrubber with only water until you no longer see a build up of suds behind the brushes, and no buildup of suds in the recovery tank. For some gyms, this may only take a couple times running the machine to pull all the soap out of your mats, while other gyms may require up to a week. Once you are clear of suds, you can start using soap again.

Your deload week is also a great time to check your filters and screens for any build-up of dirt, soap scum, hair, etc. Check your hoses for blockages and continue to rinse out the tanks after each use. Lastly, we recommend a bleach “cleanse” once per month to sanitize and disinfect the solution tank. Empty the tank, throw in a cap full of bleach and drain it. Do not run the machine during the bleach cleanse. Note that because it is easier to rinse out the recovery tank with a hose after every use, the bleach cleanse is not necessary.

Post-workout Summary

To wrap things up, remember…

  • Soap suds are not an indicator of cleaning power.
  • Using too much soap can cause a buildup of foam in your recovery tank that will inhibit the vacuum function and disrupt your cleaning time (among other consequences discussed).
  • The Bulldog WD20 is meant to save you time by being up to 10x faster than your old mop, so having to drain your recovery tank prematurely is only going to slow you down. (In a world of AMRAPS and workouts for time, the last thing any box owner wants to do is slow down.)
  • Use your soap in moderation and clean your gym in record time!

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