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Composition, Care and Cleaning of Different Surfaces

Hard surfaces are found in various forms, in different areas, in all hospitality establishments.

To keep the hotel property looking as fresh as it did the day it first opened, housekeeping employees involved in the care and maintenance of these hard surfaces must know the composition of these surfaces.

The type of hard surfaces commonly used in hotels include:

1. Metals

2. Glass

3. Plastics

4. Ceramics

5. Wood

6. Stone, etc.

In addition to these, housekeeping staff are also responsible for the care and cleaning of surfaces such as leather, rubber, etc.



The most commonly used metals are:

i. Silver

ii. Steel

iii. Copper

iv. Brass

v. Bronze,

vi. Aluminium

vii. Iron

These metals may be used in door and window fittings, wall panels, light fittings, sanitaryware, restaurant cutlery, cooking utensils, guestroom accessories (such as ashtrays, vases, and picture frames), and furniture (such as beds, chairs, and tables).

Most metal surfaces get tarnished, scratched, or rusted unless treated or protected.

These metals may be used in door and window fittings, wall panels, light fittings, sanitaryware, restaurant cutlery, cooking utensils, guestroom accessories (such as ashtrays, vases, and picture frames), and furniture (such as beds, chairs, and tables).

Most metal surfaces get tarnished, scratched, or rusted unless treated or protected.

These metals may be used in door and window fittings, wall panels, light fittings, sanitaryware, restaurant cutlery, cooking utensils, guestroom accessories (such as ashtrays, vases, and picture frames), and furniture (such as beds, chairs, and tables).

a) Silver

This soft, malleable, ductile metal has a brilliant sheen when well-polished.

Small amounts of the metal in elemental form occur naturally in the earth, but most of the silver we use is extracted from silver ores.

Silver is chemically unaffected by pure water, pure air, and a majority of food stuffs, but gets scratched easily if pure.

Silver is used as the plating in electroplated nickel silver, for making cutlery, utensils, vases, and decorative artefacts.

Types of Silver -

a) Sterling Silver Sterling silver is an alloy containing 92.5 per cent silver, and the rest is mainly copper.

Sterling silver is more expensive than silver-plated alloy and for this reason is seldom used in hotels.

b) Silver-Plated (EPNS)

Table silver or ‘silverware’ is usually made of silver-plated alloy by plating ‘blanks’ of nickel silver alloy. ‘Nickel silver’ does not contain any silver at all;

It (Nickel Silver) is a term for alloys that look like silver (being white metal) and made of nickel, copper, and often (but not always) brass, along with a few other metals for added strength and shine.

Cleaning Procedures;

Silver needs to be cleaned and polished on a regular basis.

When it gets tarnished, more complex cleaning methods have to be employed.

Following are the cleaning & polishing methods for silver:

I. Regular Cleaning

• Wash the article in a hot solution of synthetic detergent, scrubbing with a piece of cotton cloth.

• Then rinse in clean boiling water in an enamelled tray.

• A sheet of aluminium and some soda can be placed in the tray.

• Once the articles are clean, drain the water away and wipe dry while it is still warm, rubbing hard with a lint-free linen cloth or chamois leather.

II. Silver-Dip Method

• A silver dip solution is used when tarnished silver is to be cleaned.

• It is usually a pink coloured liquid based on an acid solution of a compound into which the articles are immersed completely for removal of tarnish.

• The silver should remain in the liquid for a very short time, the articles should be lifted out, washed with warm water and dried.

• While working with silver dip, stainless steel containers should not be used since the dip attacks steel.

• Enamel or plastic containers must be used instead.

• Silver dip should not be used too frequently on the silver, either, since it is harder on silver because of a chemical reaction between the silver and the liquid that can corrode the metal.

• However, many establishments use silver dip frequently since it is faster than other methods.

III. Polivit Method

• Polivit is an aluminium metal sheet containing holes, which is best used in an enamel bowl or galvanized iron bowl.

• The polivit is placed in the bowl together with some soda.

• The silver to be cleaned is then put into the bowl, ensuring that at least the one piece of silver has contact with the polivit.

• Sufficient boiling water is poured into the bowl to cover the silver being cleaned has contact with the polivit.

• A chemical reaction takes place between the polivit, soda, boiling water and silver which causes the tarnish to be lifted.

• After 2-4 minutes, silver should be removed from the bowl and placed into the 2nd bowl of boiling and then rinsed.

• On removal from the second bowl the silver is allowed to drain and then polished with a clean cloth and then dried with a tea cloth.

IV. Burnishing Machine

• This is a revolving drum with a safety shield. In this revolving drum, highly polished steel balls are immersed in a detergent solution with silver articles.

• The machine rotates and the friction from the steel balls polishes the silver.

• These articles are then rinsed into hot water and dried.

• The burnishing machine is used for polishing large quantities of silver articles.

• Care should be taken to keep the ball bearings covered with water when not in use, since they rust rapidly otherwise.

V. Plate-Powder Method

This pink powder should be mixed with just enough methylated spirit to make a smooth paste.

Alternatively, water may be used; but methylated spirit is preferred since it evaporates faster and the silverware is then available for polishing much more quickly.

The smooth paste is rubbed thoroughly onto the silver article with a clean rag and left to dry. It is then rubbed off with rags.

The article should now be rinsed well in boiling water and buffed with a clean cloth.

Though this method is time consuming but it gives a good result.

b) Steel

Steel is an alloy of iron.

The alloy contains mainly iron and carbon; other materials are found in small quantities.

It is used in the form of pressed chrome steel for the manufacture of baths, sinks, and so on.

Stainless steel is used in making cutlery, protective panelling, sanitaryware, furniture, trays, and cooking utensils.

Steel is sometimes galvanized or enamelled to prevent corrosion.

If an enamelled steel surface gets stained, it can be washed with a mild liquid abrasive.

Types of steel commonly used –

Chrome Steel

• Steel is coated with chromium for manufacturing taps, bath handles, shower fittings, and so on.

• These can become spotted with water marks or get greased, but they do not tarnish.

Stainless Steel

• This is steel to which 8-25 per cent of chromium has been added, making it corrosion-resistant.

• Stainless steel is tough, durable, and can take a mirror-polished finish. It is used in making cutlery, sinks, WCs, and so on.

• For spoons and forks, steel containing 18 per cent chromium and 8 per cent nickel is generally used.

• However, even stainless steel can be harmed by silver-dip solutions, acidic solutions, salt-vinegar mixtures, and excessive heat.

Galvanized Steel

• Steel may be coated with zinc (galvanized) to prevent tarnishing.

• This kind of steel is used for making buckets.

Cleaning Procedures;

Stainless steel is washed in a hot solution of synthetic detergent using a soft nylon scrubber, rinsed with clean water and immediately dried thoroughly with a linen cloth.

The use of harsh abrasives should be avoided as they may scratch the surface.

Chrome steel and galvanized steel are wiped or washed with synthetic detergent solution, stains removed with soft steel-wool, the articles rinsed with clean water, and buffed with a linen cloth.

For cleaning greasy stains, sodium bicarbonate can be used on all types of steel.

c) Copper

• This metal with an orange-brown shade has a light sheen of its own.

• It is used for wall panelling and counter tops in bars and restaurants; bowls, vases, and urns in lobbies and guestrooms; and utensils in the kitchen.

• Copper is even used in cutlery and serving dishes in some ethnic Indian restaurants.

• Copper cookware should be lined with tin or nickel for protection, as the copper may react adversely with some foods.

Cleaning Procedure;

• Copper is washed in warm water and then rubbed with a mixture of salt, fine sand, and vinegar, using rags, to clean.

• It is then rinsed in warm water and dried with a smooth cloth.

• A thin coat of vegetable oil is applied to the surface to retard further tarnish.

• In case of heavily tarnished copper, a weak ammonia solution will remove the greenish deposits on the surface.

d) Brass

• This is a golden-brown alloy of copper and zinc. It is used in making door and window fittings, stair rods and railings, foot rails in bars, taps, ashtrays, and ornaments.

• Brass tarnishes and scratches easily.

• To avoid this, brass fixtures are usually lacquered.

Cleaning Procedure;

• To clean brass articles, remove surface dirt with a duster and rub the article with a paste made of white flour, salt, and vinegar in equal parts.

• This will remove mild tarnish. Make sure to rub away all the mixture.

• Corroded brass should be treated with spirit of salt (hydrochloric acid) and then rinsed thoroughly.

• Polish with Brasso, using damp rags or cotton

• A long-term hard-metal polish can also be used on brass.

e) Bronze

• This is a brown alloy of copper and tin. It is used primarily in making works of art and medals.

• It does not tarnish easily.

Cleaning Procedure

• To clean a bronze article, wash well with water and then apply a mixture of one-part muriatic acid and two parts water with a piece of flannel.

• Allow the solution to dry and then polish the bronze well with vegetable oil.

f) Aluminium

• This silvery, lightweight metal is highly malleable, and ductile.

• It is used to make light fittings, and other utensils.

• Aluminium is not tarnished by air.

• It is, however, damaged by soda and other alkalis as well as stained by acids.

• It also scratches and bends easily.

Cleaning Procedure;

• To clean aluminium, wash in a hot solution of synthetic detergents, using soft steel-wool to scrub.

• Use mild abrasives only in the case of difficult stains.

• Discolouration in saucepans can be removed by boiling a solution of water and lemon juice in them, rinsing and then drying.

• In case of aluminium showpieces, some liquid wax polish may be applied to maintain the gloss.

g) Iron

• This silver-white metal of great strength is used in making furniture, buckets, dustbins, and cookware. Iron can be forged or cast.

• Wrought iron is iron that has been forged, that is, it has been shaped by heating in fire and then hammering while hot.

• Cast iron is a hard alloy of iron, carbon, and silicon that has been cast in a mould.

• Non-enamelled cast iron is flame and oven proof.


• Utensils made of cast iron need to be seasoned before first use to prevent rusting.

• Before seasoning, the article has to be washed in mild soap and water, then thoroughly dried.

• Seasoning is done by rubbing the inside surface with vegetable oil and heating in a slow oven for about two hours.

• Enamelled cast-iron utensils do not need seasoning and are easier to clean.

• If handled carelessly, however, the enamel may chip away.

• If the utensils are put under cold water immediately after use, while still hot, the enamel may gain flake off.

• Therefore, before cleaning, allow the utensil to cool gradually.

Cleaning Procedure;

• Unprotected iron should be washed only when necessary and then thoroughly dried.

• Galvanized iron needs regular washing and thorough drying.

• Rust can be removed from galvanized items with fine steel-wool dampened with oxalic acid.

• Do not store iron in damp areas.

• Before long-term storage, coat with oil or black lead (graphite)



Glass is transparent, lustrous and brittle material made of mixture of silica or pure fine sand, soda or potash and some other ingredients. The mixture is heated in furnace above 1300 degree where it forms molten glass. It is then shaped and cooled slowly in oven as it passes on conveyor belt. This process is called annealing. It finds diverse applications in hotels.

Types of Glass

1. Lead Crystal Glass: this contains lead oxide which produces a lustrous glass, soft enough to enable the outer surface to be cut away into attractive design. It is expensive and used in bowls, drinking glasses, vases, etc.

2. Soda Lime Glass: this contains soda ash & limestone and is much cheaper to produce than lead crystal. It is used for general purpose—bottles, windows, pictures, mirrors, etc.

3. Borosilicate Glass: this contains borax which enables the glass to withstand heat. Used for cookware and is referred to as flameproof glass.

4. Silvered glass (for mirror) is made by coating one side of a glass panel with silver, followed by a coat of paint and a layer of stove enamel.

It can be classified according to usage:

1. Flat Glass: is soda lime glass and used in making large flat panels.

  1. Sheet Glass: This needs polishing after annealing. Sheet glass used for windows is made from soda lime base. It may be textured so that light passes through but it is not transparent (Obscured glass) It may have incorporated wire in between (Obscured glass with wire).

  2. Float Glass: This type of glass does not require polishing after annealing. It is of better quality and finish then sheet glass.

2. Obscured Glass: It is basically a sheet glass that has a texture on one side so that visibility is restricted but the light passes through. Generally used in bathrooms.

3. Fibre Glass: It is manufactured in shape of textile fibre or as sheets of plastic. These can be moulded and are used for sanitary ware, furniture and wall panels. It is fire proof, impermeable and resistant to damage by pests, sunlight and air.

4. Hollow Glassware: Made by moulding or blowing hot glass into iron or wood casts. The moulds may have patterns which give the final object various effects.

5. Safety Glass: This kind of glass is used in places that require good safety and protection from easy and frequent damage or for security-related applications.

  1. Obscured glass with wire: Wire is rolled into the obscured glass that holds the pieces as it gets broken.

  2. Toughened Glass: It is made by heating the glass to high temperature and then cooling it rapidly. As a result, skin forms which if the glass breaks will cause the pieces to shatter into tiny harmless fragments.

  3. Laminated Glass: It consist of thin sheet of plastic sandwiched between two sheets of glass.

  4. Toughened Glass with lamination: Combination of the two glasses above.

6. Cut Glass: This is made by hand cutting glass articles using abrasive copper wheels that rotate at high speed. Cut glass is polished by treating the glass by acid. The grooves created emit rainbow-colored reflections. This glass is expensive and used for chandeliers, decanters, vases and quality table glassware.


Flat Glass: Dusting should be done daily by a lint free cloth. Light soiling and greasy marks should be removed using a solution of vinegar and water (1:1). Window squeegee may be used for larger areas and quick cleaning after dipping it in mild detergent solution or glass cleaners. Newspaper contains effective solvent which can be used at last to buff the glass dry.

Hollow glassware: Textured or engraved glass is cleaned with a nylon brush. Stained vases can be cleaned using a mixture of crushed shells (as an abrasive for textured glassware like wine decanters), synthetic detergent (less alkaline) and warm water. For jars and bottles a mixture of construction sand and water can also be used to remove discoloration. To remove lime deposits caused due to hard water soak the article in distilled water for an hour, scrub with a nylon scrubber and synthetic detergent solution and rinse with water.

Chandlers: Chandeliers are delicate, expensive and therefore difficult to maintain. Cleaning them is a laborious and time-consuming process. For cleaning they are brought down and dismantled piece by piece dipped in a warm solution of mild detergent. Each piece is gently scrubbed by a nylon scrubber and rinsed in warm water. Second rinsing is done in a mixture of one teaspoon liquid ammonia in 2.5 ltrs of water. This is results in a brilliant sparkle. Alternate method is to use an upholstery shampooing machine. The machine sprays a detergent solution that cleans glass pieces by pressure and the water is collected in a basin.

Maintaining glass surfaces:

• Glass surfaces are easily marked & easily damaged

• Require frequent attention & should be treated accordingly

• Damp or dry dusting with a lint free duster or scrim

• Light soiling & grease marks can be removed by wiping with a solution of equal quantities of vinegar and water

• More stubborn marks can be removed using methylated spirit

• Newspaper prints contain solvent & can be used to remove soiling from windows

• Textured or engraved glass can be cleaned with a soft brush

• Glass polish can also be used, care should be taken polish is removed while buffing

• Stained decanters & vases can be cleaned with vinegar, water & potato pieces

• Use of abrasives should be avoided

• Mirror should be cleaned with damp duster; care should be taken not to dampen the backing.


Leather, Leatherites, Rexines

Leather, as used for furniture, desktops, decorative panels, and other features in a building, is almost invariably what the tanner calls ‘light leather’. All leather comes from the hides of animals. The easily rotted keratin and globular proteins from the outside of the skin are removed by the treatment with alkalis and enzymes (liming) to leave a string net of collagen, the main structural material of the skin. This collagen would itself rot if left to the action of bacteria, but it is tanned. This is a chemical modification which links the collagen molecules together and makes them less easily decomposed by bacteria and less easily penetrated by water.

Leather is this network of fibers and more like a textile than say a plastic sheet. It tends to absorb liquids in the same way as textiles do, and may give trouble with staining. The greatest danger to leather is dry heat and water. Temperature over moderately warm will tend to convert the collagen to much softer proteins resembling gelatin, and irreversible damage takes place. The leather becomes shiny, brittle, and usually darkens and begins to flake away.

Old leather such as found in antique furniture and book bindings may deteriorate in this way with alarming speed, so if the leather gets wet it should not in any circumstances be dried by artificial heating. The best way to avoid penetration by water is to dress the leather with a good wax polish or with saddle soap. Light leathers are usually lubricated with an emulsion of oil (fat liquoring) during manufacturing. But it tends to lose its effectiveness after some time, and waxy material will give the leather new suppleness and also make it less easily wetted.

Liquid waxes are quite suitable but a saddle soap containing 10% soap and 30% wax (carnauba, beeswax or other hard waxes mixed with neatsfoot oil) will give a better result for furniture or automobile upholstery.

Stains on leather are difficult to remove without damage to the material itself.

Ink and rust may be lightened with a jelly made from sodium citrate (2 and a half ounces to a pint of water) and enough cellulose wallpaper paste to give a suitable consistency to stop the solution from running.

Ballpoint pen ink can be removed with alcohol though it may be necessary to go over the area with wax polish (feathered out) to conceal the defaulting effect of spirit.

Tar, rubber, fresh paint and similar materials can be removed with white spirit but again the patch needs to re-polished to restore it to its pristine (perfect) state.

For daily & weekly cleaning: dust thoroughly to remove surface dust, paying attention to folds around buttons (of the furniture like a sofa)

For spring or periodic cleaning:

• Remove surface dust by using dusters, or an electric vacuum cleaner.

• If very slightly soiled, wipe the surface with a cloth wrung out of warm soapy water.

• If dirty, rub with a mixture of oil & vinegar (oil:vinegar :: 2:1)

• If very dirty, wash with warm water. Use a flannelette. Rinse thoroughly & dry. Polish, using a little furniture polish or cream



Types of plastic:

1. Thermosetting Plastic

These are strong, hard plastics and not softened by heat. These are used to produce plastic laminates. Plasict laminates are made by subjecting layers of paper impregnated with plastic resin to high pressure and temperature. These are of two types Melamines and Phenolics.

Melamine: these are used for tableware, tray, and laminated work tops. Brand names can be: Formica, Laminex

Phenolic: these are used for buckets, mugs, telephone, toilet seat, etc. These can be boiled so suited in kitchen or hospitals

2. Thermoplastic

Majority of items in hotels & other institutions fall into this category:

Acetal Resins: these resist boiling, chipping & scratching, and are used for knife handles in particular

Acrylics: although extremely light weight & strong they will scratch easily and are damaged by contact with very hot liquids. They are used for furniture & protective panels.

Cellulose Acetate & Nitrate: this is pliable plastic used for brush handles, light fittings, lampshades, etc.

Polyamide: this is used for kitchenware, knife handles, brushes (bristles), curtain fitting, abrasive pads, etc. It will withstand sterilization.

Polyester: this may be used on its own trays, lampshades, etc. or it may be reinforced with glass fibers and molded into laundry skips, it is also used in the construction of resin seamless floorings.

Polyethylene/ Polythene: used for plastic bags, squeeze bottles, etc.

Polypropylene: used for dustbins, buckets, etc. can with stand sterilization.

Polystyrene: this is found in three forms. The crystal type—is clear, glossy & brittle and used for domestic kitchen utensils & equipment. Toughened varieties—used for refrigerator linings, fan blades, etc. Expanded polystyrene—used as tiles.

Polyurethane Foam: rigid fabric used for insulation but it is more frequently found in the manufacture of mattress, carpet under lays, sponges, mops, as a clear seal for wooden furniture etc. It gives heat and sound insulation but there is a considerable fire risk. Foam can be treated for fire resistance but it becomes too expensive

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE): used in kitchenware and on the base of irons.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC): It is used in the form of tiles or sheets. It is used to coat wallpaper, wood products or as a floor covering to render them washable. In its rigid form it is, used in the curtain tracks, soil and waste pipes, electrical conduits etc.

Acrylonitrile: this plastic is used for tableware & for outer casings of vacuum cleaner, etc.

Note: Synthetic fibers- Polyamide, Polyester and acrylic can be formed into fibers/ long filaments which have great strength, poor absorbency, durable, are easy to clean and quick to dry. They are used to make carpets, curtains, beddings, uniforms etc.

Maintaining and Care Plastics

• Dusting

• Light soiling can be removed by wiping with warm synthetic detergent, followed by rinsing, drying & buffing

• Textured surface may need scrubbing with a soft brush

• Stains can be removed by rubbing with a clean cloth soaked in methylated spirit

• Small items may be soaked in hypochlorite bleach

Points to be kept in mind:

• Keep away from direct heat or flames

• Do not use harsh abrasives

• Do not drag heavy object over plastic surfaces or chop or cut on them

• Keep away from strong acid or alkalis

• Some plastics are damaged if heavy objects are dropped on to them


Ceramics & Stoneware

These materials are made from a base of sand and clay and are extremely porous unless a glaze or seal is applied to outer surface during or after manufacture.

They are used for sanitary fitting, tableware and kitchenware. Floor as well as Wall Tiles.


• Different proportions and types of clay are mixed with other ingredients

• Shape the article

• The clay is then fired at a high temperature to make it hard

• Glazing is done and article fired for a second time

Following are the types found:

Earthen ware: is a thick, heavy & very porous material which is usually glazed. Mugs, bowls, vases, ashtray, etc are example. Earthenware chips and breaks easily. It may be glazed or vitrified.

• Glazed earthenware contains a large amount of fine white clay called ball clay. This makes it thick and opaque.

Vitrified earthenware/ Vitreous China: it is fired at high temperature. It contains more flint/ quartz which makes it very strong but not very heavy. Some may be high chip resistant, used as crockery and sanitary ware.

Terracotta: made from fine clay baked and mostly left unglazed. It is brownish red in colour. Used for pottery, ashtray, vases and ornamental building materials.

Stone ware: this has higher stone content. It is fired at higher temperature than earthenware giving a stronger material. It is oven & flame proof.

Porcelain: this is translucent, containing china clay, china stone / feldspar. It is extremely hard and strong as well as expensive. Used for cups, saucers, etc.

Bone china: contains bone ash and less feldspar. It is fired at very high temperature making it very thin and strong. Designs are applied to the outer surface and so care should be taken to wash them. It is used to make fine cups, saucers and other types of crockery.

Cleaning & Storing:

• Care should be taken to avoid chipping, scratching, etc.

• Extremes of temperature should be avoided

• Harsh abrasive not to be used

• A hot neutral synthetic detergent solution should be used following by rinsing and drying

• Stains of tea and coffee can be removed by rubbing with a damp cloth and bicarbonate of soda.

Cleaning of ceramic tiles:

• Daily cleaning – wash with general purpose cleaner and dry

• Periodic cleaning – Scrub with a mild abrasive cleaner, rinse and dry.



They are found in all types of establishment and are used for a variety of reasons:

• Appearance

• Resilience

• Cost

• Insulation

Characteristics of wood:

• Hard, compact, fibrous and porous

• Good wood gives a rich, warm and beautiful surface.

Wood is used for the construction of:

• Floor

• Furniture

• Walls

• Incidental furnishing (lampshades, picture frames)

• Kitchen & restaurant ware

Classification of wood

1. Solid Wood

I. Soft wood – obtained from coniferous trees like Pine, Fir, Cedar and Rubber. They are lighter in weight, cheaper, less durable (more prone to – indentations, grooves, splintering, wear and tear)

II. Hard Wood – obtained from deciduous trees like Teak, Oak, Beech, Birch, Walnut and Rose wood. They are strong, heavy and durable. They have a more refined grain and shorter fibres so they do not form splinters or indentations.

2. Wood Boards – cheaper than solid wood, lighter and treated (e.g. Termite proof, Water Proof)

I. Hardboard — thin flexible board made from compressed and processed wood pulp fiber (manufactured from chips of wood, synthetic resin adhesives and vinyl fiber). It is smooth on one side & mesh texture on the other. Hardboards are used for backing of pictures, door panels, cupboards, base of floor tiles, etc.

II. Plywood — is made by bonding together number of thin sheets of hardwood termed as “plies”. They are strong and therefore used for tables, shelves, cupboards, chairs, etc.

III. Chipboard — is used in wardrobes, drawers, table tops etc. it is made by mixing wood chips with a synthetic resin adhesive and then compressed between veneers of hard wood.

IV. Block board — consists of strips of wood between plywood veneers. The inner strips can be up to 3mm in thickness making the board strong and durable. It is used for making table tops and shelves.

Protecting wood surface: This is necessary since wood is porous and absorbs moisture. It tends to get scratched and stained. The different types of protective treatments are –

Cellulose lacquer: cream or spray polish applied to gloss finish. It should be dusted & wiped with a damp cloth, later dry with a soft cloth. Damaged by heat, water and solvents. Re-polishing required periodically (once in 1 or 2 years)

French Polish: French polish is produced by rubbing solution of shellac & methylated spirits. Makes wood more durable. Damaged by heat, water and solvents. Re-polishing required periodically (once in 1 or 2 years)

Oil: Double boiled linseed oil can be rubbed on the surface. It will help to reduce water absorption. Daily dusting is essential. Occasionally surface should be rubbed with a mixture of turpentine & linseed oil.

Paint: widely used on wood surface. Gloss paints are tougher and can withstand frequent washing.

Resin: resin is extremely tough. It will resist heat, water, solvent & abrasives. Dust should be removed daily.

Wax (beeswax): applied to solid wood furniture or floors. Waxed surface should be dusted daily, cleaned each week with cream or liquid polish and when considered should be rubbed with a thin coat of wax & buffed.


Cork surface is extremely porous and can easily crumble, dent, burn or stain. Cork is used as wall tiles and flooring. Clean with a vacuum cleaner to remove dust from the pores


These are names given to furniture items Bamboo (thick grass), Cane (palm) and wicker (willow shoots). Is not stored carefully the surfaces get easily damaged. They are regularly polished / varnished. Daily cleaning of these surfaces can be by simply brushing or using vacuum cleaners. Periodically clean using a solution of washing soda and water (1:10) or simply a solution of borax and water in the same ratio.


Wall Finishes

Wall coverings may be decorative as well as functional. The primary consideration for wall covering, though, should be their functional quality. Decorative wall coverings should complement the theme. Decorative wall coverings are chosen when ability to bring colour, texture, light or shade to the room is of great importance. Functional qualities of wall coverings are durability, ease of maintenance. Functional wall coverings provide a hygienic surface.

Practical considerations

The following should be kept in mind before applying a wall covering.

Moisture and condensation – A slight dampness may be countered by the usage of an anti-condensation paints or by fixing boarding to battens treated with a preservative.

Noise – sound carried through ceiling or walls may be reduced by insulation boards fixed in the same way as for countering condensation. The denser the material is, the less the sound that gets through. Though loud sounds with vibration are difficult to deal with.

Types of walls:

The selection of wall covering has a great deal to do with the type of wall being covered.

Brick – Make sure that there is no dampness on the wall if brick walls have been left unpainted, they can be covered with a clear sealant to prevent them from crumbling or becoming dust traps.

Old plaster – Plaster is suitable for most wall coverings and paints. However damp plastering will need stripping and renewing after the moisture problem has been treated at source. If the plaster is uneven or cracked, use wall paper or other covering materials (rather than a finish) or line the wall lining or ingrain paper before painting or finishing.

New Plaster – It must be absolutely dry before decorating can begin if it is to be painted before it is absolutely dry (for decorating effects), emulsion paint is better as it is least likely to blister and allows the wall breathe. Wall paper is not to be used until the surface is bone dry.

Types of wall coverings:

• Paints

  1. Water based paints

  2. Solvent based paints

• Wallpaper

• Fabric

• Plastic

• Wood

• Cork

• Glass

• Tiles

• Leather

• Inorganic wall coverings

• Metallic wall coverings

• Fibreglass/Spun glass

• Acrylic (Corian)


Paints are mixture of four important ingredients: pigments, additives, binders and solvents.

  • Pigments render colour and opacity.

  • Additives give special properties such as resistance to rust and fungus.

  • Binders hold the paints together and bind it to the surface for durability.

  • Solvents enable brushing and rolling across a surface.

Paints offer a wide choice of colour, effects and degree of gloss. Paints used on walls are usually for decoration rather than protection. Paints can be easily applied and cleaned too. Depending on the binders or vehicles used, paints can be broadly classified into two classes: water-based paints and solvents-based points.

Water based paints: In these types, the contents are mixed with clean water only. The various types are:

Lime wash: These are colour washes based on lime (that is, calcium hydroxide, Ca(OH)2), inorganic alkalis, fast pigments, and few other additives. White wash is a lime wash without pigments. The ingredients of a lime wash are suspended in water prior to application.

Distemper: This is superior to lime wash and is available in a wide range of colours. It may be defined as water-based paint consisting of whiting (white chalk), some colouring pigment (in case of coloured distemper), and glue mixed in water. It is available in the form of dry powder or a paste.

Emulsion paint: This type of paint is used as a decorative finish. There are three major types of emulsion paints:

1. Polyvinyl acetate

2. Styrene and

3. Acrylic resin

Acrylic emulsions have good adhesive properties, are washable, and are easy to maintain.

Premium emulsions are based on pure acrylic latex and latex and high-opacity pigments. Emulsion paints are thinned with water, easy to apply, and dries rapidly (within 2 hours). It is durable and washable. Two coats of emulsion paints are necessary for longevity.

Silicate paint: this consists of a thin suspension of alkali-resistant inorganic pigments and extenders. It is not damaged by the alkali in cement. It is also porous, hence allowing moisture to escape. It may be directly applied on brick, plaster and concrete surfaces after wetting; no primer coat is necessary.

Cement paints: This type of paint consists of white cement, alkali-fast pigments, accelerators and other additives. It is available as a dry powder and can be found in several shades. This is most widely used as an external paint for building exteriors.

Solvent-based paints: These are made up of six main constituents:

Base, filler or extender, colouring pigments, vehicles or binders, solvent or thinner, dryer.

  1. Base is a metallic oxide in powder form, serving essentially as a pigment and forming the chief ingredients of the paint. The most important purpose of adding this base to the paint is to make an opaque coating to hide the surface to be painted. White lead, red lead, zinc oxide, iron oxide are the bases commonly used.

  2. Filler or extenders are cheap pigments added to the paints to reduce its cost. In addition, this substance modifies the weight if the paint and make it more durable. Commonly used fillers are barium sulphate, lithopone, silica, silicate of magnesia or alumina, gypsum and charcoal.

  3. Colouring pigments are mixed to the paints to get the desired colour.

  4. Vehicles or binders are liquid that acts as a binder for various pigments-bases, extenders and colouring pigments. Refined linseed oil is a commonly used vehicle in oil paints. Oils from soya bean, fish, sunflower seeds and tobacco are also being used as vehicles, in various combinations with or without linseed oil.

  5. Solvent or thinner, a liquid that thins the consistency of the paint film in the container and evaporates after the paint after the paint film has been applied so that it may solidify. Turpentine, pure oils, petroleum and spirit are commonly used solvents.

  6. Dryer are group of material containing metallic compounds that are used in small amounts for accelerating the drying of the paint film. Lead acetate, manganese dioxide and cobalt are commonly used dryers.

The different types of solvent based paints are:

Alkyd paints: – These paints are based on synthetic resins combined with a vegetable oil such as linseed oil. These are generally easier to apply and have better durability and wearing properties than older types paint. They have good opacity and excellent fastness to light as well. They are available in a wide range of colours.

Aluminium Paints: – These are used for painting wood and metal surfaces. Aluminium forms the base in this type of paint. This paint is well established for its good water proofing and weather-resisting qualities. It is not used for painting large areas of walls. It is commonly used for painting metal roofs, machinery, oil or gas storage tanks etc.

Anti-corrosive paints: – these generally used as metal protection paints. Linseed oil is generally used as a vehicle. Sometimes dryers and inert fillers are added to modify the paint to the requirements.

Asbestos paints: – this type of paint is especially suitable for patching up or stopping leakage in metal roof. Asbestos or fibrous coatings are sometimes used as moisture proof covering coats for the outer face of the basement walls as well.

Bituminous paints: – These are alkali resistant and are chiefly used for painting exterior brickwork and plastered surfaces. They are also used for waterproofing and protecting iron and steel, and are commonly applied on structural steelwork that is underwater.

Bronze paints: – this type of paint is often used for painting interior of exterior metallic surfaces. Aluminium bronze, copper bronze and copper powder are the pigments commonly used in this type of paint.

Cellulose paints: – This type of paint is made from celluloid sheets and amyl acetate substitutes. For making a superior type of paint, nitro cotton is used. It dries very quickly and possesses the additional advantages of hardness, flexibility and smoothness.

Enamel paints: – This type of paint is made by adding white lead or zinc white to a vehicle comprising a varnish. On drying, it forms a smooth, glossy, relatively hard and permanent film. It is commonly used for painting porches, decks, stairs, concrete surfaces and so on.

Oil paints: – this type of paint can be used for almost all surfaces, from wood work to fabrics. Oil paints basically consists of two main components- a base and a vehicle. Oil paints are manufactured in different shades and grades and are very commonly used.

Characteristics of a good paint

The characteristics of good paints are listed below -

• It should stick to the surface well and should be able to seal the pores.

• Its consistency should provide easy workability.

• The paint film should dry rapidly.

• The thickness of the paint film should be adequate for good protection and decoration of the surface.

• The dried paint film should be able to withstand the effect of adverse weather for long time.

• It should offer resistance to cracking and flaking.

• It should possess good moisture maintenance.

• Its colour should not fade with the passage of time.

Care and cleaning of paints

• Remove light dust with a duster, wall broom or vacuum cleaner attachments.

• Wash when necessary (washable paints), with warm water and suitable detergent to remove heavily ingrained or tenacious dust or dirt. This is important on low sheen surfaces as dry cleaning tend to force dust into the surface.

• When washing start from the bottom and work upward using a sponge or worn distemper brush. Change the solution frequently. Rinse from the top downwards, using frequent changes of water. Sponge dry.

• Low sheen finishes, especially emulsion paints, may tend to ‘polish up’ if isolated areas of bad soiling are rubbed vigorously with a damp cloth. Clean such areas by very light scrubbing with a damp nail brush.

• Never apply wax polishes or oil to gloss painted surfaces to revive them. The residue may cause subsequent paint coating to peel, or fail to dry.

• Do not use harsh abrasives, strong solvents or strong soda solutions to clean paintwork. The film may be damaged or softened.


This type of wall covering evolved as an inexpensive substitute for tapestries of the wealthy. The choice of wallpaper depends upon the dimensions and uses of the room. Wallpapers have a warmer appearance than paint. They can be stuck back even if they are torn. Smooth finishes do not catch dust, but easily show up marks.

The various kinds of wallpaper available are:

Lining Paper: – A preliminary covering of plain paper that gives the wall an even porosity, which helps when painting. On surfaces such as painted walls, this can be essential. There are various grades. It is best to avoid thin papers and use a heavy grade to conceal uneven walls.

Surface-printed papers: – The cheaper papers are called pulp. Higher quality papers, known as grounded papers, are given a coating of colour before the design is printed on these. Such wallpapers vary in weight and thickness. Thin papers are cheap, but tear easily when wet.

Washable papers: – A transparent waterproof film stop moisture from damaging design. These are especially suitable for bathroom and kitchens. They can be easily cleaned with damp sponge.

Embossed papers: – The design is pressed into paper to make it stand out in relief. This process produces wood-like grain, imitation leather and textile effects. Duplex-embossed papers have designs with more depth, since two layers of papers are bounded together before design is impressed.

Metallic papers: – these are made from patterned foil glued to paper backing. Their reflective surface accentuates any unevenness in the walls, however, so they should be used only on a perfectly flat surface.

Hand printed papers: - each roll is prepared separately and therefore costs more than machine printed paper. The designs are outlined more sharply.

• Other variations in wallpaper includes Anaglypta, supagypta, ingrained paper, lincrusta, flock, wood-chip papers, paper backed hessian, Japanese grass cloth, paper backed wools, woven grass, felts cork, silk and other textile materials.

Care and cleaning of wallpapers

• Remove surface dust with a wall broom or vacuum cleaner attachments (low suction for flocking papers).

• Remove marks by rubbing with a soft rubber or a piece of soft bread. If the paper is sponge able, wipe with a damp cloth or sponge.

• Attempt to remove grease with a proprietary grease absorber.

Fabric wall coverings

These days, wall fabrics fall into two main categories: fabric that actually surface a wall like a wall paper and those that are draped loosely across a wall.

Tapestry, canvas and silk fabrics are most commonly used. Almost any fabric can be used as a wall covering. It should be remembered that wool materials may be attacked by moth and if adequate precautions are not taken.

Wild silk and other beautiful fabrics are often padded for heat and sound insulation, and for effect they may be stretched taut, gathered or pleated into frame. Silk tapestries are expensive wall coverings and thus are more usually found in luxury establishments.

Care and cleaning of fabric wall coverings

• Remove surface dust by brushing or vacuum cleaner attachments.

• For the more beautiful hangings, when necessary, send to a firm of dry cleaners who is specialized in this type of work.

• Where canvas is stuck to the walls, scrub very lightly using warm water and synthetic detergent where necessary.


Many types of plastic wall coverings are available now and they are becoming increasingly popular; some are more decorative than other and some afford sound insulation, but all, owing their abrasion resistance, are more hardwearing and easily cleaned than other wall coverings. As they are non-porous, there is a greater tendency for the growth of moulds so the adhesives should contain fungicides. The main types are as follows: –

1. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or other synthetic materials bonded to either a paper or fabric backing, e.g. Baladore, Fablon etc.

2. Laminated plastic produced as surface boards or as a veneer which require sticking to plywood. Melamine is the resin frequently used during the manufacturing of these plastic laminated which often simulate wood panelling

3. Plastic wall tiles imitate ceramic tiles

4. Vinyl flocked papers are velvety piles of flock, mostly synthetic, stuck in patterns over the background vinyl wallpaper.

Some other types of plastic wall coverings are paper or fabric backed vinyl, expanded polystyrene, clear acrylic-plastic sheeting etc.

Care and cleaning of plastic wall covering

• Remove surface dust with duster, wall broom or vacuum cleaner attachments,

• Wash, when necessary, with warm water and synthetic detergents.


Wood used for panelling are usually hard, well-seasoned and of a decorative appearance, and they may cover the wall completely or from a dado. Wood panelling may be solid or veneered: it last for years providing precautions are taken in respect of dry rot and wood worm but the initial cost is rather high.

Care and cleaning of wood

• Dust and occasionally polish.

• Remove old polish periodically using white using white spirit or vinegar and water and then polish.


This offers dramatic and luxurious effects and is easily installed. Its chief virtue is sound control. Its main disadvantage is its perishability.

Care and cleaning of cork

• Brush or vacuum

• Sponge away any marks gently with lukewarm water and mild detergent.

• Do not over wet.

Glass wall covering

Glass can be used in the form of decorative tiles in the same way as ceramic tiles and these should these should not be confused with glass bricks which allows the passage and form the wall itself.

Glass as a wall covering is frequently used in the form of mirrors which are plate glass backed with a coating of coloured metallic paint, usually silver, and this reflects the light. Mirrors may be above the dado or may cover the whole wall.

Care and cleaning of glass

• Dust or wipe with a damp duster or scrim while proprietary cleansers or methylated spirits can be used.

• When cleaning mirrors, care should be taken to prevent the backs from becoming damp.

Fibre glass/spun glass

These wall coverings can be almost indistinguishable from old woodwork or weathered plaster if properly painted. This material can be poured into moulds to duplicate just about any shape or surface.

Care and cleaning of fiberglass

Fiberglass is easy to clean. It requires only dusting or a bit wiping with a damp cloth.

Metallic wall coverings

Metals may be used on walls for their decorative and hygienic qualities. Metal such as copper and anodized Aluminium are decorative and may be used for effect in such areas as bars, where the metal – in combination with rows of bottles and interesting lighting – is most impressive. Other metals, usually stainless steel in the form of tiles, may be used in kitchens, where they present a durable, easily cleaned hygienic surface area. Metal skirting boards provide coved edges between walls and floor surfaces. The metal foils are durable and washable.

Care and cleaning of metallic wall coverings

• Soft brush is required to clean the indented portions.

• Daily dusting is required.

• Wipe with sponge wrung out in mild detergent, dry with a duster.


Long related to outdoor area or limited to kitchen and bathroom walls, tiles have finally come into their own again, with ceramic and mosaic patterns that brightens and create a cool, airy feeling in the room being most popular. Generally easy to clean, the main drawback of tiles is that the grouting may become discoloured or chipped till tiles loosen.

Care and cleaning of tiles

• Clean grouting with a soft brush dipped in bleach solution and rinse.

• Wipe down with a sponge wrung out in mild detergent solution and rinse well.

• Dry with a duster


Animal hides are extremely expensive and very decorative. They may be padded and studded with brass studs, and they do not usually cover a complete wall surface. They may be found in luxury establishments in parts of restaurants or bars, but are too expensive to be found in most places. They are also prone to attack by mildew. Nowadays, the effects of leather may be simulated by plastic where required.

Care and cleaning of leather

• Daily dusting or suction cleaning is required.

• If soiled, wipe the leather with a soft cloth wrung out of warm water and mild detergents. Then damp dust with clean water.

• Dry thoroughly.

• Occasionally leather may be polished with a good furniture polish cream to keep it supple.


Floor Finishes

Considerations before choosing a floor:

1. Will there be heavy wear?

2. Is area subject to moisture?

3. Does the floor need to be sound barrier?

4. How easy is it to clean & maintain?

5. To what degree floor need to be slip resistant?

6. Can it cause allergies or asthma?

7. How durable is the product?

8. Is it suitable for subfloor?

SUBFLOOR: A subfloor is what’s below your flooring material.

Advantages of subfloor:

• Provides drainage abilities.

• Warms flooring material upto 30%.

• Protects against moisture seepage.

• Lengthens the life of new flooring.

• Increase its feel & quality.

Examples of subfloors: Plywood, Plank, Oriented Stran Board, Concrete.

  • Plywood: Made from thin sheets of usually pine wood those are glued together, forming 4ft x 8ft sheets.

  • Plank: There are ¾ inch thick x 4 – 8-inch-wide southern pine board which are nailed together.

  • Oriented Stran Board: It is a bunch of wood chips glued together.

  • Concrete: Consists of slabs of 4 – 6-inch-thick concrete pour. It may tend to absorb moisture which might take long to dry.

Classification of Floor Finishes


  • Cementitious (Terrazzo & Granolithic)

  • Stone (Marble. Slate etc)

  • Resin

  • Bitumastic

  • Magnesite

  • Wood


  • Thermoplastic tiles

  • Vinyl

  • Rubber

  • Linoleum

  • Cork


  • Carpets

Floor care life cycle

Stripping: Removal of all existing finishes & seals. Clean thoroughly & allow to dry.

Scrub & Recoating: Consist of top scrubbing & removing any dirt/foreign material & re-applying finish to renew & extend the life of coating.

Restoration: Performed when routine maintenance no longer gives desired level of appearance.

Routine Maintenance: Remove dirt, foreign material. Includes daily cleaning. Improves appearance & life is increased may include dry mopping & wet methods.

Coating: Apply fix, thin uniform coats & give adequate drying time.

Factors one must consider in cleaning situation.

S = Soil

S = Surface

T = Time

A = Agitation

R = Regulation

T = Temperature

E = Environment

C = Cost



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