Asbestos is a dangerous substance that makes many maintenance workers nervous to be around. Tile floors that were manufactured before 1980 have a good chance of containing asbestos. So long as tiles are not breaking apart, however, there is little to worry about, according to the State of Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Floors can be stripped and waxed, though the agency recommends keeping such activity to a minimum.
Stripping and Waxing the Floor
To strip and wax a floor containing asbestos, use a standard stripping solution, a low-speed buffing machine (175 rpm) and the least abrasive pad possible. Apply the stripping solution liberally. The extra liquid will keep dust down while you are scrubbing the floor. Keep in mind that asbestos is dangerous when it is airborne, so it's important to keep it from becoming an airborne powder. Do not attempt to dry-strip an asbestos floor for this reason.
Black stripping pads are the most aggressive. If available, choose a lesser grade such as a green pad.
Once the floor is stripped, apply a coat of floor stripper with two or more thin coats of floor finish or wax.
Asbestos Floor Maintenance
Since asbestos floors are at risk of releasing dangerous dust during the stripping process, the best maintenance plan is one that will limit the amount of stripping and waxing needed. A floor that has a regular maintenance schedule will not need to be stripped and waxed as often.
Sweeping and mopping the floor is a must. Dirt and grit under foot will wear away the protective wax coating. A good sweeping followed by wet mopping with a neutral-pH solution will help preserve the floor and slow the wearing process.
Periodic machine buffing with the application of a fresh coat of wax will keep the floor looking clean and shiny while building up the protective coating.