Court Construction & Maintenance Guide: Cleaning Solution
What’s the best way to get rid of pesky shoe marks and stains on your courts?
They’re the ring-around-the-collar of tennis court construction. The black marks made by non-court shoes may be one of the most irksome issues plaguing tennis facility managers.
It’s not that they constitute a safety hazard or that they distract players from their game; it’s that they’re just plain ugly. And they’re not the only aesthetic annoyance.
“Black-soled shoes, gum, and colored sports drinks present the biggest problems in tennis court surface stains,” says Matt Hale of Halecon Inc. of Bridgewater, N.J.
Problem is, with all the jobs a tennis facility manager is juggling, it’s no surprise that following players around to check for proper footwear and drinks in spill-proof containers winds up at the bottom of the list.
So once the damage is done, what is the best way to address it?
Start by checking the manufacturer’s recommendations. Depending upon the formulation of the coating, cleaning methods often will vary. One thing all court construction professionals agree on, however, is starting with the gentlest cleaning method available, followed by rinsing thoroughly.
“For standard cleaning or minor marks and stains, we usually recommend just water and a simple mild dish detergent,” such as Dawn, Palmolive, etc., says Tom Magner of DecoTurf in Andover, Mass. “Of course, sneaker and shoe marks are usually a little more stubborn, so dish detergent probably won’t be sufficient, but try that first anyway, since it’s inexpensive and relatively easy.
“If the dish detergent isn’t strong enough, we recommend that people first try TSP (trisodium phosphate), which is available at most hardware stores. In either case, be sure to use a soft cloth, a sponge or a soft-bristled brush. It is critical to not use a hard-bristled brush or scrubbing pad or anything that might damage the surface. If neither of those cleaners works on a tough stain, we can recommend bleach, but it needs to be diluted at least 4:1 with water and must be rinsed off immediately. That may not be practical indoors and you always run the risk of fading the surface, so only do that as a last resort.”
For extremely stubborn stains, says Colin Donovan of Renner Sports in Denver, a little extra mechanical help might be called for. “The other method is to use a 2500 psi pressure washer. Simply wash off all areas affected holding the spray wand 12 to 18 inches away from the surface,” he says. “You have to be extremely careful not to hold the spray wand too close to the surface or you can potentially strip the surface off the substrate. It’s better to have an experienced person using this type of equipment to avoid damage. I tell owners not to worry too much about shoe marks since it’s a cosmetic issue, and after several rains or just one heavy rain, they typically wear off by themselves.”
In cases where marks are particularly dark or won’t come out, contractors will sometimes recommend a new coat of color on the court.
But whether the court is shiny and new, or recently cleaned, say the pros, there is one step that should be followed.
“The best and only 100 percent effective way to eliminate these marks is prevention,” says Hale. “A proactive facility manager reminding people of the proper equipment and etiquette goes a long way to extend the luster and brilliance of the tennis court surface.”
The ASBA is a non-profit association helping designers, builders, owners, operators and users understand quality sports facility construction. The ASBA sponsors informative meetings, publishes newsletters, books and technical construction guidelines for both tennis courts and running tracks, and keeps its members aware of the latest developments in the industry. It also offers voluntary certification programs in tennis court, running track and sports field construction. For information on the ASBA, contact the Association at 8480 Baltimore National Pike, Suite 307, Ellicott City, MD 21043; phone 866-501-ASBA or 410-730-9595; email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit sportsbuilders.org.