T.A.C.T. – The Four Basic Steps of All Surface Preparation

Fundamentally, whenever I look at any surface to be cleaned, say 100,000 square feet of a building’s interior roof structure, a bulldozer, cement mixer, or a machine on a factory floor, I approach the job by the same method every time.

T.A.C.T. stands for Temperature, Agitation, Caustic, and Time. If you’d like, you can reverse Time and Temperature, but I like to put Temperature first because we often use dry ice blasting to clean or prep jobs, and that focuses heavily on temperature.

Many everyday actions involve cleaning a surface. Cleaning your toilet is a surface preparation task, and if you have a bunch of kids, boys especially, it can be a decidedly unpleasant task at that. Your kitchen counters, the dinner plates and silverware, your garage floor, your windows. Every single one of these tasks utilizes the four basic steps of surface preparation.

If you are cleaning your dinner plates, by hand, you run a sink full of hot water. There’s Temperature at work. You add someDawn dishwashing soap to it. That’s the Caustic cleaner to make the water more effective. Take out that Scrub Daddy or even a dish rag, and there’s your Agitation to coax that brisket or gravy off the plate, and Time comes in as you determine how long you need to Agitate or scrub the surface, to get that plate clean.

Industrial applications work the exact same way. You have grease contamination on a giant wire extruding machine, which also has years of factory dirt and grime on it as well. When I see this, I go through the steps. Will Temperature affect this cleaning job, either hot or cold? In this example, grease becomes more solid when cold, so dry ice blasting comes to mind. Dry ice blasting will also serve as the Agitation (compressed air driven dry ice pellets hitting the surface). If this works, then I can remove the grease, dirt and grime without a Causticagent, and then all I need to calculate is how much Time it will take to do the work. Now if the customer wants a fresh coat of paint on the machine after the grease and grime are removed, then I will use a Caustic agent, perhaps mineral spirits or a Scotch Brite Pad with a little elbow grease to get the surface paint ready.

Paint on a house that’s peeling. Heat gun (Temperature), Scraper (Agitation), Paint Remover (Caustic) and hours and hours of work (Time.) Cleaning your windows. Windex (Caustic), paper towel (Agitation), and the Time it takes to do the work. This brings up my final point.

You don’t necessarily need to use the four steps in every job. In my window example, you don’t need Temperature. The Windex is room temperature. If you heat it, or the window, you have no noticeable change in how clean the window becomes, or how fast you can clean it. It’s likely that a hot window with clean faster, or have slightly less streaks, but it’s unlikely it will have any noticeable effect. However, every job will take Time. It’s the one step that will exist in every job, and it’s the one thing we all don’t have enough of, and when it’s gone you can never get it back or get more of it if you run out of it.

So now you know the four secret, and kind of obvious steps, for any and all surface preparation jobs you’ll ever come across. You’re welcome, just send me a check anytime you remember this tutorial.