Jim Cornelius, CSFM, Sports Turf Online, July 30, 2015
EXCERPTS FROM THE ARTICLE:
"Let’s begin by acknowledging that synthetic fields are NOT maintenance free and have more characteristics of a natural turf field then is believed. No matter what anyone says, synthetic turf does require routine maintenance. Second, infill material will gradually disappear from the field as it is carried off by players, wind, rain, snow removal, routine maintenance, equipment tires, etc., and since it is a crucial element of a synthetic field, missing infill will need to be replaced.
Replenishing infield material
On average, an athlete or end user will carry off two to three pounds of infill material during a playing season. Without infill support, the turf fibers bend over too far under traffic and then break off prematurely. Also, ultraviolet rays from the sun are extremely damaging to synthetic fibers. By maintaining a proper amount of crumb rubber, you can help prevent the fibers from folding over, which minimizes the amount of each fiber that is exposed to the sun and reduces fiber breakdown from ultraviolet rays.
Grooming the field
We recommend that the field be groomed every 300 to 350 hours of use; some internet articles suggest 400 to 500 or more hours, and much depends on your facility’s available manpower. At minimum, the field should be groomed several times during the highest use periods and less often during the down times (if there is such a thing).
Cleaning the field
Trash and debris are a constant nuisance. Timely removal is important to keep them from becoming ground into the infill material, causing removal problems later on.
Although largely overlooked, chewing gum on the field should be removed as soon as possible. Most chewing gums today never harden, and with the intense heat in the field, gum becomes gooey and eventually spreads across the turf surface. To remove gum, use either ice cubes or a freezing spray agent to harden the gum, chip it off and remove it.
When we deep-clean our clients’ synthetic fields, our equipment most frequently removes items such as sunflower seeds, pistachio/peanut shells, candy wrappers, cigarette butts, wire ties from nets, buttons, fabric scraps, cleats, bobby pins, jewelry, screws, nails, staples, paper clips and rocks (from broken stone bags that are used to weigh down goals and equipment). These items—plus dust, dirt, pollen, body skin cells, human hair, leaves and pine needles—can end up embedded in synthetic fields, where they remain for much of the life of the field.
It’s astounding, actually, how quickly debris can accumulate, unseen, on a synthetic field, causing several problems. Such debris can create safety hazards for the athletes (particularly sharp metal items), abrade the synthetic grass fibers and degrade the crumb rubber (which, in turn, increases the field’s hardness), reduce water infiltration by clogging drainage pores, and develop an organic layer that is conducive to the proliferation of bacteria, mold, moss, fungi and insects, as well as the germination of weed seeds.
Special deep-cleaning equipment with HEPA-filter vacuums can remove this type of debris from within the turf. Rain, snow, sleet and hosing will not wash it out.
Weeds can exist and thrive in synthetic turf, especially if the field is not deep-cleaned regularly enough to prevent an organic layer from developing. Also, if your turf is surrounded by bermuda grass or any other creeping grass variety, be prepared because the stolons and rhizomes of such grasses tend to seek their way into and under the synthetic turf. Synthetic-field surfaces reach optimal growing temperatures before the surrounding turf does, providing a perfect greenhouse effect for creeping varieties to spread.
Patching worn areas
Pay particular attention to maintaining adequate infill material in heavy wear areas. Synthetic fields wear just like natural turf, except that you can’t grow the fibers back in once they are gone.
For instance, lacrosse players can destroy a goal crease in as little as one year if the turf is not maintained. The infill material gradually gets kicked or shuffled out, and then the fibers take a beating and break off quickly without the support of the infill material. Before you know it, you’re left with a big black area (which is the backing for the synthetic turf), and now it’s time to patch it.
Damping down static
Static on a synthetic field is common and can increase with humidity and (sometimes) field age. If you need to combat this, you can do so with one of several household products. Liquid Tide detergent and liquid fabric softener both work well when sprayed on the turf."