Regular care is the key to a long-lasting synthetic field

For cleaning infill, Wiedenmann’s Terra Clean 100 brings material on to a vibrating screen, which separates debris and redistributes the infill back onto the field.
Photo courtesy of Wiedenmann USA.

Though it may not need fertilizer or mowing, synthetic turf requires as much maintenance as natural grass to remain safe and playable. Following proper procedures and manufacturer guidelines is key to retaining the integrity of your artificial turf and extending its useful life.

Routine maintenance

Grooming, cleaning and brushing should be part of any synthetic turf maintenance routine. Even the smallest amount of debris can damage your turf and create a hazard for athletes.

The recommended frequency for grooming varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but generally should be performed following 60 hours of use or once a month, whichever comes first. Specific brush settings depend on the type of equipment being used, but ideally the brush should barely touch the tips of the turf fibers. A brush that is set too low can damage the turf and disturb the infill. The Synthetic Turf Council’s Guidelines for Synthetic Turf Maintenance recommend that the surface be brushed in different directions, but generally in the direction of the individual panels to avoid crossing over the main seams. Just like with natural turf, high-wear areas will demand extra attention.

Redexim offers a variety of equipment specifically designed for synthetic turf maintenance, including the Verti-Top 1800 for debris removal and the Eliminator for infill removal.
Photo courtesy of Redexim North America.

Regular irrigation serves to cool the surface on hot days, stabilize infill and help remove surface debris. There are also a variety of antimicrobial, ozone and enzymatic products available that are specifically designed to disinfect synthetic turf.

Infill levels

Maintaining proper infill levels is essential to assuring the integrity of your field. In addition to keeping the turf fibers upright, infill also provides cushioning and cleat penetration to help athletes keep their footing. Low infill levels may affect surface hardness and should be monitored regularly. Infill displacement may be most evident at high-use areas, and may also accumulate at the edges of the field. Monitor infill levels often to assure your manufacturer’s recommendations are met. Extra infill material should always be available on-site to brush in as required.

Infill levels should be maintained to the manufacturer’s specifications, and extra infill should always be on-site to replenish as needed.
Photo courtesy of CushionFall Sport.

Snow and ice management

For much of the country, the winter months bring the added challenge of dealing with snow and ice. Obviously, the best way to keep snow off a field is to keep it covered, but there is always a risk that the tarp will freeze to the surface, making it difficult to remove. If snow needs to be cleared, special guidelines must be considered to protect your turf. Small amounts of snow can be left to melt and drain, but field use demands may eliminate that option. Snow removal is performed as close to game time as possible. There are a variety of blower and plow options designed to protect synthetic turf. Plow blades can also be retrofitted with rubber or plastic edges to protect turf fibers, and plow height should be adjusted to leave at least a half-inch of snow on the surface (which can be removed with a rotary brush or allowed to melt). Only vehicles with pneumatic tires should be used, never chains or studded tires. Ice melting agents can damage the surface, but urea can be effective as a broadcast application. However, the area must be rinsed thoroughly after a urea application.

Following proper procedures and manufacturer guidelines is key to maintaining the integrity of your artificial turf.
Photo courtesy of Sprinturf.

Inspect and document

Regular inspection is the key to keeping your field in great shape, and preventing damage before it happens. Establish a maintenance and use log (which is often required by a field’s warranty) so you and your crew can keep track of everything happening on the field. You should have records of all field usage (type of activity, number of participants, number of hours), as well as all maintenance performed and notes on damage or wear, which should be reported to the manufacturer immediately. With proper care, synthetic turf fields can provide years of playability.

Katie Meyers is editor of SportsField Management and can be reached at kmeyers@mooserivermedia.com.