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Carpet care: Taking on challenges, generating profit

September 19, 2010
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Commercial carpet care is becoming the focal point of many successful cleaning businesses.

It can be a rewarding venture, with its own set of challenges.

This article will evaluate the primary cleaning methods that are available for commercial carpets, and show you how commercial carpet care can improve your bottom line.

In the 23 years that I’ve been involved with the commercial carpet cleaning industry, I’ve seen improvements in equipment and new chemistry change the way contractors conduct business.

Cleaning innovations such as encapsulation and high-flow extraction are taking commercial carpet cleaning to a new level, alleviating problems that have plagued commercial carpet cleaners for years.

Taking on the challenge
Why is commercial carpet such a challenge to clean?

Let’s look at commercial carpet construction:

  • Commercial carpets are built with dense tufts of tightly packed fiber.
  • They are typically glued directly to the floor.
  • The construction and installation yields minimal air flow; this compromises extraction, which leads to cleaning problems.

As a typical commercial carpet gets soiled, the space between the tufts can become loaded with impacted soil, creating a significant problem because it can be nearly impossible to remove the soil buildup from the carpet backing.

These are some of the factors that pose “commercial glue down” (CGD) carpets as a challenge to maintain.

Eventually the CGD carpet will get to the point that the appearance is no longer acceptable and the cleaning professional is now called upon to perform a small miracle.

“Restore the carpet to an acceptable appearance level.” “Eliminate those recurring spill stains.” “Get the carpets to dry quickly so the building can be back into service as soon as possible.” “Correct the incessant wicking problem throughout the traffic areas.” “And, get it done for a ridiculously low price.” Sound familiar? What’s a professional contactor to do?

Popular commercial carpet cleaning methods
Consider some of the tools commonly used for commercial carpet care, as well as some innovations that have the potential to change all of our businesses.

Hot-water extraction. This is a good process for flushing water through a carpet, reducing contaminants in the fibers. We say “reduce” because no method can remove 100 percent of the contaminants from a carpet. Hot-water extraction has the potential to remove a high percentage of soil because of its flow of water through the fiber.

Another version of hot-water extraction that’s well-suited for the commercial environment is “high-flow” extraction, useful for commercial carpets because it can flush three to four gallons of water per minute through the carpet — twice as much as traditional extraction equipment.

Such an amount of water can be produced with a lightweight portable machine.

Extraction methods can produce varying inconsistencies on commercial carpets because of the CGD carpet factors described above.

If we add water to impacted soil in the backing of the carpet, we’ll end up with a lovely shade of dingy, wicked-up residue after the carpet dries. This invariably results in the famous morning-after phone call, in which your customer wants you to come out and explain why the carpet now looks worse than before you cleaned it.

Low-moisture methods. Low-moisture cleaning such as bonnet/pad, foam extraction, and dry powder methods have proven useful for commercial carpet maintenance. The low amount of water used will not normally exacerbate the accumulation of impacted soil in the backing of the carpet.

These various low-moisture methods have been used successfully for years to maintain commercial carpets; most commercial carpet installations will see some version of low-moisture cleaning during its life cycle.

The right equipment pays off
Consider the challenge of cleaning a 10,000-square-foot or larger building with a small unit you rented from the hardware store. Now consider using a large, high-performance extractor or truckmount machine to clean the same carpet.

There’s no comparison; it wouldn’t make sense to handicap yourself with less than you need to be efficient, since efficiency is what makes us profitable.

Planetary scrubbers are becoming an extremely popular option for encapsulation cleaning; with three heads scrubbing in opposing directions, these machines scrub deeply.

With a 19-inch machine, a single operator can realistically cover 2,000 to 3,000 square feet of carpet per hour on a consistent basis.

By taking advantage of the advancements in the industry, commercial carpet cleaning can move from the realm of generating problems to generating profits. New doors of opportunity are opening.

Rick Gelinas has been operating a successful commercial carpet cleaning and floor care business in St. Petersburg, FL, since 1982. He currently heads a group of companies identified as the Carpet Care Group.

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