Many years ago when I was in the contract cleaning business, I mentioned to a customer that it was time for the facility’s carpets to be “steam cleaned,” as hot water extraction was referred to at that time.
The customer balked.
While the facility manager agreed the carpet was beginning to look soiled, even discolored in many areas, he insisted he had heard “steam cleaning ruins the carpet. Carpets should be cleaned as few times as possible.”
This myth was quite prevalent years ago and hopefully it is now buried away because in most cases, just the opposite is true.
Soils are abrasive.
Picture them as sandpaper or little knives rubbing and cutting carpet fibers as people walk on the carpet.
This causes the fibers to wear out faster, shortening the carpet’s lifespan.
While vacuuming can help, by itself, it is not enough.
Eventually carpets have to be cleaned, and most experts agree that the most effective way to clean carpets is with hot water extraction.
When it comes to carpet care, the idea that extraction is harmful to carpets is certainly not the only fable.
We asked Doyle Bloss, marketing manager for U.S. Products and Hydramaster, who has been involved in the professional carpet cleaning industry all his life, to respond to the following myths many end customers still hold true so we can finally put them to bed, so to speak.
Myth: Vacuuming once or twice per week is plenty in both a commercial and residential setting.
Bloss: Most floor covering manufacturers, even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), suggest that carpets should be vacuumed much more than this — as often as every day.
Not only do carpets become soiled due to foot traffic, but outside air contains many impurities, such as dust, pollen and industrial contaminants, that can find their way into carpet fibers.
Add to these human and animal hair, dander, skin and dust mites and you have quite a variety of soils to remove.
Most of this is dry soiling and the most effective way to remove it is vacuuming as frequently as possible.
In a commercial facility, this typically would be every day.
Myth: One form of carpet cleaning is as good as any other.
Bloss: While there may be some disagreement about this, I believe this is not true.
Carpets can be cleaned in many ways, such as shampoo, encapsulation, bonnet, foam, different dry methods and hot water extraction.
The problem with many of these methods is that they simply do not deep clean carpets.
They may remove surface-level soils, and in some cases they can be used for “interim” or “appearance management” carpet cleaning, for instance cleaning a busy carpeted walkway.
But, to effectively remove soils, periodic hot water extraction is necessary.
This is why many of the largest manufacturers of floor coverings not only recommend hot water extraction but may insist on it to maintain the carpet’s warranty.
Myth: When selecting a carpet cleaning technician, facility managers should go with the lowest price.
Bloss: I am not going to say high-priced carpet cleaning technicians are normally the best choice, nor will I say that the low-priced company will likely be problematic.
However, the more experienced, better trained and more professional technician will likely charge a bit more and be well worth it.
Facility managers should always view carpet cleaning as a bit of an art — learned from experience — and a science — learned from experience and in the classroom.
The more experienced and better trained a technician, the more effective he or she is likely to be.
Further, this technician has typically taken the time to evaluate the different types of carpet cleaning equipment available and selected equipment that might be a bit more expensive but offers considerably better value, effectiveness and performance.
Instead of selecting a technician based on price, I suggest selecting a technician based on his or her training and experience.
Myth: The most common type of soiling on carpets is grease (oil) from shoe bottoms as well as drink and food spills.
Bloss: While the type of soiling on carpets can vary due to a variety of factors including how the facility is used, type of facility, climate conditions, demographics (for instance very young children or very elderly people using the location) and other factors, studies dating back to the late 1990s indicate the most common soils found in carpets (usually in this order) are:
- Insoluble soil includes particles, such as clay, sand (disintegrated rock particles), quartz (mineral composed of silica), feldspar (silicate of aluminum combined with other elements), limestone (calcium carbonate), gypsum (plaster of Paris) and carbon.
- Water-soluble soils include materials that dissolve easily in water, such as sugar, starches, salts and other fluidic residues.
- Dry solvent-soluble soils include asphalt, tar, grease and animal or vegetable oils that are produced when cooking food. Oily soils often accumulate on carpet just inside entries from sidewalks, specialized work areas or parking lots (particularly asphalt or top coated areas). *
*Based on studies conducted in the late 1990s by Proctor and Gamble and DuPont and reported by Jeff Bishop, a leading carpet care expert.
Myth: The carpet floor covering and carpet cleaning industry is on the decline.
Bloss: As many cleaning contractors know, more and more facilities seem to be opting for hard-surface floor coverings instead of carpet.
But I believe this is a myth and that the professional carpet cleaning industry will stay strong for years to come.
It may have ups and downs, like any industry, but consumers and facility managers are always going to want carpeting for scores of reasons, from enhancing the beauty of a facility to making it quieter.
And, as long as carpets are installed, a professional technician will be called upon to clean them.
In fact, a 2011 study indicates that carpet sales are now on the slight increase, while the growth in many hard surface alternatives has slowed down.