In today’s professional cleaning industry, competition has developed into an everyday concern.
The operations that survived, or even thrived, during the recent recession took the mantra of “do more with less” to heart.
Lean, intelligent operations found ways to complete tasks at a satisfactory level while working with fewer resources and lower labor costs.
Yet, as the economy and market demanded change, carpet care was one area where operational shortcomings could stick out like a sore thumb.
Every cup of coffee and every muddy shoe threatened the first impressions of visitors and occupants, and thus the reputation of a cleaning department or business.
Carpet care was a pronounced area of interest in our recent Building Service Contractor (BSC) Benchmarking Survey and In-house/Facility Manager Benchmarking survey.
Of the BSCs that responded, almost 88 percent provide restorative services and deep cleaning for carpet.
Even so, only 9.9 percent reported that carpet issues generated the most complaints from their customers.
The facility manager survey showed about 64 percent of respondents completed restorative and deep cleaning carpet tasks using staff while approximately 30 percent outsourced the responsibility.
Over 76 percent of facility managers who replied are responsible for buying carpet care equipment and chemicals, and carpeting came in as the second most problematic area or surface for facility managers who responded.
These responses all underline the massive importance of regular, effective carpet care in both sections of the JanSan market.
Facility mangers and BSCs need a care system and equipment that can successfully address three of the main carpet care concerns:
One four-step carpet care system may benefit both facility managers and contractors when it comes to addressing these common challenges.
There is little doubt that the first step, prevention, is key.
If dirt and debris can be left outside a facility or contained at building entrances, many higher-level carpet care issues can be lessened or avoided.
Here, two important steps for maintaining carpet appearance are proper matting selection and dry soil removal via vacuuming.
According to Scott Warrington, director of technical support for Interlink Supply/ Bridgepoint Systems, 80 percent of the soil in the typical office building has been tracked in from outside.
Starting outside, cleaning workers should keep areas like sidewalks and parking lots clean to assist in prevention.
Inside, having the proper length entrance matting can help stop dirt from getting into carpet to begin with, Warrington says.
Many facilities call on a 3-foot by 5-foot mat, but with this length, most people only take one step before they are off the mat.
Warrington states that this is not enough to remove soil from shoes.
Instead, 15 or 20 feet of matting forces visitors or occupants to take several steps on a mat.
Even if a person does not stop to wipe off his or her feet — which most people do not — a lot of the tracked-in soil can still be caught by proper matting.
Another important consideration in the prevention area is regular dry soil removal via vacuuming.
Soil abrasion dulls carpet fibers, so the frequent removal of dry soil is a key factor in keeping a carpet looking new.
Dry soil removal is more effective today due to updated vacuuming technology.
When using the most up-to-date vacuum offerings in a set carpet care system, it is possible to cover more area and keep up with other daily cleaning demands.
“What we see — and this is documented over and over again — is that an upright can cover 2,857 square feet per hour,” Matt Reimers, VP of sales and business development for ProTeam, explains. “In a backpack, you can cover 7,407 square feet, just generally used, and when that backpack is used in a cleaning system where you have a vacuum specialist, then it goes up to right at 10,000 square feet per hour.”
Utilizing cordless backpack vacuums, a worker can achieve 10,000 square feet per hour outside of a set cleaning system.
“So you get that additional benefit using no cord. It’s just time saved not having to plug in and unplug,” Reimers states.
Now matter how clean a carpet actually is, occupants’ eyes will always be drawn first to existing spots and spills.
Thankfully, there are different options for carpet spot removal.
Spot removal can be a general responsibility of cleaning staff, or it can be a specialized task assigned to one individual.
Warrington’s recommendation is having at least a few basic spotters available to all staff so that nightly janitorial and vacuuming workers can address carpet spots or spills immediately.
“If I prepare a basic kit to handle every situation I may be asked to come in and spot remove, I’m going to have a protein spotter in my bag,” he states.
The other five spotters Warrington listed were:
“Those are the five basic things — and you can get even more specialized than that — but I would say those five basic things ought to be in every spotting kit along with a few little tools to help provide the agitation … some cloths and a brush.”
While a protein spotter is needed for occasional spot cleaning, pre-spray treatments are similar enough to protein spotters that another option may be best if a spot is visible after thorough carpet cleaning.
Again, spot and spill removal should be a built-in part of a daily preventative maintenance system, Warrington states.
It is much easier to address a stain when it is a day or two old than when the spot has been in the carpet for a month.
A crucial part of any carpet care program is hot water extraction; this is an important method of actual soil removal.
Warrington says that hot water extraction of carpet should be scheduled occasionally depending on the facility’s and floor’s traffic load.
It can be needed as often as every three months or as little as once a year.
The challenge with hot water extraction is it can be overused from a time and cost standpoint, Warrington notes.
To avoid the overuse of extraction methods and guarantee a pleasing appearance, Warrington suggests interim maintenance steps of carpet cleaning with bonnets or counter-rotating brush machines.
These options keep the carpet appearance level at a consistently high standard yet offer a much higher production rate than typical extraction, according to Warrington.
Thus, this step provides good carpet appearance, prevents soil build up and helps keep operational costs under control.
Another carpet care idea that cleaning professionals should keep in mind is frequent inspection.
Before cleaning, a carpet should be carefully inspected to determine its condition, Warrington states.
This can help the cleaner answer some basic care questions:
Warrington suggests a close inspection, even opening up some of the tufts and fibers, to gauge what is needed.
Another important consideration is the type of flooring and padding underneath.
Knowing this information can tip staff off to certain problems, allowing them to potentially prepare for dealing with specific issues.
This step can help an operation avoid a carpet crisis.
Harkening back to chemical selection and preparation, Warrington notes that having the right product for the right task is essential.
“Too many cleaners want to do things on the cheap [using] one product that’s good for every carpet,” he explains. “A product may be acceptable to use on every kind of carpet, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best thing to use.”
A chemical that’s made particularly for olefin does not work well on wool, and something that is made particularly for wool might not work as well on nylon, Warrington says.
An operation will get the best carpet care results not by having the most powerful cleaner available, but by having the right product for the job.
In the competitive cleaning market of today, implementing a four-step carpet care system can drive results and appearance while helping operations realize savings.
Following set steps and staying on top of carpet concerns can provide positive first impressions for visitors, occupants and upper management alike.