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Carpet Care

Carpet Cleaning: An Overview

September 19, 2010
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There are at least a dozen ingredients affecting any carpet care operation. The following is a review of a few of them.


Since the appearance of the carpet reflects on your competence, emphasize preventative care.

Educate the user to avoid food and drink spills and stress the importance of avoiding toner, ink, bleach, chewing gum, rust and cigarettes on carpet and furniture.

Also, note the importance of having adequate entry matting in place.

Spot Removal

Four critical mistakes that are made in carpet spotting include: Oversaturation, over-aggression, lack of rinsing and the absence of a complete spotting system.

There are few spills that respond to flooding. Instead, light amounts of cleaning agent normally work best.

Repeated scrubbing without corresponding results such as absorbency into a towel or removal of the stain indicates another chemical approach will be required.

Too often, a high-sudsing spotter is applied and then not properly flushed out to remove soil-attracting residue.

Finally, the absence of a complete spotting system to address most of the common spills is widespread.

Interim Versus Restorative Cleaning

Years ago, I was introduced to gray scale testing for visually evaluating changes in color of textiles that was used to observe how white your laundry would turn out.

A pure white cloth sample would be washed with different detergents to see if the test patch would darken.

Over the years, I have adapted and taught that approach to identify levels of soiling on a carpet.

By assigning a degree or shade of soil darkening, comparisons can be made.

For example, a one-degree darker shade of soiling may only require interim maintenance or low-moisture cleaning.

After repeated low-moisture attempts, the next cycle may progress to a two- or three-shade darker soiling, at which point a restorative hot water extraction technique may be necessary.

Don''t be misled by cleaning supply claims that one method is all that is required.

Without a periodic or annual deep flushing of the carpet, residue will accumulate and, eventually, you must remove excess soil and chemical residue.

Minor increments in shading may indicate a low-moisture process will be adequate and will result in labor savings and faster drying times.

However, after repeated low-moisture cleanings, the soiled shading will eventually darken which, in turn, will justify the wet extraction cleaning.

Chemicals And Equipment

Real-world applications can adapt some of the laboratory testing protocol used by the Carpet Research Institute.

You can duplicate some of their guidelines to identify chemical and equipment performance.

Here are some parameters you can simulate in your building:

  • Drying time comparisons will identify extraction efficiency

  • Long-term observations can track re-soiling rates

  • Side-by-side comparisons for equipment and chemicals can identify which particular machine or cleaning solution produces superior results.

Cleaning Has Limits

Years ago, I was demonstrating a particular spot removal product that I had developed.

The custodial manager quickly took me to a restroom carpet where someone had spilled bowl cleaner containing hydrochloric acid on the carpet.

The acid had literally eaten a hole in the carpet and the manager was serious in thinking my spot remover would grow new carpet.

Don''t assume ownership of areas of the carpet that have been damaged.

Crushing, fading, matting, sprouting, wear, differential expansion or wrinkles and color loss are all beyond your ability to correct with cleaning.

Make a commitment to the carpet you clean and remember that ignoring soil will not cause it to go away.

The International Custodial Advisors Network Inc. (ICAN) is a non-profit association comprised of industry consultants with a wide range of expertise in building management, indoor environmental and service disciplines. This network provides free janitorial and building maintenance consultation service to the industry through the Cleaning Management Institute®.

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