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Carpet Care

Keep it clean — all the time

September 19, 2010
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The time to clean commercial carpet is before it looks soiled… the problem is that not many cleaning programs follow that rule.

And when the decision is made to clean the carpet, restorative effort must be used to bring the carpet back into an acceptable appearance.

This typically ends in using a truckmount or high-powered portable carpet cleaning system, with high temperatures, strong chemicals and a tired, exhausted technician at the end of the work shift.

Interim encapsulation cleaning programs utilizing low moisture agitation and crystallization methods are becoming more and more popular as an effective way to ensure commercial carpet always looks good.

It also makes scheduled restorative extraction cleaning much easier and less aggressive.

Traditional cleaning
Before implementing any cleaning program, cleaning managers must understand and believe in the reason for change.

According to the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification S100 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Carpet Cleaning, there are five approved methods of carpet cleaning. They are:

  • Absorbent compound
  • Bonnet (pad)
  • Dry foam
  • Shampoo
  • Hot water extraction

This by no means limits other methods that professionals may use, or the combination of methods.

After all, this is the era of innovation, so expect huge changes in the future of cleaning.

This is where a low moisture encapsulation system comes in. Don’t be surprised if it is eventually added to the above list as a “mainstream” cleaning method.

The technology
Every carpet should be regularly vacuumed. Everyone agrees. However, a vacuum cannot remove oily soils, or even dry soils, once they adhere to oily soils on the carpet fibers.

Encapsulation chemicals utilize detergency just like the typical chemicals that you use right now.

The main difference is in the crystal polymers found in encapsulation chemicals, which takes the oily soils and makes them dry (in a crystal polymer structure) so that ordinary dry vacuuming can remove them.

These polymers in this detergent mixture are like the “second wave” in an army attack.

After the detergents have done their work — attacking, separating soils from fibers, etc, with proper agitation — the crystallizing polymers surround or encapsulate the detergent in solution and the soils that are now suspended.

After the encapsulant is added and worked into the carpet, the carpet looks clean.

Imagine the benefits for huge facilities or airports, areas where truckmounts can’t be used and portables are not practical.

Each time the carpet is vacuumed, it gets cleaner because more soils inside the crystal polymers are vacuumed away.

Fast dry times?
Encapsulation technology shortens dry times after cleaning the carpet.

The reason is that when encap polymers are in solution, the surfactants bond with them instead of with the water, allowing the water better evaporation and shorter dry times.

Shorter drying time, especially with commercial carpet cleaning, is vital as you want to get the carpet back into use as soon as possible.

Negative points
The main drawback for encapsulation cleaning has to do with heavy grease loads or chemical residues left behind from years of improper cleaning. But remember: Low moisture encapsulation is an interim maintenance system, not deep restorative like wet extraction.

Keep in mind that low moisture encapsulation is not based on the premise of removing the highest volume of soil. It is designed to keep the vacuum working at its best until restorative extraction is performed.

Incidentally, this method has been accepted by every major carpet mill, and several have written it into their care manuals.

Carpet mills want the same thing we all do — a high appearance level throughout the entire life of the carpet.

With low moisture encapsulation, you can keep it clean — all the time — and enjoy an easy-to-use system.

The cost?
Reports indicate tremendous savings in labor costs — the most expensive part of running a carpet cleaning business or managing a facility.

As far as production rates, count on approximately 2,500 square feet of carpet cleaned per hour (depending on agitation method used and obstacles to work around).

The square feet you can clean per hour will greatly increase (some estimates note 10,000 square feet and more per hour) with large, unobstructed areas.

At the same time, with increased productivity, your cleaning cost per square foot will decline.

However, prove it for yourself. You have to do your own math, with your own production team and cleaning procedure.

Jeff Cross is the senior editor of Cleanfax magazine ( and creator of Totally Booked University (, a workshop for carpet cleaning marketing, disaster restoration marketing and contract cleaning marketing systems. Contact him at

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