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Let it snow, let it snow

September 19, 2010
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The north wind blows, the temperatures drop, the leaves fall to the ground, and the days grow shorter.

Ah, yes, fall is in full swing and, yes, winter is just around the corner.

Fall is the time of year that most people say they like the most. It is a time of harvest and preparation before Old Man Winter comes a-knocking and brings the snow with him.

Now is the time to start thinking about the winter slop and slurry that is tracked into your facility and how to prepare for it, especially the carpeted areas at the points of entry.

Best offense is a good defense
According to estimates by industry experts, 80 percent to 90 percent of soil in a building is tracked in from outside and it costs about $500 to remove a single pound of soil from the building.

This is never truer than when contending with winter snow and slop.

Therefore the first line of defense is to keep the soil, slop and snow out.

A good soil and snow control program should start long before you enter the facility, even before the exterior entrance mat. It should start with the parking lots and sidewalks.

Many facilities, in an effort to reduce spending, have cut back on snow removal and the use of ice melt products by replacing them with sand.

This may be good for the environment, but it increases the amount of (wet) soil tracked into the building.

Removing the snow, in a timely fashion from parking lots and sidewalks, also will reduce the amount of slop tracked into the building and help prevent slip/fall accidents.

When the snow is not removed frequently or in a timely fashion, entry mats are expected to stop the soil and slop from entering the building.

When this happens, the mats fill up faster and will need to be changed more frequently.

Failure to do so will allow unnecessary soil and slop to be tracked onto the interior carpets. This will increase the frequency of carpet cleaning; 40 percent of the typical maintenance budget is dedicated to floor care.

Surprisingly, only 20 percent of the cleanable area in a building is floor space, however it can constitute upwards of 80 percent of the cleaners’ time when done correctly.

Get the picture: Keep snow and slop out and save money.

Be flexible, react accordingly
Even with the best snow removal programs, it is inevitable that slop and snow will get into a building and onto the carpets. In these cases, you may need to alter your routine/daily carpet care.

Vacuum-cleaning wet entry mats and surrounding carpeted areas using a traditional vacuum designed for dry-soil removal may prove futile. In fact, it can actually contribute to rapid soiling and damage the vacuum cleaner.

Unfortunately, this is a mistake many custodians make without even realizing it.

As a rule of thumb, custodians do not make a habit of bending over and feeling the carpet, but they should, especially in wet weather.

To maintain these areas, use a carpet speed dryer and dry the wet carpet areas and mats before using a regular vacuum cleaner on them.

Here are some other suggestions:

  • At the beginning of the cleaning shift, set up the dryer(s) and by the time all the other custodial work is done and it is time to vacuum, those areas should be dry.
  • Another option is to vacuum those wet areas with a wet/dry vacuum or some form of carpet extractor.
  • As for the mats, it is not a bad idea to increase the frequency at which the mat rental company exchanges the mats, and/or have the rental company supply you with a few extra mats that the custodians can swap out when needed. If you own the mats, the same can be done; simply purchase a few extra mats and clean regularly.

Keeping the snow and slop out of your facility will reduce the frequency of more expensive periodic and restorative carpet cleaning procedures, help prevent odors, mold and mildew problems, and prevent slips and falls.

Bob Merkt is the owner of Merkt Educational Group and Associates (MEGA). He is an Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, Restoration Certification (IICRC)-approved instructor, an IICRC Master Textile Cleaner, IICRC FCT and SMT Technician, and chair of the IICRC Floor Care Technician (FCT) Committee. He also is a Cleaning Management Institute® (CMI)-Certified Instructor; a member of the CMI “All Star” speaking team, the International Custodial Advisors Network (ICAN), and the Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI); and past president of the Association of Wisconsin Cleaning Contractors (AWCC). He can be reached at

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