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Carpet Care

Selecting The Right Carpet Maintenance Program

July 29, 2011
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When it comes to selecting the right carpet maintenance program for your facility, customization is the key to success.

No two buildings are exactly the same, so a maintenance plan should be mapped out according to the facility’s needs.

Certain factors, such as foot traffic and type of facility, will determine what sort of program you will need.

For example, an airport with heavy traffic would have different needs than a small business with average activity.

It is also important to know the goals and expectations for the performance of the carpet.

By instituting a regular, customized routine, you can reap several benefits: Extended lifespan of the carpet, greater indoor air quality, better appearance and increased productivity and morale.

In a study conducted by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), “physical workplace” was the third ranked factor in deciding to accept or leave a job — compensation and benefits were the first and second factors, respectively.

Additionally, in the same study, results showed that “cleanliness” was the number one desired characteristic of the physical workplace.

Lay It On The Line

Whether you decide to keep carpet maintenance in-house, contract out the service or use a combination of the two, it is important to start with the overall goals and expectations.

The following questions should be asked internally or by the maintenance provider:

  • What are the expectations for the cleanliness of the carpet?
  • What is the life expectancy of the carpet?
  • What is the budget of the facility or company?

The ultimate goal is to optimize the appearance of the carpet while keeping the service affordable.

Once those questions are answered, the next step is to determine the level of cleaning that is needed to do the job.

This can be done by analyzing the amount of foot traffic in each area and/or floor, and looking at the physical layout and blueprints of the facility will help determine the flow of traffic.

One resource to help classify the level of traffic in your facility is the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB).

Its guideline under the standard of Carpet for Commercial Use (CAN/CGSB 4.129-93) is as follows: Less than 500 steps per day equals low; 500-1,000 steps per day equals medium; and 1,000 or more steps per day equals high.

Once the level of foot traffic is determined, a customized plan can be created.

Depending on goals and budget, the frequency of preventative cleanings could range from weekly or semi-monthly in a high-traffic building to bi-monthly or quarterly in a medium-frequency to low-frequency environment.

When it comes to budget, a regular maintenance plan might not be as expensive as expected.

For around $50 per employee a year, you can provide an adequate carpet maintenance program.

This is taken from the following equation: An average of 200 square feet per employee times an average of $.10 to clean per square foot times 2.5 cleanings per year equals $50 per employee.

Regular Soil Removal

While having regularly scheduled maintenance will help prolong the lifespan of the carpet, the most critical element of keeping carpet clean is regular vacuuming.

According to the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), approximately 79 percent of the soil in carpet is dry.

Using a quality vacuum with a beater bar/brush can remove the majority of the dry soil.

Without vacuuming on a regular basis, it will be very hard to maintain.

Use this rule of thumb for vacuuming frequency: High traffic, every day; medium traffic, two to three times a week; and low traffic, one to two times a week.

To find a quality vacuum cleaner, check out the Carpet and Rug Institute’s (CRI) list of approved vacuum cleaners on its website at www.Carpet-Rug.org.

To be an approved vacuum, the product must meet the following three criteria: Soil removal, dust containment and carpet fiber retention.

Also, remember to use barrier mats at entrances to trap the soil at the door, therefore reducing the amount of soil tracked onto the carpet.

Although vacuuming is the biggest part of proper maintenance, it is also critical to conduct deep cleanings periodically to remove any damaging soil that remains.

Because not all soil is dry, deep cleanings are needed to remove greasy, oily soils.

To achieve this type of cleaning, there are five main methods from which to select:

  1. Dry compound
  2. Dry foam
  3. Hot water extraction
  4. Rotary shampoo
  5. Spin bonnet.

Before choosing one over the other, there are some factors to consider.

For example, dry methods may be recommended over high-moisture methods because they typically use less water and energy, as well as leave the carpet dry, which prohibits the growth of mold.

For facilities that prefer to use sustainable methods of cleaning, a dry option is a good way to go.

For hard-to-remove dirt, however, hot water extraction may be needed to clean the area.

Keep in mind, though, that continued use of detergents with hot water extraction can lead to residue buildup that may result in resoiling issues.

Dry carpet cleaning is less abrasive because the compound is sprinkled onto or worked into carpet to attract and absorb dirt and stains.

The compound or polymer absorbs the dislodged soil and then is vacuumed away, leaving virtually no residue and allowing for immediate access to the cleaned space.

You Can’t Always Do It Alone

If you are looking to contract out carpet maintenance service, there are several things you should look for in a provider.

If you manage multiple buildings or locations, then you want to be sure that the provider has a network that can meet those needs.

It is also important to find a firm that is IICRC-certified.

Additionally, choose a provider who does extensive background checks on their employees.

A trustworthy provider will employ only those who have no criminal record, a valid driver’s license and can pass random drug screenings.

For more questions to ask your provider, visit the CRI website.

To locate an IICRC-certified firm, visit www.CertifiedCleaners.org/Locator.shtml.

After a program is put into place, it is important to revisit the plan every year.

It is not uncommon that a facility may grow and have additional foot traffic.

If you keep the same maintenance program but increase the wear and tear on the floor surface, the carpet will no longer meet the facility’s appearance and cleanliness goals.

It could also be true that the facility has downsized and can temporarily reduce the frequency of maintenance.

Either way, the plan should be revisited every year to ensure that goals will be consistently met.

Overall, selecting the right carpet maintenance program comes down to customization.

Use resources like the CRI and the IICRC to help find the right provider and/or equipment.

By knowing your options and the questions to ask before putting a program into place, you will maximize the lifespan of your carpet and your overall investment.


As technical director for MilliCare, Stephen Lewis is responsible for training and educating the franchise network, reinforcing proper maintenance procedures and managing new product development. He has been in the industry for over 22 years and with MilliCare since it was formally established in 1996. Currently, Lewis is an active member of the CRI and serves on the Carpet Maintenance Committee. He is certified by the Floor Covering Institute of Technical Services (FCITS) as a senior carpet inspector. Through the IICRC, Lewis is a Master Textile Cleaner and Approved Instructor. Lewis can be reached at Stephen.Lewis@MilliCare.com.

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