Carpet is a comforting floor surface; it makes a space feel more welcoming, can complement the décor, add to the ambiance, assist in sound deadening and will help improve the indoor air quality (IAQ).
This is, of course, contingent on the notion that the carpet was properly installed and that it is being adequately cared for on a continual basis. I liken carpet care to preventative maintenance on your vehicle — specifically, the motor.
The oil filter is helping to remove particulates from motor oil any time the vehicle is running.
This is how carpet functions — trapping otherwise airborne contaminants until they can be removed.
An oil change every several thousand miles will flush particulates from the motor and allow the filter to continue doing its job.
Sure, it is common practice to replace the oil filter each time the oil is changed, and carpet remains installed for several years, but the parallel still exists: Carpet will act as a filter for the indoor air, but only as long as it does not become overloaded with soil and rendered unable to filter contaminants.
"All indoor spaces contain contaminates like dust and dirt," says Fritz Rench, chief executive officer (CEO) of Racine Industries Inc. "Research confirms that hard floors make it much easier for these particulates to redistribute into the indoor air where carpet acts like a filter, securing the particulates."
At a certain point, a deep flush of the motor is recommended; this is the equivalent of a hot water extraction.
While the timing of the practices may not be exact with one another, I drive the point home for one reason: If you take care of your belongings through proper preventative maintenance, you will increase their longevity and, ultimately, save money.
With carpet, daily vacuuming of high-traffic areas and the entrance matting is recommended — possibly more depending on your location and cleanliness standards.
In less traveled areas, a skip cleaning approach of vacuuming twice or three times a week will suffice and is often an option cash-strapped operations choose.
If you remove dry particulate soils from carpets frequently and thoroughly, less intensive cleaning will be necessary.
Something to note: Vacuums are the workhorses of many end users, especially those in the hospitality industry.
Because of this, a machine that is comfortable to use for extended periods is crucial.
"A consideration is to simply notice how you feel after vacuuming," says Jolynn Kennedy, marketing manager for Tornado Industries Inc. "If your hand, arm or shoulder hurts, that could be a sign that a more ergonomically designed machine is needed."
When You Need More Power
Even the best daily and weekly carpet care regimens will not remove all soils, especially those that are greasy or ground-in.
Eventually, you will have to enlist an interim process such as encapsulation to help remove soils.
"Encapsulation is a dry cleaning process that is easily done and often a less expensive solution compared to alternatives," notes Stephen Lewis, technical director for MilliCare. "Encapsulation has been labeled by the industry as a good interim solution. Most carpet manufacturers recommend supplementing the encapsulation cleaning process with hot water extraction at specific frequencies."
The well-established hot water extraction process should be performed, at the very least, yearly to completely return carpet fibers to their unsoiled state.
According to Mark Baxter, an engineer with U.S. Products, it is fairly well documented that carpets, because they act like a filter and absorb dust and other impurities, actually help protect IAQ.
"But, we also know they do this most effectively if they are properly maintained and kept clean, which usually requires the use of hot water carpet extractors," says Baxter.
Some in-house operations do not have the capital to invest in a portable extractor — something that might not be used often enough to justify the expense — or the more powerful truckmount version utilized by professional carpet cleaners.
Because of this, deep cleanings with a truckmount hot water extractor are often contracted out.
Upon a recent trip to attend a trade show hosted at a casino, I noticed the custodial staff utilizing box extractors along with a stack of microfiber cloths and a chemical solution to remove spots in the carpet.
I asked one of the individuals how often they perform carpet spotting, and his response was, "We never stop."
He was right: Any time I walked through the gaming floor or any other area of the complex, I noticed staffs performing carpet spotting.
Carpet spotting is a wonderful way to keep carpets looking clean when wide-area deep cleanings are not necessary and when replacing the entire carpet is not in the cards.
It is important to ensure that all of the cleaning chemical and as much moisture as physically possible is removed from the carpet during spotting.
Any residual chemical will cause rapid resoiling, and moisture could lead to odor problems or issues with soils wicking to the surface.
Residuals in the carpet can also cause damage to the fibers, not to mention the possible off-gassing in the form of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that could, over time and depending on one''s susceptibility, be a health hazard to end users and building occupants.
"Be mindful of sustainable certifications and safety considerations," cautions Roger McFadden, vice president and senior scientist for Staples Advantage. "Frequent exposure to harsh chemicals, through application or accumulation in the carpet fibers, can be harmful to people as well as the environment. Be sure to avoid toxic chemicals that are persistent, bioaccumulate or are toxic to human and environmental health. An easy way to determine if a cleaner is safer for the environment is to look for credible, independent third-party certifications from science-based organizations like Green Seal Inc. and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency''s (EPA) Design for the Environment (DfE) program."
Carpet Care Online Seminar
In conclusion, it is rather difficult to provide a general overview of carpet care — what do I say that hasn''t already been said or that you don''t already know?
A separate article could be written about each aspect touched upon herein but, short of that, we will be tackling the topic of carpet care in some detail on Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 2 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). If you have any carpet care expertise to share with the Cleaning & Maintenance Management community, contact me.
In addition, if there was something you were hoping to have read in this article but didn''t, drop me a note and we will work to include some content catered towards your knowledge needs in the July 26 Carpet Care Online Seminar.