How to Restore Your Floors

A step-by-step guide to carpet restoration

As the science of cleaning continues to evolve, better products, systems, and solutions are available to professional cleaners for maintaining carpet. Even so, a carefully-built maintenance program is of utmost importance to effectively remove unwanted matter from the carpet and properly dispose of it.

The design of a carpet maintenance program will help achieve the following goals for a facility’s floor:

  • Reaching an acceptable appearance level
  • Maintaining the colors
  • Contributing to a healthier environment.

Interim vs. Restorative Cleaning

In a previous article, I discussed interim cleaning. Interim cleaning processes should be used to maintain the carpet’s high level of appearance, color, and uniformity. These cleaning methods generally use high production and less moisture, have fast drying times, and occur in high-traffic areas.

Interim cleaning frequency will depend on the amount of traffic, the type of soiling, and levels of soiling. Interim cleaning processes will include the use of counter-rotating brushes, which will enhance the overall appearance of the carpet.

Restorative cleaning processes utilize rinsing or deep-cleaning extraction to remove embedded soils and oils from the carpet. It can also remove any residues or cleaning chemical residues that may have been left behind. It will intensely work to lift the carpet pile and restore the pile using heat and agitation.

Creating a Restorative Cleaning Schedule

The location, carpet traffic, and the effectiveness of the maintenance program will help to determine your restorative cleaning schedule. Below are some tips for creating one:

  1. Inspect the facility for the flow of traffic patterns, looking for heavy-use and high-soil areas, such as main lobbies, elevator lobbies, main hallways, lunch rooms, break areas, freight elevators, coffee stations, and offices.
  2. Determine the traffic flow to assist in breaking down the traffic areas into high-, medium-, and low-traffic ratings. These ratings then can be used with the floor plan to color code the program for scheduling and evaluation.
  3. Develop a customized floor plan with the information from the inspection and the designation of the traffic ratings. Measure the high-, medium-, and low-traffic areas and color code the floor plan with the traffic ratings.
  4. Use the traffic ratings to determine your cleaning frequencies in various areas of the facility.
  5. Consider other factors, such as types of soiling (for example, tracked-in soil versus food and drink spills), weather, the type of facility or business, number of building occupants, etc.

Remember: Each facility’s program is different and should be customized for the facility depending on visibility, usage, budget, and specification of the flooring and products you are using.

Four Steps to Restoring Carpet

The following are steps for restorative cleaning that follow the recommendations of the ANSI/IICRC S100 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Cleaning of Textile Floor Coverings:

  1. Vacuum the carpet. Proper vacuuming is the first step to every successful cleaning process. More time should be taken to vacuum entry areas and concentrated traffic areas. Pre-vacuuming removes a large percentage of loose soils from the carpet.
  2. Precondition the carpet. Preconditioning the carpet fibers prior to treatment has proven to be one of the most important steps in the restorative cleaning process, and adequate time should be allowed to properly apply this step. This will help to suspend soils and oils in the carpet, so that you can fully remove contaminates during hot water extraction.

    The cleaning technician will have to evaluate the soil levels in the carpet to determine which products to use. Using an electric, battery-operated, or inline sprayer will allow for a consistent, even spray and increase production time. The preconditioner should only be sprayed on as much of the carpet as the technician can clean, allowing for recommended dwell time and removal. Do not precondition more carpet than the technician plans to treat, and do not let the product dry before removing it.

  3. Agitate the carpet. Agitation can help to maximize soil suspension in high-traffic areas and allow the preconditioner to surround the fiber, allowing it to work more efficiently. A dual counter-rotating brush machine or hand brush can be used for this process.
  4. Use hot water extraction. Hot water extraction will dissolve and dislodge ground-in soils and oils and extract them back to a holding tank so they can be properly disposed. This method uses high-pressurized water and powerful vacuum suction to clean the carpet. The carpet should be left without a residue and dried properly to enhance the overall appearance.
  5. Allow the carpet to dry. If your facility’s carpet is a cut-pile product, it should be properly groomed following the cleaning process and before it is allowed to dry. Drying the carpet is very important and making sure the building mechanical system (air flow) is left on overnight for maximum drying is critical for drying. In some situations, air movers may be used to speed-dry the traffic areas.
  6. Inspect the area. Prior to completing the cleaning process, the technician should inspect the carpet for any spots that have wicked up and can easily be removed. Note any problems you observed with the carpet to communicate to the property owner.

Production Efficiency Tips

In most cases, the cleaning process starts from the furthest point from entry and moves back toward the entry point. Using a two-man crew can increase production when it comes to moving furniture, hose and power cord management, managing water filling and disposal, spot cleaning, and managing slip-and-fall safety.

There are many types of units available for professionally extracting the carpet. In many situations, the best choice for large high-rise commercial job would be a high-performance portable hot-water extraction unit. Using an automatic fill-and-dump feature for water management will increase the performance of how much carpet you can clean. Additionally, having a unit that will allow vacuum and solution hoses to be 75 to 100 feet long also can increase production possibilities. It is recommend that the system use heated water in the process as it accelerates the cleaning results and reduces water usage.

There are also many tools available for cleaning of the carpet using hot water extraction. The scrub wand does a very good job but can be labor intensive. There are many newer tools on the market for large commercial jobs including drag tools, rotary extraction tools, and electric mechanical tools.

Achieve Your Goal for Clean

A good carpet maintenance program includes both interim (dry cleaning) and restorative (wet) cleaning. Using a well-designed commercial carpet maintenance program will extend the life of the carpet, realize the goal of maintaining its original appearance, and keep the indoor environment healthy for your staff and visitors.

Posted On April 26, 2017

Larry Cooper

Managing Partner for Meetings and Events, LLC

Larry Cooper founded Textile Consultants, Inc. in 1975. He is the managing partner for Meetings and Events, LLC, which produces The Experience Convention and Trade Shows ( for the cleaning and restoration industries. Cooper teaches classes and workshops on commercial carpet maintenance programs and works with companies to develop on-site carpet maintenance programs.


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