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Carpeting — like flooring — takes a beating everyday. But unlike floors, carpets tend to do a better job at hiding dirt, which can lead to inconsistent cleaning programs. Distributors point out that it’s crucial for customers to develop good carpet maintenance habits and stick to them religiously to prolong the life of their carpets.

Sanitary Maintenance spoke with four distributors to determine what type of cleaning regimen works best for their customers and how different facilities and geographic regions can affect carpet care programs.

Carpets In Colder Climes
“In Minnesota, our winters are notorious for snow and ice,” says Steve Hanson, owner, Brainerd Lakes Cleaning and Supply, Brainerd, Minn. “When the ice melts, we put a lot of sand on the roads, and it’s a challenge to keep that soil out of the buildings.”

Hanson recommends consistent vacuuming and hot water extraction to keep carpets free from salt and soil. But the best defense against the adverse effects of winter weather, Hanson says, is a walk-off mat.

“It’s a challenge to get customers to understand that they need both an exterior and interior matting system,” Hanson says. “Usually, customers don’t want to spend more money. We try to explain that it’s going to result in overall long-term savings because you really reduce the need for carpet cleaning.”

Brainerd serves a variety of customers, including medical centers, commercial office buildings and manufacturing facilities. And while all of his customers face the challenge of keeping snow and ice out of their buildings, certain businesses face unique carpet care issues.

“Medical facilities have dialysis centers, so they have blood spills and spots to deal with,” says Hanson.

To address these types of stains, Hanson equips these facilities with a prespray sanitizer. He recommends hot water extraction twice a week in areas that are prone to soiling and once a month in the lobby area.

In manufacturing facilities, the main culprit is oil, which is easily tracked onto carpets from the production area. “We suggest hot water extraction,” says Hanson, “and for the prespray chemical, we use a pH 10 or pH 11 with a solvent booster to help break up the oils. That works very well for them.”

Hanson is in constant communication with his customers to ensure that their cleaning regimen is working for them.

“We do walk-throughs and meet with the cleaning staff to determine if we need to make any changes to the program,” he says. “If something isn’t working, we ask questions so we can understand what they’ve tried. Usually it’s a procedure that hasn’t been followed. Sometimes the customer didn’t allow enough dwell time or they’re not agitating [the carpet] enough.”

Stick To The Program
Like Brainerd Lakes Cleaning and Supply, Dalco Enterprises, New Brighton, Minn., faces the challenge of keeping its customers’ carpets clean during Minnesota winters.

“The bulk of our customer base is healthcare and education,” says Mark Miller, sales manager. “Both markets are affected by the amount of dirt and debris during the wintertime with all the salt and sand distributed on the sidewalks to prevent slipping.”

Like Hanson, Miller tries to sell his customers an adequate entry matting system to keep sand and ice melt out of their facilities.

“Beyond that, we try to convince them a carpet care program is the best way to address the issue and stay on top of it,” he says.

Miller recommends that his customers maintain their carpets the same way they would hard floors — but with different tools. “You need to vacuum often to keep the bulk of the soil and debris out of the carpet, because that’s going to do the most amount of damage,” he explains.

Miller recommends extraction as traffic warrants or as time permits. He also promotes prespraying carpets with a heavy duty prespray or traffic lane product and then running water through the extractor. “It gives the chemical more dwell time on the carpet and prevents excess amounts of it from going into the carpet,” he explains.

Miller also recommends using an extraction rinse on a regular basis to neutralize the pH of the cleaning chemicals and break down the minerals in the water following the extraction.

On a quarterly basis, Miller meets with customers to determine whether or not they’re satisfied with their carpets’ appearance.

“If something isn’t working, we have to find the root of the problem,” says Miller. “How often are they cleaning? What chemicals are they using? How are they being applied? As with floor care, it usually comes down to how often they’re cleaning and how they’re applying the chemicals.”

Miller tries to encourage customers to stick with the program. “With hard floors, if you don’t keep up with the program it’s easy to see,” he says. “With carpet, if you skip a day or two, or even a week, it’s not as evident. But eventually it will catch up with you.”

Keep It Simple
“In most facilities, carpets are the last areas that get attention,” says Fritz Gast, executive vice president, P.B. Gast & Sons, Grand Rapids, Mich. “People tend to buy a commercial grade carpet in a color that hides dirt.”

In addition to a strict vacuuming program, interim extraction should be done on a timely basis to avoid more costly, time-consuming restorative cleaning. Fortunately, technology is available that simplifies the extraction process. “It’s easy to get solution onto the carpet,” says Gast. “The challenge is sucking it back up.”

This equipment sprays the chemical onto an applicator, rather than directly onto the carpet, and uses about one-third of the amount of water normally used with extraction equipment, Gast explains.

“The beauty of it is it’s easy to do because you put less water down, it dries in 20-30 minutes, and it’s easy to use.”

The equipment supplier has also come out with a rider scrubber that uses the same technology, which is suitable for large surface areas, such as those found in airports, casinos and convention centers.

“The good news about carpet chemicals is you use high dilution rates,” says Gast. “Typically you need about two ounces per gallon of water. So if you have a 10-gallon tank on an extractor, you’re only putting in 20 ounces of product. It’s pretty cost-effective.”

Gast sees a lot of schools moving toward carpeting for safety reasons and to reduce noise levels. Grocery stores are also starting to turn to carpeting in their produce sections to help prevent slip and falls.

Regardless of facility type, the success of a carpet maintenance program depends on how dedicated the cleaning staff is.

“We try to set a schedule for [customers] and monitor it, but it’s typically up to the onsite manager to make sure it gets done,” says Gast. “If they’re on a program and stay on a program, the results will speak for themselves.”

Carpets In Warmer Regions
Even carpets in temperate Southern California are subject to the abuses presented by weather conditions and geographic location. Just ask Keith Schneringer, marketing manager, WAXIE Sanitary Supply, San Diego. The main culprit, says Schneringer, is sand.

“We see this primarily in schools located in the desert and close to the beach. The sand gets tracked into the classroom or administrative office and wreaks havoc on the carpeting. It acts like sandpaper, exacerbating the wear pattern.”

Carpets in beach-front hotels are also susceptible to wear and tear as a result of sand.

Whether it’s sand from the beach or sand applied to snow and ice to improve road safety, the solution is the same: vacuum carpets frequently and make sure you have a properly sized and placed entryway mat, says Schneringer.

For deeper cleanings, Schneringer recommends a self contained carpet extractor. The frequency of these cleanings depends on the customer, he says.

“Schools, for example, don’t necessarily have the ability to deep extract the carpets whenever they want, so they traditionally schedule it around breaks,” Schneringer explains.

Customers, like casinos, don’t close, so they need a method of extraction that doesn’t overly wet the carpet, preventing extended dry times.

“Customers are also making sure they’re conscious of the health and safety of their employees,” says Schneringer, “They also want to minimize the impact on the environment.”

To address these issues, customers invest in equipment that is ergonomic and uses less water and chemicals.

“For the most part, the customer is aware of their facility’s challenges, and it’s up to us to present options that make sense for them,” he says. “We do checkups and make sure that once a suitable solution is in place, employees are trained properly to use the equipment and chemicals.”

Kassandra Kania is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, N.C.