Carpet is one the five most expensive assets of a building. Building service contractors should do all they can to help clients extend its life. This can not only reduce costs, but also enhance indoor air quality and the health of the building’s occupants.

BSCs can start taking care of the carpet before users even get to it. Placing entry mats that span the first few steps into the building can remove most of the debris before it’s even tracked in.

After that, daily vacuuming removes about 80 percent of debris in carpeting. Vacuum heavier-traffic areas daily, medium-traffic areas twice weekly, and light-traffic areas once a week including edging along walls and furniture.

Trent Keast, certified commercial carpet cleaner, certified master cleaner and co-owner of White Knight Carpet in Madison, Wis., recommends moving the vacuum in a north/south, east/west pattern to clean all sides of carpet fibers, running it in both directions with every step versus tackling the entire room in one direction, then the other.

“For a huge place, this could save about an hour of your time,” he explains.

Look for snags and buckles during daily vacuuming and fix them immediately. Clipping rogue tufts can prevent dramatic snags and even injuries and lawsuits. Visible ripples may necessitate what is referred to as a “re-stretching,” which can prevent a multitude of more serious problems.

Knowing when to call in an expert for patching, stretching or dying can equate to big savings for clients in the long run.

“I've been places where the guy put duct tape over a snag; then, you have to repair additional damage from the duct tape, which takes fibers with it,” Keast says. “It will run $75 to $120 — depending on the job — to fix it.”

Don’t let a spot sit
The fresher a spot is, the easier it is to remove. Immediately or daily is ideal, but once every week or two may be more realistic for BSCs.

It is imperative that whomever is performing this critical function be trained, patient and precise.

“You can set it and make it worse with the wrong stain, or waste your cleaning agent,” says Keast.

Ruth Travis, vice president and marketing chairman for the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) suggests BSCs elect one cleaner to be the carpet spotting specialist or carpet specialist and take ownership of the task. Individual technicians can attend courses to become a certified commercial carpet maintenance technician and learn how carpet is made and stain removal techniques.

Professional spot-removal kits are available from janitorial supply distributors, and include cleaning agents, application materials and instructions.

Home Focus’s commercial carpet Web site, hosts a spot-removal guide that suggests compounds for more than 40 different stains, and recommends cleaning staffs have homemade “Carpet First Aid Kits” on hand. Kits should contain dry cleaning solvent (perchlorethylene); detergent; ammonia compound to neutralize acid stains; vinegar (or citric acid) solution to neutralize alkaline stains; and white paper towels or absorbent cloths.

There are a number of steps to successfully remove a stain. First, determine the carpet fiber composition and the stain. When removing the spot, start with dry agents. Wetting a “dry” stain will set the stain, but wetting an area stained by a wet spill will loosen it up and aid cleaning. Pretest the cleaner in an inconspicuous area such as a closet or corner, to test for discoloration.

Apply as little agent as necessary, and blot the stain; don’t scour it. Work from the edges toward the center to prevent spreading. Repeat several times, until the stain no longer appears on carpet, or the cloth. Neutralize the stain and rinse thoroughly. Leftover detergent acts as a dirt magnet, and some agents will cause discoloration if not removed completely. Dry the area thoroughly by blotting with clean paper towels or cloths until all moisture is gone. Stubborn stains can be patched by a professional — a solution that is usually more cost effective than dying.

Clean down deep
In addition to the daily and weekly carpet-cleaning routine, BSCs should extract the carpet every 12 to 18 months to get any leftover dirt that regular vacuuming and spot removal can’t reach.

Truck-mounted carpet extractors have more suction, hotter water with pressure up to 1,500 pounds per square inch (versus about 145 psi for most portables) and can reach up to 12 stories in office buildings.

Portable carpet extractors must be used for floors over 12 stories. They work just fine says Travis — assuming the operator uses appropriate techniques. Portables can’t carry as much water, and aren’t as powerful or hot as truck equipment.

“But just do a double stroke to make up for that,” she says. “It all gets down to the operator!”

Common extraction mistakes include soaking down the carpeting too much, using the wrong chemicals, and not rinsing or drying thoroughly. Keast says many times he’s been called in to remediate trouble created by unprofessional steam cleaning jobs, including ruined pads and backings… even mold under carpeting and inside drywall.

“In carpet cleaning you get what you pay for,” says Keast. “We have a saying – they try to save a nickel and it ends up costing a quarter.”

And failure to perform proper and daily periodic maintenance is one thing that will cost more than it’s worth. From entry mats to deep cleaning, BSCs can convey to their customers their commitment to helping them protect their carpeting investment.

Lori Veit is a business writer in Madison, Wis., and a frequent contributor to Contracting Profits.