Suppliers share their answers to common carpet care questions
To the casual observer, carpet cleaning appears to be relatively simple. But professionals realize that proper carpet care is an intricate process. When a carpet has become unsightly due to spots, stains and ground-in soil, it is important to have knowledgeable, well-trained employees who know how to clean effectively step in to do the job.

But distributors, who often provide training for BSC employees, have observed a variety of carpet-cleaning mistakes — everything from improper cleaning techniques, to equipment misuse, to failure to implement a regular maintenance schedule.

“In every single aspect of the carpet cleaning procedure, I can identify common mistakes,” says Linda Silverman, vice president of sales and marketing for Maintex, a distributor in City of Industry, Calif. “From daily vacuuming to daily spotting to regularly scheduled deep cleaning, carpet cleaning is an ongoing process that requires daily attention.”

Treat spots immediately
Some hospital and nursing home employees make a common mistake, observes David Sikes, president of Sikes Paper and Supply Co., Atlanta: If a substance is spilled on the carpet during the night shift, they allow the spot to set overnight while waiting for the cleaning staff to arrive in the morning.

“In order to treat spots effectively, you must treat it in the first couple of minutes after it happens,” he said. “The longer the spot sits, the more difficult it is to remove.”

Make sure that you discuss with your customers how to handle spills during the day or when cleaning crews may not be around. While you want quick attention, you also don’t want tenants using your supplies on their own, or trying to use unknown chemicals to treat spots.

Use equipment properly
Equipment misuse, such as using machines at the wrong speed, improperly adjusted brushes, vacuuming without full suction because the vacuum’s bag is full, not using floor fans to dry carpet properly or even using bonnet-type cleaning chemicals in floor extractors, is something Gary Mach, vice president of Consolidated Maintenance Supply, Washington, sees up close.

“By cutting corners, or not taking enough time to do the job properly, poor cleaning results,” he explains.
Equipment also needs to be properly cared for after use. An extreme example? Mike McCuen of Basic Maintenance, Philadelphia, observed thousands of dollars’ worth of cleaning equipment, left outdoors all night to freeze.

Use the proper chemicals
The science of carpet cleaning has advanced in the past decade, and new specialized cleaning chemicals are available, which are formulated for use with specific types of spots. However, an employee who applies the wrong chemical can cause discoloration, or even permanent damage, to the carpet’s fibers.

Also, avoid employees’ home remedies. Some cleaning workers may think they have a better solution to remove a stain, but if they start mixing chemicals, or introducing unknown solutions without material safety data sheets, they could create safety concerns as well as damaging carpet.

More is not necessarily better
“The biggest mistake I observe is overwetting because too much cleaning chemical is applied,” Silverman reports. “Employees think more is better, but in a lot of instances more is not better, because using too much chemical attracts dirt and has a resoiling effect.”

“Browning” is carpet discoloration caused by using excess chemical or failing to rinse the chemical properly.

“I advise employees to put plain water in an extractor, and then look at the water that is sucked from the carpet,” Mach says. “If the water is full of suds and chemical residue, I know the problem is chemical build-up. If you stop using chemicals and just use plain water in a carpet extractor to rinse the carpet, it can be rejuvenated.”

Another cause of browning is repeated bonnet cleaning, a process in which some sprays detergent directly on the carpet and a rotary floor machine, using a shag pad, removes detergent and surface soil.

“However, if you constantly perform bonnet cleaning without periodically extracting the cleaning chemicals with a floor extractor, you can get chemical residue and resoiling,” Silverman explains.
Adopt a regular cleaning schedule
Silverman identifies three distinct carpet care processes: Preventative (vacuuming, sweeping, and spotting); interim (bonnet cleaning); and restorative (extraction). Overlooking any of these components is problematic, because all three are necessary for a regular cleaning schedule.

Lynne Knobloch is a business writer based in Mishawaka, Ind.