Nothing looks better than a new carpet. Building service contractors have their work cut out for them when it comes to keeping carpet looking new. But when cleaning carpets, chemicals often remain in the fibers, leading to faster resoiling.

To help BSCs in the new year, Contracting Profits recently talked to several leading carpet-care manufacturers to find out what’s new and best for carpet care.

Results include productivity, performance, serviceability and safety. Four trends manufacturers must pay close attention to when they design and manufacture their carpet care machinery, says William Koeppel, director of corporate education for Minuteman International, Addison, Ill.

“Machines should be as productive as possible to help reduce total labor costs and must perform to the highest ability and according to the rules of the Carpet and Rug Institute,” Koeppel says. “By building in excellent service characteristics, including daily maintenance and preventive maintenance, the total cost of ownership to end-users is as low as possible. Design features must also include safety. Machines must be safe for operators to use and safe for anyone nearby as the machines are used. Ergonomics should figure into how the machines are operated, how they maneuver, how they are emptied.”

The two p’s Productivity and performance are the keys to good carpet-care equipment for both manufacturers and BSCs, says Chris Keene, equipment category manager for Betco Corp., Toledo, Ohio.

“Today everyone is driven to doing more with less; you have to figure out how to do that without sacrificing performance,” he says. “How to get a better clean by improving some of the procedures we use. How to use less moisture in the process. How to help BSCs get their jobs done more efficiently. Manufacturers and BSCs are developing ways to accelerate cleaning and drying times to get carpets back in service quicker for their customers.”

Low moisture methods to clean carpets are definitely growing more desirable, says Jeff Fystrom, senior product manager for soft-floor products for Tennant Co., Minneapolis.

“No one wants his or her carpets to be wet after cleaning because the drying time needed requires the area be closed. This is especially a problem for facilities that are open extended hours,” says Fystrom.

Kevin Mory, vice president of product development for NSS Enterprises in Toledo, agrees that there’s much focus today cleaning carpets by getting in and out of carpeted areas as quickly as possible.

“A lot of that stems from the fact that more retailers and other places of business are open for longer hours,” he says.

“BSCs need to get in, finish their job, and get on to the next job. But they need to do a good, productive job. Some low moisture methods require sprinkling a compound down on the carpet, rubbing it in and then vacuuming it out. Multiple steps like this make a cleaning process very unproductive,” adds Fystrom.

To help combat shrinking cleaning times, more portable machines with more power, better cleaning abilities, and recycling technology are becoming available on the market, says Bill Hughes, marketing manager for Powr-Flite Corp., Fort Worth, Texas.

For example, some carpet-cleaning machines feature low-moisture technology that reduces dry time to less than 30 minutes. Also, some extractors can now clean up to 8,000 square feet in one hour without stopping to refill.

And, carpet extractors are a vital tool to maximize the life and looks of any carpet.

“The more use a carpet receives, the more important extracting becomes — and the more often extracting is needed,” says Mory.

Safety The ergonomic trend, started a few years ago, will continue in 2005, says Keith Willey, market manager for Clarke Industries, Springdale, Ark., and Shawn Wright, the company’s product marketing manager.

“We continue to make strides in making our machines user friendly,” they say. “Our industry is the fourth leading industry in the nation in preventing ergonomic workplace injuries, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Injuries are very costly. You may be paying fewer dollars to clean, but if employees are unable to work because of injuries, it can become very expensive.”

Another trend Willey and Wright are seeing is an increasing awareness of the environmental impact of the exhaust of carpet extraction machinery.

“More attention will be paid to reducing the exhaust by filtering. We see that in vacuum cleaners today, but that will extend to extraction equipment, too,” they say.

The Future Manufacturers are even looking to the stars for help in cleaner carpets. NASA, along with KeyMaster Technologies of Kennewick, Wa., recently developed X-Ray Fluorescent (XRF) technology.

XRF measures soil levels in space vehicles so they can understand what types of particulates they send into space, says Fystrom. But for the cleaning professionals, the device can show how much soil and debris is in a carpet — something the industry has never seen before.

“There have been numerous methods to determine how well a product cleans, but never anything this scientific. This should help us better understand how good products work,” says Fystrom.

XRF technology is being embraced by both manufacturers and the Carpet and Rug Institute to benchmark performance.

These are only a few of the trends affecting carpet care this year, but embracing them will give BSCs a good start to making that old carpet look new again.

Jordan Fox is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer.

The First Line of Defense To Good Carpet, Is a Good System
Conducting a good and consistent carpet-care program can just about double the life of carpeting and keep it looking its best. The first step: vacuuming.

“When carpet is installed, daily vacuuming is critical. A high productive vacuum with exceptional air flow and filtration will remove fine particles such as sand and dry dirt that are contributing factors to premature wear of the carpet fibers,” says William D. Fisher, president, Pacific Floor Care Co., Muskegon, Mich.

But, vacuuming is only the beginning. Carpets will need a scheduled maintenance program that will include spot cleaning, interim cleaning systems and high flow restoration methods, says Fisher.

During spot cleaning, it is important to completely flush the residue out of the spot, says Fisher.

“Using a carpet brush along with a ready to use spotting chemical will enable you to effectively remove the spot from the carpet fiber. It is also equally important to flush the residue from the spot to eliminate wicking,” he adds.

When it comes time for interim cleaning, building service contractors often use floor machines to bonnet or tip/surface clean carpets, says Fisher. Many carpet mills do not endorse this process because the weight of the machine and its rotary action tends to distort carpet fibers.

“These machines clean the surface fibers quickly and provide a clean appearance. However, there are still soils and stains that are below the surface that still need to be addressed,” he says. “In our industry there is another interim cleaning methodology that is gaining popularity — an encapsulation system with low moisture crystallization...Chemical encapsulation is low moisture and allows carpets to be usable within minutes rather than hours with traditional water extraction methodologies.”

The last line of defense is carpet extraction, also referred to as restorative cleaning. High water flow with exceptional recovery is becoming the preferred choice and endorsed by carpet mills. It is also very important that end users have proper air movement/ventilation when using high-flow extraction to prevent mold, says Fisher.