The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) is revising its “Standard Reference Guide for Professional Carpet Cleaning of Textile Floor Covering (S100).” In addition to updating information on carpet cleaning, IICRC is for the first time including an appendix on green cleaning.

IICRC approaches green based on existing definitions and adds its expertise to define what green means for carpet cleaning professionals. As such, it defines green cleaning of carpets as “effective cleaning comprised of an environmentally responsible application of methods and systems. It is achieved by integrating cleaning products and equipment, policies, operational procedures, methods or systems intended to minimize harmful impacts on human health and the environment, while maximizing the sustainability of the built environment.”

Green cleaning of carpets begins with ensuring that carpets are cleaned properly and the resulting wastes are disposed of in an appropriate manner. In addition, green carpet care strives for the use of products, equipment and methods that would extend the life of the carpet itself. Prolonging carpet life has huge impacts on the materials used for manufacturing carpets, as well as recycling or disposing of old carpet. Green practices also further reduce the consumption of energy, water and chemicals, as well as extend the life of vacuum cleaners, extractors, fans and other equipment used in the carpet cleaning system.

Finally, the carpet cleaner must understand that green customers are not willing to sacrifice cleanliness, health protection, warranty protection, cost, product performance, protection of the indoor environment from the development of mold and other contaminants, and other traditional performance and business requirements. Rather, these issues continue to be the basic requirements and green cleaning is an added emphasis to further reduce negative impacts on human health and the environment.

Development of a system for green cleaning

The appendix to S100 states that “a cleaning system is the implementation of principles, procedures and methods used to achieve a desired level of cleaning.” In developing a system for green cleaning of carpets, the cleaning professional must take into consideration the trade-offs of each system. Responsible application of authenticated methods and systems are intended to minimize harmful environmental impact and maximize sustainability of the built environment. However, improperly trained personnel and incorrect cleaning methods could adversely affect the indoor environment.

The IICRC recommendations for green carpet cleaning include:

  1. Determine expectations of the customer. Then a system of cleaning can be implemented that reduces soil load in the most effective holistic manner. A green cleaning system must begin with soil prevention through strategic placement of properly sized mats accompanied by effective soil management of outdoor walkways and parking lots.
  2. Institute routine vacuuming or dust mopping. Spot cleaning should follow appropriate procedures to reduce chemical usage and minimize the appearance of spots and stains.
  3. Use interim maintenance systems and methods to manage the appearance of the carpeting. These methods are typically more productive and less intense than restorative methods, thus using less energy, water, chemicals and other resources. Additionally, these methods typically result in less waste being created which lowers the impact on the environment. Incorporating interim maintenance into an overall program allows the time between restorative cleanings to be extended, thus cutting down on recovery waste, labor, water and energy usage.
  4. When needed, use restorative maintenance, which may be incorporated to remove maximum soil and contaminants from the carpet.

This document is a major step forward in our efforts to further green carpet care and will be very valuable for contractors. Additional information on S100 is available from the IICRC.

Stephen Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group and executive director of the Green Cleaning Network.