Close up of a person cleaning carpet with a vacuum

In many commercial offices, schools and other facilities, the effort to maintain and restore carpets can be a costly, time-consuming task. To lessen the burden and boost outcomes for their customers, a growing number of building service contractors are incorporating encapsulation into their carpet care programs as an interim method to prolong deep cleanings with extractors.

Encapsulation is typically a much faster, easier process than hot water extraction, thereby increasing productivity and reducing labor costs, says Charles “Mickey” Crowe, trainer and consultant for CLEEnTech Consulting Group in Woodstock, Georgia. 

“Encapsulation chemicals encapsulate and crystallize the soils that are attached to the carpet fibers, causing them to release from the fibers and clump together,” says Crowe. “When the product dries, you vacuum up the crystals, and in the process, you vacuum up the soil.”

Lonnie McDonald, president of the Low Moisture Carpet Cleaners Association in Grandview, Michigan, estimates production rates of 2,000 square feet or more an hour with encapsulation, compared to approximately 600 square feet an hour with hot water extraction. 

“To say it has revolutionized cleaning over the last two decades would be an understatement,” says McDonald. “There’s less labor involved, so the cost per square foot is really low. Also, low moisture systems are easier to maneuver, so there’s less wear and tear on the custodian.”

Knowing where to encapsulate or how often depends on the type of facility and carpeting, as well as traffic levels. Many industry experts agree that when encapsulation is used as an interim carpet cleaning method, it can extend the time between hot water extractions.

“In a really busy building, you may do encapsulation on a bi-monthly or quarterly basis, and then do hot water extraction toward the end of the year,” says Bill Yeadon, senior instructor at Jon-Don, Roselle, Illinois. 

MSNW, a building service contractor based in Ferndale, Washington, has incorporated encapsulation cleaning into its carpet care program to keep carpets looking great in-between extractions. 

“An annual or bi-annual extraction with encapsulation in between extractions saves a lot of money and time,” says Nathan Smith, special services manager at MSNW.

High-traffic areas — such as entryways, lobbies and center of corridors — especially need interim carpet cleaning in-between extractions. 

“You have about 80 percent of wear and tear and soil on about 20 percent of your carpet,” says Crowe. So, you want to identify that 20 percent and then focus on increasing spotting, vacuuming and encapsulating in those areas.” 

To help determine if a carpet needs encapsulation or hot water extraction, give it a thorough evaluation. 

“Get down on your hands and knees in traffic areas, pry apart the carpet and shine a light on the backing,” says Rick Gelinas, owner of Excellent Supply, St. Petersburg, Florida. “If you keep it well maintained, you should see the white bottom of the carpet. If it’s grey or discolored, you have a problem on your hands. You have a lot of soil down there and you need hot water extraction.”


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