floor equipment with spinning floor pad used to clean carpeting

This low-moisture method proves to be a viable alternative to regular hot water extraction

For many facilities, maintaining and restoring carpets can be a costly, time-consuming commitment. To lessen the financial burden and boost outcomes, a growing number of departments are incorporating encapsulation into their carpet care regimens — either as an interim method or, in some instances, as a replacement for deep cleanings.

According to Mickey Crowe, trainer and consultant for CleenTech Consulting Group in Woodstock, Georgia, encapsulation is typically a much faster, easier process than hot water extraction, thereby increasing productivity and reducing labor costs.

“Encapsulation chemicals encapsulate and crystallize the soils that are attached to the carpet fibers, causing them to release from the fibers and clump together,” explains 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 sq. ft. or more an hour with encapsulation, compared to approximately 600 sq. ft. 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.”

Stain Spotting

Encapsulation not only cleans carpets more quickly and easily than hot water extraction, but experts comment that it keeps them cleaner for longer periods of time, allowing facilities to prolong the time between deep cleanings.

“If you’re using a good [encapsulating] detergent, it will actually resist soil, whereas normal carpet detergents are going to be sticky and attract soil,” says Rick Gelinas, owner of Excellent Supply, St. Petersburg, Florida.

For this reason, encapsulation is also used to address wicking problems following hot water extraction.

“When you hot-water extract, a lot of times you’re paying for the sins of the previous cleaners,” notes Bill Yeadon, senior instructor at Jon-Don, Roselle, Illinois. “What that means is whatever residue is left in the carpet following extraction is going to wick up with the water that’s left behind. So, what some people do after they’ve extracted is use an encapsulation product to crystallize soil particles, making it easier to remove them by vacuuming.”

Because encapsulation counteracts wicking problems, it also excels as an interim spot removal method.

“Today, most commercial office buildings use carpet tiles, which are very dense and have a vinyl backing that restricts airflow,” says Yeadon. “This makes it difficult to remove spots and spills using hot water extraction.”

He adds that encapsulation is a great option for cleaning up after spills.

“This is particularly true in 24-hour facilities — like call centers, where people are chained to their desks and are surrounded by spills — where hot water extraction would be too noisy,” Yeadon concludes.

In scenarios such as this, the custodian applies the encapsulation chemical directly to the spot or stain with a spray bottle, allowing it to surround and trap the soil. He or she then brushes the soil off the surface and removes it when the carpet is next vacuumed.

In addition to using encapsulation to target spots and spills, Crowe recommends using it as part of a routine carpet maintenance program for high-traffic areas.

“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.”

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Sustainable Advantages To Encapsulation