The biggest buzzword in the cleaning industry for many years has been efficiency. Budget cutbacks have left fewer workers doing more work with fewer resources, and that often means carpets are not being cleaned at the frequencies they should. Facility managers looking for creative solutions are investing in new combination equipment that tackle multiple carpet cleaning tasks.

Traditionally, carpet care is a two-step process (interim and restorative care), each requiring its own machine. New technology, however, is consolidating that process by allowing both agitation and extraction with one piece of equipment.

“The idea of combination machines appeals to the desire to simplify,” says Keith Schneringer, director of channel marketing and sustainability for Waxie Sanitary Supply in San Diego.

Interim cleaning is a surface treatment with a focus on quick dry times. It usually involves laying down a minimal amount of water and chemicals, agitating the carpet fibers and letting the surface dry. A newer form of interim cleaning, encapsulation, uses minimal water and a special crystal, which encapsulates soil particles with little to no agitation. The captured dirt can then be removed through routine vacuuming.

Restorative care, on the other hand, is a deeper process of extracting trapped soil from the carpet, typically by saturating the carpet with water and then pulling the water back up with suction.

Frequencies for each type of cleaning depend on the type of carpet, its location, and exposure to foot traffic and outside elements. Interim cleaning is designed to keep up a carpet’s appearance between restorative cleanings, but many facilities rely heavily on extraction.

In some cases, limited resources may cause a custodial manager to reduce interim maintenance care between scheduled deep cleanings. In others, there may be room in the budget for only one piece of equipment, which is likely an extractor. In these situations, janitors often “make due” with the tools they have and manually adjust the machine to release less water for interim cleaning. In essence, new combo machines automate this process, allowing users to flip a switch to adjust how much water is laid on the carpet.

“This makes it easier for the operator, which helps save time,” Schneringer says. “Manufacturers saw that this as how their product was being used out in the field, and they are answering the market need by creating equipment that can do interim and deep carpet extraction more easily.”

Automated equipment can be a smart choice for facilities with high turnover rates and inexperienced cleaning staffs.

“Folks may not want their operators to be making choices about interim and restorative care,” Schneringer says. “They want to give them the equipment that is only used one way.”

Other combo interim-restorative machines incorporate encapsulation, perfect for facilities that have grown accustomed to using this type of technology for routine cleaning.

“Being able to utilize that technology with these dual-purpose machines is cool,” Schneringer says. “Encapsulation does a great job of cleaning and gets a carpet drier, faster.”

Another type of combination equipment for carpet care is the orbital machine, which can clean both carpeted and hard-surface floors. There are several types of orbital machines but, in general, this multipurpose equipment can provide interim carpet care through encapsulation, as well as strip and scrub hard floors such as ceramic, stone, wood and grout.

“As a facility manger, it makes sense because you get more bang for your buck,” Schneringer says. “Instead of buying a carpet cleaning machine and a scrubber, I can buy one machine that does both.”

There are several benefits to using orbital machines on carpet. It’s safe and easy to use, so it requires less training than other equipment. They also clean well, allow carpets to dry quickly and are fairly portable. The biggest downside to orbital machines is they do not extract. While they work well on regular particles, they are not an option for areas that have heavy soil.

“You may use an orbital machine 95 percent of the time, but you need a hot-water extractor for certain challenges, like when the toilet overflows or a colostomy bag breaks,” says Craig Jasper, an approved instructor in commercial carpet maintenance by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC).

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Simplifies Cleaning Processes Using Carpet Equipment