Cleaning 101 taught us that the first step to caring for carpets is daily vacuuming. Vacuuming removes more than 80 percent of the loose dirt, improves carpets appearance, and extends the overall life of the carpet. In addition to vacuuming, deep extraction cleaning must also be performed periodically to remove stubborn or embedded soil.

According to the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), carpet fibers are designed to hide soil and reflect light. Fiber technology also has the ability to resist soiling and stains. It is important for cleaners to remember that the lack of apparent soiling does not eliminate the necessity of regular cleaning.

Varieties of extraction
CRI recommends that carpets be dry- or wet-extraction cleaned regularly, but frequency will depend on the type of facility and flooring. Although there are a number of effective methods of extraction cleaning, users are advised to follow manufacturer recommendations regarding what method is best suited for their specific flooring. Options include:

• Dry Extraction Cleaning: With this method of extraction, an absorbent compound saturated with detergents and solvents is brushed in and around the carpet fibers. The compound attaches to the soil particles, and both the soil and compound are then removed by vacuuming.
• Dry Foam Extraction Cleaning: With this method, users apply a detergent, whipped into a foam, to the carpet. The foam is worked into the carpet and followed by wet vacuuming.
• Hot Water Extraction Cleaning, often called Steam Cleaning: When steam cleaning, areas of heavy use are preconditioned to pull out ground-in soil, then a pressurized cleaning solution is injected into the pile. Suspended soil and solution are then immediately extracted.

What cleaners are using
The type of cleaning methodology that is most ideal for your facility will depend on the demands within the building. Brandon Baswell, assistant manager of building services at Michigan State University, found that the self-contained extractors were most beneficial to his program.

“We found that our workers were more efficient when they had access to these extractors, because of their versatility,” he says.

Dennis Owens, director of environmental services at Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, prefers the box extractors because of their ability to clean tight areas. He adds that the walk-behind machines would be more efficient, but this was a good first step in building an arsenal of carpet care products.

When considering carpet extractors, industry experts recommend you first evaluate the demands within your facility. One expert comments that larger areas and high-traffic entryways tend to collect and track a greater amount of soil into the building. Staying ahead of this type of problem will weigh heavily on labor. To reduce labor hours, experts recommend using a larger extractor, which will accomplish the task quicker.

Another timesaving feature is the shift toward battery-powered extractors. Although these machines are only an option when you get into the larger extractors, their benefits are noticeable.

“Safety and efficiency are the top concerns within our facility,” says Owens. “Not having cords, which are a trip-and-fall hazard, is a big bonus. It is also ideal to be able to travel and not have to stop and look for the next place to plug in.”

Looking to purchase
Before purchasing a carpet extractor, users are advised to do some research. Experts recommend that users first take a hard look at the supplier and what kind of product offerings they have available. Also consider vendor support. Users want a company that offers local service, on-site installation and stands behind their products. These are machines that need to be maintained and it is important to have access to a service center that is helpful and reliable.

From a cost standpoint, it is best to work with a company in the area that represents a quality manufacturer of carpet cleaning equipment, chemicals, vacuums, and other types of products that may be required to maintain the carpet. Experts comment that these multiple purchases will often keep costs down.

One expert adds, “You cannot manage what you cannot measure.” In other words, know your facilities square footage, types of carpets and the work necessary to keep them clean. Assessing your facility will help determine the standards of clean, as well as what types of equipment will best achieve those standards.

When it is time to purchase a machine, look for one that will increase productivity, performance and ease of operation. Also consider operational safety for workers, as well as customers in the vicinity of the machine.

Carpet Trends
Trends in carpeting can also affect purchasing decisions. As new trends emerge, housekeeping professionals will be forced to adjust.

“I am seeing more and more carpet tiles being used,” says Baswell. “I was initially worried about its quality and adhesion, but we have had good luck with the tiles.”

Carpet tiles are designed in a way that they are easily replaced if damaged or stained. Although some manufacturers recommend dry extraction cleaning on the carpet tiles, Baswell opted to continue his existing cleaning regimen with little to no problem.

“The carpet squares really aren’t that different than traditional carpet,” he says. “Occasionally, the corners will pull up, but that is the worst of it. I wouldn’t bonnet clean when you have carpet tiles either. I would be afraid it would catch a corner and pull up the entire tile.”

Owens is seeing a reduction in carpeting all together in the hospital setting. “I think it is because carpet has been identified as an infection control problem because it is more difficult to keep clean than hard floors,” he says. “Hospitals are also monitoring indoor air quality and what chemicals are being used on the carpets, which is less of an issue with other types of flooring.”

The future of extractors
End-users are always looking for a machine that works better, saves time and increases efficiencies. Even though manufacturers have made progress in terms of product innovations, users hope that future machines will do more to meet their needs.

Due to limited funding, Baswell is forced to move extractors from one building to another. With his current extractor, that is a challenging task.

“I think manufacturers should consider how these extractors are going to be moved,” he says. “Where am I going to hold it when I move it into the back of my car? They should make it more versatile and more portable for one person to lift.”

Baswell adds that one of the more interesting advancements he has seen in recent years is the introduction of the high-flow machines. “It is a bit awkward to set up and use, but in terms of quality, I thought it was a great concept for flushing out the carpet,” he says.

Owens loves the idea of battery-powered machines, but wishes for more versatility. “It would be ideal to have one piece of equipment that would travel from hard floor to carpeting so you don’t have to change equipment when moving over various types of flooring,” he says.

Experts insist that a solution is not far off. Various extractors already come equipped with attachments that allow users to move from one type of flooring to another, and users will soon see a movement towards multi-purpose machines.

Also on the horizon is the possibility of more close-corner cleaning machines. Experts found that labor time is eaten up in smaller areas that large equipment can’t access. This advancement would allow workers to get smaller areas done in less time.

Moisture control is also becoming a big issue. Many facilities don’t have the luxury of shutting down a section of the building to let carpets dry. In these situations, dry cleaning systems are beneficial because they improve drying times.

Manufacturers are constantly working on product innovations to meet the demands of the end-user. In the future, expect to see machines that are more productive, faster, easier to operate and maintain, and designs that are simple – more intuitive.