When putting together comprehensive carpet-care plans, housekeeping professionals should keep in mind some non-traditional sources of information. Surprising outlets include many organization catering to contract-cleaning companies. One such group that has a wealth of knowledge to tap into is the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), a non-profit organization formed to monitor standards and education programs in the cleaning industry.

In the interest of covering all aspects of the floor-care field, IICRC is owned by a variety of industry associations. Among the organizations represented are carpet care or floor covering associations and institutes from England, Australia, Canada, Japan and a variety of U.S. organizations. The IICRC also works closely with all members of the carpet care industry, from suppliers to customers.

This organization has developed various cleaning, restoration and inspection certifications that could benefit in-house cleaning technicians. In addition, IICRC continuously updates a set of standards to dictate such work. For instance, the "IICRC S100 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Carpet Cleaning" was revised this year.

The proper way to clean
The standard is a compilation of information gathered by a variety of sources, including: cleaning professionals; chemical and equipment manufacturers; carpet manufacturers; regional, national and international trade associations; industry training schools; and other experts in the carpet care field. The standard discusses a range of things from the importance of routine cleaning frequencies between project work to the specific role of vacuuming in the retention of carpet appearance.

Also available is information regarding how a carpeting’s color, style, construction and use all dictate the specific cleaning methods workers should use. The latest version of S100 also contains a section regarding how to combine cleaning methods to achieve a desired result unattainable through a single method.

One limitation of the standard is that, in keeping with IICRC’s goal to define proper use of various methods, it does not identify one best method, chemical or piece of equipment. So technicians or managers referring to the standard still have to evaluate their individual circumstances to determine the most appropriate way to clean a given area.

Education and certification
IICRC does not provide actual courses or training in the areas it specifies, but certifies individual trainers and schools to conduct training that meet its strict standards.

The certifications IICRC has developed for carpet care professionals include: commercial carpet maintenance, color repair, applied structural drying, repair and reinstallation, water, smoke and fire restoration, senior carpet inspector, and health and safety, The organization also offers additional hard floor and upholstery related designations.

Cleaning personnel who have IICRC certifications in any of these areas must take continuing education courses to maintain their designation. The cost to take a certification test in one of the available categories is $30 - $40, with continuing credits costing between $30 and $80.

While in-house operations can’t be members of the organization or receive overall certification as cleaning companies can, individual employees are eligible for the various cleaning certifications available. Thus, a housekeeping operation can have certified carpet-care technicians or inspectors on staff to ensure quality service.

In-house operations also can purchase various manuals and standards IICRC publishes.

In-depth studies
Because of its affiliation with scores of industry groups and the group’s mission to constantly stay on top of the latest floor care issues, IICRC often does case studies in the field. One such study, done with the Building Service Contractor’s Association International and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, tested the effectiveness of routine cleaning frequencies in increasing indoor environmental quality. The study’s findings still prove useful today for organizations charged with proving their contribution toward better indoor environments for building occupants.

The groups chose a 40,000- square-foot building housing office, daycare and medical laboratory facilities. They purposely chose a building that seemed to meet occupant satisfaction to determine what level of contaminants might exist without people noticing.

Study participants first documented routine cleaning procedures for four months, to determine existing levels of airborne particulates, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other biologicals present in a building. Airborn dust was at an average of 11.9 microns per square meter, total VOCs were at 324 microns per square meter, total bacteria was at 395 colony-forming units per square meter and total fungi was at 127 colony forming unites per square meter.

Next, they cleaned the entire building more thoroughly, including work done to walls, furniture, light fixtures floors and windows. The group also made HVAC cleaning, grounds care and entry matting updates they found necessary.

For another seven months the participants used new equipment and what the IICRC agreed to be an “improved” cleaning program. The focus of the changes was on increased particulate removal rather than maintaining appearance alone. Monitoring during this time proved that soil removal techniques and fundamental environmental management principles reduced airborne particles by 52 percent, total VOCs by 49 percent, bacteria by 40 percent and fungi by 61 percent for a more healthy indoor environment.

To find out more about such studies conducted by the IICRC or standards it has developed, contact the organization at its Vancouver, Wash., headquarters (360) 693-5675 or visit its Web site.