Carpet hallway

Maintaining a carpet’s appearance and cleanliness is an ongoing challenge for facilities and their custodial staff who must address all manner of environmental impacts — as well as contend with the daily onslaught of wear and tear from building occupants and the public. Fortunately, there is no shortage of carpet care solutions designed to make the effort quicker and more effective. Some challenges, however, do remain. 

One significant hurdle when it comes to maintaining clean carpets is a lack of time or manpower to quickly address stains and spots or to undertake regular deep cleaning. Another is the inability to border-off the carpeted area being cleaned, which can result in quick re-soiling.

“Also, most commercial buildings either have inadequate or overworn matting programs, so they have no primary line of defense to stop soil from entering the carpeted area in the first place,” adds Eric Cadell, vice president of Dutch Hollow Supplies, Belleville, Illinois. 

Bill McGarvey, director of training and sustainability for Imperial Dade, Jersey City, New Jersey, mirrors Cadell’s comments and stresses the labor-saving/time-saving advantages of proper matting programs. If cared for properly, mats can be an essential tool in carpet care programs.  

“If we can prevent carpets from becoming soiled, the cleaning process would be far easier,” says McGarvey. “One way to accomplish this is through adequate entrance matting — defined as up to 30 feet of matting, starting outside the entrance, through the entrance and into the facility. Without proper matting, the carpet becomes the matting, collecting all the soil and debris.” 

Another essential tool is the vacuum cleaner, dubbed by McGarvey as the “workhorse of carpet care.” But not just any vacuum will suffice, notes Dennis Flaherty, general manager/vice president of sales, Las Vegas division for Tahoe Supply Company, headquartered in Carson City, Nevada. Instead, he recommends vacuums rated as “Gold” by the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Seal of Approval program, which indicates superior soil removal and filtration. 

Advantageous Equipment 

Preventative maintenance — such as laying proper mats and mandating a comprehensive vacuuming schedule — can prolong the intervals between larger projects. Eventually, however, spots and stains will plague departments and treatment will be required. When that time comes, facilities can tackle trouble areas with spot cleaning. 

Because spot removal plays a major role in carpet care, Flaherty favors carpet spotters — with a caveat. Those taking an all-purpose approach may not get the job done. 

“All-purpose spotters cannot remove all spots, as they are an organic alkaline in pH and will not work on inorganic, dye-colored products like Gatorade or Monster beverages,” he explains. “Likewise, decaffeinated coffee is an inorganic spot and will not be removed. Completely treating a spot with an all-purpose chemical will only make the removal more difficult.”  

To combat this, he advises that facilities have four or more chemicals available for effective spot removal, especially for wool and wool-blended carpet fiber products. 

Bill Allen, territory manager for Fagan Sanitary Supply, West Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, says a carpet spotter kit — along with training on what solutions/chemicals are best for addressing what kinds of spots — can help custodial staffs better manage this aspect of carpet care. He also advises the use of a safety cart. 

“This is a committed, two-tier cart used to quickly respond to carpet emergencies,” explains Allen. “This could include a small extractor and additional items like the spotter kit, some sanitary supplies, a bucket, trash bags, personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves or a bloodborne pathogen kit, wet-floor signs, and so on. These tools do work best in tandem, although they also work on their own. But having all the items at the ready to address carpet problems quickly, you can’t beat that.” 

McGarvey suggests keeping spotting kits simple for two main reasons. First, kits that are too complicated can become a burden on budgets. Second, by including too many products, these kits can create confusion and lead to frustration from frontline staff to the point where the kit doesn’t get used at all. It’s important to have proper balance.  

For situations where spot treatments just won’t cut it, interim carpet care solutions are a logical choice for cleaning teams. These are techniques that clean deeper than routine daily tasks, but are far less laborious than deep extraction.  

“My personal favorite for this task is a machine with counter-rotating brushes that partners with an encapsulating carpet cleaning chemical,” says McGarvey. “Training for this machine is easy and it can be operated by almost anyone.” 

What else is handy to have? Flaherty mentions a pile lifter, calling this a “critical part” of carpet cleaning preparation, since it will remove approximately 70 percent of the dry soil prior to cleaning. And because it lifts the carpet fiber, it enables deeper penetration of chemicals into those fibers. 

Also on his list are walk-behind/ride-on extractors for both deep and interim low-moisture programs; box extractors; a deep-cleaning option (albeit one that can be somewhat labor-intensive because of the wand used for water/chemical removal); and blowers. Whether snail or downdraft, these blowers can reduce drying times, he says. 

Having the right equipment on hand can make or break carpet care programs, but there are also considerations facility cleaning managers should be mindful of with these equipment options. For example, the wand feature on box extractors (often made of stainless steel) can take a toll on users — straining their shoulders, biceps and forearms, potentially compromising the quality of the extraction. Achieving the correct balance of chemicals/solutions is also essential when using carpet cleaning machines. Failure to do so can result in quicker re-soiling, color loss and damage to the fibers’ ends, requiring replacement of the carpet before its full lifecycle has been reached.  

Finally, where the dual cylindrical brush machine is being used for encapsulation, frontline workers must be trained to close off the newly cleaned carpeting to foot traffic. This is a critical step, and the space should remain closed until the carpet is completely dry and thoroughly vacuumed to remove encapsulated crystals. 

next page of this article:
How to Preserve Carpet Quality in Facilities