Aconsistent carpet maintenance program is critical to extending the life of carpet, sustaining optimum performance and appearance levels, and maintaining a healthy indoor environment. Housekeeping managers should not wait until carpet looks dirty to schedule cleaning.

“Facilities need to commit to routine maintenance of carpet,” says Jeff Bishop, technical advisor, International Institute of Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC). “It’s a ‘pay me now or pay me later’ thing.”

Restorative or deep cleaning of carpet using hot-water extraction generally is scheduled twice to three times a year at most commercial and institutional facilities. For instance, schools usually plan for extraction during winter, spring and summer breaks because it is a disruptive process that requires proper ventilation and a dry time of 12-24 hours.

However, between scheduled extraction cleanings — especially in high-traffic buildings — carpets can get dirty. To stay on top of the job, managers should have an interim carpet-cleaning program, which will maintain carpet appearance until the next deep cleaning. Carpet equipment manufacturers have made interim cleaning easier with new systems that actually clean carpet quicker — up to 10,000 square feet per hour — and reduce drying times significantly.

Reduced moisture option
Interim or “maintenance” cleaning systems traditionally include anything from spraying and mopping over carpet to bonnet cleaning, dry foam, light shampooing with a brush or hot-water rinse, says Bishop.

Low- or minimum-moisture extraction systems are growing in popularity for many reasons. First, the systems save facilities gallons and gallons of water. Less water also means less chemicals and quicker drying times. Second, machines clean carpet with dual brushes instead of bonnet pads, which is easier on carpet fibers. Also, bonnet pads get saturated during the cleaning process and need to be replaced. Brushes do not require changing.

Bishop recently tested one manufacturer’s battery-powered soil-transfer extraction system, introduced to the cleaning industry within the last year.

“I cleaned 3,000 square feet in roughly 30 minutes,” he says. “The machine’s nylon fiber rollers are sprayed with a very dilute detergent. The rollers move at a rate of 400 rpm, wiping the carpet like a bonnet, but this system vacuums the dirt off the roller.” Dry time, with the help of air movers, was about 20 minutes.

One drawback: This particular machine is large and heavy and not easily moved from building to building. Some manufacturers offer minimum-moisture extraction tools that attach to portable and truckmount extractors.

Low-moisture systems that use less detergent than traditional hot-water extraction systems are safer for users and occupants. The cleaning solution dries to a crystallized residue that is removed by vacuuming.

Commercial-grade carpet has a low-level loop pile — that means when carpet is cleaned with a minimum-moisture system, the soil that isn’t extracted wicks to the surface over time. With daily vacuuming, dirt that wicks to the surface is removed.

“Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum!” Bishop says. “Daily vacuuming with quality equipment including a good filter is of critical importance.”

Carpet also should be thoroughly vacuumed before cleaning. In addition, cleaning staff must precondition spots and high-traffic areas in order to get the best results.

With reduced-moisture extraction systems designed to clean up to 10,000 square feet per hour, combined with quick dry times, cleaning managers will be able to open busy areas for traffic sooner. Cleaning workers also will have more time to give to other areas that need cleaning.

“I believe, if you use the system correctly, you can actually extend the need for deep or restorative cleaning,” Bishop says.

Pay attention
The IICRC recommends deep cleaning three times a year and interim cleaning two to three times between deep extraction.

The more attention carpet gets, the better. Regularly cleaned carpet not only looks clean, but it keeps building occupants healthier and extends the life of the carpet.