The sting of the recession may be waning, but building owners, facility managers and housekeeping departments continue to slash spending across the board — and carpet cleaning is no exception. Vacuuming, interim maintenance, and deep cleaning extractions are being performed less often, and in some cases skipped altogether to save money.

Reducing the frequency of carpet maintenance and cleanings can have a negative impact on the life of carpeting, say distributors. But on the flipside, making the right cutbacks can help preserve carpet life. It all depends on what type of carpet cleaning program end users implement and what areas of the carpet they choose to focus on.

“Cutbacks will have a negative impact on carpet life if all you do is cut back on everything,” says John Downey, a representative of IICRC, headquartered in Vancouver, Wash., and president of Downey’s Carpet Care, Granville, Ohio. “More soil will build up, especially soil that’s tracked onto carpets because it tends to be abrasive and cause damage to the fibers.”

Downey recommends a strategic cleaning program focused on areas of the carpet that receive the bulk of the dirt.

“Too much time is spent cleaning clean carpet and not enough time is spent cleaning dirty carpet,” he says. “If you restrict the areas you focus on for deep cleaning and do that more often, you’ll stop the dirt progressing further into the building, and your cutbacks won’t have to have a negative impact.”

Furthermore, distributors warn that frequent use of harsh chemicals can shorten the life of customers’ carpets.

“Sometimes cutbacks in the amount of times you’re doing maintenance on carpets can actually help extend carpet life,” says Keith Schneringer, marketing manager for WAXIE Sanitary Supply in San Diego. “If you’re using harsh chemicals and processes on the carpet you actually wear it out faster than it would normally wear out.”

According to Schneringer, chemical residue left behind on the carpet actually attracts more dirt. This can result in a vicious cycle of more frequent cleanings that apply more chemicals to the carpet.

Targeted Cleaning

By focusing on high-traffic areas and points of entry, end users can prevent the spread of soils to other carpeted areas, thereby reducing carpet cleaning frequencies.

“You need to look at the soil that’s coming into the building from different sources and then focus on areas adjacent to that,” says Downey. “The most obvious example is building entrances. In addition to that, focus on areas immediately adjacent to hard surfaces because hard surfaces don’t hold soil but carpet does.”

For example, if a facility has VCT tile running into a carpeted area, Downey recommends paying close attention to the first five to 10 feet of carpeting to remove the bulk of the soil in the carpet.

Foodservice areas are other places in the building that should receive close attention.

“Even if the foodservice area is tile, the carpet around that area will take the brunt of the soil load,” says Downey. “So find the areas that are only 10 to 20 percent of the total carpeted space and focus on cleaning those.”

And to ensure that carpet doesn’t wear out before it’s time, don’t let end users wait for the dirt to show before they start cleaning.

“Carpet does a great job of hiding soil, so in your high-use areas you don’t want to wait until it looks dirty to start cleaning it,” says Downey. “If you wait, you probably already have damage by the time you begin the process of cleaning.”

Despite the most effective carpet care programs, carpeting will wear out sooner or later and need to be replaced. And when it does, building owners should choose the appropriate grade for the amount of foot traffic and soil that carpet will receive.

“I would recommend getting good quality carpeting that can withstand the traffic load,” says Schneringer. “As with most things in life, you get what you pay for.”  

Kassandra Kania is a freelancer based in Charlotte, N.C. She is a frequent contributor to Sanitary Maintenance.