There’s no question that the economy is having an impact on the budgets of cleaning departments and facility managers. When end users need to cut back on carpet care costs, distributors can implement strategies that reduce the need for expensive deep-cleaning extractions.

The Power of a Vacuum

When looking to save money on carpet care, distributors agree that one area where customers can’t afford to cut back is vacuuming.

“The first line of defense for longevity of your carpet and to maintain a clean carpet is a good vacuum program,” says Belinda Jefferson, president of Hercules and Hercules Inc., in Detroit. “That’s one area where you don’t want to reduce frequencies.”

Frequent vacuuming can prolong the time between more expensive extractions, says Keith Schneringer, marketing manager for WAXIE Sanitary Supply in San Diego.

As a rule of thumb, heavy traffic areas should be vacuumed at least once a day, Jefferson says, while other areas can be vacuumed every other day.

A good vacuum program also outfits custodians with the right equipment.
“As a distributor, you need to ensure the tools you’re providing people with are as effective and efficient as possible,” says John Downey, a representative of IICRC, headquartered in Vancouver, Wash., and president of Downey’s Carpet Care, Granville, Ohio.

A vacuum cleaner with good lift and HEPA filtration is essential so that you don’t reintroduce dust to another area, says Jefferson. And a good interior and exterior matting program can also help to prevent the spread of debris.

“Customers that have made these changes have reduced their overall costs in terms of carpet care for extractions and hard surface care,” says Jefferson. “When you stop debris at the door, you’re not diminishing the integrity of the floor finishes beyond the door.”

Spot-on Spotting

In addition to vacuuming, a good spotting program can help customers prolong intervals between restorative cleanings — and as a result, cut costs.

The first rule of a good spotting program is to tend to the area as quickly as possible, says Jefferson.

“If a spot develops on the carpet, get it out immediately vs. letting it get embedded into the fibers and become a massive spot,” she says.

When it comes to implementing a successful spotting program, Downey says keep it simple: apply a general-purpose spotter and then use a tamping brush, terry cloth or microfiber towel. Downey is also starting to see the use of encapsulation-based spotting programs.

Schneringer warns customers against “going nuclear” on spots: “Sometimes people pump a bunch of chemicals in there to make the spot go away,” he says. “You want to make sure you’re getting out as much of the cleaning chemicals as possible, otherwise the spot ends up coming back.”

In addition to rinsing the spot thoroughly, customers must take care not to overwet the area.

“If you use too much chemical and too much water it sits in the backing of the carpet, and over time it wicks up in the same spot,” says Schneringer.

A Gentler Approach

To reduce the amount of expensive deep cleaning extractions that pump chemicals into the carpet, distributors advocate encapsulation.

“Encapsulation is like a vacuum program on steroids,” says Jefferson. “We encourage our customers to use it. You have to make certain the carpet is thoroughly vacuumed, then you put the encapsulation product down, and it coats the fibers of the carpet. That gives debris less of an opportunity to become embedded in the fibers, so the more you vacuum the cleaner the carpet becomes.”

In conjunction with a good vacuuming program, Jefferson says encapsulation can replace more frequent extractions.

“Some places extract every six months,” she says. “If you’re doing the encapsulations, you could probably get away with once a year at that point.”

Because encapsulation doesn’t leave behind chemical residue like the extraction process does, it can help break the resoiling cycle that often leads to more frequent cleanings, explains Schneringer, thereby saving on labor costs as well.

On every third or fourth deep cleaning, end users could substitute the hot water extraction process with encapsulation, says Downey. Encapsulation can be performed on areas that don’t receive a majority of the dirt, which is typically 80 to 90 percent of carpeting, Downey says. However, the 10 to 20 percent that receives the bulk of dirt should still be extracted.

To some extent, the frequency of encapsulation depends on the quality of the vacuuming program, say distributors.

“Essentially, encapsulation does a good job with removing spots and stains,” says Downey. “But other than that, it’s a good vacuuming system. So if you have a good vacuuming and spotting program, you can go a long time before you have to do anything other than vacuuming and spot removal in 80 to 90 percent of the building.”

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