Air Movers: A Necessity, Not an Option, for Textile Cleaning

An air mover is a portable control device that provides ventilation during cleaning and expedites the drying process when cleaning carpet and upholstery. Air movers are also used to reduce dry times in restorative drying situations.

An air mover is a portable control device that provides ventilation during cleaning and expedites the drying process when cleaning carpet and upholstery. Air movers are also used to reduce dry times in restorative drying situations.

The professional textile cleaner must be armed and ready to answer a question just about every consumer will ask: “How long will it take for my carpet to dry?”

The IICRC S100 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Carpet Cleaning provides information in Appendix A for consumers of carpet cleaning services. On pages A-3 and A-4 of the appendix is a customer service and procedure checklist. Professionals providing textile-cleaning services need to be on the same page when it comes to customer service and cleaning procedures that meet industry standards. Following the suggestions in Appendix A will guide our industry as a group to raise the consumer level of consciousness, as well as help the consumer understand the level of service they should receive from professional textile cleaners.

To refresh your memory, the following is a summary of the S100 Standard’s customer service and procedure checklist. Although the checklist does not exactly quote the S100, you’ll get the idea. Additional information based on my own professional experience is also included.
  1. Performing a carpet audit or pre-inspection prior to cleaning cannot be emphasized enough. The technician needs to explain to the customer the limitations of the type of fiber being cleaned. Technicians must use the cleaning method recommended by the manufacturer. The use of environmentally sound cleaning solutions and equipment that employs the latest technology is very important. Technicians must be IICRC-certified and trained in all methods of cleaning to obtain optimum results. A well-educated technician who truly cares about delivering a quality cleaning experience believes in certification and the importance of cleaning to industry standards will help achieve a higher level of success.
  2. Pricing for all work must be given to the client before any work begins. A service contract needs to be presented and signed by both parties so there are no misunderstandings concerning the price for the job at hand. The invoice or service contract must list the procedures to be employed, and the benefits of each procedure.
  3. Products must be biodegradable and label directions followed. It is a good idea to ask clients about sensitivities to certain products and have them approve the product and fragrance of pre-sprays before application. The products must state they are approved for residential cleaning applications for carpet and qualify the use to manufacturer specifications and said products meet stain-resistant cleaning requirements.
  4. The cleaning firm should have service guarantees in writing that cover workmanship. Any pre-existing damage or circumstances beyond the control of the cleaning technicians must be noted in the pre-inspection.
  5. Pre-vacuuming to remove dry particulate soils in addition to any unwanted matter that is foreign to the construction of the carpet and is insoluble in nature must be removed by vacuuming with HEPA-filtration technology.
  6. Furniture moving. There needs to be specific information in writing given to the client stating which type of furniture will be moved and which furniture stays in place under your standard cleaning price. Smaller items should be moved and included in the price of the job. There are exceptions. Do not attempt to move pianos, waterbeds, stereos, fish tanks, computers, antiques, file cabinets, china cabinets, delicate breakables. Textile cleaning companies are not furniture moving companies and usually do not carry specialized insurance associated with taking possession of and moving heavy expensive furniture. When furniture is moved by the technician, plastic tabs and blocks must be used under the furniture to avoid rust and varnish stains. Do not allow unprotected furniture to sit on damp carpet.
  7. Spot and stain removal. The textile professional must pay special attention when it comes to stain removal. Pre-spray must be applied and included in the price of the job. If there will be an extra charge for specialty stains that take excessive time, extra material and labor the client must be advised before the work begins concerning additional charges for stain removal.
  8. Pre-conditioning and agitation of the pre-spray into the carpet with a groomer is a key principle of soil removal and should be included on every job. If an extra charge would be applied for restorative cleaning, the client must be advised prior to beginning the work of additional charges for carpet that is heavily soiled and takes extra time, material and labor to reach acceptable results.
  9. Certified textile cleaners must make all efforts to remove as much soil from the carpet as scientifically possible without changing the texture or color of the carpet fibers. The carpet must be rinsed and neutralized to remove cleaning residues and leave fibers at a neutral to slightly acidic pH range. When cleaning stain resistant carpet leave the fiber as close to pH 7 as possible. Between 5 and 7 on the pH scale is acceptable. There are pH pens available to check the fiber pH after completion of cleaning. Litmus paper impregnated with indicator dye that changes color with pH can also be used to read pH on carpet fibers.

Pay attention, professionals, to this important part of the cleaning job for optimum results: the carpet must be dry after cleaning within a reasonable time frame. Drying will be influenced by the weather conditions in the geographical area in which you clean. Dry times will be affected by airflow, temperature and humidly at the time of cleaning, method employed to clean the carpet, soil load and amount of moisture used in the cleaning process. The customer can help expedite the drying process of carpet by ensuring continuous airflow and ventilation.

Never allow a carpet to be wet for 24 hours or longer. When longer than normal dry times are anticipated by the technician, drying equipment such as air movers and dehumidifiers will be necessary. Defining a reasonable time for carpet to dry, given various climate conditions, is not an easy proposition. Strive to keep dry times to a minimum, between 2 and 4 hours. In certain climates, dry times of 6-8 hours are more realistic.

Air movers should be used during all carpet cleaning jobs to provide adequate ventilation in addition to expediting dry times.

When performing commercial carpet-cleaning jobs, make sure the ventilation system is running during and after the cleaning process to expedite drying. Leave air movers on the job if you anticipate longer dry times.

Drying carpet will be expedited by the use of air-moving equipment. It cannot be over-emphasized that there must be sufficient airflow in the environment to dry the carpet quickly. After carpet cleaning, the air directly above the carpet holds moisture. If too much moisture is used during the cleaning process, and there is a lack of airflow in combination with high relative humidity and hotter temperatures, the air above the carpet reaches saturation and drying will not occur as rapidly as necessary.

Air movers used directly after cleaning increase the airflow above the carpet, allowing drier air from the environment to circulate around the carpet, creating greater evaporation rates. This expedites the drying process, limiting the chance of slip-and-fall accidents, carpet re-soiling and assuring the carpet after cleaning is left fresh, healthy and dry.

Certain cleaning detergents have more volatile organic compounds than others that can contribute to poor indoor air quality if not ventilated from the structure with air movers.

Airflow, along with ventilation, should be used during the entire processing or cleaning of the carpet. Wet floor signs must be used during cleaning. Aftercare instructions must be given to the client concerning drying, cautioning clients to be careful walking from damp carpet to hard surfaces; it may be slippery! The client should initial the statement on your contract concerning avoiding a slip-and-fall accident.

There are different types and configurations of air movers. Certain equipment produces more air and drying capacity, as far as air movement is concerned, than others.

Axial air movers. This air mover uses a high-velocity technology and is employed in difficult drying jobs, usually in water-damage restoration. High-velocity airflow is necessary when drying subfloors, walls, sill plates, carpet and padding. Axial fans are also used for positive or negative air displacement. They are also used to ventilate or circulate air. Restorers attach ducting to axials to deliver superior airflow into a specific location. Many axials tilt forward and back, can be used face up or down, and are stackable for easy storage. Being able to use axials in different positions is important when trying to dry high ceilings, crawl spaces or even attics.

Centrifugal air movers. This type of air mover is used by both professional textile cleaners and restoration contractors. The shape of the snout, combined with different speeds, allows you to operate the equipment in different positions to dry various areas. This type of air mover creates the high static pressure required to dry crawl spaces, walls and cabinets. Several models have a clamp system to secure carpet when drying between the carpet and padding. The clamp holds the carpet firmly to help alleviate the waving action associated with drying carpet by floating. Most units are adaptable for vents or air hoses to dry walls, insulation or underneath hardwood floors. Many are stackable for ease of storage and transportation. Certain manufacturers design their units to be daisy-chained together and use very low amperage to operate, allowing more fans for more airflow.

Newer technology to the market. One style of air mover is made specifically to dry carpet and floors, featuring patented technology that deploys a 360-degree air stream across the entire surface of the carpet or floor. This unit dries carpet very quickly.

Smaller air movers. These units generally weigh between 8-12 pounds and are great to dry furniture and help move air to control moisture levels when cleaning carpet. These air movers are also used in conjunction with other air moving equipment in restoration work. The smaller size can be advantageous in certain restorative drying situations. Textile cleaners can rely on their local distributor to help them decide which air mover is most suitable for their business.

Professional textile cleaners need to use air movers when cleaning carpet and furniture in order to provide the highest-quality work. Air movers are not only used for water and fire damage restoration. When delivering clean, fresh, healthy textiles, air movers need to be on employed on every job.

The best of the best rely on the power of education and certification combined with a high level of integrity. Education is a lifelong journey. Bob Wittkamp, rest his soul, would say you better get that carpet clean and get it dry for optimum results.

Never stop learning!

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