Carpet/Rug/Upholstery Cleaning

Game Plan: A Detailed Exploration

February 10, 2012
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The purpose of the “Game Plan” is to explore in detail the technical or mechanical process of cleaning carpet.



The purpose of the “Game Plan” is to explore in detail the technical or mechanical process of cleaning carpet. This process involves following the steps set forth in S100, the Standard and Reference Guide for Carpet Cleaning as set forth by The Clean Trust (formerly the IICRC).

Previous discussions centered on the first step, the removal of dry soil. Removing the maximum amount of dry soil greatly influences the ease of removal of the fluid soil, that is, the soil that remains after vacuuming. Technicians who are CCT certified and companies who are Certified Firms are ethically, if not morally, obligated to adhere to S100. As a Clean Trust certification instructor, it is a point of emphasis in my classes.  It is tantamount to the “Rules of the Game.”

Step 2 in the cleaning process involves soil suspension; it is the suspending of the above mentioned fluid soil. The fluid soil is a combination of the oil and water based soil that remains after the dry soil is removed. It is this soil that the second step in the cleaning process addresses.

S100 states that there are four components of Step 2. Those components are: Temperature, Agitation, Chemistry, and Time. The acronym TACT (or CHAT) reminds us of all four parts. Another way of describing the Step 2 process is: “Pre-spray, Agitation, and Dwell Time.” 

Ideally we would use all four components equally to suspend the fluid soil, but from a practical point of view, each is usually used according to our ability to facilitate it. This step is started with the application of a pre-conditioning agent. This agent is the “chemical” part of TACT.

One question I get a lot is, “Why are there so many pre-sprays?” This can indeed be a little confusing. A supplier should be able to answer the question, but let’s discuss a few of the possibilities.

For wool, the answer is simple. Always use a product that is certified Wool Safe. For the synthetics, the first consideration might be pH. Newer generation residential nylon carpet requires a pH no higher than 10 to avoid a warranty issue. Commercial nylon, olefin, and the polyesters do not have such a requirement, thus allowing the use of higher pH pre-sprays, if needed.

The use of a pre-spray generally will be the highest amount of chemistry we use in the cleaning process. Most pre-sprays have dilution ratios ranging from 10:1 to 32:1. The concentrated product is a combination of several ingredients designed to loosen and suspend water based soils as well as oil based soils. “Traditional” chemistry is a combination of surfactants, builders (relating to pH), and co-solvents. Unless a pre-spray has a specific “Green” certification, it will most likely be a “traditional” product.

Traditional chemistry pre-sprays are the backbone of the step 2 process. This is still the majority of pre-sprays used today, although “green” products are making an increasing dent in that category. Another class of popular pre-sprays is the “enzyme” category. Enzymes are effective in helping to break down difficult protein-based soil found in areas where food is present. These include restaurants, cafeterias, break rooms, etc. One point to remember when using enzyme pre-sprays is that they require a longer dwell time. Protein soil does not break down very quickly.

Many cleaners like to use one pre-spray for all situations and be done with it. But customizing your pre-spray to the situation at hand makes far more sense. For instance, using a pre-spray designed for residential nylon might not be very effective on a highly soiled commercial olefin.  Next month: maximizing the effectiveness of Step 2.




Time Out: Tech Issue

In previous discussions, we’ve been looking at “reappearing spots.” One of the more common ones is a coffee spill. Depending on one’s definition, this could be described as a coffee “spot” or a coffee “stain”. Regardless, we discussed several possibilities of removing such.

Another category to consider is reappearing soil of a general nature. This occurs when an area is cleaned and soil reappears in a large area, usually the high use areas. The scenario I hear of most often is a synthetic commercial carpet directly glued to a concrete slab.

A case in point: I was asked to inspect a carpet in a video store in a Texas city. The store had about 5000 square feet of carpet as described above. The parking lot outside was asphalt. The carpet had not been cleaned in three years. A cleaner with a truckmount was contracted to clean the carpet. He was called back to re-clean the entrance and traffic areas, about 1,000 square feet, due to reappearing soil (remember the 80/20 rule).  He was called back a third time for the same reason.

A second company was then called to clean the traffic areas. After the same result, a third company was called to again clean the traffic areas.  All three companies had expensive equipment but apparently no clue as to why the traffic areas kept reappearing.

The simple solution is to just clean the surface of the carpet where the soil has reappeared, using one of the industry recognized low moisture methods. All three companies kept suspending oily soil in the carpet backing and on the surface of the slab, but were not able to rinse it out. Another case of not removing fully suspended soil.

 

Coaching Tip

“Inspect what you Expect.” this was one of my most effective management tools. In other words, don’t assume anything.

 

Bulletin Board Material

“After you retire, there is only one big event left….and I ain’t ready for that”- Legendary FSU football coach Bobby Bowden 

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