Carpet/Rug/Upholstery Cleaning

Troubleshooting Olefin Carpet Cleaning

February 4, 2013
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“Jessika, I just picked-up a new account: A 350-unit apartment complex with olefin carpets. I have only been cleaning for about six months - can you give me any advice on how to clean these carpets? Anything, please!” - Briggs Commercial Cleaning, Las Vegas, NV

We all know how important it is to capture (and keep!) commercial accounts in these days of high-market competition. Understanding and fulfilling your clients’ needs and expectations is imperative in order to maintain good client relations… and your profit margin!

Mr. Briggs poses an excellent question, and after communicating with him via e-mail and phone, we determined some important factors that will help him not only get great results in his carpet cleaning efforts, but also help keep the property management team satisfied with his services.

The management team was replacing its previous carpet cleaner due to several factors that it shared with Mr. Briggs:

Complaint No. 1: “The cleaners never showed up on time.”

There is not much advice I can give about the first complaint, as we all know the importance of professionalism and arriving on time.

Complaint No. 2: “If the carpets looked clean, it was only for a matter of days, and then the dirt would return.”

After performing several tests on the carpet fiber, it was determined that the carpets in question were indeed olefin (sometimes referred to as polypropylene) fiber, as evidenced by one of the tests, the float test. Along with the heavy soiling, we also noticed that there was excessive solvent residue in the carpet samples. Through testing, it was confirmed that this was due to citrus-based solvent residues.

Olefin fibers are oleophilic – they attract oil-based soils. When cleaning olefin carpets, a citrus-based solvent booster should always be added into your diluted pre-spray. This will help break down persistent oily soils so that they can be extracted by your detergent extraction pass. However, adding too much citrus-based solvent booster, and not properly rinsing it out with a professionally-formulated detergent will leave an invisible sticky residue that will re-soil rapidly.

Complaint No. 3: “Sometimes the cleaners would clean the carpet 2-3 times, but the carpets would never look clean!”

There are some olefin carpets that tend to build static electricity, and soils will literally attach to the fiber through a magnetic bond. There are specific olefin pre-spray cleaning agents that are formulated with a special chemistry - amphoteric surfactants - to help alleviate this issue. Personally, I prefer the high pH olefin pre-spray products, as then you have the benefits of the amphoteric surfactants as well as the pH working in your favor. When boosted with a quality citrus-based solvent, you can achieve unbeatable cleaning results on these tricky olefin carpets!

Complaint No. 4: “Drink stains would return as soon as the cleaners left.”

Olefin fiber is hydrophobic. Water-based stains will drop down to the bottom of the carpet and be absorbed into the carpet padding (cushion). If not thoroughly flushed with a sub-extraction tool, then these soils can wick to the surface during the drying process, causing a “re-ocurring” soiling issue, or a spot that reappears while the carpet is drying.

Complaint No. 5: “The carpets look ‘flat’ in the high-use areas.”

Permanent crush issues are very common in walk ways, pivot points, high traffic areas and where heavy furniture has been placed on the carpet for an extended time. This is due to olefin’s low resiliency, its inability to fluff back up after it has been repetitively trodden upon or crushed. This is an issue that can rarely be cured by standard cleaning measures. Olefin’s low resiliency issues should always be communicated to the client prior to cleaning services.

So, my advice to Mr. Briggs? Properly pre-qualify cleaning and product performance issues with your client before performing services. Let them know what to expect. Pre-vacuum to avoid any wicking issues, use the hot water extraction method with a specialty formulated olefin pre-spray, boosted with a citrus-based solvent, extract with a quality detergent, and add extra dry strokes to quickly dry the carpet, again trying to head-off any re-occurring soils or wicking issues.

Fortunately, all of the complaints and cleaning issues were rectified by fully understanding the carpet fiber characteristics, proper cleaning methods necessary, the latest technology in cleaning chemistry and proper communication with the client. When I last spoke to Mr. Briggs he mentioned, “The property management team was so happy with cleaning results that I just acquired another 200-unit complex!”

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