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Cleaning The Carpet Mills’ Way

July 22, 2003
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According to a recent ICS Cleaning Specialist market study, the annual median expenditure by cleaning professionals for carpet-cleaning chemicals is $4,750, with 26 percent of respondents spending $10,000 or more each year.

With an abundance of offerings available, the number of choices can create a chemical blur. How can a cleaning professional cut through the carpet-cleaning chemical clutter and be confident in his chemical and equipment cleaning choices? One way is to turn to the carpet mills and seek their cleaning and maintenance advice. After all, it is their product that is at stake.

Pay Attention to Prevention
Carpet manufacturers agree that prevention is the most important step in maintaining their floor coverings at optimal condition. They stress three main factors of preventive maintenance: walk-off mats, vacuuming and immediate spot removal.

It’s crucial that walk-off mats are large enough to accommodate the building traffic. They should be placed both outside and inside the doorway. Mannington’s Commercial Carpet Division suggests mats be a minimum of 12 to 15 feet in length to accommodate at least four strides before walking on the carpet. Likewise, The Mohawk Group also encourages use of walk-off mats. It estimates that once 1 pound of dirt is tracked inside a building, it costs more than $500 to remove it. How fast can 1 pound of dirt get tracked in? The Mohawk Group has found that up to 24 pounds of dirt can be tracked in to a building when 1,000 people come through an entrance over a 20-day period.

For some manufacturers, vacuuming is considered the most important step in preventive maintenance care. The Mohawk Group’s Karastan Division subscribes to the theory that slower is better when it comes to vacuuming. A slow pass against the carpet pile is more effective in removing dirt than several quick strokes. They recommend a two-motor upright vacuum with a rotary brush. The brush opens up the tufts, agitation loosens the dirt, and the slow movement creates a circulation of air through the face yarn while extracting the soil.

When it comes to vacuum bags, half full is full enough. According to the Karastan Division, when a vacuum bag is more than half full, it is operating at just 20 percent efficiency.

Mannington Commercial recommends using a backpack vacuum with power heads for maximum lift and suction for soil removal.

Spot Clean Chemicals
It’s well known that immediate spot removal is crucial in maintaining a commercial carpet. Spills that are ignored are more difficult to remove and will attract more soiling. Furthermore, sticky spills will be tracked to other areas of the carpet.

Bruce Gentry, The Mohawk Group’s assistant manager for field technical service, explains that when customers call the Mohawk Technical Services Hotline with a spot question, they obtain general spot removal information, as well as referrals to some resources who offer “Spot Kits” that the Mohawk Group has found to be effective in spot removal, including CFR Corp. in Fort Worth, Texas and Danville, Ill.-based EnvirOx L.L.C.

Mannington Commercial also recommends spot cleaners by EnvirOx, as well as those manufactured by Von Schrader Company, R.E. Whittaker Company and Core Products.

Deep Cleaning
There is a consensus among Shaw Industries, Mannington Commercial and The Mohawk Group that hot-water extraction is a preferred total deep cleaning method. However, Mannington Commercial Group’s Richard Price, a technical services representative, cautions, “It’s important that there is a fast dry time. We like to see a dry time of less than four hours.”

Price points out that faster drying times means lower amounts of chemical residue are left in the carpet fibers and, therefore, less re-soiling will occur. To attain a fast dry time, it’s important to use equipment that has a high recovery rate, he says. While recovery rates can look good on paper, it’s how the equipment performs in delivering real-life dry times that really counts.

“A faster dry time is what you are looking for in a machine, not specifically what a manufacturer claims the recovery rate is,” Price explains.

Mannington Commercial also cautions against using hot-water extraction machines that recycle water, as recycled water will leave more residue on the carpet fibers and increase re-soil rates, the company says.

Extracting Chemicals
It probably goes without saying that carpet manufacturers look for chemicals that clean well and leave carpets looking fresh. But carpet manufacturers also look for chemicals that leave the least amount of residue. The more residue is left on the carpet, the faster the re-soil rate.

Shaw Industries states in its technical bulletin for commercial maintenance that “Excessive detergent residue is the most common cause of accelerated re-soiling complaints.” The Mohawk Group recommends testing the chemical for residue by putting it in a saucer and allowing it to dry. If it is sticky to the touch, they recommend not using it.

Mannington Commercial ’s Price recommends that when using the extraction method, cleaners should spray the cleaning chemical directly on the carpet instead of mixing it in the machine. Then, after allowing the proper dwell-time for the chemical to break down the dirt, the extraction machine will be “rinsing” the chemical from the carpet, resulting in a cleaner, more residue-free carpet.

Alkaline vs. Acid Levels
A chemical’s pH value is also important to manufacturers, as a higher pH value translates into a higher alkaline level. According to Price, the higher the alkaline level in a chemical, the more residue will be left behind. Both The Mohawk Group and Shaw Industries recommend a pH value of less than 10. Shaw Industries points out a preference for a pH of around 9 for standard carpets, and a pH value of between 6 to 8 for printed carpets. Mannington looks for a pH value of between 5 and 9.

Other Considerations
Although carpet manufacturers favor hot water extraction for deep cleaning, they also recognize the effectiveness of low moisture extraction or dry foam cleaning for interim cleaning. “There are some very good systems out there,” states The Mohawk Group’s Gentry. “such as Von Schrader and Host.”

Not all carpet-cleaning chemicals are created equal. But by gathering information from the mills, cleaners may be able to cut through some of the chemical clutter and spend their dollars for maximum performance and profit.

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