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Focus on Chemicals: What Do Carpet Cleaners Really Think They Are?

October 15, 2001
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We may be only carpet cleaners, but in the home, we are 'health couriers,' and we mean business.



Professional carpet cleaners are an industrious lot. With a wand, truckmount, inspiration, perspiration and ingenuity, they have turned a fledgling industry into a health environmental care organization.

These "health couriers" display a health consciousness they've obtained through education, which delivers maximum health benefits. A poorly informed carpet cleaner can initiate health problems without even knowing it. Poor carpet cleaning habits and inadequate training prompt a paradoxical situation where cleaning actually becomes unhealthy.

Let's discuss the issues you need to know to ensure an unhealthy environment does not develop, particularly with molds.

One of the main ingredients used in the cleaning process is water. To imagine water as a residue that can create problems is difficult for some to understand. But overexposure to water can present a number of problems in the form of rotting wood, rusting metals and, most importantly, microbial growth. The carpet, the backing, glue, dust, wood substrate and anything else in the construction and decorating industry can be a haven for microbial growth wetted out with water. Instead of a clean and healthy home, we have a time bomb that will eventually be a haven for bacteria growth.

Because of the use of cheap building materials such as plasterboard, and the presence of pressed plywood behind wallpaper, under sinks and carpet backing, fungus and mold problems have increased ten-fold. The Wall Street Journal stated recently that there is significant increase in mold claims, and insurance companies have commented that mold and related health problem claims are averaging six to seven per day. Because of this hike in mold claims, carpet cleaners must follow up with proper maintenance of equipment and education.

This means that more carpet cleaners are being called upon to remove mold as part of their cleaning operation, which in turn means a better understanding of the process of microbial growth.

Several carpet cleaners I know have declined jobs because of the potential for serious after effects their exposure to mold would have on them. Carpet cleaners must have a thorough understanding of mold removal so as not to endanger himself or his client.

The following guidelines may seem trivial, but they important steps to take, particularly when dealing with molds.

* Vacuuming is the most important thing you can do. Check your vacuum hoses for breaks or cracks, and repair or replace if necessary. They must be in A-l condition because every drop of water in that carpet must be removed by proper vacuuming.

* When functioning correctly, wands make a good seal on the wet carpet during extraction. Check to make sure the wand has no internal obstructions, such as dog hair, etc. A wand can be used for extended periods before a novice carpet cleaner realizes that something is impeding the airflow. Obviously, a clear wand is an efficient wand.

* Spray tips play an important factor as to the degree of water pressurized into the carpet. Clogged or poor spray can force higher spray patterns into the carpet, which leaves water residue in the deep recesses of the carpet base.

* Another factor in your vacuum system is filters. When were they last cleaned? All internal obstructions must be removed since an efficient vacuum is based on a no-leak air system. Gaskets also should be properly functioning and sealed correctly in the system. Cleaning filters is a simple yet often overlooked maintenance task.

There are other lessons to be learned.

Portables require additional maintenance due to their sensitivity as a compact unit. The vacuum motors require extra care in maintenance because small pins, paper clips and surface soil can cause problems within a short period of two to three months. Lint buildup and pet hair create obstructions that are more amplified than in a truck mount system. In addition, vacuum motors need to be in good repair, and surface soils, lint or other particulate matter should never obstruct the turbine.

Cleaning with a portable requires an additional dry stroke, which indicates how important it is to maintain a it at l00 percent efficiency. It's important to clean the machine after every job to assure peak efficiency in future cleanings. Your cleaning solution should also have incorporated into its formula preservatives for stability against contamination or decomposition. This is necessary for day-to-day use of the portable where the cleaning solution is kept no longer than 48 hours.

Finally, find out when the carpet was last cleaned and the process used? Ask your customer about any pre-existing water damage, which could prompt microbial growth. The age, make and type of carpet can help you determine what to expect when you put your wand to carpet.

If there is mold and it is excessive, then you must find out why. What conditions prevailed to bring this condition on? High growth rate? Flood? Water leak? Rain? Mold can grow just about any place there is moisture, showing up as a black growth along walls or under carpets. Once you see it, you will never forget it.

Today's health-conscious homeowner is familiar with molds and indoor air pollution, and can easily press the panic button due to health concerns. If you are involved with mold removal, you could become involved in litigation if you have written down anything about the mold in your service report. I stated earlier to keep records of maintenance procedures. That does not mean you have to mention mold. After all, you are a carpet cleaner, not a scientist that understands pulmonary hemorrhage, immune suppression or neurological damage supposedly developed from molds. Use your own discretion and be prepared.

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