Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Opening the Door to the Commercial Market

February 6, 2003
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There is a growing occurrence of major players in the carpet industry, including carpet manufacturers and fiber producers, becoming involved with the maintenance of carpet after it is put into service.

This involvement includes specifying cleaning methods and frequency of use, in some cases down to the specific machines and chemicals to be employed. The manufacturers and fiber producers know that clean carpets are more visually pleasing, may last longer and will probably be healthier than their ill-maintained counterparts. This new attention to maintenance should prove profitable for the forward-thinking businessperson, and points toward one thing: it is becoming increasingly clear to all involved that carpet care is not a job for amateurs.

Accompanying the emphasis on cleaning will be an increase in demand for competent, skilled carpet-care service companies. This demand certainly presents an opportunity for the growing carpet-service company. This may be a most opportune time to consider entering the commercial market.

There are many similarities, and several major differences, between commercial and residential cleaning. One is how particle soil is viewed. In residential cleaning, dry vacuuming to remove particle soil is performed, in most cases, only when visibly necessary. In commercial cleaning particle soil removal is the mainstay of the cleaning program.

Predictable cash flow is just one of many advantages to operating in the commercial market. Contract cleaning according to the calendar, not according to carpet appearance, should prove the most profitable approach to the market, allowing the carpet to be kept looking good at all times through a planned schedule of maintenance and the most effective management of dry particle soils.

Soil management begins with walk-off mats, sized and placed properly for the areas being served, which are cleaned on a regular basis. The soil management concept is furthered by thorough removal of dry soils in the carpet on at least a daily basis using efficient, properly maintained equipment.

Experience indicates that upright vacuums using an agitation brush or beater bar are very effective at removing particle soil. Professional vacuums must collect this soil by using a high-efficiency filtering system to prevent redistribution of fine particles into the air. If bag-type technology is being used, bags should be changed before they become full enough to impair the airflow that picks up the soil. Further soil removal should be performed using a “pile lifter” to aggressively lift the pile of the carpet and remove deeply embedded particle soils on at least a monthly basis.

It is this aggressive particle-soil removal that helps prevent carpet from appearing soiled, and opens the door for “interim cleaning methods.” While deep-soil removal on a regular basis would seem at first glance to be a more effective approach from a health standpoint, the general trend seems to be a moving away from the deep cleaning, wet systems. Two probable reasons for this trend are cost and convenience.

Cost will be impacted by the square-foot-per-hour production rate. Quite often, wet-extraction systems are slow and labor-intensive when compared to high-speed processes like absorbent pad cleaning, dry-foam extraction and rotary shampooing (though some wet systems will clean at a comparable rate).

The high-speed processes are also usually low-moisture systems, and offer the advantage of rapid drying, a major factor in many large commercial installations that may experience traffic 24 hours a day.

The reality of commercial cleaning is that much of it will be done with interim cleaning systems. The keys to the success of these systems are chemical choice and proper dilution/application. Because an actual “rinse solution” is not used, some residue will remain after cleaning. If this residue is sticky, as may be found in a poorly formulated product, dry soil will bond to the carpet surface, resulting in rapid re-soiling.

Some cleaning agents leave a dry, crystalline residue that encapsulates the soil that is removed through regularly scheduled vacuuming. This type of product helps prevent rapid re-soiling. Some will have anti-soiling agents built in to enhance the carpet’s soil resistance.

Choosing the proper cleaning agent must be followed by proper use. Here is where technician training and motivation comes into play. If the technician has the correct chemicals, good training and a desire to do a good job, how can the company go wrong? Properly performed at the appropriate frequency, high-production, low-moisture methods will deliver clean, dry carpet at a low cost in a short period of time.

Deep cleaning may become necessary as soil continually builds up in the carpet, bringing with it both appearance and health and appearance problems. One of the most effective procedures for deep- or restoration cleaning is hot-water extraction, also known by the misnomer “steam cleaning.” Many fiber producers and carpet manufacturers recommend this approach because of its soil removal capabilities.

However, hot-water extraction may bring with it some drawbacks, including slow drying, a low production rate, as well as being a labor-intensive process. Chances are, as advances are made in equipment and chemistry, there will be less reliance on “wand wiggling” and the “bucket brigade,” and dry times will drop to an acceptable level.

With the continuing emergence of carpet in large commercial/ industrial/institutional markets, the demand for proper carpet maintenance programs should increase, which bodes well for the truly professional carpet-care service company. With the testing programs outlined at the recent IICRC Certification Board meeting, perhaps the issue of “which system does or does not work” will someday be put behind us, and we can get on with the more fundamental premise: Clean carpets, make money.

‘Til next month, see ya!

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