ICS Magazine

Cleaning Commercial Carpets

January 25, 2001
As more end-users of carpet are discovering that carpet care is not a job for amateurs, the ensuing demand for competent carpet care service presents a window of opportunity for the skilled service company and facility manager.

In comparing residential and commercial cleaning, there are many similarities, as well as major differences. A major difference is how particle soil is viewed. In most residential cleaning cases, removing soil by dry vacuuming is performed only when visibly necessary. In commercial, particle soil removal is mainstay of a good planned cleaning program.

A planned contract-cleaning program is best for the client. It ensures that the carpet will look good at all times, thanks to a planned schedule of maintenance and effective management of dry particle soils. If the carpet looks good, you will look good!

Soil management should begin with walk-off mats, sized and properly placed for the areas being served. The mats should be cleaned on a regular basis. This soil management concept is further enhanced by thorough removal of the soils on a daily basis, using efficient, properly maintained equipment. Either your client’s in-house personnel or your staff can handle daily vacuuming.

Research indicates that upright vacuums with an agitation brush or beater bar are very effective at removing particle soil. Professional vacuums collect the soil that is being removed through a high efficiency filtering system that prevents redistribution of fine particles. If bag-type technology is being used, then the bags should be changed prior to becoming so full that they impair airflow.

Additional soil removal should be performed at least once a month using a pile lifter to aggressively lift the carpet pile and remove deeply embedded particle soil. It’s this aggressive particle soil removal system that prevents carpet from appearing soiled and makes it impossible to use “interim” cleaning methods.

While from a health standpoint, deep soil removal on a regular basis would seem better than interim methods, and would seem to result in fewer problems related to contaminants that may be present, the general trend seems to be away from the deep cleaning, wet system in medium and large facilities. There are probably two reasons for this: cost and convenience.

About the highest production rate one can reasonably reasonably expect from deep cleaning/wet systems is 400-500 sq. ft. per hr. over an eight-hour shift. This represents a high labor cost that cannot compete with a high-speed process, such as absorbent pad cleaning or dry foam extraction.

High-speed processes are also usually low moisture systems and offer the advantage of rapid drying. Drying time can be a major factor in many large commercial installations that have foot traffic 24-hours-a-day.

The reality of commercial cleaning is that much of it is done with “appearance cleaning systems” that are used on a regular basis to keep the carpet looking clean. The keys to the success of these systems are chemical selection and proper dilution/application.

Because these systems don’t use an actual “rinse solution,” some residue will be left after cleaning. If this residue is sticky, such as may occur in a poorly formulated cleaning agent, then dry soil will bond to the carpet surface, resulting in rapid resoiling.

A properly formulated cleaning agent will leave a dry, crumbly residue to prevent rapid resoiling. Some even have built-in anti-soiling agents to enhance the carpet’s soil resistance. Choice of the proper cleaning agent must be accompanied by proper usage.

Here is where training and motivation come into play. If the floor care technician has the correct chemicals, a desire to perform a good job and participate in good training, how can you and your company go wrong? Properly performed, at the appropriate frequency, the high production/low moisture methods will deliver clean, dry carpet in a short time and at a low cost to your client.

Most fiber producers and carpet manufacturers recommend this system because of its soil removal capabilities. However, it does have the drawbacks of slow drying, low production rate and is labor intensive.

One of the major stumbling blocks for steam cleaning in large and medium size commercial/institutional facilities has been the difficulty in finding technicians willing or able to perform the tasks of “wanding” the carpet. Attempts to increase the steam cleaning’s production rate and reduce the labor factor by using brush-assisted techniques have met with only slight success and may result in extended drying periods.

The one tool that seems to have overcome this labor factor most successfully is the rotary jet extractor. It accomplishes deep extraction using a minimum of manpower and would seem to be the tool of choice in many large commercial/institutional situations where fatigue is a major force.

The continuing growth of carpet in the commercial market has resulted in an increase for proper carpet maintenance programs. Perhaps we can someday put the issue of which system works or doesn’t work behind us and get on with the main idea: Clean carpets increase your property’s value.