ICS Magazine

Cleaning High-Traffic Carpet Areas

November 11, 2004


The same challenge confronts every carpet-care professional: How to extend the life of carpets in high-traffic areas.

The tasks associated with maintaining carpeted floors have been well documented, primarily because methods of cleaning have not changed. The traditional carpet maintenance program for years has consisted of:

  • Using walk-off mats and dry vacuuming daily.
  • Performing a consistent spotting program, and
  • Occasionally using restorative, hot-water extraction to refresh the carpet's condition.

    Today's Dilemma
    In today's fast-paced society, customers demand businesses accommodate their schedules, whatever the day, whatever the time. Businesses have responded by opening their doors and offering services 24 hours a day. As a result, carpet-care professionals face tighter cleaning schedules and shorter turnaround times.

    To deal with these time constraints, the carpet-cleaning paradigm has shifted. No longer is the focus, "How do we effectively clean carpet?" The focus now is, "How do we get carpets cleaned, dried and returned to foot traffic as quickly as possible?"

    Understanding this shift is the first step to understanding the true challenge of cleaning high-traffic carpets. No longer is the stress on the cleaning application alone.

    The stress lies on drying time - speeding up the drying process and returning carpets to "traffic-ready" condition as quickly as possible. In addition to the evolution of cleaning approaches, there has been an evolution in technology as well.

    Traditional Carpet Cleaning
    Condition and cleanliness of a business are typically the first points of impression for customers. Dirty, poorly maintained carpets in high-traffic areas can be detrimental to a business's image and productivity. A traditional carpet-cleaning maintenance program was developed to address these concerns and formulate a list of best practices in carpet maintenance. Traditional carpet cleaning maintenance is broken into three main categories: daily preventive maintenance, interim maintenance, and intensive or restorative maintenance.

    Daily Preventive Maintenance

    Daily preventive maintenance allows a carpet-cleaning professional to stay ahead of soil. It is the only proven form of daily carpet maintenance linked to extending the life of carpet in high-traffic areas. Cleaning frequency has a direct, positive correlation to lengthening the life of carpet. Two key cleaning applications are required in daily preventive maintenance: walk-off mats and dry vacuuming.

    Walk-off mats collect an estimated 85 percent of large-particle soil before being tracked into your facility. Walk-off mats, placed at points of entry and regularly replaced according to manufacturer guidelines, are the most effective way to catch soil before it enters your facility and collects in your carpets.

    Not all soil can be caught prior to entering a building, however. The next line of defense is dry vacuuming. According to The Carpet & Rug Institute, vacuuming can remove up to 80 percent of dry soil not caught by walk-off mats. Dry vacuuming should be done as often as possible.

    For facilities open to customers 24 hours a day, or facilities engaging in cleaning operations during business hours, there is a concern of safety when carpet care professionals are using machines with cords to clean carpets. Technologies exist today addressing these safety concerns. Look at cordless sweeper vacuums. These battery-operated, cordless machines deliver ease in maneuverability and increase safety for patrons against power cord trip and falls while in your facility.

    Interim Maintenance
    The purpose of interim maintenance is to improve the carpet's appearance while extending the interval between intensive and costly restorative maintenance procedures. Interim maintenance cleaning techniques include bonneting, chemical encapsulation, and dry compounds. To date, these methods have been attractive to carpet cleaning professionals because of their short "out of service" times.

    In addition, a new technology, soil-transfer extraction, has been introduced for use in both interim and intensive/restorative maintenance. In the dual counter-rotating roller system, damp rollers transfer the dirt from carpet fibers, lifting soil from the carpet and into the machine. Water sprays onto the rollers and suspends the soil, making it ready to be extracted from the roller with two individual vacuum shoes - one on each roller. The roller then returns to the carpet rinsed, extracted and ready to transfer more soil from the carpet. Because only a damp roller is touching the carpet, the carpet is dry in less than 30 minutes.

    Intensive/Restorative Maintenance

    Intensive/restorative cleaning is needed on all carpets. Daily preventive maintenance lessens the frequency of intensive procedures, but intensive, restorative cleaning with deep extraction, maximum water-flow rate and maximum extraction of soil is necessary to target the embedded soils at the base of the carpet.

    For restorative extraction to be effective, four steps need to be followed:

  • Proper chemistry needs to be used.
  • Correct application needs to be performed (application of chemical, agitation and adequate dwell time is observed).
  • Chemicals must be removed, and
  • The carpet must be returned to a neutral state.

    Intensive maintenance is the most troublesome and most often neglected area of carpet maintenance. When intensive or restorative maintenance is performed, facilities are confronted with carpets being out of service for extended periods of time. Dry time is the burden felt most by businesses, one that they would prefer not to carry. But allowing foot traffic on wet carpet drastically decreases the effectiveness of restorative cleaning, and increases risk of slip and falls.

    Perhaps nowhere is the impact of technology on commercial-carpet cleaning felt more strongly than here. Equipment has advanced to where machines now exist that allow the operator to switch from one cleaning process to another, e.g. from soil-transfer extraction to restorative extraction, using the same machine. Two methods of carpet cleaning on one machine. This breakthrough allows the carpet-care professional to switch between cleaning processes based on carpet condition, increasing operator efficiency, lowering dry times and removing the need for maintaining multiple machines. This decreases costs to business owners in terms of machine purchase expenses as well as the costs and constraints associated with multiple machine storage.

    New Technology

    The true question at the source of today's carpet cleaning dilemma is how to shorten dry times. The answer lies in new technologies, innovations and improvements that allow for the removal of visible soil from carpet that can drastically reduce the carpet's luster, appearance and useful life, while keeping drying times and "out of service" areas to a minimum. When you combine effective cleaning and high productivity with less-than-30-minute dry times, cleaning professionals have a recipe for success rather than frustration.

    The methodology of cleaning carpets has changed. New technology complements the traditional carpet cleaning maintenance program, strengthening the program at its weakest points because it lifts restrictions on how often and when carpets can be cleaned - a huge step for carpet cleaning professionals everywhere.

    With industry evolution, there is no time like the present to maintain a high-performance carpet care program. Start today and extend the life, appearance and service of your carpets.