ICS Magazine

Commercial Carpet Maintenance

December 14, 2000
Understanding the concept of soil management in commercial and institutional settings will increase carpet longevity.

As large end-users of carpet are discovering that carpet care is not a job for amateurs, the ensuing growth in demand for competent, skilled, carpet care service certainly presents a window of opportunity for the growing carpet service company.

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

Soil management should begin with walk-off mats, sized and placed properly for the areas being served, and which are cleaned on a regular basis. This soil management concept is further enhanced by thorough removal of the soils on at least a daily basis using efficient, properly maintained equipment. Research indicates that upright vacuums using an agitating brush or beater bar are very effective at removing this particle soil. Professional vacuums used for this task must collect soil that is being removed by using a high efficiency filtering system to prevent redistribution of fine particles into the air. If bag-type technology is being used, then the bags should be changed before they become full enough to impact air flow. Further, soil removal should be performed, at least monthly, using a “pile lifter” to aggressively lift the pile of the carpet and remove deeply embedded particle soils. It’s this aggressive particle soil removal that prevents the carpet from appearing soiled and allows the use of “interim“ cleaning methods.

While, from a health standpoint, deep soil removal on a regular basis would seem to be better and would seem to result in fewer problems related to contaminants, which may be present in the carpet, the general trend seems to be away from the deep cleaning, wet systems. There are probably two reasons for this tendency: cost and convenience. About the highest production rate one can reasonably expect from deep cleaning, wet systems is 400-500 square feet per hour over an eight hour shift. This represents a high labor cost and cannot compete, price wise, with a high-speed process such as an absorbent pad cleaning or dry foam extraction. The high-speed processes are usually also low moisture systems and offer the advantage of rapid drying. Drying time can be a major factor in many large commercial installations that may experience traffic 24 hours per day.

The reality of commercial cleaning is that much of it will be done with so-called “appearance cleaning” systems, used on a regular basis to keep the carpet looking clean The keys to the success of these systems is chemical choice and proper dilution/application. Because these systems don’t use an actual “rinse solution,” there will be some residue left after cleaning. If this residue is sticky, such as may occur in a poorly formulated product, then dry soil will bond to the carpet surface and rapid resoiling will be experienced. A properly formulated cleaning agent will leave a dry, crumbly residue to prevent rapid resoiling. Some will even have anti-soiling agents built-in to enhance the carpet’s soil resistance. Choice of the proper cleaning agent must be accompanied by proper usage. Here is where technician training and motivation comes into play.

If the technician has the correct chemicals, a desire to do a good job, and has been exposed to good training, then 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 period of time at a low cost, for awhile.

As deep soil builds up in the carpet, health problems may occur. Or when it has become impossible to keep the carpet at an acceptable appearance level, deep cleaning will be necessary. The process generally viewed as most effective at deep cleaning or restoration cleaning is how water extraction, or “steam cleaning.” 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 labor intensity. One of the major stumbling blocks in getting institutions to use steam cleaning is the inability to find workers willing or able to perform the task of “wanding” the carpet. Attempts at increasing the production rate, and reducing the labor factor of “steam cleaning” 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 accomplished deep extraction using a minimum of manpower and would seem to be the tool of choice in many commercial/institutional situations where fatigue is a major factor.

With the continuing growth of carpet in large commercial/industrial/institutional markets, the demand for proper carpet maintenance programs should increase, which bodes well for the truly professional cleaning firm.