ICS Magazine

Don't Let Worn Floors and Spotty Carpets Ruin The Holiday Season

November 11, 2004

November means an abundance of turkey and the onset of travel, shopping and the holiday season; it also means increased foot traffic and a variety of challenges to the carpeting and flooring you are charged with keeping clean.

As a seasoned cleaning professional, you've seen it all: the daily beating your flooring gets from feet and everything imaginable that - once dropped, dripped or spilled - has the ability to get ground into the carpet or hard flooring. It's no secret that it can be a challenge to preserve carpeting that looks like new, as well as maintain high-gloss "showcase floors" any time of the year, let alone during the holiday season.

Whether you provide floor-cleaning services for commercial properties, supermarkets, malls, airports or the hospitality industry, preparing for heavy traffic can pay off for your company in the long run.

Besides the cheer of the holiday season, the good news is that you can keep carpeting and flooring in top shape, both above and below the surface. To build up your arsenal against the onslaught of holiday foot traffic, consider this proven defense: a balance of high-performing cleaning products, a successful daily maintenance schedule and preventative measures.

Carpet and Hard-Floor Challenges

Your flooring faces the following challenges every holiday season:
Hotels and motels. Preparing for the holiday tournament game, the traveling basketball team gathers in the lobby waiting for the bus pick-up. The parents and kids spread out on the floor drinking their (red!) sports drinks, soft drinks, and (red!) juice, along with eating their pre-game snacks. A bag of chips spills everywhere when opened and kids soon begin to run through them, grinding the food into the carpet. One of the children's drinks spills, seeping red juice into the carpet. Another child begins wiping his hands on the carpet instead of a napkin. Several kids spin around on their shoes, leaving black heel marks on the lobby's hard flooring.
Airports. With weather delays and cancelled flights, more than 100 people spill drinks and food while they wait in the carpeted area of the terminal. Cups half-full of drinks drip out of an overflowing garbage can. A family runs through the terminal to their gate, leaving a path of dripped drinks and dropped snacks that are quickly ground into the flooring by shoes and luggage wheels.
Malls. A patient dad sits with young children in the carpeted kids' area of the mall attempting to keep them occupied with toys, Cheerios and drinks - most of which miss the children's mouths and land on the carpet. The mother scurries from store to store with an older child who drops his gum on the carpet.
Supermarkets. A mother pushes a cart overflowing with kids and groceries through the store. Her cart has a bad wheel that grinds into the finish of every aisle. 24-hour retail store. When dashing into a convenience store to grab eggs, a woman knocks over a display of two-liter soft drink bottles. One of the bottles explodes all over the finished floor and entry carpet matting. Before it can be cleaned up, other patrons track through the mess and spread it all over the store.
Commercial Properties. The jolt of the elevator causes several cookies to fall from a holiday tray. They quickly get ground into the elevator's floor. As employees move from office to office for a holiday party, drinks and food are spilled onto the carpeting.

Daily Maintenance for Carpet

Just as a Scrooge can ruin Christmas, carpet spots that are left untreated have the ability to ruin your carpet, and, at the most basic level, your relationship with your client. Your clients want their carpet to look new and expect that the maintenance schedule you recommend will restore its appearance. You know your enemies - everything from food, coffee, juice, leaves, mud, and salt from snow removal. If they are not properly and immediately combated, these culprits will get pulled deep into the carpet pile, leading to premature carpet aging and, possibly, speeding the need for early replacement.

The good news is that deep soiling is completely avoidable if it's taken care of right away. The following are five steps of a daily maintenance program designed to address carpet spots in high-traffic areas:
1. Remove soil by vacuuming and blotting spots when they occur.
2. Choose and use the appropriate spot remover. Be sure to avoid over-wetting the carpet.
3. Apply the spotter from the outside to inside, and work outside to inside with a blunt carpet tool.
4. Pick up as much dirty solution as possible by applying weight or pressure while blotting.
5. Rinse with water and blot dry. Blotting and rinsing can be more effectively done by using a portable extractor, if available.

Daily carpet vacuuming is of the utmost importance, as it is designed to remove soils daily before they get pulled into the carpet. Any soil left behind can make spots more difficult to remove without staining, and can make cleaning less effective and less likely to restore the carpet's appearance. In fact, poorly vacuumed carpet will actually look worse after a normal extraction cleaning.

Don't underestimate the importance of blotting a carpet spot and removing any solid soil prior to the use of any spot removers. Be sure to select an effective general-purpose spot remover that has the ability to penetrate and remove most of the common soils you will encounter. You should use specialized removers for spots resulting from rust, blood, milk or chewing gum. If you use a product system, follow the sequential order recommended by the chemical manufacturer. In short, read the labels, choose the right products, and then apply them correctly.

You can also employ several preventive measures in addition to your daily maintenance program. First, use a matting system to trap and remove dirt and debris from shoes and cart wheels before they're tracked onto carpet. Be sure to clean walk-off mats frequently, especially during rainy or snowy seasons. For the best results, cleaning the mats should be included in the daily-maintenance cleaning schedule.

Next, vacuum frequently to pick up excess soil, grit and debris. Consider vacuuming daily in high- to moderate-traffic areas. Finally, have removers readily available to treat spots as they occur, rather than waiting until the daily maintenance is performed.

Daily Maintenance for Hard Flooring

With hard-floor care, it all boils down to effectively removing particulate soil. Just as a spot is to carpet, particulate soil is a floor's biggest nemesis. Left unattended, it can be the biggest cause of wear, discoloration and damage to the finish. And like carpet spots, particulate soil needs to be addressed every day.

The daily maintenance program you choose should support the floor finish, address the challenges you face and help delay the most expensive and intrusive parts of floor care - stripping and refinishing. A daily maintenance program involves four steps:
1. Vacuum / clean all walk-off mats routinely.
2. Dust mop to remove grit and loose soil.
3. Damp-mop or auto-scrub to get rid of particulate soil.
4. Burnish daily to restore gloss and repair surface imperfections that remain after auto-scrubbing.

It is also essential to choose high-performing products. Select a floor finish that is right for your maintenance habit, and has good wear ability and black heel-mark resistance. Look for products that offer exceptional particulate-soil removal. In a high-traffic area like an airport that uses an ultra-high-speed (UHS) floor finish, your program should be performed frequently to provide the maximum level of gloss. The combination of an improved finish and better cleaner should extend the life of the finish and reduce the need for recoating and refinishing, reducing your total floor-maintenance cost.

Burnishing is a vital step in the daily maintenance program for high-traffic areas. Not only will it remove surface imperfections, it will bring the wet look of the finished gloss back to its peak. Airports, retails stores and supermarkets should use UHS burnishing every other day, if not daily, to maximize the appearance of finished floors over time. However, you should ensure that soils are removed during the dust-mop and damp-mop procedures, or they could damage the flooring during burnishing.

Finally, preventive maintenance can help delay expensive maintenance. Using a spray-buff or mop-on maintainer (restorer) even if it is not a part of your regular floor program. It will apply minor repair to the finish and enhance the floor gloss.

Implementing a sound walk-off mat program will significantly reduce soils from the outside, as will training employees on how to properly clean floors and not cut corners, such as not dust mopping or burnishing first And when you choose your product line, it's a good idea to see what types of training materials will be available for employees.

If your current maintenance plans are not yielding high-gloss floors and clean, fresh carpets, give yourself an early holiday present this year by re-evaluating your maintenance program. It's likely that carpet spots and particulate soil don't top your wish list, but perhaps high-performing products should. After all, their use with a daily maintenance program and preventative measures could be the gift that keeps on giving all year round: You will be able to give your clients the results they want, and can improve productivity at the same time.