ICS Magazine

Natural-Fiber Carpets and Dry-Extraction Systems

October 23, 2002
Natural-fiber carpets, which offer hospitality facilities a variety of new textures and styles, are growing in popularity, demand and usage, both as wall-to-wall carpet and as area rugs in select common-area locations.

Professional, contract and in-house cleaners should be aware that, because these carpets are constructed of natural fibers, they require special cleaning considerations. One method by which to address these requirements is the use of a dry-extraction system.

Natural Fibers Can Thrive With Effective Care
Cleaning and maintenance professionals must be extremely cautious in their approach to cleaning natural-fiber carpets. The natural color found in some fibers, especially sisal, coir and jute, may become unstable when subjected to high amounts of moisture. In fact, some importers of sisal floor coverings are recommending dry-extraction cleaning systems be used when cleaning the carpet.

A dry-extraction cleaner is a soft, natural product that can be thought of as millions of extremely tiny, slightly dampened, absorbent sponges. The cleaner is brushed through the carpet pile to remove dirt, spots, spills and allergens without introducing additional moisture.

Carpet Use and Clean Up
Taking quick action is crucial to the proper cleaning of spots and spills before they become permanent stains. Natural fibers are very absorbent, so permanent discoloration can result if a spill is not attended to quickly. For the professional, knowing how various natural-fiber carpets respond to cleaning can be instrumental in planning a maintenance program.

Sisal, coir and jute rugs should not be placed where spills are likely to occur. These rugs’ color may be negatively affected by any cleaning procedure. Simple water spills may be enough to remove the color on some jute rugs.

Oriental, Chinese and Persian rugs are often made of wool fibers, but some found in the hospitality sector will also be made of silk. Both fiber types can be cleaned successfully if the process is done with care. When brushing a silk rug, be aware of the texture; do not scrub aggressively. Also, take care to avoid catching the fringe of the rug when vacuuming near the edges.

When working with wool and wool Berbers, it is normal to experience some shedding of the wool pile, but aggressive bushing can cause the carpet to fuzz. Extra caution must be taken with wool Berbers that have very fat yarns, as they can be more susceptible to fuzzing or texture distortion.

Cotton carpets may also fall victim to fuzzing if care is not taken when brushing them.

When using a dry-cleaning system on natural fibers, there are three steps to take:

  • Vacuum first. Vacuum thoroughly using a vacuum with a brush and beater bar. Always test the vacuum in an inconspicuous location before using it on the whole carpet. If any text change occurs, immediately switch to a suction-only vacuum. Be sure to vacuum in every direction.
  • Less is more. Apply the low-moisture cleaner. When dealing with carpet made from natural fibers, apply less cleaner than is instructed on the package, and do more brushing. It is better to apply smaller amounts of the cleaner twice than to apply all of it at once. If a spot remover is needed, be sure to first test it in an inconspicuous area before cleaning the spot.
  • Vacuum last. Allow the cleaner to dry, then vacuum again, making sure to do so in every direction in order to effectively remove the cleaner.

    Even when professional cleaning technicians follow these steps, it is possible, however unlikely, that the color of the carpet will be altered. The color change is usually very slight, but users should be made aware of this possibility before beginning the cleaning process. It is extremely important, therefore, that caution is continually exercised when cleaning natural-fiber carpets.