Removing Sand From Carpet

July 22, 2003
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Sand belongs on the beach, not in your building’s carpet. Even though sand is usually associated with beaches, it can be found as a component in the dirt that gets on the carpet in most commercial buildings. Careful maintenance planning is necessary to deal with the challenges of tracked-in sand.

Sand is typically made up of quartz, feldspar, mica, silica, coral, volcanic glass and shell fragments. The exact makeup of sand in your area depends on the local sources. While sand is only one of the components of the dirt that ends up in your carpet, it can be the most detrimental to its performance and appearance. Beautiful on the beach, ugly in your carpet.

Carpet is made up of millions of upright yarns that do a great job of trapping the sand that we bring in on our shoes. Actually research has shown that a carpet can hold its own weight in dirt and still look clean. This means that a carpet with 30 ounces of yarn in a square yard (face weight) can hold 30 ounces of dirt in a square yard and still look good.

While it can’t be seen, the hidden sand must be removed or it can be very damaging to both synthetic and naturals fibers. As people walk on the carpet, the embedded sand can cut and scratch the fiber, dulling the surface and altering the appearance and luster of the carpet.

How to keep sand where it belongs and efficiently remove what can’t be prevented? Swift steps for sand removal include:

  • Use appropriate walk-off mats
  • Vacuum regularly with an efficient vacuum
  • Pile-lift main entrances regularly
  • Avoid wetting sand particles when cleaning

    Use Appropriate Walk-Off Mats
    Start with an effective walk-off mat program at all entrances to trap and hold the sand before it can get into the building. A walk-off mat should be at least 20 linear feet in order to effectively wipe or scrape off the tracked in sand and dirt. Some of the best walk-off mats combine great scraping ability with moisture absorbency. Often times a combination of an outdoor “scraper” mat and an indoor absorbent mat work best.

    Vacuum Regularly With Efficient Vacuums
    Use vacuum cleaners regularly to remove the tracked in sand. The most effective vacuums include high airflow (over 100 CFM), good filtration and proper agitation. Brushing action or agitation is very important because it helps to open up the carpet pile, which facilitates sand removal. If your carpet is installed over a pad or cushion, the vacuum should have a beater bar combination agitator. If it is glued directly to the floor, the vacuum should have an all-brush agitator.

    Pile-Lift Main Entrances Regularly
    A pile lifter is a vacuum that usually has a cylindrical brush that effectively opens up the carpet pile as it is pulled backwards over the carpeted area. This removes the sand and grit from the bottom of the carpet. Carpet manufacturers often recommend pile lifting because it removes more of this sand and prepares the carpet for cleaning. This is because the brushing action lifts and separates the carpet yarns, which have become matted and crushed due to foot traffic.

    A typical vacuum cannot do this. Some machines have counter-revolving brushes that make the operation easier while removing just as much of the deep down sand and grit. Pile lifting regularly at main entrances, which is the source of sand and grit, will keep the sand from spreading throughout the building and make the entire carpet maintenance effort more effective

    Avoid Wetting Sand Particles When Cleaning
    Regardless of the method of cleaning that you employ, a carpet should first be vacuumed before cleaning. Thorough dry vacuuming will ensure the best end result. If the sand or dirt gets too wet, it will turn to mud and be that much more difficult to remove. Dry carpet cleaning methods are minimum moisture methods used to clean virtually any carpet, natural or synthetic. After a thorough vacuuming to remove the dry sand and dirt, an absorbent compound consisting of a natural- or synthetic-based granular carrier that has been mixed with water, detergents and other cleaning agents is applied to the dirty carpet. For best results, the manufacturer’s recommended application quantities should be followed.

    The absorbent cleaner is thoroughly brushed through the carpet using a machine that typically has two counter-revolving brushes. The machine action lifts the pile of the carpet while it distributes the cleaner through the carpet. The cleaner dissolves the dirt and spots and then absorbs them. After the final vacuuming, the carpet is clean, dry and ready for traffic.

    Regularly following this approach at all entrances where there is carpet, as well as on walk-off mats, will minimize the buildup of sand. Removing the sand and dirt at these entrances on a regular basis will keep it from spreading throughout the rest of the building. These entrance areas should be vacuumed a minimum of once a day. In very high-traffic locations it may be necessary to vacuum twice or even three times a day. This minimal investment of time will pay off in cleaner-looking carpets that last longer.

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