Cleaning & Restoration Association News

The Restoration Connection to Carpet Cleaning

March 8, 2001
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Certain parts of restoration cleaning can be accomplished with carpet-cleaning tools, but there are many factors of which a novice restorer must be aware. To go cold turkey into this area would be suicidal.

Restoration means to bring back whatever requires attention to its former condition, a pledge that every carpet cleaning professional adheres to when they clean. One optimistic thought would be to make it look like new. However, more is involved in restoration than just getting a carpet clean.

Removing water from a carpet can be done with relative ease, but to understand hydraulics, water flow, bacteria, and odor controll, requires in-depth knowledge. Quite a few carpet cleaners have overcome these difficulties to come up with a successful restoration business—so successful that it has supported its regular carpet cleaning business during the slow times.

Restoration is definitely a different type of business. The line that connects all this together for carpet cleaners is the truck mount, which allows you to extract water. This is the first step in a thousand-mile walk. Chemicals are important, but are only a small part of the overall picture. As an example, let’s examine the condition of a simple break in a water line to a toilet.

The flow of water lasts only a few hours, but is enough to wet the carpet in the next room. A definite understanding of bactericides and deodorization is needed along with extraction procedures. The simple but correct procedure of controlling the problem is important. Now, let’s extend that problem to the water running for five months causing the whole house to be inundated with water. Bacteria growth has run rampant, and now a thorough understanding of house construction, drywall conditioning, wood floors, etc. is necessary.

Questions as to what type of chemicals and procedures should be used would be in line. The restoration process would extend into areas such as books, photos, paintings, films, videotapes, and documents—with each type of restoration being specialized. It’s this specialization that requires the know-how as to what type of chemicals will be used.

Let’s go back to that short-term water line break. The first thing is to determine how extensive the water seepage was in the carpet. One approach is to peel the carpet back or use a hydro-sensitive meter to find the outer limits of the water creep. Extraction is necessary, followed by an injection of deodorizer. If the carpet is pulled back, a spray application of a deodorizer with a bactericide is needed. Closely follow the label instructions for this type application. It’s best to use a deodorizer specifically recommended for this type of end use.

Water is a strange animal, and its presence in a flooded home will act as a carrier that supports bacteria growth. That’s the reason for the importance of its removal and the use of an appropriate deodorizer. More importantly, a deodorizer that contains a bactericide will help stop further growth. Odor can be one of the most difficult problem conditions because water will go everywhere. It can travel up drywall and prompt bacteria growth on both sides, which treatment on one side of the wall won’t resolve the odor problem.

One of the methods used for odor cancellation is the introduction of a bactericide solution with a 50-cc hypodermic needle. The solution is injected through the drywall and allowed to splash in the area of bacteria growth. Inject when the material is as dry as possible for maximum effect. If you recall, I had mentioned that special chemicals should be employed for the best results. Those chemicals should have sanitizing or bactericidal properties and be targeted for controlling microbial growth. To make any official claim to your customer of this type of ability, you must apply EPA-registered products. There are a number of bactericide base products not registered and have been used extensively. However, from a legal point of view, it’s best to apply a validated product.

Keep in mind that these bactericides and sanitizers are not for everyday use, and should only be used when the situation arises. There are serious concerns that the inappropriate overuse of antibacterial products has lead to the development of strains of resistant bacteria. The EPA would like to see alternate procedures used instead of relying too heavily on chemical control.

I would imagine that a physical disturbance would have to be used to counteract bacteria development, such as high heat or radiation (e.g. ultraviolet rays), oxidizers, or pinpoint ozone application. These processes may develop in the next decade with the main concern that wet chemistry, as we know it, wouldn’t be used.

We’ve discussed odor control as being a prime consideration and used initially to indicate bacteria growth. Once achieved, the cleaning begins. The main question is how long were the items exposed to water? What type of exposure? Was there a lot of grease, oil, or mud? The answers will determine the type of cleaner that needs to be used. Let’s consider that the carpet has been cleaned and dried, then the appropriate deodorizer would be used to finish the process. As to the type of cleaner—a higher pH would be used for full impact, but standard type cleaners could be used once you’ve assayed the type of soil to remove.

As to the warranty, unfortunately, once the carpet is under water the warranty becomes void. Basically, carpet-cleaning processes would be the standard approach. It’s the other areas of follow-up that require specialized cleaning compounds. For example, fire restoration requires a more involved clean up.

Outside of water being used to quench a fire, the basic culprit in an after-fire clean up is ash or soot buildup on walls and other surfaces. Of course, smoke odor commands attention and would require ozone exposure or a reodorant that locks up malodors of the residue. There are several fire/smoke odors that were emitted and require careful choices as to the type of deodorant needed. A dry fire extinguished by a CO2 system will need a high pH cleaner that not only removes the surface residue, but also neutralizes the carbon for easy removal.

Fire damage restoration requires in-depth understanding as to its clean up and should not be thought of as a 1-2-3 finish.

When you’re involved with a fire restoration project, use appropriate masks, “bunny suits,” etc. to prevent any potential lung disease that can occur just as easily after the fire.

Through our simple assay of restoration, it’s easy to understand how carpet-cleaning chemicals in general can be used with the same dexterity in restoration. For more thorough coverage, attend some of the recognized restoration courses.

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