Editor's Blog

Working with Carpet Cleaners

November 5, 2010

A few weeks ago, I was invited to make a presentation to an audience of professionals from the cleaning and restoration industry at the Connections trade show in Las Vegas.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to make a presentation to an audience of professionals from the cleaning and restoration industry at the Connections trade show in Las Vegas. I have spoken to this audience many times in the past, always addressing carpet cleaning and maintenance issues, and in the last few years, promoting the Carpet and Rug Institute’s new Seal of Approval testing and certification program for carpet cleaning products and equipment.

This year, however, was different. Recent public criticism from a segment of the cleaning community leveled at the CRI, the Seal of Approval program, and in many instances, me personally, had, I admit, caused me to anticipate this presentation with some degree of trepidation. Not that I shy away from a fight. I’m an old campaigner who’s handled tough crowds before. But the Seal of Approval program was developed to help both the cleaning and the carpet industries, not cause division, and the recent controversy surrounding the program has been unfortunate, to say the least. Going into the presentation, I knew better than to expect accolades, but I hoped my comments would receive a fair hearing.

I spoke to the Connections audience about some of the reasons behind the Carpet and Rug Institute’s decision to establish the current Seal of Approval program and begin a testing program for cleaning products and equipment.

The Seal of Approval (SOA) program came to be after CRI conducted several consumer surveys in which carpet cleaning and maintenance were identified as major factors in a consumer’s decision to choose other flooring over carpet. The results were dramatic, and came from both residential and commercial consumers. When CRI started investigating the reasons behind the data, we quickly found that not all cleaning products and equipment performed on the same level. In fact, some of them didn’t perform at all. No wonder people were dissatisfied with their inability to clean their own carpets!

For the majority of users, the Seal of Approval testing program has proven to be of great benefit. It has allowed equipment manufacturers to measure their performance, and, as I have pointed out previously, if you can measure something, you can improve it. That’s exactly what has happened: chemical and equipment manufacturers have found ways to better their products, and the consumer is reaping the benefits. On the other hand, there are those in the cleaning industry who are not happy with the way their products have performed in the tests, and who have chosen to try to discredit the CRI SOA program.

I am pleased to say that when I walked into the room to make my presentation at Connections, I did not encounter a group of angry people waiting to criticize CRI's SOA program. I sensed that a few in attendance were "loaded for bear", and several others had questions prepared to read. Still, a funny thing happened along this road to conflict: there was dialogue.

CRI has always emphasized the importance of continually reviewing and updating its programs. As long-time CRI ally and committee leader Dr. Howard Elder of J&J Industries likes to say, “Never let perfection get in the way of progress.” Guided by that concept, CRI has periodically upgraded its various standards on Indoor Air Quality, installation, sustainability, cleaning and maintenance and others as we recognized new developments or additional technology. CRI is not an unresponsive ultimate authority, but a member-driven organization made up of people trying to do what’s best for our collective industry.

CRI's role is to act as an advocate for manufacturers, consumers and for all who serve the carpet industry, in whatever capacity. I know that some people were not completely satisfied with the SOA program when CRI introduced it six years ago. Since that time, CRI’s Cleaning and Maintenance Issues Management Committee, which is made up of members from both the carpet and cleaning industries in fairly equal shares, has listened to the feedback and addressed the different issues raised in good faith and to the best of our ability. The feedback CRI has received recently about certain aspects of the SOA program has not fallen on deaf ears: several changes and alterations to the program are currently under consideration by the C&M IMT, and CRI will publically announce any changes to the program at the appropriate time.

It is vitally important to me that professionals in the cleaning and maintenance community understand that CRI is not here to dictate to the cleaning industry, or anyone else, despite some of the talk that went on leading up to Connections. CRI’s staff and committees welcome questions as well as complaints, and are willing to address those that we can.

The Connections presentation was a situation that had the potential to go wrong, but it ended up being productive. It was my wish that those who attended would leave feeling that they could work with CRI. I hope that was the result, because, in the end, customers will be the ones who benefit the most!
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