Carpet care

Experts weigh in on the importance of implementing a carpet maintenance program.

As facilities begin to reopen and welcome back occupants, there will be new standards of clean to adhere to. Implementing a preventative carpet maintenance program will help reduce the number of contaminants within the indoor environment.

A recent survey conducted by Whittaker Co, found the majority of Americans (93 per cent) would form a negative perception of a company or organisation if its facility had dirty carpet.

The survey of 2102 adults, conducted by market research firm, The Harris Poll, found 56 per cent of respondents would look for an alternate facility to patronise after encountering unclean carpet in a public building.

A common mistake by facilities is failing to have a comprehensive maintenance program in place, including a regular cleaning schedule.

A proper carpet care program extends the useful life of carpet while maintaining a high appearance level, reducing water usage and dumping of chemicals. A properly maintained carpet reduces indoor pollutants and allergens because of its particle trapping effect and reduces overall costs of operation.

According to Kristine Collins, product manager for SEBO Australia, companies who do not implement cleaning programs, or use incorrect cleaning equipment, appear to do so for two main reasons: budget constraints and poor cleaning knowledge.

“Shortcuts could actually cost you more in the long run and companies who just surface clean with ‘suction-only’ vacuum cleaners perform a grave disservice to their customers, ‘if it looks clean then it must be clean’. Wrong.”

To be able to implement a maintenance program access to the correct equipment is essential. “Cleaning soft floor with incorrect, non-approved methods, equipment and chemicals may result in damage to the product and invalidation of the warranties,” says Collins.

Another common mistake is not knowing the cleaning or maintenance requirements for the installed carpet. “Carpets are not all the same, the construction, fibre and backing systems vary and some cleaning methods may inadvertently void manufacturer warranties. Different carpet fibres may require chemical usage, which has a pH range that should be exceeded.”

Developing a carpet care program

A carpet maintenance program seeks to prevent and anticipate soil before it builds up. It lays out how you will clean and care for your carpet on an ongoing basis and ensure your carpet continues to look its best and help you avoid costly problems down the road.

IICRC instructor, Jason Twigg, recommends the planning, development and implementation of a carpet care program be undertaken in the first year of use. “Prevention is always better than the cure, this is so true with carpet care programs,’ he says.

In conjunction with an effect cleaning program, budget should also be top of mind. “Know how much you have to spend and utilise that in the best manner,” explains Twigg.

“This includes daily/weekly vacuuming to remove dry particulates using an upright vacuum with a beater bar, spot and stain removal when required, interim cleaning methods such as encapsulant cleaning and restorative cleaning methods such as hot water extraction cleaning.”

It is also essential that cleaning take place over set months of the year. As Twigg explains: “More than 70 per cent of soil is dry particulate that starts at the bottom of the carpet fibre and works its way to the top where we see it. If it’s visible, the carpet is loaded with this soil, making is more difficult to remove.”

He advises to “clean for health, then appearance”. “Like any flooring material we find whatever is in the air will end up on the floor. For this reason, carpet is a great filter (often called a sink) and for this reason it needs to be emptied, if not it can be a source for contaminants such as dry soil, bacterial and viruses.

“It’s essential we remove these contaminates before they are aerosolised and either breathed via airborne contact or they find their way into the HVAC system. By doing so, we also make the work area look clean, demonstrate to our staff and clients a professional appearance. A win, win for all concerned.

Another consideration is the life cycle cost of the flooring.

“Too often customers ask what the cost of cleaning will be over a year which is only one part of the decision. They should also ask, what is the cost of replacing the carpet if it prematurely “uglies out” from lack of correct maintenance,” says Twigg.

“Multiple studies show that a preventative maintenance program will extend the life of the carpet for many years, thus saving money on replacement.”

According to Daniel Pisaniello, GM wholesale, Godfreys, a carpet maintenance program should include the chemicals, equipment, and systems you will use to maintain the appearance and condition of your carpet (and protect your manufacturer’s warranties).

‘It should take into account your carpet location, environmental conditions, foot traffic and traffic patterns, the cleaning program you will use and your cleaning budget,” explains Pisaniello.

When formulating a carpet maintenance plan, Collins advises to refer to the carpet manufacturer’s warranty statements as well as the Australian and New Zealand standard AS/NZS 3733 – Textile floor coverings – Cleaning maintenance of residential and commercial carpeting.

“It is important to note that carpet is a three-dimensional product. Unlike hard, two-dimensional flooring, carpet has depth and the ability to hide soiling. Even though it may not appear dirty, carpet requires routine maintenance, particularly vacuuming, to remove soiling and keep it looking beautiful for years.

“Frequent and thorough vacuuming with the correct type of vacuum cleaner for the application is the single most important component of a carpet maintenance program. Eighty-five per cent of dirt in carpets is dry, insoluble soil.”

SSafeguarding facilities

While cleaning carpet won’t prevent disease outbreaks, by implementing a preventative carpet maintenance program it will help reduce the number of contaminants within the indoor environment.

“Daily vacuuming is the single most important step in correct carpet cleaning,” says Collins.

“As it is the vacuum cleaner which should remove the maximum amount of debris prior to any other form of carpet cleaning schedule taking place such as hot water extraction.

“Vacuum cleaner type and carpet construction will directly affect the hygiene of the carpet and in turn indoor air quality (IAQ),” Collins says adding, vacuuming should be undertaken using a quality upright vacuum cleaner with a power head, preferably with dual motors.

“It is recommended that the upright vacuum cleaner come with a brush height adjustment facility and checked prior to every use.”

Collin says vacuum bags should be disposable, not reusable. “This not only keeps the vacuum performing optimally day after day but also reduces air borne dust and allergens from re-entering the atmosphere. Vacuum cleaners can only filter what they pick up.

“Suction only cleaners such as backpacks, barrels and battery powered vacuum cleaners that do not feature a rotary brush roller are not routinely recommended by carpet manufacturers for the correct care of their flooring products.

She advises sweepers and suction-only cleaners may be used at any time for surface touch-up. “Their use is to be in addition to, not in lieu of, the scheduled vacuum cleaning with an upright vacuum.”

Pisaniello says the best method of cleaning carpets is usually steam cleaning, which can deodorise and sanitise carpet from dirt, odours and bacteria.

“Dry cleaning carpet is also effective in preparing carpet for foot traffic as quickly as possible. Keeping your carpet clean and sanitising it regularly provides a preventative safeguard against dirt and germs. Using the correct, safe carpet sanitiser will further prevent viruses and germs in your home or work environment.”

Buying new equipment

There are several questions for consideration to help focus your search efforts before purchasing new equipment, such as, is the cleaning equipment purchased suitable for the carpet type and desired outcome to be achieved?

“It’s easy to get caught up in the ‘latest and greatest’ when perusing new equipment, says Pisaniello.

“Confirming with experts in floorcare will allow you to avoid incorrectly landing on a machine that is either too much, not enough, or just does not fit your needs. Most importantly, your equipment is tested and properly certified.”

According to Pisaniello, the most important considerations include: the type of flooring to be cleaned, does the facility need to control allergens, frequency of clean, size of the area, noise level and how much maintenance is required.

Tony Antonious, owner and managing director of Polivac International, says flooring type, the facility’s size, cleaning method and frequency of clean need to be considered before purchase.

“You need to the right machine for the right area. Ask, where the machine will be used and what is the size of the facility? Are you cleaning a hospital, school, or domestic house? These will also have different requirements.

“Cleaners and carpet cleaning technicians need to understand the type of carpet they will be working with, which may require carpet testing. Technicians also need proper training of three main components – carpet, machinery and chemicals.

Collins warns to be weary of price. “Typically, if the price is too good to be true then the goods will soon add to landfill. Both short- and long-term cost savings are achieved when the right piece of equipment is used for the task at hand.

“Filtration is often taken for granted. Manufacturers may state their equipment has a HEPA filter but really what is the quality of air being exhausted from the machine? Where is the HEPA filter situated within the system? Final exhaust air should be free of dust borne particles.”

Twigg suggests looking beyond the purchase prince. “What does it cost overall? Not just the purchase price, but its cost to service, and repair because all equipment regardless of price or manufacturer will need repair.”

Do’s and don’ts

Pisaniello says vacuuming is one of the most important parts of routine carpet maintenance, as well as frequently rotating furniture.

“Furniture is heavy and can sag into your carpet, causing indents and worn patches. Also, don’t let stains sit and don’t use the incorrect chemicals on your carpet.”

Twigg recommends using a professional cleaning technician. “Just like any profession, training is especially important, Training and education is an ongoing journey as this industry is constantly changing and evolving.

“Also, understand what technologies are being used in carpet manufacturer, both locally and overseas. Be aware of new fibre development and construction methods.

Polivac’s Antonious says technicians need to undertake regular training on carpet materials and technologies.

“The technology of carpet continues to change and advance and technicians need training need to be skilled on the latest processes and procedures.”

Collins agrees staff need to be experience for the task at hand.

“Knowledge is key, and staff should undertake an accredited program or training to benefit both them and the company’s potential future earnings. Knowing how to identify and solve the cleaning problem as well as have access to the correct equipment to do so may take out the ‘guess factor’ and reduce costly mistakes.

“Routine maintenance should also be performed on the cleaning equipment. As Collins explains: “Just as you should maintain the floor in accordance with the manufacturers care guides, you need to perform routine maintenance on your cleaning equipment.

“This ensures an optimum clean with each use and should be performed on a daily basis. The crucial parts to pay special attention to are the contact points with the cleaning surface, electrical cables and consumable items.”

Collins also suggests maintaining an adequate supply of chemicals, brushes, filters, and spare parts, etc in-house. This will reduce equipment ‘downtime’ and improve cleaning efficiency.

“Less is more. Don’t think by adding more chemicals it will provide a greater clean. Use the guides recommended and don’t be afraid to ask an expert.”

This article was first published in INCLEAN magazine 

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