Recently I received a question from a customer of a professional janitorial services company about cleaning in a high traffic environment. They were having trouble maintaining the carpet and were looking for solutions on how to maintain a clean, consistent appearance in this type of environment. One of their specific concerns was how to deal with the time it took to dry the carpets because they were taking so long to dry that customers were walking on them before they had a chance to completely dry. My reply to them was that they would need to implement a carpet maintenance services program to accomplish that task.
An effective program for carpet maintenance services consists of four phases:
- Preventative Maintenance: Stop as much soil as possible from entering the facility so that you don’t have to remove it through vacuuming. Industry estimates say that it costs up to $700 per pound to remove soil once it has been tracked into a facility. Additionally, it has been estimated that 1000 people in 20 days can track in 24 pounds of soil. With numbers like these, it is obvious that prevention is a critical part of the program.
- Daily Maintenance: Vacuuming to remove soils that have been tracked in is critical to the appearance of the flooring and to the lifecycle cost of the flooring. Removing these soils on a regular, daily basis will reduce the damage that they do to the carpet fibers and prolong the life and appearance of the flooring. Soils scratch and abrade fibers with the equivalency of 120 grit sand-paper so it is important to recover them quickly and thoroughly. In order to recover them thoroughly you need to use the correct vacuum which is an upright vacuum with brush agitation in the first 40 feet from an entrance and off an interior hard surface. Areas that are not within this 40 foot window where most soil accumulates can be vacuumed with back-packs and wide area vacuums for their higher production rates.
- Interim Maintenance: Your low moisture encapsulation program is a very good choice to maintain the appearance of the carpet with the least amount of downtime. Remember that the whole goal of interim maintenance is to maintain a clean and consistent appearance between extractions.
- Restorative Maintenance: Extraction is the restorative step that cannot be overlooked. If regular extractions are not performed it could lead to indoor air quality issues as well as potential warranty issues.
Based on what the customer described and with an understanding of how to put together an effective carpet care program here is what I would recommend:
- Look at frequencies: Remember that every area of the facility does not need the same amount of maintenance. As I mentioned above, the first 40 feet off a hard surface trap and hold almost 100% of the soil off the shoes of the shoppers. Therefore, those areas need the most intensive vacuuming, encapsulation, and extraction. The rest of the areas will need maintained as well; however, they should not require the same amount of maintenance services. You should also look at extracting smaller areas and drying them quickly. Carpets should take no longer than 6 to 8 hours to dry regardless of what environment you are in. Frankly, they should dry most of the time in 4 to 6 hours. So if the occupants are going to arrive at 8:00 AM and you start extracting at 12:00 AM then extract for 2 hours, keep blowers on the floor all night, and the floors should be dry when the customers arrive.
- Look at your equipment: If your equipment cannot dry extract so that the floor is dry when the customers arrive then have it checked over by a repair center for leaks in the vacuum recovery system, clogged jets, or a clogged vacuum orifice. Any of these will slow your dry time as well.
- Look at your technicians: Finally, check the techniques used by your employees or your commercial building maintenance services. It is quite possible that the processes and techniques they are using are leading to extended dry times.
In regards to technicians I do think that many commercial building maintenance services or commercial janitorial cleaning services today use far too much water in the extraction process because they are relying on the extractor to do the cleaning and thus they have a tendency to over wet the carpet.
You see, cleaning carpet is a lot like cleaning a lasagna pan; which
everyone knows how to clean. When it is your turn to wash the lasagna pan you instinctively know that you can either spend the next 30 minutes scrubbing that pan or you can do what any sane person would do: put the pan in the sink, fill it with hot water and dish soap, and clean it in the morning. After an evening of soaking in the hot water and soap all that you have to do is to dump out the water, gently scrub a few spots, and the lasagna pan is clean!
Carpet cleaning has 4 important steps:
- Dry soil removal: This means vacuum before cleaning. We all learned in kindergarten chemistry class what happens to dry soil when you add water. You make mud. Remove the dry soils from your carpet before extracting because no extractor is meant to remove dry soil in a wet, muddy state.
- Soil suspension: Pre-spray before you extract. It takes 10 to 15 minutes of contact time for the chemicals to do their job of removing the soils that are stuck to the carpet fibers with a fluid, sticky bond so that they can be held in suspension for removal. If you are not pre-spraying you are relying on 1 to 2 seconds of chemical contact time to make this happen. Essentially this is the step that we know instinctively when it comes to lasagna because we all soak the pan overnight. And just like the lasagna you want to use hot water for your pre-spray, a detergent (just so we are clear…no dish soap), and you want to agitate the pre-spray into the carpet and let it dwell.
- Extraction: Think about this: if you vacuumed to remove the dry soil and pre-sprayed with hot water, detergent, and dwell time to remove the sticky, oily soils then all your extraction step has to do is to flush the suspended soils from the carpet. This requires far less water, which means faster dry times, than expecting to accomplish the entire cleaning process on this step.
- Drying: Once you have extracted get the blowers out and dry the carpet!
So, if you want to minimize the amount of moisture you have to use in an extraction make sure you follow the proper processes.
Remember, there are basically two types of soil in your carpet: dry soils that are most effectively removed with a thorough vacuuming and sticky, oily soils that must be extracted from the fibers. The best way to remove those soils is to apply a formulated pre-spray that is mixed with hot water, agitate it into the carpet pile, and allow it to dwell for 10 to 15 minutes before extraction.
Whether your facility is local or national, commercial facility maintenance services implementing the principles just taught will protect the life your carpet, one of your most expensive assets.
Bo lives in the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine, Florida, with his wife and seven children.Bo can be reached at Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org