The Greatest Commercial Carpet Cleaning Challenge, by Richard Sudall of Chemspec Europe
I’ve known Richard for many years through our own carpet cleaning business and have used many of Chemspec Europe’s products, including their Fire and Flood range. The commercial carpet cleaning side of our business was ‘revolutionised’ after attending a TACCA day and then following that up with the Commercial Carpet Maintenance course that Chemspec run. If you’ve never done that course I highly recommend it, you’ll look at commercial carpeting and it’s maintenance in a much more profitable way. In my experience you’ll win more commercial work, and give your clients a maintenance schedule that shows you know your stuff. They’ll look on you as their expert, even when others try to get in using low price, they’ll remain loyal to you and your planned maintenance schedule. Over to Richard, who shares some great advice…
Carpets are now installed across a much wider range of buildings than ever before and are even being laid on top of the recent trend towards wood or laminate flooring. Years ago carpets were laid like rugs with floorboards visible around the edges, often painted black, until, with the advent of Broadloom, wall-to-wall carpeting became the norm. I’m guessing that most of us who spend large parts of our working day in an office will have noticed that it’s carpeted; mine is. Where carpets are laid in commercial premises like theatres, hospitals, hotels and offices, the challenge to keep them clean is greater than it is in domestic situations. So what are the challenges we face in keeping these carpets looking great?
Larger areas and higher footfall are obvious factors but logistics can play a part in adding to the difficulties of cleaning. In airports, for example, clearing security can take longer than actually doing the job and some premises have strict rules about access through doors that are normally securely locked. Sometimes there can be problems with access to clean water and often the waste water has to be carried large distances for disposal. Some premises, like Casinos, Hotels, Hospitals and Nursing Homes are occupied 24 hours a day and noise can be an issue; just ask an Airline pilot who has tried to sleep in the daytime in a noisy Hotel.
The practical aspects of commercial carpet cleaning are largely the same as domestic, just on a larger scale. Clearly soil is THE major factor; not just the amount, but also where it is and its type. If we consider the amount first, the majority of soil found in carpet is dry particulate soil. In fact, Chemspec teach that 79% of the total soil mass in the average carpet is dry. That’s why it’s critical to vacuum carpet regularly and thoroughly, even immediately before periodic cleaning. Failure to remove sufficient dry soil prior to wet cleaning will make the cleaning task harder as the soil combines with the water to form a type of mud, which is then more difficult to extract. This can cause Wicking problems as the residues ‘wick’ to the surface of the fibres in the drying process, leaving the grey shading that appears in the heavy traffic areas soon after drying. Avoiding it is simple; always vacuum thoroughly, use a low moisture carpet cleaning method such as rotary bonnet cleaning, use encapsulating solutions or ‘dry’ compound cleaning and force dry the carpet after cleaning with a high moisture method. The 79% figure quoted applies to carpets fitted in the vast majority of areas; not just in high traffic locations.
In terms of where the soil is mainly located, think of barrier matting, which is designed to remove soil from feet and keep it near the doorways. Barrier matting is fantastic at doing so, especially if it extends further than just the first one or two footfalls. Typical commercial carpet, rather than being fantastic at it, is simply very good at cleaning shoes. 85% of soil enters the typical building on footwear and, after 7 steps the soles of our shoes are cleaned. If no barrier mat is fitted, then the entry carpet holds onto the soil acting like a reservoir and keeps hold of it until the carpet is vacuumed. If the carpet is not vacuumed sufficiently well, or frequently enough, it will become saturated with soil and subsequent foot traffic will begin to transport soil from the reservoir further and further into the building creating what carpet cleaners call Traffic Lanes. Eventually, if the carpet continues to be neglected, these traffic lanes will spread throughout the building. We have all seen them and our carpet-cleaning customers love them. Obviously it is equally important to vacuum the barrier mat, as that reservoir, similarly, will become saturated if neglected.
Having discussed the amount and location of what is thought of as typical soil, now we will discuss some of the different types of soil that might make the carpet-cleaning task more challenging in a commercial environment.
Carpet soil is defined as anything that is foreign to the construction of the carpet. We are not just faced with the fine, so called typical, carpet soil that drops deep in the pile. It can be physical soil such as chewing gum or food particles or the carpet can be discoloured with stains of the liquid dyes contained in such items as coffee, tea, energy drinks, fake tan solutions and a wide variety of natural and artificial dyes within spices and other food additives. These are most likely to be found in public areas; chewing gum and drink stains in cinemas, food and drink stains in food service areas and food dye stains in restaurants and roadside service stations. Notice the carpet discoloration that is often apparent near the kitchen access of a restaurant. Fake tan is common in hotel rooms as well as domestic carpets. These types of soil are a serious concern to building owners and contractors due to the high concentration of soil and the resulting contrast in colour. If 200ml of dark coloured coffee is spilled in a 10cm x 10cm area of a light coloured carpet it’s likely to be noticeable from several Metres away and so too is a piece of gum or the orange dye from a can of Fanta, for example.
Even colourless clean oils will darken as other soils stick to them, over time. A single stain can make the difference between a carpeted area looking good or bad. These types of stains can all be removed from the majority of carpet but contractors need to select specialist products and perhaps take on additional training from specialist manufacturers such as Chemspec to achieve the best results.
Some types of cleaning tasks are tricky by their very nature; casinos are open 24 hours per day so when do you clean the carpets and can you guarantee high speed drying? Many carpet cleaning systems are noisy, even the self contained Truck mounted type, that remain outside the building whilst simply running hoses inside, produce lots of noise outside, certainly too much if guests are trying to sleep during the day in a hotel room. Even using a portable machine outside a hotel room would be too noisy. Elderly and Mentally Infirm units pose access difficulties, not just security but access to rooms where residents may be bed bound. Not only is the soil a challenge but also there is the deodorisation task, often made worse by the constant re-contamination of areas by residents. Many commercial premises add automatic perfume dispensers but these only tend to mask malodours; the professional cleaner needs to remove the source of the problem to fully eliminate the unpleasant and potentially harmful odours. Fortunately, a number of very effective deodorising cleaning solutions are available, some containing enzymes that will digest the residual bacteria that can remain in the fibres of the carpet after thorough conventional cleaning.
Stairs can be thought of as a challenge but, with the right equipment and technique, they are not really a major problem, simply taking more time and effort, and therefore more cost, to maintain them in good condition.
Of the wide variety of commercial premises with carpet cleaning needs it is probably the Nursing Home and Dementia Units that pose the greatest challenge. There are inevitable spills of brightly coloured medication, slip risk from damp carpet, odour control, constant recontamination, health and safety risk from body fluid spills with hepatitis and other virulent microbial hazards. Almost every type of soil, hot & cold foods, hot and cold drinks, medicines, body liquids and solids, sweets, lubricant from wheelchairs, in fact an endless list of contaminants can affect the appearance of carpeting in these environments.
Keeping commercial carpets looking good is a budgetary decision for management. The cleaning task is straightforward for professional carpet cleaners but is made more difficult and, in the long term, more expensive if the carpet gets too heavily soiled, when cleaning becomes the more difficult task of restoration.
Perhaps building owners and facility managers need to think about carpet maintenance in the same way that they think about the security alarm maintenance, plan it, schedule it and get it done before it is noticeable that work needs doing.
Whilst certain commercial premises, like the Nursing and Dementia Care homes mentioned above, are more difficult to keep clean than others, it follows that, ideally, they should all have a proper cleaning regime where specific tasks are performed to a well-documented schedule of routine maintenance. Where such a regime is implemented, as with a growing number of enterprises, this planned maintenance will not only create a cleaner and healthier environment for the occupants but also will prove cost effective. The life of the carpets will be extended considerably when compared with that of buildings where cleaning only takes place when the need is glaringly obvious.
Thanks again to Richard. So, take a look at Chemspec’s Website here>>
Remember that we’re carpet cleaners too. So last, but not least, find out more about a Chemspec Europe product which JUST THE MENTION OF has won us more commercial carpet cleaning work in the Health Care Sector than anything else we have ever included in a tender document for such work! See the article here>>