Correct Cleaning Methods

Correct Carpet Cleaning Methods Conserve Natural Resources, Keep Indoor Air Clean

By: Thomas E. Carlson

Conserving natural resources and improving the indoor environment of retail locations to make it more advantageous for customers to visit is a common interest among building owners. The causes of poor indoor air quality are better understood today, yet options that lead to better air quality are sometimes overlooked. Not only are basic design elements, such as ventilation systems, critical, but architects, designers and facility managers need to also recognize the impact of building materials and cleaning processes.

The choices we make for carpet cleaning can impact these environmental concerns and should be taken into consideration. Along with the focus of using environmentally-friendly (green) cleaning products, it is also important to review the amount of water used during cleaning and the amount of organic particles (mold spores) released into the air due to excessive moisture in the carpet.

Dusts and bio-aerosols are common contributors to ongoing poor indoor air quality. (Bio-aerosols can be pollen, bacterial, fungal or mites.) Therefore, it is essential that buildings be kept clean and dry. Poor cleaning practices will contribute to the accumulation of dusts and biological debris.

Inadequate frequency of cleaning or incorrect cleaning can result in poor indoor air quality due to soil contaminates that build up in the carpet without proper removal. Airborne particulates and organic growth increases as the soil levels grow. The introduction of substandard cleaning chemicals can trap and attract soil more rapidly.

For decades, the popular choice for carpet cleaning has been hot water or steam extraction, which utilizes a high volume of water and detergent solution to rinse the soil from the carpet. This method takes an extended time to dry and the moisture left behind can breed mold and mildew spores that may be released into the indoor environment. Some extraction chemicals can also cause rapid re-soiling due to the detergent residue left in the carpeting after it dries. This method should only be used for restorative purposes and be followed by fans that dry the carpet as quick as possible.

Another alternative is dry compound “powder” cleaning. This absorbent mixture, resembling wet sawdust or powder, is spread over the carpet. A machine brushes the mixture into the carpet to absorb the dirt. When the mixture dries, it is vacuumed out. This method does not have over-wetting or moisture concerns, but certain soil levels might not be fully removed and powder particulates are sometimes left in the carpet and may be released into the indoor environment. This method usually requires an annual hot water extraction to remove any powder or excessive soil residues.

Low moisture encapsulation cleaning is gaining strength in retail spaces. Encapsulation utilizes a specialized polymer technology that removes soil from the carpet fibers and encapsulates or surrounds it in a crystalline coating that dries brittle for easy removal with a HEPA filter vacuum. This method utilizes a foam/spray application with brush or pad agitation which minimizes the water required for effective cleaning.

With Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) being an area of increased government and building occupant concern, it is apparent that the focus on cleaning will be equally important for health reasons as well as appearance levels. An efficiently planned, regular maintenance program for your commercial carpet will create a more pleasant environment for your customer, prolong carpet fiber life and improve carpet appearance. The correct carpet cleaning methods will help conserve natural resources and provide a clean indoor environment for your patrons.

Thomas E. Carlson, CEO of Commercial Service Solutions, has nearly three decades of experience in all aspects of the carpet industry, including production, installation and maintenance.

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