Keeping it Clean: Carpet Care Best Practices

by Michael Kupneski, R&D Section Head, P&G Professional

Fall is upon us and that means cooler temperatures and more people spending time indoors. During the fall and upcoming winter months, changes in weather patterns bring rain and snow which means more people staying indoors to keep warm and dry. For educational and hospital facilities, this can contribute to an increase of germs circulating in the building that, along with allergens and dander, may eventually settle into the carpet.

It’s important to design and implement a carpet cleaning program to promote a clean and hygienic environment for everyone who comes through the building. Below are carpet care best practices to help you do just that in your school, university, hospital or long-term care facility.

Establish a Daily Routine

Every carpet care program should include daily duties of vacuuming carpets to remove soil, especially during the fall and winter months when it’s easy for visitors to track in dirt. Vacuuming should be done more frequently during these months as it’s the first line of defense in picking up most soil and helping to maintain cleaner carpets.

Additionally, a matting program should be put into place to help reduce the amount of soil, dirt and moisture that enters the building. Mats should be located inside and outside the building in high-traffic areas, such as the main entrance to the building, entryway and foyer – to continue to capture incoming dirt. Remember to clean mats regularly.

Another important aspect of a daily routine is stain removal. Following are strategies to put into place in any facility.

  • Remove Stains Quickly – Cleaning crews will always have a better chance of removing a “fresh” stain that has been quickly identified, than one that has “sat” on the carpet for a while.
  • Utilize a General Spotter – To combat stains, cleaning professionals should have a general spotter as part of their carpet care “tool kit.” It’s always best to start with a general spotter as the cleaning crew may not be aware of the type of stain on the carpet. Generally, 80 to 90 percent of stains can be removed with this type of high quality commercial product.
  • Remove Stains Properly – The best process for stain removal is to start with a small amount of cleaning product and then blot the stain. Cleaning professionals should work from the outside edges of the stain inward and follow label instructions. Some common mistakes in stain removal include not allowing the product enough time to work and not allowing the carpet enough time to dry. It’s important to make sure the carpet is fully dry to identify if the stain has been removed.
  • Benefits of a Bio Spotter – If the stain remains after using a general spotter, the next step is to use a bio spotter. These types of stain removers contain enzyme-producing bacteria strains to eliminate organic soils and problem spots. Bio spotters are specially designed to eliminate urine, milk, blood and other stains.
  • Benefits of a Tannin Spot Remover – If the bio spotter doesn’t remove the stain, the third step in the stain removal process is to use a tannin spot remover. This is an acid-fortified carpet spot cleaner formulated to attack coffee spots, tannin-based spots, rust and oxidized organics.

Typically, cleaning professionals can start with a general spotter and then move on to a bio spotter and tannin spot remover, if needed, to deliver the best results. It’s important to treat the stains in this order to ensure the spotters don’t deactivate each other.

Develop an Interim Maintenance Plan

Beyond the daily routine, facility managers need to incorporate interim maintenance into their carpet cleaning program. This includes cleaning high-traffic areas, such as hallways, waiting rooms, lobby areas and other carpeted areas near entrances, elevators or exits, just to name a few. Facility managers should identify which carpeted areas get “heavy use” and how often these high-traffic areas should be scheduled for interim maintenance.

Bonnet cleaning is a common method, used in many schools and hospitals, for interim maintenance. This type of cleaning can be done weekly or monthly, depending on your facility, to clean the top fiber section of the carpet. Cleaning professionals should apply a bonnet cleaner in even, overlapping strokes on the overlapping traffic lane and other highly soiled localized areas. Then, lightly apply solution to the bonnet and buff the area. Or submerge the pad in the mop bucket containing the bonnet cleaning solution, wring out the excess solution and buff the area. Be sure to change dirty pads during the cleaning, as needed.

Dry foam carpet care is a newer, more recommended method for interim maintenance. Professional cleaners use special equipment to clean carpet fibers with a dry foam. This low-moisture system can work efficiently and effectively in soil removal and has the benefit of a quicker drying time than bonnet cleaning. With the dry foam method, carpets can dry in minutes rather than hours. This is a big benefit to buildings, such as hospitals, that stay open round-the-clock.

Both bonnet cleaning and the dry foam method help extend the time between carpet extraction cleaning.

Schedule Time for Restorative Care

Once or twice a year, depending on the carpet manufacturer’s recommendation, cleaning professionals should do extraction cleaning throughout the entire facility. In the fall, consider an extraction in high-traffic areas to help rid of pollens from the summer growing season that have deposited into the carpet, and before the winter season hits with more people bringing germs indoors. And, again in the spring, consider a full carpet extraction, as warmer temperatures and fresh air help increase circulation to help the carpet dry faster. Carpets that take too long to dry can lead to mold growth.

It’s important to use a high quality extraction cleaner/sanitizer that is EPA-registered to help fight against common bacteria that can cause disease. This type of multipurpose product can clean, sanitize and deodorize all in one step. A sanitizer is beneficial as it can help prohibit mold growth if the carpet does not dry as quickly as needed. This can be especially helpful in a building with a lot of square footage of carpet. Additionally, a deodorizer will help neutralize unpleasant maladors and contribute to overall cleanliness.

By using a one-step carpet extraction cleaner/sanitizer, cleaning professionals can get the job done right the first time, saving labor time and minimizing rework. In fact, in the 2014 P&G Professional Cleaning Industry Insights Survey, more than half (55 percent) of cleaning managers overall noted the most helpful factor for performing cleaning services as products that get the job done the first time.

Also, consider extraction cleaning for upholstery, such as chairs and couches in waiting rooms and lobby areas. Once completed, apply a carpet/upholstery protectant to prolong the life of the carpet/upholstery and help guard against soil and oil penetration.

Benefits of Carpet Care

These best practices provide facility managers with guidelines to establish an efficient and effective carpet care program to help protect, maintain and restore a clean and hygienic environment. A carpet care program should be specifically tailored to meet the demands and size of the facility.

Remember: dust, germs and anything that fills the air eventually filters through the building’s HVAC system and lands on the carpet. By maintaining a properly working HVAC system and keeping carpets clean, facility managers can promote overall cleanliness in their building. This can be especially true for educational and medical facilities, where germs are easily spread through students, staff, patients and residents.

Be sure to use a commercial carpet care system that is designed to work together. Look for a full-line of products that complement each other in every stage of carpet care from the daily routine to interim maintenance to restorative care. This will help facility managers and cleaning professionals keep carpets fresh, clean and protected throughout the building.