There are four important parts to an effective carpet care program –
- Matting: Preventing soil from being tracked throughout a building
- Vacuum & Spotting: Removing dry soil, carpet spots and spills
- Interim Maintenance: Removing oily soils and pile lifting
- Restorative Cleaning: Removing soils that reach the base of carpet fibers
The third part is low-moisture interim carpet maintenance. Interim maintenance is highly recommended by leading carpet mills and the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI). The goal is to enhance carpet appearance by removing oily soils and operating as a carpet pile lifter. Interim Maintenance delivers the best ‘bang for your buck’ to improve appearance.
This simple process restores carpet pile fibers to their original open and non-sticky condition, which improves the recovery of dry and abrasive soils from vacuuming. Not only will consistent carpet maintenance produce the best appearance, it will also reduce long-term costs that arise when carpet fibers are matted and damaged and require replacement.
The Benefits of Interim Carpet Maintenance
Interim carpet maintenance releases embedded dry and oily soil to keep carpet looking new. It’s an ideal cleaning method because it does not harm carpet fibers or leave sticky residues that accelerate re-soiling.
Interim carpet maintenance offers numerous benefits, including:
- Extending the lifespan of the carpet. Carpet is built to last for years, but only if it’s properly cared for over time. Depending on the type of carpet and the square footage, it can be extremely costly to replace, especially if replacement is the result of inadequate or improper care. Additionally, the removal of old carpet and installation of new carpet can be very disruptive to building occupants and guests.
- Ensuring consistent appearance levels over time. The residents, employees, visitors and customers of a facility should always be greeted with clean carpet. Interim maintenance ensures that carpet looks great month after month and never negatively impacts anyone’s perception of the facility.
- Meeting environmental criteria for a healthy indoor environment. Interim maintenance helps to remove built up dirt, dust and debris from carpet. If left unaddressed, dust mites, bacteria and even allergens can negatively impact the health of building occupants. Whether someone has respiratory issues or allergies, they can be triggered by carpet that has not been regularly or properly cleaned.
- Keeping costs low. Despite recommendations to perform multiple applications per year, interim maintenance is an incredibly quick and easy process. With lightweight and user-friendly equipment, employees can improve the appearance of carpet often in less time than vacuuming. This keeps labor costs in line with a facility’s budget.
- Reducing the need for large volumes of water to clean carpet. Over-wetting occurs when too much water is used to clean carpet or when water is not properly extracted. The water soaks into the carpet fibers, backing and padding and can result in mold and mildew that damage the carpet and can aggravate health issues such as asthma. Low-moisture interim maintenance helps facilities be more sustainable and reduces the risk of over-wetting floors.
Best Practices for Protecting Carpet
It’s important to follow interim carpet maintenance best practices for quality results. Low-moisture encapsulation cleaning is the preferred method since it effectively combines mill recommended pile-lifting and interim cleaning into a single step, saving time and labor costs. A thorough low-moisture interim carpet maintenance program can also extend the time between restorative hot water extraction cleaning.
Look for a system that has the CRI’s Seal of Approval. Systems with this seal are tested on soiled control carpets and meet strict standards in the “Efficacy Evaluation” and “Surface Appearance” categories. They are also tested against criteria such as the rate of re-soiling, pH, optical brighteners and colorfastness. Purchasing and using equipment and chemistry that meet these requirements can give facility managers more peace of mind regarding carpet care.
To perform low-moisture interim carpet maintenance:
- Add the appropriate chemistry and water to the machine mounted tank. Chemical should be CRI approved, Green Seal®certified and WoolSafe® approved.
- Apply the chemistry/water mixture to the carpet while agitating with the cylindrical brush machine. The polymers in the chemistry encapsulate soils while the machine lifts the pile of the carpet.
- Vacuum once the chemistry has dried completely, after about 20-30 minutes.
Carpet Ratings and Cleaning Frequency
CRI has a carpet rating system – Texture Appearance Retention Ratings (TARR) – to specify it as Moderate, Heavy or Severe. The Institute tests carpet in environments that simulate everyday foot traﬃc, and the better and longer the carpet keeps its original, tufted shape, the higher its rating. Facilities should use TARR as a guide when selecting carpet, and then adjust the frequency of interim carpet maintenance based on factors like traffic patterns and weather.
- Light – Light traffic areas experience up to 5,000 footfalls over a given time period. Sleeping areas and special use spaces like formal conference rooms usually see light foot traffic.Cleaning low traffic areas every other month will help maintain the look of carpet.
- Moderate – The CRI rating for moderate is ≥ 2.5 TARR, making carpet in this category ideal for places like offices, examination rooms and areas that experience about 5,000 to 10,000 footfalls. Conducting interim maintenance once or twice per month in these areas ensures that soils and stains don’t negatively impact brand reputation.
- Heavy – CRI rates carpet that can withstand heavy foot traffic as ≥ 3.0 TARR. Heavy traffic would consist of 10,000 to 15,000 footfalls over a specified time period, such as in entrance ways, corridors, classrooms and libraries. Once or twice weekly interim maintenance can help keep carpet appearance in line with visitor expectations.
- Severe – Carpet with a rating of ≥ 3.5 TARR can withstand severe foot traffic in places like airports, medical facilities, elevators, stairs and multipurpose areas. Typically, these places experience more than 15,000 footfalls over an allotted time period and require a thorough interim maintenance schedule that may include daily cleaning in some areas.
To best protect carpet, create a maintenance schedule that is well-matched to the facility’s needs and adjusts accordingly during harsher seasons like winter that bring more contaminants inside. Every facility should consider the benefits of daily vacuuming and spot cleaning to keep carpet looking its best. Then, train employees so that they understand how to operate the equipment as well as how to maintain it.