Carpet Care: Nursing Home Cleaning Procedures & Tips

In the United States alone, there are more than 15,000 nursing homes that oversee the care of 1.3 million residents.While nursing homes are intended to be welcoming, safe places for the elderly, many of whom have compromised immune systems, these facilities are being hit especially hard during the novel coronavirus pandemic. In fact, across 39 states, 43% of all COVID-19 deaths have occurred in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

As many long-term care facilities use carpet to create a home-like environment for their residents, it’s important for facility managers and employees to understand how to appropriately maintain soft surfaces like carpet. Many long-term care facilities are following recommendations to disinfect hard surfaces. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Coronavirus Disease 2019 CDC/EPA Cleaning & Disinfecting Guidance, also notes that soft and porous materials like carpet should be cleaned with appropriate carpet cleaners. Thus, nursing home cleaning procedures must address carpet care, both during and after an outbreak or pandemic.

Why Carpet?

Not only is carpet aesthetically pleasing and comfortable to walk upon, it can help cushion falls in long-term care facilities. Carpet also provides acoustic and insulating qualities that are favorable to these types of communities.

In facilities like nursing homes or assisted living centers, keeping carpet clean is crucial to the health and safety of employees, residents and visitors. According to a report by the Office of the Inspector General, more than 12% of nursing home hospitalizations are caused by lower respiratory issues such as pneumonia and COPD-related problems. Additionally, a study conducted by Dr. Michael Berry of the Cleaning Industry Research Institute found that the air quality above carpeting was better than above hard surface flooring.

With COVID-19 spreading so quickly among nursing home residents, it’s more important than ever for facilities to reassess their approach to carpet care to reduce the risk of cross contamination.

Common Carpet Stains

Carpet in senior living facilities can be plagued with a variety of stains, including:

  • Food stains – Food spills tend to occur in carpeted settings like dining areas and resident rooms. It’s best to remove excess solids and blot the stain from the outside in to prevent spreading.
  • Beverage stains –Some drink spills, such as coffee or soda, can be blotted immediately and rinsed with water if caught on the spot. However, a set-in beverage stain will be harder to remove from carpet without the use of specialty spotting chemistry.
  • Body fluid stains – Accidents happen in nursing homes and can lead to organic stains on carpet. With COVID-19 viral particles spreading so easily via mucus and saliva, it’s especially important to regularly address both hard and soft surfaces. To keep unsightly, potentially contaminated and often foul-smelling stains from impacting a facility’s appearance and reputation, wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, during cleaning. To avoid cross contamination, thoroughly clean stain removal equipment after each use.

Nursing Home Cleaning Procedures Checklist

A maintenance regimen that combines regular vacuuming with interim maintenance and deep cleaning is essential to ensure that nursing and retirement homes keep carpet clean over time.

Consider the following nursing home and assisted living cleaning checklist for maintaining carpet:

  1. Conduct regular vacuuming –If possible, facilities should create and follow a daily schedule to keep dirt and debris from building up in carpet fibers. Consider using cordless vacuums to eliminate the possibility of trips or falls and invest in a commercial grade vacuum with a HEPA filtration system. As a rule of thumb, the heavier the level of foot traffic on the carpet, the more you should vacuum.
  2. Rely on the low-moisture encapsulation process – This trusted, and proven technique involves applying a solution of crystalizing polymers and detergent components to carpet. With agitation the process captures particles that vacuuming may miss, and removes any soils stuck to carpet fibers that can impact the appearance. The process returns areas to use in around 30 minutes by using much less water than other carpet cleaning methods.

Whittaker’s Smart Care® TWIN and TRIO machines are easy to use and require minimal training. These machines use multiple cylindrical brushes and encapsulation chemistry to extract embedded soils from carpet fibers. Whittaker’s CRYSTAL® Chemistry products have earned Green Seal Certification, making them an ideal choice for environments with people who may have compromised immune systems.

Additionally, CRYSTAL® QUICK RESTORE™ chemistry meets CDC carpet cleaning guidelines and harnesses the power of hydrogen peroxide, an Environmental Protection Agency approved cleaning solution, to remove tough stains.

  1. Check for spots – The sooner you treat a spot, the easier it is to remove completely from carpet. Conduct visual inspections of carpet throughout the facility. If you notice a potentially contaminated or dirty area, first simply blot with a clean rag to remove excess liquid and prevent it from setting deeper. Invest in appropriate spot-treating products that are safe for generalized cleaning. For instance, Whittaker’s Crystal ® Spot Tool lifts stains by gently agitating the affected area. Coupled with the Carpet Roamer ® Spotting Tool, which features two bristle settings that can adapt to various carpet types, users can effectively remove embedded soils. While cases of COVID-19 continue to impact nursing homes, err on the side of caution and wear the recommended PPE while conducting carpet care.
  2. Schedule as-needed hot-water extraction – A more intensive and disruptive process than low-moisture encapsulation, the hot-water extraction method provides an extremely thorough deep-clean for carpet. It also helps eliminate stains and odors by loosening dirt and oils from carpet fibers, which can be especially useful for long-term care facilities. With a low-moisture system in place, facilities can go longer between hot water extraction (potentially just once every year or every other year).

With COVID-19 spreading so quickly and widely in long-term care facilities, facility managers must do everything in their power to protect residents and employees. A thorough cleaning program is also essential once the risk of infection decreases, as dirty carpet may give off a negative impression and prevent people from trusting the facility to properly care for their loved ones. These environments also need to be welcoming and safe for the family members who often visit residents.

Implementing a comprehensive carpet care system in long-term care facilities is an important step in creating a healthy living environment. By following the above tips and techniques, organizations can better protect carpet and promote the wellbeing of residents, staff and visitors.

With over 30 years of experience and the pioneers of the first commercial encapsulation carpet cleaning system, Whittaker has the expertise required to help customers maintain a consistently cleaner carpet. For more information contact us at 800.422.7686 or