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Cold Weather Carpet Care

When seasons change and the wet and cold weather come your way, it’s time to alter your carpet care program to meet the changing needs that ice, snow and moisture bring with them. Regardless of the weather, season or type of facility, ongoing carpet care is critical to extending the useful life of building surfaces as well as maintaining acceptable standards related to appearance, safety, health, and cost control. Cleaning and maintenance programs or a lack there of have a direct impact on surfaces and are under the control and responsibility of custodial and maintenance departments.

Managing Carpet Care
A written, but flexible cleaning, spotting and maintenance plan that is based on the actual, but changing needs of carpeted areas within a facility should be developed and implemented.
Focus Your Attention and Resources

  • Identify priority areas that need special or more frequent attention prior to and during weather events
  • Monitor weather forecasts and prepare ahead of time for changing needs
  • Capture soil at its source, focus on preventing soil from getting tacked in and around the facility
  • Use adequate or excessive matting during inclement weather (at least 12 – 15 ft. inside and outside all entrances and exits)
  • Increase vacuuming and periodic maintenance frequencies when inclement weather hits
  • Entrances and exits and the first 20 – 30 ft. inside and outside should be your primary focus areas.
  • Sidewalks and parking lots – sweep, shovel, and blow to remove as much soil, sand, slush, snow and ice as possible to reduce the contamination that available to be tracked in doors and around the facility

Dry Soil Removal
One of the most overlooked and underutilized cleaning processes is dry soil removal. This can be easily accomplished with regular and frequent vacuuming of high traffic and soil concentration areas. Effective vacuuming programs will include surface removal via upright or suction only equipment and less frequent deep soil removal with a pile lifting type vacuum, both of which should capture and contain soil via HEPA filtration.

Often overlooked are the need for minor repairs along seams, door jambs and elevator tracks, and the need to trim off level with the surface, any pulled or sprouted yarns that protrude above the surface of the carpet. Minor repairs should be made immediately, as not doing will lead to damage and more costly repairs later on, or permanent damage that cannot be easily or inexpensively repaired.

Visible spots should be removed as soon as they are noticed. The longer spots remain on carpet fibers, the more likely a permanent stain will results or that damage due to color or texture change may occur as a result of attempted removal. General purpose and specialty spotting products are available to remove many common spots that will occur in commercial and residential facilities. It is important to note that some spots can quickly become permanent stains if left unattended or the incorrect processes or products are used to attempt removal.

Multiple approaches to cleaning are often needed to obtain the best and most cost effective results. This would include more frequent interim (low moisture surface cleaning) and less frequent deep (wet extraction cleaning). Each process should be evaluated based on effectiveness, conditions and what is being removed. If the carpet is heavily soiled or excessively wet, interim cleaning is not going to be effective, at the same time, overuse of wet cleaning processes may damage adhesives and carpet backings. The best approach is to obtain the carpet manufacturers recommendations regarding cleaning processes, products and frequencies so that the best results are obtained and any applicable warranties are not invalidated.

Recycling and Sustainability
Regardless of the weather or season, several new issues now need to be taken into consideration when planning a carpet maintenance program. Many locations include or are LEED certified properties that require that green sustainable products and processes be when cleaning. This often relates to the equipment and product purchased for use along with emphasis on clean water use and waste water disposal, power use, noise restrictions, and the chemicals used for spotting and cleaning. In addition, life cycle costs are now being considered and recycling of removed carpet vs disposal via what in the past would be considered normal disposal in a dumpster or landfill.

Comprehensive Carpet Care – The Big Picture
There is more to an effective carpet care program that initially meets the eye. As cleaning professionals we are generally involved with “maintenance” after carpet is specified and installed. Occasionally here in lies the problem. If the wrong quality, fiber, style or color is specified for a location or use, cleaning costs will increase significantly and result will decrease; specifically the processes and products used will unable to return the carpet to like new or even an acceptable condition or appearance.
Another factor, often out of your control, that impacts carpet maintenance, liability and the useful length of the life of the carpet is “installation”. If the required or specified installation procedures are not followed, cleaning suffers or may needlessly damage the carpet; examples include adhesive on the surface of the carpet that attracts and holds or speeds resoiling, seams pull apart or open up exposing yarns or backing materials that may pose a trip and fall hazard or get caught in the vacuum cleaner and permanently damage the carpet along the seam. Standards related in installation and cleaning are available from the dealer, manufacturer or industry groups and associations, example include; The Carpet and Rug Institute’s, CRI 104 installation standard, and the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification, IICRC S-100 which is an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved and internationally accepted standard and reference document related to the professional cleaning and maintenance textile floor coverings (carpeting).

Making it Work
Winter weather and seasonal changes in climate creates unique challenges when it comes to maintaining carpeted areas. What during the summer months may require a simple vacuum and surface cleaning process, with once a year wet extraction will not be adequate to remove sand, salt and excessive moisture.
Regardless of where you are located or the size or type of facility you are dealing with, to successfully manage a winter cleaning program requires that you do the following:

  1. Identify occupants and building cleaning needs.
  2. Develop and implement a weather specific cleaning and maintenance plan.
  3. Monitor carpeted areas daily and alter the program to respond to changing needs.
  4. Document in writing what you are doing so you don’t lose track of what is being done in different areas.
  5. Allocate adequate labor, equipment and budget to obtain level of appearance and cleanliness desired.
  6. Focus on prevention, not cleaning.
  7. Realize that although cleaning may improve the appearance of a carpet, it will not overcome the need to replaces a carpet that is beyond cleaning and actually needs to be replaced.

Best of luck with your winter weather cleaning program and dress warm.

Side Bar 1.
Removing Salt and Ice Melters from Carpeting
Dry vacuuming of dry soil and chemical residues, followed by multiple wet extraction rinses are normally the most effective in removing residues from salt and ice melters that often build up and concentrate in carpeting and or entry matting during the winter months. Professional cleaners often obtain good results in removing residues by pre-spraying or adding a hard surface floor neutralizer to the carpet cleaning rinse water to breaking down and removing residues left behind, that would otherwise wick to the surface and concentrate as a powdery white residue on yarn tips as the carpet dries.

Changing out entry matting when it becomes saturated and wet extracting while wet and then speed drying, followed by dry vacuuming will help in preventing the matting from becoming a source of contamination. If wet matting is not removed when it would overloaded with soil and residues, becomes a source of soiling, instead of preventing tracked in contamination.
Although the above process takes extra time, it is your best defense against tracked in soil, sand, salt and moisture which can damage carpeting and other surfaces. The true key to effective cleaning is actually prevention. If you capture soil at the door, where it is concentrated, you will spend a lot less time and money looking for and removing it from other areas of the building where it is much less concentrated and more difficult and costly to find and remove.