Tread carefully

14 October 2015

Prochem provides advice on caring for floors and fabrics in healthcare environments

Floor care can be perceived a luxury in a busy healthcare environment. The chances are that maintenance boils down to a weekly vacuum unlikely to yield the appearance nor hygiene levels most building owners and users would desire. Training cleaning operatives tends to pay dividends. Educating your staff or ensuring your contractor does their own training can equate with more efficient, effective and faster processing on-site.

The growth of carpet

Hard floor predominates in healthcare but with its ‘warmth’ and soft step, carpet finds favour when it comes to creating an environment that is conducive to quality and calm. Bolder use of colour and design are factors in increased specification as is easy interchangeability. Reduced risk of slips and falls, and noise reduction are further benefits.

Understanding carpet care is helped by knowing what the cleaning operative is likely to encounter on site. In healthcare, constant foot traffic, wheelchairs and trolleys demand the use of a carpet that offers resistance to abrasion and that remains unaffected by the frequent spillage of damaging fluids. It’s also got to be tough, stain resistant, easy to clean and unable to support microbial growth.

Most carpets are man-made solution-dyed 100% polypropylenes with plain or small geometric or tonal designs, though wool gets a look-in also, and notably in reception areas. The colour in the yarn must be an integral part of the fibre itself and cannot be removed by any means or added to by any form of staining. Additionally, the fibre must not absorb moisture, unlike other fibres such as wool, ensuring that spillage can be mopped up easily and odours are not retained.


Nylon leads

Nylon continues to be the primary yarn used in healthcare carpeting, although olefin (polypropylene) is gaining to provide cost-effective products for areas where rapid replacement is anticipated and budget is a strong factor. The use of solution-dyed nylon is growing rapidly, because it is known to be hard wearing, resilient and resistant to harsh cleaning. Solution-dyed means that the colour pigment is dispersed throughout the molten polymer (liquid) as the fibre is made.


Healthcare carpet yarns should be bleach resistant, ensuring the carpet will not fade with repeated liquids contact. Good healthcare carpet ranges will come with an impervious flame-retardant latex backing to shield the sub-floor from invasive or hazardous liquids. 

In most cases, a densely tufted, solution- dyed, nylon fibre carpet will provide resilience, performance, and appearance retention and be more resistant to stains and spills and less likely to fade. Structured-back carpets have an impermeable backing system, allowing spills and contaminants to be more easily removed by either soil extraction or simple vacuuming. 

Common spills

Spills are many and varied in healthcare. Cleaning operatives need to know when the liquid had gone down; how long it had been down for; whether any method of removing has been attempted. This knowledge could affect the products or method used to resolve the problem.

Identifying the type of carpet that the spill has gone onto is important. Water-based spill removal is deemed to have a higher success rate on polypropylene than on absorbent natural fibres such as wool. Nylon is another matter – it can be re-dyed by the artificial colourings within the tea or coffee and lock in the fibre.

Carpet tiles may have a bitumen backing which gives the tile strength and stability. Unfortunately, a cleaning operative using a liquid solvent on them to remove a greasy substance could cause damage. Other issues carpets can be prone to include cellulosic browning, colour change or even stain-locking. That’s why correct product choice is vital.

Hard floor challenge

A surprising number of building owners spend time and money choosing hard floors that are aesthetically pleasing but not necessarily easy to maintain. Each hard floor surface – whether it be vinyl, linoleum, concrete, natural stone, terrazzo, wood or tiling – needs specialist treatment and this knowledge can only be gained by correct training in the use of machines and chemicals. Once a hard surface floor has been damaged by incorrect cleaning procedures it is, in many cases, impossible to rectify. 

Getting the knowledge

The good news is that getting the knowledge is not difficult. Some cleaning trade associations offer good quality training while, in the commercial sector, Prochem Europe has been providing training for over 40 years. The company offers comprehensive courses in carpet care, hard floor cleaning & maintenance, advanced stain removal as well as upholstery cleaning at its dedicated training facility in Chessington, Surrey, as well as specific regional courses.