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The key to carpet care

27 March 2018

When should you start cleaning a new carpet? Mike Egerton, managing director of Host von Schrader, has the answer

When to start to clean and maintain a carpet is a question that at first seems fairly obvious but one we at Host get asked on a daily basis – our answer is immediately. Think of the new carpet as an untouched, unsoiled piece of three dimensional material that is only made dirty by human foot traffic – WPW, Where People Walk – and some limited soiling from the air. There is evidence that around 90% of soiling is by foot traffic and only 10% is aerial. 

Carpet is a lot of fibre and three dimensional. The minute foot traffic hits a new carpet then dirt, usually dry soil is scraped off the soles of shoes and onto the surface of the carpet. As this soil is dry gravity soon takes this soil down towards the carpet backing. Another interesting statistic is that around 85% of soil is dry and only 15% could be best described as sticky. Therefore the overwhelming amount of soil in the carpet is dry.

Furthermore, most dry soil is sandy and when rubbed against carpet fibres will cause damage. The problem is that until this soil builds up and becomes visible it’s assumed that all is well. We have seen many cases where this visibility has changed the colour and structure so much that the carpet has to be replaced, prematurely, often at great expenses. What a waste, when a considered vacuuming plan could have prevented this.

Create a vacuuming plan

Vacuuming is crucial but what type of vacuum should be considered? Let’s nail our colours to the mast and state that in our opinion suction-only tub vacuums are no good for cleaning carpets. This is because they don’t penetrate the surface to remove the deep deposits. Although they are great surface litter pickers and are cheap they can’t compete from sheer productivity with back pack vacuums. Or for deep vacuuming effectiveness on carpet a twin motor machine that has brushing capability. It’s this brushing capability that has a pile lifting effect that puts deeper soil into suspension making the vacuuming much more effective.

Apart from regular deep vacuuming it is wise to look at prevention and everyone knows the saying that prevention is better than a cure. Barrier or entrance matting should always be considered as way stopping dry soil getting into the facility. Again, these mats need maintenance. Another regular ask is spot removal and there are many types of spot remover, general and specific to type of spot. If the spot is tackled as soon as possible after they occur then there’s a much greater chance of success.

The most common remark from facilities managers when discussing carpets is that they don’t seem to be able to keep appearances at an acceptable standard and are having to replace carpet well ahead of schedule. This is particularly true in the case of heavy usage areas in hotels and shops, community centres and hospitals or anywhere where large amounts of daily usage means dirt and soiling of carpets is unavoidable.

Carpet is a major asset but we often see this asset degrade all too quickly by poor maintenance programmes and techniques. Too many facilities adopt the rule that says, “clean when dirty”. Our experience tells us that this could be a recipe for disaster; carpet will look progressively worse unless a regular programme is instituted and from a financial viewpoint this expensive asset will not last long.

The best-looking carpet is the one that’s maintained on a regular basis and the driver for the maintenance programme is foot traffic. Waiting for a carpet to look dirty before maintaining it is rather like driving a car until it breaks down before servicing it. The cost of not maintaining carpet is higher than maintaining it in terms of it looking poor in a much shorter time and also that the carpet has to be replaced earlier as it wears out and looks prematurely ugly.