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MCL May/June 2014 - Spring Time is Carpet Cleaning Time
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Spring Time is Carpet Cleaning Time

by Richard Baker, Multi-Family Specialist, Coverall of the Twin Cities

Some condos and multi-unit dwellings do a lot of carpet cleaning. What most don’t know is that they can save on replacement costs by preventing carpet soiling, vacuuming regularly and following a few suggestions.

When does carpet need to be cleaned?

Well, when it’s dirty, obviously, but there are things you can do to lower this cost.
First, different parts of a building’s carpet get dirty at different rates. The space within 30 to 50 feet of an outdoor entry or elevator lobby gets dirty rapidly and may need to be cleaned frequently. The spaces further into the building and on upper floors get less soil migrating in, and need much less remedial cleaning. Similarly, a long corridor with 50 residences is going to need remedial cleaning more often than a smaller-footprint building with a half dozen residences per floor. One of the things we see is our customers asking for all their carpet to be cleaned, say twice per year, when their money might be better spent and their carpet given a longer life if they did the entrance areas four times a winter and the low-soil areas once per year.
Second, the best thing you can do is vacuum carpet anytime it starts to get soiled or tracked on. If nothing gets ground into the carpet, nothing needs to be extracted and you can go for years without needing to clean carpets.

Three basic methods

There are some three significantly different methods for cleaning carpets.

First are the truck-mounted operations. These are pretty expensive to operate, but on large jobs are fast and effective. The big users of these are facilities like restaurants that get dirty quickly, have large carpeted areas to clean and need to be cleaned every month. The disadvantages of a truck mount are that it is not very good on heavily set-in stains, and that effectiveness is lost by running the hoses up more than a couple flights of stairs.

Second are dry procedures, of which there are a number of vendors and franchisees. Like the truck mounted operations, these also tend to have problems with picking up set-in stains, and need to be supplemented for very dirty carpet. Dry procedures tend to leave a lot of chemical in the carpet, which attracts dirt after cleaning and leads to a condition called “re-soiling.” The big advantage is they need very little dry time, making them ideal in situations like hospitals and other 24-hour facilities where you need to be able to walk on the carpet in a couple of hours.

We have both truck-mounted and dry procedures, but mostly what we use are self-contained water extractors, and we have dozens of these. They are small and portable, making them easy to get to any job, quick to set up and clean up after, and inexpensive. We use both room-temperature and heated-water versions, and they offer identical outcomes. The heated ones are a little faster because hot water speeds up the action of the detergents, but they also require more operator experience to avoid issues like delaminating the carpet backing.

Problems to watch out for

There is a difference between cleaning and restoration. If a stain containing eight ounces of coffee has been in the carpet for six months, it is a restoration problem, not a cleaning problem. With some extra work, a knowledgeable carpet technician can lighten these up significantly, but the real answer is not to let them set for six months. They should be blotted up when they happen, and an appropriate stain remover used.

As mentioned above, re-soiling can be an issue. This can come from leaving too much cleaning chemical in the carpet in any of the methods above, but is most likely to occur with a dry method. Detergents attract soil, so if you leave detergents in the carpet they will do exactly that. It’s simple to remedy – just go through again with water only in any of the wet methods. Since the soil is already bound to the detergent, the water will pull out both the detergent and the soil.
Another problem is called browning. This is similar to re-soiling, and is also caused by too much cleaning chemical left in the carpet. Instead of attracting dirt, however, what happens is the cleaning chemical changes the chemistry of the carpet and it can no longer show “true” colors. Same solution, too – just rinse the carpet with clear water with any of the three methods to pull out the detergent and the color will magically reappear.

A word on chemicals

Carpet chemicals in general are detergents (soaps), alcohols, or hydrogen peroxide. “Shampoo,” strictly speaking, refers to cleaning with a detergent. For many years, most carpet cleaning companies have been cleaning with alcohol and peroxide cleaners, which leave less residue, which means no re-soiling or browning. The peroxides also leave less VOCs, and we switched to them years ago. They are the “magic” in the heavily advertised Zerorez franchise out of Utah.

Published by Community Associations Institute — Minnesota Chapter, copyright 2013. All articles and paid advertising represent the opinions of authors and advertisers and not necessarily the opinion of either Minnesota Community Living or CAI–Minnesota Chapter. The information contained within should not be construed as a recommendation for any course of action regarding financial, legal, accounting, or other professional services by the CAI–Minnesota Chapter, or by Minnesota Community Living, or its authors. Articles, letters to the editor, and advertising may be sent to Monte Abeler at, or at CAI–Minnesota Chapter, 1000 Westgate Dr., Suite 252, St. Paul, MN 55114.

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