Carpet cleaning conundrums

3rd of October 2018
Carpet cleaning conundrums

Cleaning a carpet can be fraught with difficulties - but what are the hardest tasks facing today’s carpet care experts and why?

Carpet cleaning is one of the most complex tasks in the industry. The types of substances that are likely to end up on a soft floor vary tremendously: carpet care experts may have to remove the residue from sticky drinks, sweets, chewing gum, urine, paint, jam, ink and vomit in a single day.

How they go about this will depend on the type of carpet fibres they are dealing with since these can differ hugely. The age and wear of the carpet will also impact on the chosen solution. And then there is the further challenge of the type of facility in question.

Does the difficulty of the task depend on the environment? Is it a particular challenge to clean the carpets of a cinema, school or care home, for example? In what circumstances can noisy extraction machinery be used without having a negative impact on the people using the building? And in which types of locations will carpet cleaning need to be carried out swiftly so that the area is back in use as quickly as possible?

Location critical

These are all huge questions according to Legend Brands Europe director of sales Richard Sudall. “The location is critical and the challenges involved vary based on many, many factors,” he said. “The key lies in achieving an acceptable result that is cost-effective for the client while also providing profit for the contractor.”

The location of the carpet can have a significant impact on the cleaning challenge, he says. “For example, you may need to deal with substances such as sticky drink spills in cinemas, urine in nursing homes and chewing gum in schools -  all of which require different skill sets,” said Sudall.

“Our customers tell us that unsightly stains are today’s biggest carpet care challenge. It doesn’t matter how clean a carpet looks in general: any visible stain will give the perception that it is soiled and that the contractor has failed. And this is the case even if the contamination that caused the stain has been removed and all that remains is a dye.”

New fibres

A good spot and stain removal kit is vital, he says. Legend Brand Europe’s own Spot and Stain Kit includes seven products for removing substances such as rust, paint, gum, tar, fruit juice, sports drinks and permanent marker.

Carpet cleaners often find it a challenge when new types of carpet are introduced to the market, says Sudall. “When new fibres are developed their maintenance is not always considered,” he said. “For example, carpets made from paper are not great news for carpet cleaners.

“With the correct training and the right products it is possible to cope with any carpet cleaning task. But it’s a competitive business and ‘coping’ isn’t always the best way to build repeat and referral sales.”

He believes the key to optimum carpet cleaning is to become an expert and gain the right skills to solve customers’ specific problems.“This enables a company to differentiate its offering,” he said. “It is crucial to investigate new developments in carpet stain removal and to hone the skills of your technicians while also managing your customers’ expectations. And carpet care companies should develop their customers’ first aid response to spills with the aim of reducing the risk of a simple spill becoming a permanent stain.”

Part of Legend Brands Europe, Chemspec conducted the first Carpet Appearance Management training course in the UK in 1988, according to Sudall.

“Keeping a carpet clean is much more cost-effective than restoring it only after people have begun to complain how bad it looks or smells,” he said. “Textiles act like filters and trap soil very effectively. But if you clean that filter regularly you will improve the indoor environment and prolong the life of your carpet investment.”

Legend Brands Europe has recently introduced a urine treatment that tackles odour and staining in one. Un-Duz-It Unleashed combines oxidisers with enzymes and odour encapsulants to remove urine odours and stains.

The environment in which a carpet has been laid makes a significant difference to the cleaning challenge according to Kärcher product manager Cassio Murillo.

“Heavy traffic in areas such as hotel receptions and schools tend to result in a ‘grey lane carpet’,” he said. “This is where the light reflects at different angles rather than in a uniform way as a result of scratches or fibre distortions due to wear.

Constant challenge

“When cleaning a hotel, too, it is a constant challenge to provide a clean and safe environment while guests are busy enjoying the amenities. You need to be conscious not to disturb their experience.”

Even everyday levels of foot traffic will cause a carpet pile to flatten slightly and result in a shaded effect - particularly in a plush carpet, he said.  He claims vacuuming the pile in the same direction can temporarily correct this situation. Other challenges include hard-to-remove stains, cleaning residue caused by over-shampooing and the maintenance of traffic lanes with high levels of soil.

A well-planned maintenance regime is key if customers are to avoid the issue of accumulated soil permanently damaging the fibres, he says. “If a carpet is properly cleaned and maintained it will last twice as long,” says Murillo.

“Efficient carpet cleaning machines and detergents will treat the toughest of stains and the heaviest of soiling while protecting and maintaining the life of the fibres and the carpet.”

New from Kärcher is the BRC 40/22 C deep carpet cleaning machine which is said to be extremely manoeuvrable since the head rotates 200 degrees to both sides. This enables the machine to easily navigate obstacles and reduces cleaning time by up to 30 per cent, according to Murillo.

Unlike Sudall he believes the type of carpet concerned to have little relevance on the level of the cleaning challenge. “Efficient carpet cleaning machines and detergents are designed to deliver great performance on carpet materials such as nylon, olefin, polyester, smartstrand and wool,” he said. “The right tools – namely, efficient machines and detergents – will handle the toughest cleaning conditions and deliver a satisfactory result.”

Traffic levels

The amount of traffic a carpet receives has more bearing on the cleaning challenge than the type of facility concerned, claims Prochem’s advertising and marketing manager Peta Tilley. “High traffic areas always need more attention and pre-spraying is essential,” she said.  “It will also take longer to clean or restore a heavily used carpet depending on how deeply soiled it is.”

High levels of soil is the biggest issue in high-traffic environments, she says. “Many companies expect their ‘expensive’ carpet cleaning machine to do the job and are confused and disappointed when it doesn’t perform as they expect – perhaps because the carpet dries with a patchy result or re-soils quickly,” she said.

New fibre technology can also cause issues - particularly at the higher end of the market, she says. “For example there are advances in vegetable waste fibres where the carpets concerned need to be dry-cleaned only,” she said.

According to Tilley, the biggest carpet care issues are unidentified stains, heavily soiled or mistreated carpets and customers who try to remove the stains themselves before seeking professional help.
“It is important to identify the type of carpet and then find out as much as possible about the stain before trying to remove it,” she said. “Training can improve operators’ skills when dealing with specialised tasks such as new textile technology and antique rugs.

“It is also important to manage the customer’s expectations. They need to be advised that certain stains may only come out when cleaned professionally – and this will involve extra time and specialist products.” Prochem offers free workshops on carpet cleaning techniques and stain removal methods.

Tilley believes it is possible to cope with any carpet cleaning task given the right tools. “The cleaning is in the chemistry,” she said. “Spotters and detergents ‘release the grease’ which makes the machine’s task easier.”

The company’s own Prochem Powermate 1200 is described as a lightweight, easy-to-manoeuvre extraction machine with self-levelling cylindrical 2500 rpm brush, 12 inch vacuum head and 25 feet power cable.

“Using the right equipment is a major move forward, but a more practical tool lies in optimum training and structure to ensure the operator understands the process of cleaning,” says Tilley.

“Quite often the client thinks a clean once or twice a year will be sufficient and they will budget accordingly. But if it is explained to them that a maintenance programme will keep carpets cleaner for longer while often reducing costs, they are more likely to adopt it. You need to set the expectation levels, carry out a survey and explain the processes involved.”

Intense deep clean

The wide range of carpets used in facilities today can pose a major cleaning challenge says Jen Chapman, assistant product manager at carpet cleaning franchise Guardsman. “Most carpet cleaners provide a quote without knowing the fibre type,” she said. “But the deeper, shaggier types of carpet collect more dirt and debris and require a more intense deep clean to remove all the allergens.”

She adds that newer carpets are generally easier to clean. “Many carpets nowadays come with a protection pre-applied which allows customers to be a lot tougher on cleaning if they do get a stain,” she explained.

The type of environment and the nature of the soiling makes little difference to the carpet cleaner, according to Chapman. “The real challenges are logistical - the opening times of a facility, the level of access for cleaning equipment and how heavily the carpets are soiled.

“Different types of stain require different actions. Our franchisees use the most appropriate product for each stain rather than one harsh chemical cleaner, and each product we use contains enzymes or proteins that can fight that particular type of staining, such as a protein spotter for baby milk stains for example.

“While it is possible to treat stains with harsh chemicals these may cause damage to the carpet by bleaching the colour or changing the texture of the fibre. And they can be harmful if not properly neutralised.” Guardsman’s own Safeclean process involves the use of chemicals which are then extracted with water to provide a neutral surface.

However Chapman believes that the optimum carpet cleaning tools extend beyond simply the right equipment and products.“More than anything the job requires the right level of knowledge to enable the operator to identify different fibre types and ascertain how these will react to stains,” she said.

“Carpet cleaners also need to be able to identify the stain and understand how the chemical products used will react with each other.

“And another important tool in carpet cleaning is honesty. The operator needs to make an honest and informed judgement about what can be achieved before any cleaning takes place.”


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