Swept under the carpet

17th of October 2023
Swept under the carpet

Is it an open secret that increasing numbers of organisations are now swapping their carpets for hard floors? ECJ asks carpet care specialists about the elephant in the room – and invites them to make their own case for textile floor coverings.

Hard floors are appearing everywhere. It is becoming increasingly rare to find a restaurant, bar or hotel reception with a plush fitted carpet. Instead their floors are made from wood, linoleum, vinyl, laminate or any one of the many other hard flooring options available.

But why? Are carpets perceived to be less hygienic or more difficult to clean than hard floors? And what are the arguments in favour of choosing carpets?

Kärcher’s senior solutions cleaning consultant Christoph Scheiwiller has definitely noticed a trend for choosing hard floors in public buildings - but fashions come and go, he says. “Over the past 20 years there have been regular shifts in demand for floor materials,” he said. “It is all a question of changing tastes.”

Carpets are often perceived as needing more care than a hard floor, says Scheiwiller. “However, this is just not true,” he said. “If carpets were cared for in the same way as hard floors - if spills were quickly removed before having a chance to set in, for example  - the amount of effort required would be similar.”

He says dust tends to be swept away immediately from a hard floor because it is visible. “The dust on a carpet is often allowed to settle and if left unchecked it will eventually wear down the fibres,” he says.

The perception that stain removal requires a certain level of expertise can be off-putting for some customers, he says. “It is essential to understand the type of carpet fibres, the structure of the material and the cleaning characteristics to achieve the desired results,” he admits.

“But there are no disadvantages to choosing carpets – the customer simply needs to use different equipment and methods to clean them.”

Carpets have many upsides, he adds. “They create a luxurious atmosphere and feel soft and comfortable to walk on while also reducing noise,” says Scheiwiller. “This makes them particularly suitable for hotel corridors where they mask the sound of wheeled luggage being pulled along at all hours, and office buildings where they muffle footsteps and other noises such as chairs being moved across a floor.”

But they are not suitable for every public space, he adds. “Carpets cannot be properly disinfected so we don’t recommend them for environments such as hospitals, kitchens or food processing environments,” he said.

According to Scheiwiller the dust-binding properties of a carpet can lead to lower levels of fine dust and improved indoor air quality. “With proper maintenance they are suitable for allergy-sufferers,” he said. “Carpets retain the dust more effectively than hard floors where the slightest breeze will raise it and it then takes longer to resettle.”

Kärcher’s iCapsol system for interim carpet maintenance is designed to encapsulate the dirt and turn it into crystals which are then vacuumed away. The company also offers spray-extraction products and backpack vacuums.

LionsBot CEO Dylan Ng has also noted an increase in interest in hard floors over carpets due to their ease of maintenance. “Carpets require more care because their texture naturally traps more particles,” he said. “Tough stains cannot be scrubbed off and a daily cleaning schedule is needed to prevent any dust and dirt from accumulating and affecting indoor air quality, which could lead to health issues.”

The ultimate choice between hard floors and carpets comes down to personal choice and functional requirements, he says. “Organisations simply need to choose the right cleaning solutions,” he adds. Lionsbot’s R3 Vac robot is designed for use in high-traffic areas where dirt might accumulate more quickly. This has a medical grade H13 HEPA filter to prevent minute particles from recirculating.

Truvox UK national sales manager Paul Robinson agrees flooring fashions go in cycles. “A few years ago there was a trend for natural fibres such as sisal and jute, and before that it was for laminates,” he said. “Now it seems hard floors are on-trend, particularly with the introduction of lower cost options. But carpets also appear to be on the rise again.”

Equally challenging

He believes carpets and hard floors can be equally challenging to maintain in different ways. “Too many people mop hard floors using excessive amounts of cleaning product which simply spreads the dirt around,” he said. “This leaves a detergent residue on the hard floor that causes it to resoil very quickly, and eventually it becomes a struggle to get the floors clean.

“But if carpets are not maintained with regular vacuuming, the dirt can build up quickly and become difficult to remove. And it will be hard to keep both types of floors hygienically clean if they are not maintained correctly.”

According to Robinson, the hard floor versus carpet decision comes down to personal choice, practicability and the environment in question. “Carpets can help to reduce noise levels and prevent slips, but hard floors are more practical in areas such as washrooms, kitchens and dining areas,” he said.

He says carpets can be economically maintained using a vacuum with a powered head/brush. Truvox offers the Valet Dual Motor Upright, the cordless Valet Battery Upright and the Hydromist range of extraction cleaning machines.

Organisations may favour hard floors over carpets for a number of reasons, says Cleanology’s head of marketing Kate Lovell. “Hard floors such as laminate, tile or hardwood offer more durability and are better able to withstand heavy foot traffic,” she said. “Additionally they are less prone to stains, damage and wear and tear which makes them practical for public areas.”

She believes hard floors are generally easier to clean and maintain than carpets. “This is because they can be swept, mopped or polished which makes the cleaning process easier and plays
a key part in keeping a clean and hygienic environment.”

The ultimate choice between hard floors and carpets will depend on a number of factors, she says. “These include the specific needs of the space, comfort requirements, acoustic considerations and budget restrictions,” she said. “Some establishments such as hotels may opt for the warmth, sound absorption and comfort associated with carpets, for example.”

However, she adds carpets can trap allergens, dust and microorganisms such as bacteria and mould more easily than hard floors. “This can be a worry in high-traffic areas where carpets may gather more dirt and debris over time,” said Lovell, adding that regular vacuuming, deep cleaning and professional maintenance are required to keep carpets clean and hygienic.

Stains and spills may require additional treatments such as steam cleaning, she says. “Carpets can wear out, stain or become damaged over time and it can be expensive to replace or repair them,” said Lovell. “However, advances in carpet manufacturing have resulted in the availability of stain-resistant and easy-to-clean carpet fibres.”

Absorb sound

She believes carpets have many advantages over hard floors. “They can hide dirt, stains and wear more effectively because the fibres trap dirt particles and make them less visible,” she said. “This can be useful in high-traffic areas where frequent cleaning is impractical.

“Carpets can also absorb sound and minimise echoing and reverberation, making them suitable for locations such as offices, libraries and educational establishments. They also create a cosy and welcoming atmosphere in places where people may spend extended periods, such as in lounges, waiting areas and bedrooms. And they provide additional insulation which contributes to energy efficiency due to a reduction in heat loss.”

Cleanology employs a range of carpet care products including a fabric restorer designed to revitalise carpets and a coffee stain remover said to swiftly address spills and prevent long-term discolouration. The company also offers treatments to seal and protect the fabric plus a range of powder cleaning, extraction cleaning and bonnet cleaning options.

When unsightly dirt remains visible it can create the perception that carpets are more problematic to clean and maintain than hard floors, says Prochem Europe’s director of sales and training Phil Jones.

“Greasy soiling can stick to the surface and dull the colour and vibrance,” he says. “However, most damage can actually be avoided by regular vacuuming. If a carpet is regularly swept with an upright vacuum fitted with a cylindrical brush, then all the grit, sand and other aggressive particles deep down in the fibres will be released and dry-extracted.  But if they are left behind, they will start to wear out the carpet through friction.”

According to Jones, many carpet owners wrongly believe the cleaning challenge will be the same as that of any hard floor. “They neglect to consider that the carpet has a ‘depth’ as opposed to merely a surface layer to which the soil will adhere,” he said. “This requires a more specialised cleaning method.”

Luxury and comfort are the most compelling arguments for choosing carpets over a hard floor, he says. “Many private care homes and hospitals choose carpets for the ‘at home’ ambience they create for the resident or visitor,” says Jones.

“And many restaurants and public houses choose dark coloured carpets to help hide the soiling. This extends the gaps between cleaning cycles and stretches the facility’s budget. But this can also lead to a reduction in the carpet’s lifespan.”

He adds some materials offer other benefits. “Wool fibre, for example, is resistant to dust mites and the build-up of micro-bacteria which means it is hypoallergenic and more hygienic.”

Prochem’s S745 Procaps for regular carpet cleaning said to encapsulate the dirt and dry it ready for vacuuming. Also from Prochem is B110 Bonnet Buff which is said to have anti-resoiling properties to prevent any sticky residue being left behind on the carpet which could attract soils and dust.

Never out of fashion

So, how will carpets fare in the future? Will they come back into fashion? They have never really fallen out of favour, says Jones. “Even with hard flooring allegedly making a comeback, customers are still putting rugs on top to reduce noise, create an impression of luxury and add colour,” he said.

Cleanology’s Kate Lovell says carpets may enjoy a resurgence If there is an increased emphasis on creating comfortable and welcoming environments. “And with today’s focus on sustainability we could see a rise in demand for carpets made from natural, renewable, or recycled materials,” she said.

Carpet will never completely go out of style, according to Kärcher’s Christoph Scheiwiller. “Trends come and go and manufacturers are likely to introduce new carpet types that provide a special feel and help people differentiate between different areas of a building,” he said.

And LionsBot’s Dylan Ng adds that carpets are unique. “They are ideal for certain environments and will never be obsolete,” he said. “And with new equipment that simplifies the task of carpet cleaning, there is a good chance that they will swing back into popularity.”

 

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