Why clean a carpet?

12th of October 2021
Why clean a carpet?
Why clean a carpet?

What are the main benefits of cleaning a carpet? Manufacturers set out the case for a regular maintenance programme to Ann Laffeaty.

The importance of cleaning frequently-touched surfaces has become starkly clear during the pandemic. It makes perfect sense to sanitise tabletops, chair arms, door handles and light switches at regular intervals to prevent the transmission of bacteria and viruses in the public arena.

But floors are another matter. The risk of cross-contamination from a floor is arguably minimal because people rarely touch them. And while a hard floor is likely to show up any mud and dirt quite quickly, a neutral-coloured carpet will hide a multitude of sins.

So, why bother to clean a carpet on a regular basis at all?

A properly-cleaned carpet will actually last twice as long as an uncleaned one, according to Kärcher’s spray extraction product manager Katrin Nock. “Regular cleaning and maintenance will enhance the look of a carpeted floor and avoid issues with ugly traffic lanes, stains and scratches,” she said. “And fibre distortion - caused by soil particles or due to wear and tear – will be another challenge facing companies that have no carpet maintenance plan.”

An unclean carpet may also pose a risk to allergy sufferers, she says. “Carpets tend to hold on to dust and retain it within the pile, and if this is allowed to remain the microorganisms adhering to the dust might begin to breed,” she said. “Allergenic substances could then swirl around in the air when the carpet is walked upon - and this may have an impact on health.

“The need for regular and thorough cleaning in the workplace becomes even more important when allergy sufferers are in a building because cleaning will create an ambiance in which they can work to their full potential. In other words, professional carpet cleaning can contribute to a company’s overall performance.”

She adds that with proper cleaning, carpeted floors are often a better option for allergy sufferers than hard floor coverings because they will hold on to the dust more effectively. Kärcher’s T 10/1 Adv HEPA dry vacuum cleaner has a HEPA-14 filter for removing bacteria, viruses and aerosols.

The risks posed by viruses and bacteria in an uncleaned carpet are relatively low, she adds. “Viruses, bacteria and spores don’t breed well in dry environments, and carpet flooring is generally dry,” said Nock.

She adds that a well-maintained carpet will create a favourable impression on visitors. “It will also absorb the sound of footsteps which will enhance the general atmosphere of comfort,” she said. “This is why carpets are generally found in VIP areas and in the management departments of high-end banks and specialist shops.”

Everyday traffic on an uncleaned carpet would flatten the pile and result in a shaded effect, she says. “This is particularly true of plush carpets,” says Nock.

Cost benefits

Another issue that can arise is a “gray line” which often occurs in high-traffic areas such as hotel lobbies and schools, she adds. “This may be caused by a combination of factors such as scratches or fibre distortions due to wear, and will result in the light being reflected at different angles instead of in a uniform way.”

Regular carpet cleaning has the major advantage of providing cost benefits for the customer says Prochem’s sales manager Phil Jones. “Carpets will become soiled more quickly if there is no regular cleaning and maintenance programme in place,” he said. “Where abrasive substances such as dust, grit or sand form part of the soiling, these could result in damage and wear which will have an impact on the carpet’s lifespan. And over time, greasy soiling will be deposited on existing greasy soiling until the carpet eventually becomes a sticky mess.”

He says some customers seek to save money by having their carpets cleaned less frequently - adding this can make life difficult for cleaning companies.

“The client will still expect their carpet to look almost as good as new after cleaning, but the flooring will have naturally become more soiled in the interim,” he said. “This means the contractor will be forced to spend longer on the task - and this will drive up cleaning costs.”

Impact on health

Besides removing dirt, carpet cleaning can also have a positive impact on the overall environment, he says. “Carpets are often installed to create an ambiance of space and light, something that will have a good impression on clients,” says Jones. “If the carpets of a restaurant or hotel are allowed to become soiled, customers might start to question the hygiene standards of the establishment and choose to eat or stay elsewhere.”

Carpet cleaning also offers health benefits, he adds. “Many people suffer from allergies these days and regular cleaning will remove impurities such as pollen, dander and dust particles,” he said. “In this way it can help to improve the work or home environment. And bacteria are more likely to form on a dirty carpet, which could create a health risk.”

Regular carpet cleaning should form an integral part of the hygiene programme of any property, according to Jones. “It should begin with dry vacuuming, ideally with an upright vacuum machine with a brush roller or beater bar to remove the dry, particulate soil further down the pile fibre,” he said. “This will help to increase the lifespan of the carpet and remove any potential food source for bacteria.

“And regular deep cleaning via hot water extraction will greatly assist in eliminating bacteria and viruses.”

Sales manager of Fidelis Charlotte Burkinshaw agrees that soil removal and allergen reduction are two chief advantages of carpet cleaning. “Cleaning will remove stubborn stains, dried spillages and odours from the carpet,” she said. “And when this is carried out regularly it can significantly contribute to prolonging the carpet’s life.”

While domestic vacuum cleaners, shampooers and steamers will remove any surface dirt and help with the carpet’s upkeep, these types of machines will have insufficient power to remove deep-down dirt and germs, she says. “Enlisting professional services to supplement the regime will help to prolong the life of the carpet and keep it looking almost as good as new.”

Mould and allergens

She adds that carpet cleaning also offers safety advantages because it helps to remove mould and allergens. “Also, if a carpet is marred by spills or damage - or is malodorous – this will have a significant effect on the visitor or customer’s first impression of a building,” said Burkinshaw.

She claims that professional treatment is necessary for removing any debris embedded deep in the fibres. “Otherwise there will be excessive wear to the fibres which will speed up the carpet’s deterioration,” she said. “Carpet replacement is costly and is easy to avoid where a regular regime is in place.”

Hygiene is a primary reason for cleaning carpets according to Paul Pearce, training and technical director of the UK’s National Carpet Cleaners Association. “Commercial clients should have a schedule for cleaning high-traffic areas which should be put in place following a site survey by a professional cleaner,” he said. “This will ensure the cleaning regime is both targeted and effective and that the workforce is resourcefully deployed.”

He claims budgets will be used more effectively when a floor care plan is in place. “This avoids the unnecessary expense of salvaging any carpeting that hasn’t been cared for regularly or properly,” he said.

When a carpet is not properly cleaned, substances such as dirt, grime, mud and biological contaminants are likely to be trod in from the street, he adds. “There will also be spillages of everything from coffee, printer toner and food to cope with – in other words, commercial carpets go through a great deal,” he said.

“If this were not addressed with the aid of professional cleaning it would lead to carpets becoming a sticky mess, possibly also a trip hazard and maybe even permanently damaged.”

Maintaining a carpet on a regular basis will reduce the build-up of contaminants and help to create a healthier internal environment, he adds. “If a carpet has become badly soiled or has been ignored for a long time, it will take a lot more time and effort to bring it back to a reasonable standard,” he said.

Professional cleaning also has the positive impact of reducing dust and dust mites along with pollen and mould, says Pearce. “All these substances are common causes of environmental allergies and asthma,” he said. “Carpets should therefore be treated professionally to reduce the health risks and ensure the wellbeing of the building occupants and visitors, particularly on a seasonal basis.”

Professional clean a must

According to Pearce, the closure of offices and other public spaces over the past 18 months has not removed the need for carpet cleaning.  “Even though many such spaces have been empty or operating with a skeleton staff, soil still moves around a building as a result of air conditioning or traffic movement,” he said. “And where premises have been totally locked up with next to no change of air introduced, moisture has been allowed to settle. And this can cause mould and mildew.”

He claims employees and visitors have become increasingly safety-conscious when entering commercial premises.“They want to know that their surroundings are Covid-safe - and this applies to every aspect of the space including the floors, carpeting and upholstery,” he said. 

 “As businesses resume, employers are becoming much more aware of the need for healthy, safe environments where staff can return. Empty or unused offices are often stale, musty, and unhealthy - the carpeting included. Just because a building hasn’t experienced its usual footfall, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the soiling levels have been reduced. So a professional clean is still a must.”


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