Restoring faded carpet charms

14th of September 2017
Restoring faded carpet charms
Restoring faded carpet charms

Carpets have an enduring aesthetic and practical appeal but what do you do when those charms fade? Don’t rush into disposing until you’ve explored the powers of restoration, says Gordon McVean, international sales and marketing director of Truvox International.

Hard floors have their practical and visual virtues, especially given the current penchant for sleek and modernist interiors, but there remains a soft spot in most of us – and a space in many of our buildings – for carpet.

As a manufacturer of equipment for floor cleaning and maintenance, Truvox International advocates a holistic approach that will prolong the serviceable life and pristine appearance of just about any flooring asset. In the case of carpet, that means a thorough routine vacuuming (daily in most commercial settings), responsive spot-cleaning intervention as necessary, and periodic deep cleans.

But in the real world of intensively used spaces, restricted budgets, cleaning service upheavals, business relocations and the rest, we recognise carpet care – and deep cleaning in particular – can be neglected for various reasons.

The result will be a carpet that looks jaded, with a pile that may be flattened or rough to the touch and colours that have lost their vibrancy. At this point many facilities managers will opt – finances permitting – for stripping out and replacing the lack-lustre carpeting with new flooring. However the experience of our people in the field is that building and cleaning managers often underestimate the powers of restorative cleaning.

It’s true there’s no magic cleaning machine that can turn the clock back by reversing the effects of years of heavy wear. Or the abrasive impact of dry soils allowed to build up in the upper layers of a carpet over time. Typically accounting for 80 per cent of carpet dirt, this dry soil is made up of silicates, sand, clay and dust. Without regular vacuuming this not only spoils the carpet’s appearance, it accelerates wear. Such a carpet is beyond redemption.

But the other 20 per cent of carpet soiling is down to sticky or oily substances that become embedded in the pile. This material is left behind even by the most assiduous vacuuming. Such soiling will also rob a carpet of its appealing texture and colour. But the good news is that deep cleaning, if properly performed, can trap and take away those soils, rejuvenating the carpet.

This transformative process, which is called encapsulation, is relatively straightforward though there are pitfalls to avoid. The encapsulation system uses a polymeric carpet cleaning solution that is extremely effective in removing this residue.

How encapsulation works

The solution, when worked thoroughly into the pile by a scrubbing machine, releases sticky soil from carpet fibres and then ‘traps’ or ‘encapsulates’ the soil as it dries. Then vacuuming completes the process by removing the dried, encapsulated dirt from the carpet.

This polymer chemistry is crucial in the carpet cleaning system we advocate. For the best results, it’s also important to ensure that the solution is worked well into the pile for maximum contact with the tightly packed fibres. This approach is the most reliable method for restoring cleanliness and brightness to even the most heavily soiled commercial carpets, and it also helps keep the carpet cleaner for longer.

Four steps

Carpet cleaning with an encapsulation machine involves a simple four-step process. A thorough vacuuming removes all the dry dirt, clearing the way for the polymeric solution to attack that sticky/oily residue. After the pre-vacuum, the solution needs to be appropriately diluted before setting up the cleaning machine.

A triple-head cyclone scrubber machine – equipped with counter-rotating pad drives and pads or shampoo brushes – thoroughly scrubs the carpet. The solution is left to dry, and as this happens, it loosens the sticky soil and encapsulates it. In the final stage, routine vacuuming easily removes this material, leaving a revitalised carpet.

Encapsulation is a low-moisture process. Guiding the machine at a quick walking pace, the operator needs to apply only enough solution to dampen the surface of the carpet. The operator can control the delivery of solution by ‘feathering’ a release lever or by adjusting a control valve. The dampness created on the surface of the carpet is sufficient for the polymeric chemistry to begin working. Carpets instantly look cleaner because the solution begins releasing the sticky dirt that was bonded to the carpet fibres.

This low-moisture system allows carpets to dry quickly. It may take as little as 45 minutes for the surface to be touch-dry, or at most two hours. And walking on the damp carpet will cause no problems. But if practicable, it’s advisable to let the carpet dry overnight before vacuuming so the soil is fully encapsulated.

This form of restorative cleaning is highly productive as well as cost-effective. About 200 square metres of carpet can be deep-cleaned per tankful of solution, though this may vary with the level of soiling and type of carpet.

An area of around 300 square metres can be treated in an hour if the soiling is reasonably light. These carpets will come clean with a single wet pass.

Where more oil soils are embedded in a carpet, a ‘dry’ pass – agitating the pile without dispensing solution – may be required to ensure, in the next stage, that the solution is dispersed thoroughly. Cleaning rates of more than 200 square metres per hour should still be practicable.

Only the most heavily soiled carpets should require multiple dry passes, reducing output to around 100 square metres per hour. If some areas are severely soiled they can be pre-sprayed with the polymeric solution to break down the bond with the carpet fibres. The sprayed area is left for a short time before the wet/dry pass procedure is followed.

Leave to work

It is also possible to use a spotting solution for stains in conjunction with the encapsulation system. This needs to be specially formulated as other chemicals can interfere with the encapsulation chemistry. Again, once sprayed, the spotter solution needs to be left to work for between one and two minutes. Then the spot should be agitated by hand, with a soft brush or blunt object, working outwards from the centre. All that’s required then is to blot the area with a clean cloth, without rubbing, as this could spread the staining to the surrounding area. There’s no need to rinse. The encapsulation process does

the rest, and this method is equally effective for both water- and oil-based spots and spills.
The edges and corners of carpets tend not to get heavily soiled. However they may need a bit of special attention if a vacuum does not revive their appearance to the level achieved with encapsulation.

As these areas may be beyond the reach of the cyclone machine, you can spray the solution and agitate by hand with a stiff brush. Simply leave the area to dry and then vacuum as normal.
The entire encapsulation operation is not only highly efficient in terms of labour and chemical use; it’s also a low-noise as well as a low-moisture operation that minimises the risk of ‘wicking’.

How to avoid wicking

This occurs when embedded soils are not thoroughly removed by an extractor. Carpets can look fine straight after cleaning, but as the carpet dries, the soil deep down that was not removed ‘wicks’ to
the top of the carpet, making the surface look dingy.

A thorough vacuuming before cleaning – combined with the intensive scrubbing action of the cyclone – is the best way to prevent this. Another tip is to allow the chemical pre-spray more time to ‘dwell’, improving the effectiveness of the chemicals.

The other main cause of wicking is using too much chemical in the cleaning process, so the chemical residue settles in the fibres causing rapid re-soiling as the carpet dries. A faster drying time also reduces the risk of wicking. Air movers placed at strategic locations can cut drying times dramatically.

Carpets are still safe to walk on, though signs should be displayed to alert building occupants that deep cleaning is in progress. All this means that carpets can be cleaned during daytime hours with minimal disruption.

Alternatively the encapsulation cleaning process can be performed progressively in stages, during night-time shifts or as areas of flooring are made accessible. But it is advisable to tackle separate floors or rooms so as not to leave a tell-tale frontier between restored and untreated areas.

So our advice to premises and cleaning managers looking down on a jaded carpet that’s lost its former glory, is don’t rush to dispose of it. Stripping out and replacing this soft asset could be an expensive waste of time and resources. Consult a reputable carpet cleaning contractor. And if they don’t mention encapsulation, and explain why this would or would not redeem your carpet, get a second opinion.

Soft spot or not, a hard-headed approach to floorcare can give carpets back their appeal while saving a pretty penny.


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