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Caring for carpets 1 Sep, 2014

Regular cleaning and maintenance is an essential part of caring for your carpets, helping to preserve their appearance and maintain their viability for many years. Natalie Dowse, Marketing and Product Manager for Truvox International, offers advice on the best cleaning methods and machines that will deliver the right results, and care for all types of carpeting.

Carpets have played a significant role in the history of the world, developing and improving in parallel with human endeavour. They have been used to provide protection and warmth; acted as a currency in certain societies; and been an indicator of the wealth and stature of those that could afford to have them installed in their homes. Carpeting remains a popular floor covering to this day, holding on to its associations with luxury and prestige – we do still ‘roll out the red carpet’, after all. Interior design trends may come and go, but it seems that there will always be a place for carpet.

Carpets are normally made from natural or synthetic fibres, but can sometimes be a mixture of both. The most well-known natural fibre is wool, which has excellent properties in terms of resilience and durability. However, it can be expensive, so manufacturers sometimes combine it with synthetic fibres. The three most common synthetic fibres are:

  • Nylon – soft, durable and largely stain resistant
  • Polyester – the fibres are able to hold colour well to prevent fading; they are non-allergenic and can even be made from recycled bottles, making them very eco-friendly; however it is less suitable for high traffic areas as its fibres can be flattened when exposed to weight
  • Polypropylene – these fibres have a similar softness to nylon, with added resilience and resistance to stains, mildew and shedding

According to the European Carpet and Rug Association (ECRA), a Brussels-based organisation which represents the leading carpet manufacturers in Europe, there are many benefits to installing carpeting in work environments:

  • Design flexibility – there are many thousands of carpet styles, colours and patterns to choose from
  • Noise reduction – carpets absorb sound, especially between floors and on stairs
  • Safer surface – carpet not only cushions every step we take, it can also reduce the risk of slips and falls, and minimise injuries when they do occur; plus it eliminates slipping hazards, an essential requirement for obtaining the CE mark
  • Thermal comfort and energy saving – carpet provides thermal resistance, also known as R-value; this means it retains warm air for longer, helping with energy conservation, as well as creating a comfortable, cosy feeling
  • Low volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – VOC emissions from carpet are extremely low, while it also improves indoor air quality by trapping allergens and other particles so that they do not float in the air, and can be vacuumed away
  • Money saving – as long as they are cleaned and maintained properly, carpets can retain their life and appearance for many years, protecting initial investments and saving money in the long run

The virtues of vacuuming

Vacuuming is one of the mainstays of any cleaning regime – but when it comes to commercial settings, vacuum cleaners need to be hard working, hard wearing, and able to handle a variety of different surfaces, dirt and debris. In industrial locations such as factories or warehouses it makes sense to use vacuums that have been built for particular jobs such as picking up metal such as screws and other hard materials – but when it comes to other, more multi-purpose buildings – such as offices, schools or healthcare environments – a multi-tasking vacuum is preferable.

The type of carpeting to be cleaned can vary significantly throughout a location. Whereas boardrooms may feature deeper-pile carpeting, surfaces in corridors or other places that experience heavier footfall may be ‘shallower’, having been worn down through continuous use.

The latest vacuum designs feature brush heads that ‘sense’ differing carpet pile heights, self-adjusting automatically to ensure they float evenly over all carpeted surfaces. This helps to ensure a more thorough clean, and also makes life easier for the cleaning operative, who does not have to worry about making manual adjustments to the machine. If your vacuum does need to perform on a variety of floor surfaces then models that can work at a range of different speeds could be a good option. As a general rule, a low speed is better for thick carpeting, while a higher speed is more effective and efficient on bare floors.

Upright or cylinder designs both have their advantages so it is mainly a question of personal preferences. Don’t assume that upright vacuums are less manoeuvrable than cylinders, as again the newest designs have made great progress in this area. The most versatile ones can lay almost flat, enabling them to clean the most hard to reach areas, under beds or desks, for example. On-board accessories and tools also give access to stairs and ceilings or curtains, as well as enabling a thorough clean for upholstery and seating.

One particular advantage of an upright vacuum is its wide cleaning path. This enables a greater expanse of carpet to be cleaned than via the smaller ‘footprint’ of a cylinder vacuum. Many upright models also have the ability to clean right up to the edge of a surface, without the need to employ crevice tools to clean the area beside the skirting board or wall edge.

Vacuums mainly deal with dry dirt, so filtration systems are also vitally important. A vacuum cleaner that exacerbates allergies for employees or customers is far from ideal, so models incorporating HEPA filtration are now the norm. Models can incorporate various numbers of filtration stages, but, for example, a three-stage filtration, including HEPA 13 filter, will provide a high filtration of all particles of 0.3 microns and larger.

A deeper clean

Many organisations find that encapsulation cleaning techniques and machines are the best way to keep carpets clean, and dry, throughout the year. A polymeric carpet solution is applied to the carpet via a three brush machine.  The solution releases sticky soil from the carpet fibres and then traps or encapsulates the soil as it dries.

Once the carpet is dry, the operative simply vacuums the carpet to remove the encapsulated dirt. However, care must be taken to do the job thoroughly, in order to prevent ‘wicking’.

Wicking occurs when embedded soils, which settle deep down in carpet fibres and are not thoroughly removed when cleaned with an extractor. Very often, carpets can look fine straight after cleaning, and may continue to look good for several days, but, as the carpet dries, the deep down soil that was not removed ‘wicks’ to the top of the carpet, making the surface look dingy.

The first way to ensure that wicking doesn’t happen is by vacuuming the carpet thoroughly before cleaning. It sounds obvious, but the more care taken at this stage, the better the end result will be. Skimping on vacuuming, or even worse, not vacuuming before encapsulation takes place, makes it harder for the encapsulation machine to reach, loosen and remove deeply embedded soil and dirt.

Another way to avoid wicking is to allow the chemical pre-spray that is applied to the carpet more time to ‘dwell’. This improves the effectiveness of the chemicals, allowing them to dissolve and loosen dirt. However, it’s also worth remembering that using too much chemical in the cleaning process can also cause wicking problems, as chemical residue can settle in the fibres causing rapid re-soiling as the carpet dries.

Finally, operatives should take steps to reduce drying time, because simply allowing carpets to air-dry can increase the risk of wicking occurring. Air movers placed at strategic locations throughout freshly cleaned carpeted areas, can cut drying times dramatically.

With the right care, carpets can keep looking good for much longer, reflecting well on your company image and providing employees, customers and visitors alike with a warm welcome. Cleaning equipment manufacturers are constantly updating and improving their products so it pays to do your research well, because there is an effective cleaning solution for every type of carpet.

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