Carpet cleaning: When less is better

Bob Abrams
Bob Abrams

There are three key reasons why administrators of long-term care facilities should consider installing carpeting in their locations. All are related to the health and safety of their staff and the people using the facility. They are:

Quiet: Carpeting is one of the best sound-absorbing materials available. A quieter facility reduces stress for staff and building users and makes facilities more comfortable to use and work in.

Accident prevention: Most slip-and-fall accidents happen on hard-surface floors, not carpeting. In fact, carpet can provide the necessary traction to help prevent a slip or a fall.

Protecting indoor air quality: Along with absorbing sound, carpets absorb airborne dust and impurities. This helps protect indoor air quality for all building users.

That said, to make sure a facility receives these benefits, administrators must be sure carpet is cleaned and maintained properly. That's where low-moisture cleaning comes in. Low-moisture carpet cleaning can prove beneficial in all types of locations but especially in a long-term care location which more than likely is a 24/7 operation. But before exploring the specifics of low-moisture carpet cleaning, let's examine carpet cleaning in general.

Carpet Extraction

Carpet extractors are recognized as the most effective way to clean carpets, and in many long-term care locations the type of machine used will be a portable carpet extractor. After a carpet cleaning technician has pre-sprayed a chemical solution on the carpet, he or she releases high-pressure water into the carpet through a wand attached to the extractor. The technician then pulls the wand in the opposite direction, removing the moisture and along with it, soil.

Older carpet extractors use about 1.5 gallons to as much as 2 gallons of water per minute. In some cases, an estimated 90 gallons of water might be used for every hour the machine is used. And, if the technician pours the cleaning solution into the tank of the machine instead of pre-spraying the carpet as just described, it might use a lot of chemical as well.

While the process may effectively clean carpets, in addition to the large amounts of water and possibly chemical consumed, this type of extraction has three other potential problems administrators should be aware of:

  1. Mold and mildew can develop if the carpet does not thoroughly dry in 48 hours. The more moisture left in the carpet, the more likely this is to happen.
  2. The longer the carpet is wet, the longer a potential hazard exists. When walking from a wet carpet onto a hard-surface floor, there is an increased possibility of a slip or fall occurring.
  3. Logistical problems can develop. For both safety and cleaning reasons, it is recommended that carpets not be walked on while wet. This means areas where a carpet has recently been cleaned must be blocked off for several hours until they can be open for use.

Enter Low-Moisture Carpet Cleaning

Low-moisture carpet cleaning addresses these issues. According to the Low Moisture Carpet Cleaning Association (LMCCA), low-moisture carpet cleaning refers to any cleaning method that ensures carpets dry within about two hours at 65 percent relative humidity and at a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit.*  There are some extractors now available that ensure carpets dry even faster these guidelines, in approximately 30 minutes.

How is this possible?

First, some low-moisture machines are designed to work effectively using one gallon or less of water per minute. In addition to using less water, a low-moisture extractor typically has more advanced — and powerful — multistage vacuum motors to extract moisture from the carpet. Furthermore, some of these machines have heating elements that heat the water/cleaning solution to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Along with resulting in more effective cleaning, the heat can help the carpet dry faster.

Another benefit of low-moisture carpet cleaning is one that is far less tangible…almost psychological. Many times administrators delay carpet extraction because they do not want to experience the problems discussed earlier—slow-drying carpet, blocked-off areas, increased potential for a slip-and-fall accidents. This delaying can be detrimental to the carpet and the health of the facility. With low-moisture carpet cleaning, these concerns are minimized.

Bob Abrams is a carpet care expert and product manager for Nilfisk commercial business, makers of U.S. Products brand professional carpet extractors. He may be reached via his company website at www.usproducts.com

*This can be dependent on several variables including humidity, heating and air-condition, as well as climate conditions inside and outside the facility. 

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