While the quality of care in long-term care environments is the number one priority, facility maintenance is also key.
Many long-term care facilities incorporate carpet in main areas, hallways and private rooms because it contributes to the overall aesthetic and provides comfort for residents, staff and visitors. Carpet also improves acoustics and insulation in indoor spaces, and can help trap dust and other allergens.
Despite its many benefits, carpet requires a comprehensive maintenance plan to remain consistently clean.
Floors are often the first thing that residents, staff, visitors and even potential residents and employees notice upon entering a building. Thus, they should always be free of loose contaminants like dirt, salt and sand, as well as moisture and stains. Owners and managers of long-term care facilities should understand the importance of carpet care, common stains and best practices for effective carpet care.
The role of carpet care
The ultimate goal of carpet care is to remove unsightly stains and embedded soils to keep carpet looking like new. Spills are inevitable, and in long-term care facilities, food and beverages consumed in dining areas and resident rooms can make their way onto carpet. From soup to pasta sauce to coffee and juices, these items can stain carpet if left untreated.
Additionally, accidents happen in nursing homes and can lead to organic-based stains like vomit and urine. Promptly addressing body fluid stains on carpet helps avoid difficult-to-remove stains and keeps odors at bay.
Lastly, maintaining good indoor air quality is key in places like assisted living centers and memory care facilities, as residents may suffer from respiratory issues. Regular carpet care thoroughly removes dirt, dust mites and other allergens embedded in carpet that can exacerbate health issues.
A four-step maintenance process
To keep carpet looking its best and prolong its lifespan, facilities should adhere to a comprehensive maintenance plan. The four-step process includes:
- Preventative maintenance – Most soil within a facility is brought in on the soles of people’s shoes. Entrance matting can help prevent dirt and moisture from making its way onto carpet. Mats collect soils to allow for easier removal, and trap water to reduce the risk of slip-and-fall accidents. Look for mats designed to scrape debris from shoes and allow for about 9 to 15 feet of matting to adequately capture contaminants in the first few footfalls.
- Daily maintenance – Regular vacuuming keeps dry soils from accumulating on floors and impacting their appearance. The Carpet and Rug Institute is a great resource for reviewing approved vacuum cleaners. Vacuuming schedules should consider factors such as traffic volumes and patterns and weather conditions. During daily vacuuming, staff can also conduct visual inspections for spots and spills. Quickly treating these can prevent stains from permanently setting in carpet.
- Interim maintenance – Interim maintenance is recommended by carpet mills and the Carpet and Rug Institute, as it keeps carpet looking consistently clean and extends its lifespan. This process removes oily and sticky soils that can actually prevent the removal of dry soils during vacuuming. Low-moisture encapsulation, a form of interim maintenance, simultaneously lifts carpet pile and agitates chemistry without damaging carpet fibers. A low-moisture method uses a fraction of the amount of water that hot water extraction requires and allows carpet to dry within 30 minutes.
- Restorative maintenance – While regularly conducting low-moisture interim carpet maintenance prolongs the time between restorative hot water extraction cleaning, this step is still essential. Facilities should consider completing hot water extraction every 12-24 months.
Interim maintenance 101
Increasingly, more facilities are switching from bonnet cleaning and hot water extraction to interim maintenance for regular carpet care. To achieve the best results, select low-moisture encapsulation equipment and chemistry that has earned the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Seal of Approval. Additionally, ensure that the carpet cleaning chemistry is Green Seal certified. These assurances signify the system has been thoroughly tested, won’t damage carpet and supports sustainability.
Then, train employees so they understand how encapsulation works. A lightweight machine sprays a chemistry and water mixture onto carpet while agitating the carpet pile. The polymers in the chemistry encapsulate soils and dry into small, hard crystals after a half hour. These are removed through regular vacuuming.
Staff should also regularly maintain the system. Check brush indicators and rotate them after each use. Replace brushes when the indicators show they are at the minimum effective length. After each use, employees should empty the collection tray and flush out the spray nozzle to keep the machine in good working order.
Clean carpet benefits everyone
Carpet is an investment that brings warmth, comfort, acoustic enhancements and even indoor air quality improvements to a long-term care facility. If carpet maintenance falls by the wayside, this can negatively impact brand image and the bottom line if carpet needs extensive repair or replacement. A four-step process focused on matting, daily vacuuming and spot inspections, interim maintenance and restorative maintenance keeps stains from ruining the look of carpet.
Joe Bshero is a product manager with Whittaker, a family-owned business with over 30 years of experience and the pioneers of the first commercial carpet encapsulation system.