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Why Carpet Should be Cleaned Three-Dimensionally

As I travel the country speaking at seminars on facilities carpet care, I am struck by a fundamental misconception that facilities cleaning personnel have about carpet: It is perceived to be a one-dimensional floor covering.


It’s not. As the illustration clearly shows, carpet is three-dimensional. It has a top, a middle and a bottom. It also is a complex textile: What you see is not what you get. It looks like a horizontal surface, but the fibers are mostly vertical. It hides soil incredibly well, using a camouflage of color, density and texture.

It is no wonder that we have so many problems with carpet maintenance. We attempt to clean carpet without fully understanding the characteristics of the textile we’re cleaning. Consequently, we utilize tools and cleaning techniques that are ill suited to the task at hand. We use tools — rotary-style floor machines with pads or brushes, self-contained extractors that spray, brush and extract all in a single step — that are adaptations of tools used to clean one-dimensional hard-surface floors. But as noted above, carpet isn’t one-dimensional. Carpet cleaning efforts that mimic hard-surface floor cleaning, using tools and techniques that only clean the surface of the carpet, fail because two dimensions of the carpet have not been cleaned.

Clean All Dimensions
An effective carpet cleaning process will clean all dimensions of the carpet:

  • It will clean the surface, where the bound, sticky soils are found. These are the soils that are most noticed and those that one-dimensional cleaning focuses on exclusively. While it is imperative that these soils be removed in order for the carpet to “look” clean, they represent but a small fraction of the overall soil load in the carpet.
  • It will clean the fibers below the surface, where particles and non-soluble soils build up. These soils are found tangled within the fibers and surface-cleaning processes are incapable of removing them. When surface-cleaning processes are used, these soils build up and cause abrasive damage to the fibers. They also wick to the surface in the traffic areas as the carpet dries after cleaning, leaving the traffic areas looking dull, dingy and dirty.
  • It will clean down to the backing, and will flush out the liquid spills — such as coffee, soft drinks, fruit drinks — that migrate to the backing of the carpet. When surface-cleaning-only efforts are used to remove these spots, inevitably they come back as the spilled material that permeated the carpet all the way to the backing wicks to the surface as the carpet dries.

So how do we clean carpet three-dimensionally? Following is a three-step system that will achieve the objective.

Three-Dimensional Cleaning
Effective three-dimensional cleaning requires two distinct components: 1) soil suspension and 2) soil extraction. If you cut corners with either component the system will be ineffective. Drying is the third step. It is often overlooked but is an important part of an effective process.

Step 1: Soil Suspension
The primary role of soil suspension is to loosen the bond that holds soils to the tips of the fibers. These are the soils — usually spots or spills that are oily or sticky — that make the carpet look dirty, although they represent but a small fraction of the overall soil load. The soil suspension step requires chemical action, agitation and dwell time.

To begin, apply a traffic lane prespray to loosen the bound soils on the carpet surface. Wide variations in prespray performance (in terms of cleaning effectiveness and soil-attracting residues) has made clear that the use of a top-quality traffic lane prespray will pay dividends in the form of better results and labor savings.

Next, use mechanical action (agitation) to break loose the bound soils. Counter-rotating cylindrical brush machines are the preferred tools for this. They not only provide superior agitation, the brushing action pulls particle soils up to the surface where they can be more easily extracted.

Finally, allow your prespray 10-15 minutes of dwell time to maximize soil suspension.

Step 2: Soil Extraction
Steamin DemonOnce soils have been suspended, they must be removed. In order to do this effectively, a high-performance hot-water extraction system should be used. The options are truckmounts, portable truckmounts and high-flow extractors. Field studies have shown that high-flow extraction systems deliver superior extraction results. This is because high-flow systems remove substantially more soil by using four to six times as much of the media (water) that carries the soil out of the carpet, while leaving the carpet as dry or dryer than self-contained extractors. To better understand how this concept works, consider how vacuums remove dry soil. In vacuuming, air is the media that carries the soil from the carpet. Increased airflow results in increased soil removal. Likewise with water extraction cleaning, increased water flow results in increased soil removal.

When using a high-flow system for the extraction step, it is recommended that in the traffic areas you overlap your cleaning passes by half in order to maximize soil removal. The view window on the extractor allows the operator to see how much additional soil is being removed the second time over an area.

Step 3: Drying
Speed drying the carpet is prudent, easy and beneficial in several ways. Increasing air movement across the surface of the carpet using drying fans will result in thorough drying usually within a few hours. The benefits can be substantial, they include reduced wicking and resoiling, reduced down time, and elimination of concerns about wet carpet being a vehicle for mold or bacteria growth.

In the facilities world, one-dimensional carpet care has been ingrained for so long that the concepts described in this article may be difficult to accept at first. But consider this: We’ve been cleaning carpet in facilities one-dimensionally for years … and facilities carpet care has been a problem for years. In fact, many facilities cleaners would just as soon get rid of all the carpet and replace it with tile, because they are able to maintain tile successfully. (Of course, the cost to maintain tile is about double that of carpet.) If you are challenged by unacceptable carpet cleaning results, try something different. Try the techniques described in this article. You’ll be amazed at the difference. And if you aren’t, call me … on the carpet.

Article courtesy of cmmonline.com and John Downey Company

Kleen Kuip Supply Mart Inc.
New and Used Professional Carpet Cleaning and Restoration Equipment

Steam/Extraction Carpet Cleaning

Theory

The term “steam cleaning” is derived from the original concept of the equipment first utilized in the steam extraction process. Solution pressures were created by large heat generators that relied upon pressure to deliver cleaning solutions to the cleaning tool. A crude vacuum system was used for recovering cleaning solutions. Equipments utilizing high pressure pumps, to deliver cleaning solutions to the cleaning tools and more efficient vacuum systems. This system is also called hot water extraction. Hot detergent solution is injected under pressure; soil is suspended, and wet vacuuming removes soil and excess moisture.

The vacuum efficiency is a combination of both airflow and lift. Airflow is measured CFM (cubic feet per minute) indicating how much air volume is moved per minute. Lift is the measurement of negative vacuum pressure commonly referred to in inches of water or mercury lift. Water lift indicates the amount of vacuum to raise a 1 inch diameter column of water 1 inch while mercury lift refers to the same for a column of mercury; 1 inch of mercury lift = 13.6 inches of water lift.

Preconditioning should be utilized in all instances of heavy soil accumulation. Preconditioning the carpet with Kleen Kuip’s Traffic Tex gives the detergents and solvents more dwell time to effectively break down and suspend soils so that they can be rinsed more effectively out of the carpet fibers.

Advantages

  • Steam cleaning is recognized by most carpet manufacturers and fiber producers as the preferred method for the most efficient soil removal.
  • Present state of the art equipment enables high rates of production.
  • Less residue provided proper chemical usage.
  • Relatively low chemical cost.

Disadvantages

  • Requires high level of operator skill.
  • Longer drying times can occur.
  • Problems associated with overwetting if equipment is not in proper operating condition or operator employs poor technique.
  • High equipment and maintenance cost.
  • A pump operating with insufficient water flow will overheat due to friction.

Kleen Kuip Supply Mart Inc.
New and Used Professional Carpet Cleaning and Restoration Equipment

Restorative Carpet Cleaning Methods

Restorative carpet cleaning methods include rotary shampoo and hot water extraction. These corrective cleaning methods are designed for handling heavy soiling conditions. They require higher operator training and skill levels as they have more potential for damage if improperly used.

Restorative Carpet Cleaning Machines RX-20 Bonnet Steam

The Hydramaster RX-20 is a tool every cleaner should have. (machine pictured above in the middle)

The amazing RX-20 Rotary Jet Extractor has revolutionized the way carpets are cleaned. With 5 spray jets matched with 5 vacuum slots, the RX-20 makes over 650 cleaning passes per minute. This super agitation, combined with the unit’s weight, deeply cleans, extracting soil and cleaning solution. The rotating head cleans all sides of the carpet fiber, fluffing up and restoring the pile. Save your back, clean more carpets and clean them better!

Kleen Kuip Supply Mart Inc.
New and Used Professional Carpet Cleaning and Restoration Equipment

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