This Web Exclusive article discussing the characteristics of dry carpet cleaning in facilities has been provided by Stephen Lewis, technical director for MilliCare, a LaGrange, GA-based provider of textile and carpet cleaning services for commercial facilities.
Dry Carpet Cleaning for a Healthier New Year
Facility managers (fms) understand the cost saving benefits of a well maintained building. When the indoor air and environment are clean, occupants are healthier and more productive. However, viruses like the flu spread rampantly during the colder months of the year. They thrive in lower temperatures and reduced humidity levels. So when the winter season threatens to spread infectious bacteria around a facility, how can fms incorporate good practices to help keep occupants healthy?
Understanding how viruses spread
First, it is important to understand that viruses are highly contagious and can spread from person to person in several ways. For example, when an ill person coughs or sneezes, infected droplets may contact another person through the nose, mouth, or eyes. In other cases, droplets may be deposited on a contact surface (like a doorknob) that is touched by another person. The recipient may then touch their face and bring the virus into their body.
In an attempt to thwart this spread, fms might create sanitizing routines, such as implementing hand sanitizer stations and thoroughly cleaning offices areas. But as soon as someone infected touches a surface, the area is contaminated again.
The key is to limit the habitat of bacteria with specific cleaning methods. This is of utmost importance in a healthcare facility or senior living environment where patrons may have compromised immune systems. When considering cleaning methods, remember that viruses can live in a warm, wet environment for 72 hours—while they can only survive in a dry environment for 12 hours.
This is where the carpet and textile maintenance plan should come into consideration. Bacteria and viruses can survive on carpeted surfaces for an extended period of time if a proper dry carpet cleaning method isn’t in place.
Choosing a carpet cleaning and maintenance solution
Fms should think about the current carpet maintenance system in place at the facility. Is it largely hot water extraction, encapsulation, or dry extraction? Consider how the different processes affect the spread of viruses and bacteria.
The typical hot water extraction method may involve preconditioning of the surface, followed by light agitation with a grooming brush and appropriate dwell time. Next, the surface is passed over several times with a cleaning tool to rinse the pre-conditioner and soil from the carpet thoroughly. This can involve several hours to several days of drying time.
The encapsulation process involves using a detergent formula to break down, surround or “encapsulate” soil in the carpet fiber. This forms a non-sticky powder or crystals that once dry, can be removed by vacuuming. Although this system can be effective, it is critical that the carpet is vacuumed once the detergent dries. If the crystals are not properly removed by vacuuming, the soil and bacteria remain in the carpet.
Dry extraction uses a dry sponge-like polymer compound that is usually pre-moistened with detergent. The compound is then spread on the carpet and worked into the pile using a mechanical scrubber and then removed by vacuum. It is the lowest moisture cleaning method, resulting in less drying time and leaving no soil, dirt particles, or sticky residues behind.
When considering carpet cleaning methods, fms should remember that a dry maintenance option can reduce the spread of viruses by limiting germs’ habitat. In addition, cleaning carpet more frequently during cold and flu season may significantly reduce the transmission of bacteria and other infectious agents.
Other benefits of dry extraction carpet cleaning
More than reducing the spread of bacteria and viruses, dry extraction carpet and textile cleaning improves indoor air quality. In conjunction with an effective HVAC system, dry extraction can reduce up to 99% of pollutants and harmful VOCs and decrease dust mite allergens.
The process also uses significantly less water and reduces energy consumption by 85% versus hot water extraction.
Cold and flu season is an ideal time of year to reconsider a facility’s cleaning operations to increase motivation, worker productivity, and lower occupant sickness rates. Fms should take a look at their carpet maintenance practices and its role in the overall equation.